All posts by Matthew Lambert

Pancake Luncheon Fundraiser

All the class wanted to do was raise $700.

That was their goal, to help put on a charity event for Love Your Melon, giving people an opportunity to learn.

Five students in event marketing, a class at Winona State, had a semester-long project that shows students what it takes to put on an event for charity.

The group didn’t make $700. Instead, they raised around $2,000, with the class not taking any of the money.

The class and Love Your Melon hosted a pancake luncheon at the Eagles Club in Winona, where anyone could come.

Winona area community members could enjoy all-you-can-eat pancakes, and getting a serving of eggs and sausage, for $8 for adults and $4 for children.

Marlene Werden said the tickets were given to her at a car show, but said she would’ve come anyway to support her alma mater.

Werden, a graduate of WSU’s nursing program in 1999 with her son Matt, came to the event unaware of what Love Your Melon is.

“I think it’s a very good cause,” Werden said after talking to representatives of Love Your Melon at the event.

Robert Jarvis, a member of the class said trying to tell their key demographic, senior citizens, what this charity is was their biggest challenge.

“I will say, the hardest thing was the older generation,” Jarvis said. “It’s unbelievable how many people think its breast cancer awareness or something along those lines.”

Jarvis, a senior at WSU, said the luncheon wasn’t their first idea. In fact, they started with an event similar to the Olympic games, where parents and children could compete for prizes.

After their first idea fell through, the students tried to create an event similar to bingo. Jarvis said they couldn’t get around the gambling laws in Minnesota and felt a pancake luncheon would suffice.

Jarvis emphasized the class and Love Your Melon were not affiliated in any way prior to this event and said the group has been great to work alongside.

With the class handling the process of setting up the charity event, Abigail Greislinger, the crew captain of the Winona area Love Your Melon group, focused on trying to spread the word about their company.

Love Your Melon is associated with 740 college campus’ in the Campus Crew Program. As a crew captain, Greislinger said she has the most responsibility of the group.

“As a captain, I am in charge of planning and overseeing donation events, household visits, superhero adventures, running crew meeting biweekly, and managing all crew members,” Greislinger said.

One of the members of the class, Jethro Roemer, reached out to Greislinger about the possibility of setting up a fundraiser for Love Your Melon and they jumped at the opportunity.

Greislinger said the group can’t accept “direct donations,” but rather all of the money from the luncheon will go to their partnering organizations Pinky Swear Foundation and CureSearch.

Like Werden, Greislinger had no idea what Love Your Melon was, until she received one of their hats as a Christmas present.

“I first heard about LYM (Love Your Melon) halfway through my freshman year, when I received a LYM hat for Christmas from my mom,” Greislinger said. “She told me what it was and a bit of background information and I immediately went online to find out more. After reading the story, I was so inspired.”

To add to the success, between the class and Love Your Melon, they had everything for the breakfast was donated.

“We’ve been super lucky that everything has been donated by a bunch of people in the community,” Jarvis said. “Places like Midtown (Foods) donated a $50 gift card. The Pet Center donated a $50 check for food. KwikTrip donated a lot of eggs. My parents have donated and Jenna’s parents have donated. We have not spent a dime.”

Even the venue was donated for free Jarvis said and felt the location was “perfect” because he had previous experience going to the Eagles club events.

“My family is a part of the Eagles back home and they ran a lot of charity events all ready,” Jarvis said. “They had a demographic that we wanted to target and the set up.”

At the luncheon, the Love Your Melon group also had a silent auction, where people could bid on items that were donated from surrounding businesses like Elmaro Vineyard and Winona 7.

Werden said she walked around, after eating, writing her name on many bidslips of items, as a way to get other people to begin the bidding process.

Jarvis said the original totals for people coming were at 70 for advanced tickets, but estimated they had around “220 or 230 people”. Jarvis said he could not specify since the ticket stubs were thrown away, so finding an accurate total of people was difficult for the class.

Where they received the most money was in ticket sales around $1,130. The silent auction raised around $670 and they also received “a couple hundred” in donations.

Werden herself is involved with numerous charities, including the Catholic Daughters of Americas, and enjoyed learning about the charity and, more than anything, “loved the food.”

