The Morning Press: Fatal wrong-way crash, teen’s legacy



Denise Ellis holds a photograph of her 18-year-old daughter Mandy Lathim at her home in east Vancouver. Mandy, a Mountain View High School grad, died in a car crash during a road trip to California in July 2012. Denise went to great lengths to honor her daughter's wish to have her organs donated and Denise has reached out to the people who received Mandy's organs. Mandy would turn 20 next week.

Volunteers Donna Cologna, left, and Sandra Ree stock the new One Life food pantry in advance of doors opening on Sunday afternoon.

Wearing regalia crafted by family members, Felicia Florendo, 18, a senior at Lewis and Clark High School whose heritage is Wasco-Warm Springs and Eastern Cherokee, dances at the Native American Indian Education Program's traditional powwow Saturday.

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Here are some of the week’s top stories and news you may have missed:

La Center boy, 6, dies in wrong-way crash on I-5

A 6-year-old boy died and three people were hospitalized Friday following a wrong-way car crash on Interstate 5 just north of Vancouver.

The accident happened just before 2 p.m. when an 84-year-old Vancouver man driving south in the northbound portion of I-5 crashed head-on into a car driven by a La Center woman who had two children in her vehicle, according to the Washington State Patrol accident report.

Gage W. Musgrave was driving a white 2005 Toyota Avalon, when he collided with a 2008 Nissan Altima driven by Ericka M. Gorremans, 32, the WSP reported. The 6-year-old accident victim was in the car with her, along with a 10-year-old boy. Their names were not reported.

Read the full story here.

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The afterlife of Mandy Lathim

Denise Ellis hasn’t held her daughter for nearly 19 months, and she’s still searching for her, in a way.

In the fall of 2012, Denise began writing letters to strangers, touting her teenage daughter. The letters included a snippet of what Denise told her daughter on her 18th birthday: “Being your mama is a gift and the thing I hold most dear. As you look ahead to all that your life will become, please remember: I will always be right behind you, cheering you on no matter where you are.”

Though Denise anxiously checks the mail for replies from the strangers, she knows she can’t hold her daughter again. Mandy Lathim died during a summer road trip to California. Denise writes to the people who received her 18-year-old daughter’s organs.

Read the full story here.

County still investigating gun policy

The Second Amendment is alive and well in Clark County, with public employees now temporarily allowed to carry concealed weapons — that is, until county commissioners investigate long-term changes to the county’s workplace violence policy.

Commissioners Tom Mielke and David Madore on Wednesday directed county staff not to follow a policy prohibiting employees from carrying concealed weapons. The rationale, commissioners said, was that some employees were possibly violating the protocol already because they were unaware it existed.

“We’re not telling people, ‘Bring your guns,'” Mielke said. “We’re not encouraging it. But people who come with concealed weapons are already doing it.”

Although commissioners said they felt employees were unaware of the no-gun policy, it is spelled out in the county’s Health and Safety Manual. The safety manual says the policy extends to conceal carry permit holders.

Still, county commissioners expressed surprise last month when they discovered there were weapons restrictions placed on employees. There are no restrictions placed on elected officials or the general public. That discovery followed a workplace shooting at the Center for Community Health, in an office operated by U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Read the full story here.

Downtown food pantries target ‘changing face of hunger’ on Vancouver’s west side

Hunger has soared on the west side of Vancouver since the beginning of the Great Recession, according to George Kaufer, president of the downtown food pantry FISH of Vancouver.

Leveraged by money from the Washington Legislature, the Meyer Memorial Trust and lots of grass roots community support, two important west-side food pantries are aiming to step up their game in response.

On Sunday, after about a year in transition, One Life will reopen a bigger, better pantry in the New Hope Foursquare Church across the street from Hough Elementary School. Meanwhile, FISH is reaching for the purchase of a west-side warehouse that would be more convenient for clients and volunteers alike than the cramped church offices it now rents.

All of this points to increasing need and a “changing face of hunger” on the west side of town, One Life executive director Andrea Walker said.

“There’s a really wrong idea out there about what hunger looks like,” she said. “We serve a lot of working poor. We serve many people with jobs who just aren’t making enough. “I have never had to access a food pantry before,” is what Walker often hears from embarrassed new clients.

Read the full story here.

Powwow pride in age-old footsteps

Six boys dressed in traditional regalia sat around a large octagonal drum, chanting and pounding a rhythm on the elk-hide drumhead with buckskin-covered drumsticks.

Waving her arms over her head and bouncing in tiny circles to the beat, Felicia Florendo was among a dozen girls dancing and chanting in a jingle/fancy dance exhibition Saturday in the gymnasium at Covington Middle School.

Students with Native American heritage in the Evergreen, Vancouver, Battle Ground and Camas school districts perform in the annual powwow presented by the Title VII Native American Indian Education Program. In addition to dancing, drumming and singing, the powwow included booths of Native American crafts — from wooden flutes to beaded jewelry — that lined the hallway and spilled into the cafeteria. Families waited in a long line to purchase Indian tacos, traditional fry-bread filled with chili. Proceeds benefit the Title VII education program.

The program’s students gather Monday nights to connect with their heritage through dance, singing, drumming and to learn more about their traditions.

Read the full story here.