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Exmark named business of the year

A Beatrice manufacturing company was recognized this month as a business of the year.

Exmark Manufacturing was named the 2017 manufacturing business of the year by the Nebraska Business Development Center (NBDC).

The award was presented at a luncheon March 23 at the capitol building in Lincoln by District 30 Sen. Roy Baker.

Exmark was selected for being a Nebraska business that demonstrates leadership in employee involvement, continual process improvement, customer and supplier relations, innovation and new product development, sales growth and sustainability.

“The NBDC Advisory Board selected the 2017 winners for exemplifying the contribution small businesses make to Nebraska’s economy,” Catherine Lang, NBDC state director, said in a press release.

Exmark was founded in 1982 focusing on manufacturing mid-size, walk-behind mowers and turf rakes. In 1987, a rapidly expanding market prompted the company to expand its product line to include commercial riding mowers. Today, Exmark’s Lazer Z line is the market leader in its category in the U.S.

Judy Altmaier, Vice President and General Manager of Exmark, said the award is something employees can all take pride in. 

"Each of the more than 500 employees at Exmark take pride in this award, as it recognizes the ingenuity and hard work each of us puts in each day," she said. "We’re grateful for the support of the NBDC along our lean journey, as the training and certification they’ve provided has played a key role in our continued market leadership." 

Altmaier added the company's emphasis in efficiency is one factor in the company being selected for the award. 

"Since 2014, Exmark has worked in partnership with the NBDC on lean training and certification, and is now working on Next Level Lean certification training," she said. "We’re demonstrating the value of lean certification to decreasing costs while increasing the efficiency of Exmark employees and processes. It’s helped us retain our competitive edge in an ever more competitive outdoor power equipment marketplace."

The company is located in the Gage County Industrial park in north Beatrice, and recently announced plans to expand operations in the area.

In February, the Beatrice City Council approved an application for a Site and Building Development Fund grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development for $250,000 for Exmark to expand its facility in Beatrice.

The lawn and turf care company is planning a $8.5 million expansion that includes purchasing an existing warehouse building in the industrial park. Exmark plans to use 25,000 square feet of the 84,000 square foot building as storage space and the rest will be office space for the company’s divisional office.

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Christ Community Church youth group offers interactive exhibit for Easter

Sunday is Easter, and the youth group at Christ Community Church is doing something a little bit different this year.

The group is hosting an interactive Easter experience called the "GOSPEL Journey: the True Meaning of Easter" at the Beatrice church. The program started on Thursday night, and will run from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.

The event has six rooms, each of them named for one of the letters in “gospel."

Entering the G Room—titled “God Created Us to be With Him”—visitors will be greeted by music, videos and are invited to put on a name badge. The room is all white, which represents life with God, said youth pastor Sam Jackson.

“The whole idea is just perfection,” Jackson said. “The idea of free from sin.”

Walking down the hall and into the O Room—titled “Our Sins Separate Us from God”—visitors enter an entirely black room, draped with heavy curtains where a video plays, reminding visitors what a life without God might look like.

This is where the interactive part of the experience comes in, said tour guide Whitley Kleveland. Visitors are handed a marker board covered with card stock as they walk in.

“We ask everyone that is doing it to write down sin in their life or pray for God to reveal a sin,” Kleveland said. “And then they would write it on the marker board with a permanent marker.”

They cover their written sins with the paper stock and carry the board to the next room, the S Room—for “Sins Cannot be Removed By Good Deeds”—where they’re met with displays of things that might be considered good deeds, Jackson said.

Things like going to church, taking communion, baptism, keeping the Ten Commandments, tithing and being good to God’s creatures are on display, each one with an eraser next to it.

Try to erase the sin, written in permanent marker, and it won’t work. It’s stuck, no matter how many of the good deeds you try.

“The point of these things is not that they're wrong or bad,” Jackson said. “All of these things are really good. We want to encourage everybody to participate in these things, but these aren't the things that actually get you where you receive your salvation.”

Visitors are then asked to write down good deeds they’ve done on the paper stock over the marker board, but those don’t erase the sin, they just cover it, Jackson said.

They carry their boards to the next room which is set up like the tomb of Jesus. Volunteers worked for four days to build the tomb from chicken wire, lumber and paper, said tour guide Trevor Schmale.

Visitors watch videos of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus before they’re handed a red, erasable marker. They trace over the sin they wrote down and then are able to wipe it away with a tissue.

