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lnichols / By Lee Enterprises 

Freeman's Brady Ideus (35) shoots against Elmwood-Murdock on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, during the East Central Nebraska Conference boys semifinals at Southeast Community College.

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Beatrice Shopko to close this year

Shopko Hometown in Beatrice is one of the latest in Nebraska to announce the store will be closing later this year.

The store is expected to close in May after around seven years in business.

Store manager Colton Hill said the store currently has 15 employees, and that he was unsure what would happen with the building.

“During the time we spent here, it was great to have the customers we did have and will miss them just as much as they miss us,” he said.

According to Shopko’s website, the store is expected to close May 12. Hill expects there will be liquidation sales leading up to the closure date, though didn’t have specifics Thursday morning.

Shopko Hometown, at 123 N. 24th St., opened in Beatrice in August 2012 following a merger with Pamida.

As part of the merger, Shopko invested approximately $80 million into more than 170 Pamida store conversions in phases.

In January, the Wisconsin-based retailer filed for bankruptcy and announced that more than 100 of its 367 stores in 25 states would be closing, including four locations in Lincoln. Shopko stores in several other Nebraska towns are also closing.

The company’s first store opened in 1962.

Shopko is reported to have less than $1 billion in assets and cumulative debt that is somewhere in the $1 billion to $10 billion range. By closing stores and auctioning off its pharmacy assets, the company hopes to reorganize its debt by the March 14 deadline set by the bankruptcy court.

10 year old receives national volunteer award

A Beatrice student is being recognized for her local volunteer efforts with a national award.

Jorja Boller, 10, was named one of Nebraska’s top two youth volunteers of 2019 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards, a nationwide program that honors youth volunteer efforts.

Jorja was nominated by Stoddard Elementary School for her work at Beatrice Good Samaritan Center and the Gifts for Grands project she started there when she was 5 years old.

Every year at Christmas, Jorja gives the Good Samaritan residents gift bags. Jorja said the bags include ornaments, crackers, cookies, candy and a juice box.

Jorja’s mom, Jackie Boller, said Jorja started volunteering after she participated in community service-based pageants at four years old.

“She met older girls that had established their charities, were doing platforms, all this stuff,” Boller said. “And from there we kind of wanted to start her on a path of community service, so she started at Good Sam volunteering, and it kind of just morphed to her own charity.”

Boller said Gifts for Grands grew from there.

“This year we were contacted by Gold Crest in Adams to be one of the Gifts for Grands places, and it worked that we had just enough to cover theirs,” she said. “People from Crete have reached out to us for theirs, so we’re actually being approached by other nursing homes and facilities to include them. A little girl she met this past summer loved the idea so much she started a chapter of it in Oklahoma.”

Boller said Jorja’s 4-H group also helps with Gifts for Grands throughout the year.

“They do fundraisers,”  she said. “This past Christmas, instead of buying the ornaments, they made them. All the families saved can lids over the year, then they had a party where we painted them and painted snowman faces and hot glued things. So each of the kids handmade and ornament and the cards that go in the gifts. That’s 27 kids that come in and see the impact they can make.”

The top two honorees from each state and the District of Columbia will receive an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C. in early May for four days of national recognition events.

“They are kept busy doing service activities while they’re there, seeing the sights, talking to senators, things like that,” Boller said. “Learning how to talk about their platforms, finding out what other kids’ platforms are. It’s just a great way to learn how other kids are doing stuff in their community, how they’re raising money for their platforms, and just different things like that.”

She added they will also being doing some community service projects while they’re there.

“They’ve collected new books from several publishers, I believe, and they’re for the K-sixth grade age group,” Boller said. “They’re going to be spending four or five hours in the local elementary donating those books to kids in need and reading to them. That is going to be something she loves. She’s an avid reader.”

“I think the most exciting part is going to ride a plane because I’ve never rode on one,” Jorja added

Due to the amount of volunteer hours she has put in, Jorja will also be receiving the President's Volunteer Service Award, which is given by the president himself.

“And that’s not something that is just for kids,” Jackie said, “It’s something they can give to any age based on how many community service hours you commit. So we’re pretty honored about that.”

Kevin Janssen, principal at Stoddard Elementary, said they nominated Jorja to give her recognition for everything she’s doing outside of school.

“We stress all the time in the Beatrice Public Schools, especially in the elementary, about Orangemen pride and what it means to be an Orangemen,” Janssen said. “To treat others as you would want to be treated, to do things when other people aren’t looking, and always try to have a positive attitude. I think this is just one way that Jorja is able to show that. She truly has Orangemen pride. She gives back to so many without others knowing about it, and she doesn’t necessarily like to receive the credit for it. The smiles on the people’s faces does it for her. It just speaks to the kind of character she has.”

Jorja said it was strange to be recognized for her volunteer efforts.

“He just came in and told us, and then everyone started staring at me," she said. "It was kind of awkward. Then he went over the intercom and told the whole school.”

Last fall, Jorja received a Serve Nebraska Step Forward Youth Volunteer award. Governor Mike Foley presented the awards.

Jorja still spends 12-20 hours a month volunteering at Good Samaritan, playing games and doing crafts with the residents. Jorja’s younger sister has started volunteering there, as well.

Good Samaritan awarded Jorja a regional volunteer award for her work.

“She’s a great leader to talk to her friends about how much fun it is,” Robin Gascon, director of marketing and research development at Good Samaritan, said. “We need more volunteers like her.”

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Beatrice man sent to prison for relationship with teen

A Beatrice man was sentenced to prison Thursday after having a relationship with a 15-year-old girl.

Zachary N. Craven, 23, was sentenced in Gage County District Court to two years prison for enticement by an electronic communication device and two years prison for attempted violation of Sex Offender Registration Act requirements. The two sentences will be served concurrently, totaling two years.

Following his release, Craven be on post release supervision, which is similar to probation, for one year.

Craven was arrested last July after the victim’s mother reported to Beatrice police that her teenage daughter may have been dating a 23-year-old man.

According to Gage County court documents, the girl had run away from home and upon her return, the mom was trying to find out where she had been when she found a letter indicating her daughter was in a relationship with Craven.

The mother also brought her daughter’s phone to police and asked them to look through it.

Court documents state that a nude photo of Craven was found on the phone, as well as a video of two unidentifiable people having intercourse.

Craven was interviewed and said he didn’t recall specifically sending a nude photo to the victim and would not say if he sent the video or not.

At the time of the offense, Craven was on post release supervision following a prison sentence in a separate case.

In that case, he was sentenced to two years in prison followed by 18 months of post release supervision for failing to report every six months. A second charge of violating the Sex Offender Registration Act was dismissed as part of a plea agreement.

Scott Koperski /   

Zachary Craven