College Athletics: Pay-For-Play

In 2010, the NCAA signed a 14-year deal that totaled $10.8 billion dollars with CBS and Turner Broadcasting.

The NCAA reported in 2012 that 81 percent or $705 million out of the $871.6 million they took in that year was due to deals like the one they signed with CBS/Turner Broadcasting.

While Division-I is reaping the benefits of a $10.8 billion dollar deal, Winona State University isn’t able to meet the NCAA and NSIC standards for scholarships.

According to Winona State athletic director Eric Schoh, the school gives 59.10 scholarships to the women’s programs and 63.60 for the men’s programs, standards that were set by the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference.

During the 2014-2015 season, Winona State gave out 31.48 scholarships to the women’s programs and 38.39 to the men’s programs. This put Winona State in 9th place among the 16 teams in the NSIC.

Unlike Division-I, Schoh said when it comes to payment for scholarships, Division-II doesn’t give full-ride scholarships.

“We do have some in other sports, that get closer to a full-ride, but you’re $10,000 or $20,000 or whatever it is, that’s a pretty good payment,” Schoh said. “I have two sons in college and neither one is getting any money for the things that they’re doing.”

The most that Winona State can gives is between $1,000 and $20,000, a scholarship that can be renewed each year. Schoh said the school isn’t saving money by not spending to the NSIC’s limit.

“We’re spending what we have,” Schoh said. “If we had more, we’d give more.”

The tuition at Winona State is annually $17,167 for in state students and $22,864 for out of state students.

Schoh said no money that goes towards tuition is going to the sports budget.

“There’s no direct tuition dollars that generate a tutoring program or athletic program,” Schoh said. “Your tuition dollars come from the specific class that you’re taking. So I don’t know if Division II is ever going to be in a specific situation where we have that kind of dollars generated to where we can have that conversation.”

Schoh said the value of the education that a school like Winona State is giving, should be more than enough.

The University of Minnesota is considered to be a part of the “Power Five” conference, which includes: the Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC and ACC.

Comparing the University of Minnesota and Winona State’s athletic budgets is quite different, with the University of Minnesota athletics having an annual budget of $96 million and Winona State’s budget of $5 million.

Schoh said, “At our level, with our budget, we’re generating about, in corporate sponsorships and ticket sales, $400,000, less than 10 percent of what the budget is. There is no revenue.”

Schoh said “about half” of the $5 million dollar budget is going to salaries and benefits, an amount Schoh said is close to what other student-related services receive.

A survey was conducted at Winona State university for the 375 student-athletes, asking about Pay-For-Play. Of those student-athletes, 57 responded across 10 sports that Winona State offers.

Of those 57 survey participants there were 24 students who said they believe college athletes should be paid, while 27 students said they believed they should be paid for their participation in their athletics at Winona State.

The numbers change when asked if colleges’ should be able to sell a student-athlete’s likeness, for example, a jersey that has that student-athlete’s name on the back. 41 students said they should receive some compensation for selling their likeness.

Former UCLA men’s basketball player Ed O’Bannon sued the NCAA, Electronic Arts, and Collegiate Licensing Company after seeing his character in a video game where they had his name on the back of the jersey. O’Bannon felt the company owed him money, just like the students felt about selling their likeness.

O’Bannon, Electronic Arts, and The Collegiate Licensing Company settled the court case in Aug. 8, 2014 for $40 million dollars, with money going to O’Bannon and other college athletes that were also in the game.

For jobs during the school year, 25 student-athletes said they worked during the school year. One student said they worked 21-30 hours a week and no more than 31 hours per week. There were 15 student-athletes who said they worked 1-10 hours per week.

That number increased dramatically for student-athletes working during the summer, more than doubling with 53 students saying they work during the summer and 32 students working more than 31 hours per week.

Schoh said there is a big difference between Division-I and Division-II athletics, outside of the money. Schoh doesn’t want Division-II athletics to become a “minor league for professional sports.”

Schoh said based off his experiences, student-athletes should be grateful.