“The red marker represents Jesus' blood,” Jackson said. “Blood, in scripture, is described as where our life is in. Since Jesus is perfect, he shed his life's blood as a payment for our sin.”

It represents the whole meaning of Easter, Jackson said, the death and resurrection of Jesus are the focus of the P Room, which is titled “Paying the Price for Sin, Jesus Died and Rose Again."

The E Room next door—for “Everyone Who Trusts in Him Alone Has Eternal Life”—is a review of the previous rooms, Jackson said. Visitors are invited to write down their thoughts, positive or negative, and nail them to a wooden cross on the floor.

From there, visitors enter the L Room for “Life with Jesus Starts Now and Lasts Forever," which Jackson called the party room.

Streamers hang from the ceiling and poster boards with Bible verses cover the craft paper walls on which visitors are invited to write messages to Jesus.

Next, visitors enter a meeting room for refreshments and discussion, where, Schmale said, he hopes for some lively discussion.

“I would say I just hope that people would understand the real truth of scripture,” he said. “I know a lot of people who, if they walked in, they might want to argue with me. When it really comes down to it, once you humble yourself, that I can't do this on my own, it really opens the door for God to work in your life.”

The program is free at the Christ Community Church in Beatrice, located at 2727 Lincoln Blvd., and everyone from the community is invited.

The church isn’t trying to force Christianity on anyone, Kleveland said, they just want to spread the word of the gospel, she said.

“I would hope for people who have been saved, that they would come and receive hope and encouragement in their faith,” she said. “I would hope that people who haven't been saved would just come hear us out.”

Pope presides over Good Friday amid security, controversy (copy)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis presided over solemn Good Friday services amid heightened security at Rome's Colosseum for the Via Crucis procession and a new communications controversy at home.

Italian police, carabinieri and soldiers were on alert, with Holy Week coinciding with a spate of arrests of suspected Islamic extremists around Italy and warnings from law enforcement about the return of foreign fighters from Iraq and Syria.

At the start of the most solemn period of the Catholic Church calendar, Francis lay prostrate in front of the altar in St. Peter's Basilica before the chant-filled Good Friday evening service got underway.

Later Friday, Francis travels to the Colosseum to preside over the Way of the Cross procession re-enacting Christ's crucifixion — the seminal event in Christianity leading to Christ's resurrection celebrated on Easter Sunday.

The solemn commemorations coincide with a new communications controversy in the Vatican over the pope's reported assertion — at the height of Holy Week — that hell doesn't exist. The Vatican hasn't denied Francis' comments to the La Repubblica newspaper, saying only that the journalist reconstructed a conversation.

It was the fifth time in five years that Francis has spoken to Repubblica's founder, Eugenio Scalfari, a devout atheist who admits he doesn't record or take notes during interviews.

Nearly every time a Francis interview has appeared on Repubblica's front page, the Vatican press office has insisted the pope's words weren't necessarily accurate, without denying them outright. That has prompted questions about why the pope continually lets himself be quoted by Scalfari.

Spokesman Greg Burke didn't respond Friday when asked whether the pope believes in the existence of hell or not. Francis has in the past spoke frequently about the devil and hell.

The doubts, however, have enraged Catholic conservatives, who have lost their patience with a pope regarding doctrine.

Man with warrants arrested for drugs

A Beatrice man could face additional drug charges after being arrested on two warrants Thursday evening. 

Just after 7 p.m. on Thursday a Beatrice police officer patrolling in the 1300 block of Scott Street saw three individuals walking west. 

The officer recognized 20-year-old Austin J. Meyn of Beatrice from previous contacts as one of them and knew he had active Gage County warrants. Meyn was placed under arrest and allegedly told the officer he had a scale and little bit of marijuana on him. 

According to Gage County Court documents, he also provided the officer with a false name and date of birth. Police searched him and found a scale, in addition to an orange pharmaceutical pill bottle with loose and nugget forms of a green leafy substance.

He eventually told officers his correct name and was placed under arrest for possession of less than one ounce of marijuana with intent to distribute, possession of drug paraphernalia and false reporting. 

Court documents state Meyn had warrants in two cases. In the first, he's charged with possession of Vyvanse with intent to distribute, possession of Alprazolam, possession of Lorazepan, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. 

In the second case with a warrant, he's charged with theft by receiving stolen property and criminal mischief.

Bond set at $5,000 with a 10 percent deposit. Meyn's next hearing is set for April 5.