Sense of Community

Our ongoing, 10-part Community Journalism series airs quarterly

From poverty concerns to major policy decisions, this series dives beyond the headlines to provide in-depth coverage of issues facing people and organizations in the Ozarks. KSMU's team of reporters come together to produce 10 stories, four times a year. Past episodes of our Sense of Community series are available below.

(Ed Minton)

Most of the people we've talked to this week have taken up new hobbies and interests during the downtime resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. This afternoon, you'll hear from someone whose lifelong interests and pursuits have been altered in positive ways by the quarantine. Ed Minton runs the warehouse at the Dairy Farmers of America plant here in Springfield. (Among other things, they bottle Frappuccino drinks for Starbucks.) Ed and his wife have always enjoyed traveling and hiking, and Ed has had a longtime interest in photography.                          


For today's KSMU Sense of Community feature on "New Hobbies" taken up during the COVID pandemic, we'll hear from Kristen Schuler, who works as a behavioral health consultant and outpatient therapist for Burrell Behavioral Health in Springfield.                   

Jennifer Moore / KSMU


"This is new for me, doing the pressure canning," said Karen Allcorn, who works as a speech implementor for Ava Public Schools in Douglas County. Allcorn is in her kitchen, filling her pressure canner with water before heating it up on the stovetop.

When schools closed down last Spring due to the pandemic, she started dehydrating food. But she felt like it took too long. So she bought this pressure canner. Basically, it's a very large pressure cooker that can fit several jars in it at once.

Jennifer Moore

Our Sense of Community Series, "New Hobbies," continues with this story of a Springfield man, Rick Taylor, who has taken his woodworking hobby to a whole new level.   Listen to the feature by clicking the "Play" icon below.

Rick Taylor was in the backyard of his Springfield home, inspecting a large tree trunk that was cut and positioned on his new mobile saw. He had told me over the phone his new hobby was using his new saw to cut timber for rustic woodworking. But I was not expecting the saw to be the size of a truck.

Jeannette Erter

Jeannette Erter, who lives in Ozark, has lost count of the number of acrylic paintings she’s done, but it’s well over 100 and likely closer to 200.

Early last year, the 75-year-old was busy volunteering at the Springfield Conservation Nature Center and attending meetings of a writing group she’s involved in and a retired teachers’ group.  But then the pandemic hit, stay at home orders were issued, and the retired biology teacher suddenly found herself stuck at home with lots of time on her hands.

Jason McCollom

Jason McCollom is a history professor at Missouri State University in West Plains.  In the middle of the Spring 2020 semester, the pandemic hit.

"Everything's closed, there's nothing to do," he said.  "One great thing, though, you know, I live in West Plains in the Ozarks.  Tons of outdoor stuff to do.  There's no excuse to sit here bored, you know, even if there is a pandemic."

Jessica Balisle / KSMU

This last year has been a weird one for us all. Many of us have come up with new ways to occupy our time during the pandemic. Brett and Amanda Johnston fill some of that time by making candles. I stopped by their house in Springfield for a candle-making lesson with Brett.

  Balisle: Tell me a little bit about how you started making candles.

Mike Smith / KSMU

"One of the cool things about beekeeping," says Jeff Maddox, "is it's kind of stress reducing. To work in a bee hive, you have to move slowly and smoothly. It's a lot like doing Tai chi. You can't be a quick go at it, get it done kind of person if you're going to be a good beekeeper."

Rob Anderson

Rob Anderson teaches science to middle school students at Reed Academy in Springfield.  He spent six years in law enforcement and said he "hated every minute of it."  

During a short stint as a substitute teacher, Anderson fell in love with teaching.  So, while continuing to work in law enforcement, he took classes and earned a second degree, this time in education.

He's been teaching for 16 years, but this school year is different.

How has COVID-19 changed things in your classroom at Reed?

Provided by CoxHealth

In this segment of our Sense of Community series, "On The Front Lines," we hear the story of a young chaplain who comforts the grieving and dying in Cox South hospital in Springfield. 

As a chaplain, Landon Loftin provides emotional and spiritual support to patients, families, and now, also to co-workers struggling through a historic pandemic.

Listen to the audio feature below.

Courtesy of Freeman Health System

In December of last year, Jessica Liberty got a new job.  She was named Infection Prevention Manager in at Freeman Health System in Joplin.  She had no idea just how critical her job would become in the following months when the coronavirus pandemic began.

“It felt really big and overwhelming and very scary, I think mostly just because I felt really uncomfortable in my shoes,” Liberty said.

Courtesy of Sheri Bethmann

Nursing homes have been among the hardest hit places in the pandemic.

Dr. Sheri Bethmann has witnessed that firsthand. She was the medical director and attending physician at the Maranatha Village nursing home and assisted living facilities in north Springfield until earlier this month, after recently stepping down.

“Everyone was just very fearful because we knew that if it hit our building, that it would hit us really, really hard. And so, I think our initial goal was just, ‘How are we going to protect people?’” she said.

Austin Faulconer

It’s five o’clock in the afternoon. Most people are getting off work around this time and winding down for the day. But for officer Austin Faulconer, five o’clock means it’s time for him to start his shift patrolling the streets of Springfield in his squad car.

Faulconer says he works until 3 AM – a ten hour shift he fills by responding to 911 calls. He says he sometimes gets up to 30 calls a shift.

“You know that ranges from traffic accidents, stealing, assaults, domestic situations, really just the typical 911 calls,” Faulconer told KSMU.


While the coronavirus ground many services to a halt in Missouri, some jobs couldn’t stop. One of those jobs is looking after inmates in jails and prisons.

Jake Bass-Barber has worked as a detention officer in Greene County for the past two years. As part of his job he does security rounds around the jail every 30 minutes, and lets out inmates for recreational time three times a day. He serves meals in the housing units.


Dr. Terrence Coulter is medical director for critical care at CoxHealth, and he's on the frontline of the COVID-19 pandemic, treating the sickest patients.

The 52-year-old has three subspecialty board certifications:  Pulmonary medicine, critical care medicine and sleep medicine.  He followed in the footsteps of his father who was also a physician.

"And growing up I'd seen his enjoyment and satisfaction of his job, the challenges he faced, the joy he had of helping patients feel better and just kind of contributing to the communities," said Coulter.