“I’m starting to get to be one of the old guys in Division-II in our league and I remember working for two years for free, just to get my foot in the door to get a job,” Schoh said. “I never felt like I was being exploited or taken advantage of.”

Overall, Schoh believes that Division-II and Division-III can offer student-athletes a more complete experience, rather than a pipedream of becoming professional.

“I think it’s definitely more likely in Division II and Division III that you’ll stay the full four, five years because you’re probably not at that talent level,” Schoh said. “I think the culture and expectation is people understand you’re here for your education first.”

Winona Chili Cookoff

On a cold day, Winona residents had the opportunity to sample 19 businesses’ chili recipes at the 22nd Annual Chili Cook-off at Winona Middle School.

Winona National Bank sponsored the event, with all profits being donated to the Winona local charity Ready, Set, School.

Ready, Set, School is a non-profit organization that gives families that can’t afford school related supplies the money to do so, in a form of a voucher.

According to the Ready, Set, School website, the company provided 1,159 vouchers to 105 students.

Jenny Baertsch, the Marketing Communications Officer and Secretary on the board of Ready, Set, School said the chili cook-off is the company’s largest event and the beginning of fundraising events this year.

“We use this as kind of the platform to get people excited again and ready to donate,” Baertsch said. “Throughout the rest of the year, up until the summer months when kids are shopping for school supplies, we do different partnerships with businesses in town where businesses will donate 10 percent of their sales to Ready, Set, School for the day.”

Among those businesses, according to Baertsch are: Bloedows, Lakeview Drive In, Godfather’s Pizza, and Green Mill.

The cook-off raised $5,086.69 dollars, with $2,976.69 coming in sales and $2,110.00 coming in donations. Baertsch said the event raised $4,629.80, hoping that they would be able to come close to last year’s results.

“Last year we raised about $4,000 dollars,” Baertsch said. “So if we can match that or raise more, I’ll be really happy about that.”

According to Baertsch, 35 percent of Winona County come from families that can’t afford school supplies with that money being able to support more families than last year.

The cook-off had 19 varieties of chili donated by: Bluff Country Co-op, Brewski’s Pub & Eatery, Bub’s Brewing Company, Chartwell’s at WSU, Ground Round, Jefferson’s Pub & Grill, Kwik Trip Store #746 Homer Road, Lewiston-Altura Intermediate School, North End Pub & Grill, Riverway Learning Community, Signatures Restaurant, Steak Shop Catering, Steak Shop Catering at Cotter Schools, Sugar Loaf Senior Living, Timbers Restaurant, Winona Area Public Schools, and Winona Health Catering.

At the event, the first major decision that needed to be made for Winona residents was to try spicy or mild.

One of the residents at the event was Jerry Zettler, who ate five out of the eight spicy chilis.

“I’m picking the Chartwells,” Zettler said. “Then it’s probably the North End. Overall, I like the texture and the taste.”

On the mild side was Miss Winona Brittany Moncrief, who donated her time by cleaning tables and helping serve people. Moncrief said the consistency of the chili was important to her.

“I like the Winona Health one,” Moncrief said. “There were some that were more (like liquid) than others, there were some that were thicker than others, and that one was just perfect.”

Another volunteer at the event was part-time Winona National Bank employee Bob Benedict, a first time volunteer, said he jumped at the chance to help at the cook-off.

“I enjoy this, doing stuff like this in the community,” Benedict said. “They said they needed volunteers and I said I’d love to help serve and talk to people.”

As far as chili goes, Benedict enjoys the spicier chili, but there was perspiration involved.

“I sampled three of them,” Benedict said. “My favorite probably is the one from Chartwells, it was thicker, meatier chili. I had a little bit of tears and sweat on my forehead when I was eating it.”

Winona National Bank has always sponsored the event itself since it’s beginning, Baertsch said, but began with a partnership with the Winona County D.A.R.E. program.

Baertsch said the Ready, Set, School has been sponsored by Winona National Bank as well since it’s beginning.

“We helped get the program up and running,” Baertsch said. “We’ve been a strong supporter of their mission and in the past, ten to 12 years, the chili cook-off has been benefiting Ready, Set, School.”

