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Dear Neighbors:

It’s a time of year for reflection. While my review follows, please consider commenting about your year.

This past year has forced me to think about all that for which I am grateful–life in general when so many people have died; a job and food for sustenance when so many people lost their jobs, and don’t have money to buy food; a roof over my head; clothing to keep me warm; friends and family; and my Bible to comfort and inspire me.

Also, you have brought smiles to my face when I see you comment on some of my Facebook posts. I love that you care.

Then there’s my PA Dutch Cooking videos. I’m not as sophisticated as Denise, just a south-central PA Dutch girl remembering recipes learned from my grandmothers–anything from main dishes like corn pie and potpie to drinks like hot cider and eggnog, even desserts like shoofly pie and whoopie pies. Everything’s posted to my YouTube channel if you care to take a peek.

I also used food from my “Victory Garden”—potatoes, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers…–in my recipes.

Even though I haven’t been able to do most of the “normal” things that lift me up–go to church (but I do watch online), visit with family for Sunday dinner, go out to eat, go to the hairdresser two times per month, take my dance classes or swim, or meet with friends like you, you can see that I’ve adjusted. On nice days, I ride my bike. Otherwise to keep moving, I try to walk at least one mile each day. We also buried both my mother-in-law and the gentleman who raised my husband. I’m writing a book on my life too.

As a servant leader, at a time when PPE and elastic was not available, I helped to lead a group of 82 women to sew and distribute 10,000 masks to first responders, and then the community, before the CDC and Governor mandated mask wearing. After PPE became available, we stopped so as not to compete with struggling businesses. I even wrote and published a book (PDF) to document the experience.

At the County of Lebanon, all of my meetings have gone “zoom,” and there are tons of them, probably triple my usual schedule, and I sit way too much. The pandemic and my previous role as president of the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania landed me on a bipartisan task force to meet three times a week with the Governor, Secretary Levine, and other top staff for briefings on the coronavirus pandemic. We are informed of what’s coming before it hits the news, asked for input, and allowed to ask questions.

I also helped to end a lawsuit against the State so that Lebanon County could receive their $12.8 million in CARES funding, of which $2.8M had to be spent educating the public about wearing a mask. All money had to be spent by December 30. Mission accomplished. Working with staff and community groups like the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Corporation, United Way, and Tourist Bureau, we distributed sorely needed funds to about 2,000 businesses in our community

Along the way, I was interviewed about 50 times, the last several times for grants awarded by the Woman’s Club of Lebanon to local nonprofits assisting in helping those in need during the pandemic. Here’s a link to the LebTown article.

To keep me on my toes, one interview was with Lancaster Farming about preserved farms being sold, and Clean and Green taxes having to be paid back.

While I’m thinking green, Northern Lebanon Rotary Club, of which I’m a member, was able to complete their Adopt-a-Highway cleanup, three miles north on Route 72 between the Jonestown and Lickdale intersections.

Also, commissioners were able to:

  1. Complete sections of the Lebanon Valley Rail Trail between 25th Street at West Lebanon and Long Lane in North Lebanon Township as well as from Bunker Hill to Jonestown across the Swatara Creek;
  2. Purchase of Camp Shand for preservation and youth partnering with the YMCA;
  3. Sign a purchase agreement with the City of Lebanon for the City’s share of the courthouse;
  4. Sign a purchase agreement for land on which to build a new 911 Center; and
  5. Preserve a wetland while nearing closing on a parcel east of the City of Lebanon.

I also worked hard during campaign season to carry out a fair Presidential election. So many challenges at every turn, but our count was certified to the State. One reward was an outdoor invitation to Gettysburg to hear Joe Biden speak in person.

In closing, praying you are safe, healthy, and wishing you a Happy New Year.

Jo Ellen Litz

Jo Ellen Litz is a six-term Lebanon County Commissioner. She also serves as the President of the Swatara Watershed Association.

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