In the past, Baertsch said individual chili recipes could be submitted, that didn’t come from a business, but due to food licensing laws, they can’t be accepted anymore.

Residents were able to enjoy entertainment from the Winona Fiddlers and other local student groups.

For the event, a panel of judges was brought in to taste the different chili, deciding which one would win for the spicy and mild categories.

The judges chose Riverway Learning Community, Bluff Country Co-op, and Jefferson’s chili for the mild category and Sugar Loaf Senior Living, North End Pub & Grill, and Signatures for the spicy category.

The most coveted award, according to Baertsch is the Public Tasters’ Choice Award, where the public is able to vote on the best overall chili between mild and spicy.

As far as Baertsch’s taste buds go, she avoids anything too spicy.

“My favorite personally was from the mild category,” Baertsch said. “I’m a mild girl. I liked the chili submitted by Winona Area Public Schools.”

Vegan’s Delight

The Journal of American Medicine reported in a 2012 survey that 78.6 million adults in the United States are obese, about a third of the population.

With fast food and obesity on the rise, many diets have become popular over the years like tapeworm, Atkins and paleo.

For Katie Lambeth, these diets aren’t even on her radar. She’s a vegan. She’s been one for three years and was a vegetarian for three years before that.

If you ask Lambeth, being a vegan isn’t about dieting or trying to lose weight. It’s a lifestyle choice, a way to be healthy while also standing up for her beliefs.

Lambeth, 24, became a vegetarian during her freshman year at the University of Richmond. With her brother, Michael Lambeth, she watched the film “Food Inc.”, a documentary about the meat industry in the United States and the growing popularity of fast food chains.

“We did a bunch of research on the meat industry and we decided we really didn’t agree with what they were doing,” Lambeth said. “At that point, we decided that we are going to be done eating meat. As our New Year’s resolution, we stopped eating meat.”

That was in 2010. Lambeth joined an environmental activism group called Green You Are at college. The group wasn’t radical in Lambeth’s opinion, but rather watched documentaries and sponsored events informing people on the meat industry.

The switch from vegetarian to vegan wasn’t an easy decision Lambeth said, but a switch made more out of necessity for her own health.

During her junior year, Lambeth decided to go on a six-month study abroad trip to Kenya. She stayed in the cities of Nairobi and Kismu, but decided to take a trip to Mombasa where she got E.Coli.

“I was in the hospital for three days,” Lambeth said. “I got a whole bunch of drugs in my system that basically killed all of the bacteria in my body that could digest things.”

As a result of the medication and no access to dairy products, Lambeth said the enzymes in her body didn’t grow back, so eating dairy constantly made her ill. Lambeth began to cut out dairy products like milk, cheese and eggs.

Janet Macon, a professor at Winona State and a registered dietician for 12 years, agreed with Lambeth and said a switch to veganism isn’t about a diet, but rather a lifestyle change.

Macon said most people, she has noticed, that have become vegan have made a change from an omnivorous diet because they want to move away from saturated fats and other fatty foods. Aside from the dietary needs, vegans also look to make an ecological impact.

Jennifer Holden, a registered dietician at HyVee in Winona for the past two years, said she can assist people looking to become a vegetarian or vegan.

“If they were looking to make a change to a vegetarian or vegan that’s a huge step,” Holden said. “That’s why it’s good to have a registered dietitian to help them so they don’t miss out on any key nutrients.”

Holden said the biggest nutrients people could miss, if they switched to a vegan diet, would be amino acids and B12 nutrients.

Holden said she recommends quinoa or edamame to help with those nutrients.

Lambeth said she is aware of nutrients that could potentially be lost, but it only takes a B12 supplement to replace the nutrients. Those that don’t want to take a pill, can eat nutritional yeast instead.

Holden said she thinks people in the Winona community are aware of what they’re putting into their body, with most people coming to her by choice, rather than a recommendation by their doctors.

Lambeth said she usually spends around $100 dollars on groceries every week or week-and-a-half. She said it all depends on where she goes, whether it’s Trader Joe’s or the Herbivorous Butcher Shop in Minneapolis where she lives.

On the other hand, Holden said she sees the diet as costly and a company like HyVee can’t keep vegan designated items on the shelves before they become expired.

“It tends to be more expensive items up front,” Holden said. “When it comes to the quinoa and the edamame those are filling foods. It’s a balancing beam between you’re paying more but you don’t have to eat as much.”

Veganism isn’t seen as a fad diet according to Lambeth, but rather something that is relatively new in the United States.

“Most of the U.S. is meat, potatoes, and scrambled eggs for breakfast,” Lambeth said. “That’s just what everyone is used to.”

Macon said doesn’t believe veganism is a cultural fad but said for college-aged students are willing to try something different like becoming a vegan or vegetarian.

“We do see rates of vegetarianism climb in late adolescence to their peak of about 15 percent of all college students aged 18-22,” Macon said. “Rates decline further into adulthood to about 10 percent, which is the national average.”

Macon also said it’s not “feasible” in a smaller market like Winona to constantly supply vegan based foods.

“The larger your market, the more you’ll have to support those types of markets,” Macon said. “Keep in mind, vegans living in a relatively small market can still meet their dietary needs with very basic products.”

Macon said she recommends fresh fruits, nuts, vegetables and whole grains, something that big chains like WalMart and Target will always carry.

Whether it’s a fad, hippy movement, or anything in between, Lambeth said she is happy and healthy and the flexibility of the lifestyle is important. Lambeth said she’s heard of 17 different kinds of vegetarian diets and has heard of extreme vegan diets like people who dumpster dive for their food.

Lambeth doesn’t have a problem with hunters either. She said the only thing she doesn’t want to see is “its head up on a wall for fun.”

“I think that hunting is totally fine, if you are, I don’t support hunting for sport,” Lambeth said. “I support it if it’s used for meat.”

Yet, Holden is skeptical of the validity and safety of the vegan diet.

“As a registered dietitian, I don’t recommend it,” Holden said. “Vegetarian can be done safely, but you really need to be aware of what you’re eating. You have to complement those areas that you miss.”

For Macon, it’s not always as simple as following the food pyramid.

“Keep in mind, people who are adopting this lifestyle are doing it for reasons beyond their own biological health,” Macon said. “It may be more about sending a message to the food industry or the environment. It’s not just about sticking to the food pyramid, it’s about supporting sustainable cultural change.”

If someone asked Lambeth how to become a vegan she would have one word for them: slowly.

“Go slowly and do your research,” Lambeth said. “Doing the personal research really helps finding out what your body needs.”

Plant Food, Bath Salts, and Turbo: Winona’s Deadliest Drugs

In Florida, they call it flakka.

It has received innocent nicknames like plant food, bath salts and meow meow.

Around Winona, they call it turbo, and it’s the deadliest drug in town.

Investigators from the Winona County Sheriff’s department said the drug turbo, or known by its clinical name Alpha-PVP, can cause side effects including blood pressure and heart rate increase. Even more worrying, is the paranoia according to law enforcement officials.

“Fits of anger, violence,” Investigators said. “They often have fits of rage towards shadowy figures and animals, believing to be possessed by demons.”


Plant food, or mephedrone, begins to show up in Winona. It’s sold on the streets, unlike in Duluth where it was commercially sold.

Shortly after plant food came to Winona, it died out, but a new hybrid called bath salts or MDPV emerged in April 2009.

Investigators said the names are now interchangeable and the drugs are relatively similar.

“Mephedrone went away, MDPV came out in 2009,” investigators said. “By the end of 2009, we were seeing it a lot.”

Investigators said these aren’t close to household products and can’t be bought at any store.

“They called it bath salts or plant food and say not for human consumption, and put little labels on that say that, so they could sell it,” Investigators said. “We’ve talked to a few users and they’ve put stuff on their plants and they killed their plants.”

Since the drugs were legal, the investigators said they would receive calls frequently. One of the investigators worked as a dispatcher during the height of the plant food crisis and said they couldn’t go an eight-hour shift without getting a call about plant food.

“Every single day when you came to work, when it was legal, there’s a call about a guy running naked down the street or taking someone to the hospital because they’re high,” the Investigator said.

One of the earliest calls they received was from a man who called about an intruder in their home. The investigators said they rushed to the man’s house only to find no one there.

“We think there is an intruder in the house and when we got there, he said the tricky little guy went into the TV,” investigators said. “You realize after speaking with him for two or three minutes, this guy is high on something.”

After interviewing many drug users, the investigators said the drug is so potent and addicting that the paranoia and violent side effects come from when they are beginning to become sober.

With the drug becoming more and more popular, many police departments around Minnesota were sought help of the Winona County Sheriff’s department.

“When it first started, we had task force guys coming over from Rochester, Olmsted County, Goodhue County, Dodge County, Houston County and they didn’t know what this stuff was,” investigators said. “They got educated through us.”

With plant food and bath salts becoming more prevalent, Senator Jeremy Miller, a Winona resident, proposed a bill in legislature in 2010 to make it a schedule one controlled substance.

The bill passed in July 2011.

“Luckily enough, Senator Miller is from Winona, so he could see this stuff and hear about it,” Investigators said. “So we had a representative from Winona kinda push this. When you get up to the state, it pops up a little bit in some places, but they don’t seem to see it as regularly as we did.”


With plant food and bath salts now illegal, calls plummeted significantly, with people being afraid to seek help due to legal repercussions.

Even worse, a new hybrid emerged, turbo or Alpha-PVP, giving its users an even more intense high.

The Minnesota legislature was able to add language to the bill, giving officers the ability to arrest people for Alpha-PVP in July 2012, a year after the initial bill passed.

The investigators wanted to express how Winona isn’t necessarily a drug-ridden town, but rather is primarily dealing with turbo more than any other city.

Around the country, heroin has quadrupled in deaths according to Center for Disease Control and Prevention from 2002 to 2013 with 8,200 deaths. In Winona, the investigators said they rarely ever see heroin.

“We don’t see very much of heroin in Winona,” Investigators said. “Last year, I think we seized heroin on two separate occasions. The rest of the time we’re having the synthetic drugs.”

One of the biggest issues facing the Winona County Sheriff’s department is the small penalty facing turbo offenders.

“If I arrest someone with a tenth of gram of plant food or two kilograms of plant food, it’s the same charge,” investigators said. “That’s where we’d like to see some change.”

The investigators said they want to go after the dealers, the people who are moving it. They have found evidence that the drugs are being shipped from China into the United States, where it’s distributed throughout the country.

The penalty

If caught with turbo in the state of Minnesota, a person could face five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. For a second offense, it’s six months in a prison with fines increasing to 10 years and $10,000.

While this penalty seems harsh, in reality, it’s not, according to the investigators. The drug charge is a felony fifth-degree drug charge, which is the lowest possible charge someone can receive.

According to the investigators, any kind of change doesn’t look any closer than it did when the first law passed in 2011.

“I don’t know if it’s any closer,” Investigators said. “The efforts been local and pushing it locally, but I think the thing that kind of hampers us here, whenever someone hears about this at the state level, they keep referring to Duluth.”

Student Outreach

Winona County does have the D.A.R.E program for students. The investigators make routine stops in schools in the county to talk about drugs, including Alpha-PVP.

“They have us in a health class every semester or quarter,” investigators said. “We talk about the danger of methamphetamine and marijuana. We do a drug education.”

Why Winona?

In 2015, the Southeast Violent Crime Enforcement Team seized 2,162 grams of synthetic drugs, including turbo.

The investigators said turbo is bought in “point” form or a tenth of a gram, valued usually at $30 a point.

With that number, the SVCET seized $64,860 worth of synthetic drugs alone last year.

The police of Winona County continue to deal with turbo, trying hard to locate exactly where the drugs are being made and who the distributors are.

“There’s no answer for it,” investigators said. “There’s a supply around here somewhere.”

The investigators have received calls from around the Midwest, with officers and even a concerned parent from Kansas City wondering what turbo is.

“I had one lady call from Kansas City once and said my daughter is on turbo, or I think it was plant food at the time,” investigators said. “She researched it and it came back to Winona and the issues we had here. The police officers out there had no idea what it was and had never heard of it.”