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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Best of the Voices: He’s helping those who helped him

Steve Charchan stands next  to equipment at Caribou Physical Therapy, where he received care  Jan. 6  in Sandpoint. Charchan inherited some money and created Heavenly Helping Hands, a charity that supports students going into physical or occupational therapy.  (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)
Steve Charchan stands next to equipment at Caribou Physical Therapy, where he received care Jan. 6 in Sandpoint. Charchan inherited some money and created Heavenly Helping Hands, a charity that supports students going into physical or occupational therapy. (Jesse Tinsley / The Spokesman-Review)

Once Nick Peterson made the decision to enroll in a three-year physical therapy doctoral program, he faced a big problem: how to finance it.

“We (he and his wife, Kori) were just getting ready to jump into that big pile of debt that goes with being a student,” said Peterson.

But thanks to the generosity of Sandpoint resident Steve Charchan, Peterson and three other physical and occupational therapy students in Eastern Washington and North Idaho do not have to worry about their expenses. As long as they do their part and achieve good grades, Charchan will pay for their tuition and books – an investment, he says, in the future of America.

Charchan, a former accountant who also served 28 years in the Navy, has a degenerative joint disease. Since 2001 he has undergone four major surgeries on his neck and back. He has two fusions and continues today with therapy five times a week.

“I’ve gone from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane to walking on my own four times since 2001,” said Charchan.

And there have been complications along the way. In 2002, a surgery that should have required a seven-day hospital stay instead resulted in a staph infection that required extensive care. He spent 30 days in Deaconess Medical Center in Spokane, followed by 35 days at St. Luke’s Rehabilitation Center – an experience he jokingly refers to as boot camp.

But it is that boot camp and the devotion of his physical and occupational therapists that Charchan said brought him back from the lowest point in his life.

“Physical therapists and occupational therapists have a great deal of enthusiasm and love,” Charchan said.

Charchan came up with the idea of providing scholarships for students who are studying physical or occupational therapy. He formed a nonprofit organization, enlisted volunteers to serve on the board of directors and formulated his plan.

“I figured, if God gave me this idea then it should be something heavenly, so I named it the Heavenly Helping Hands Foundation,” Charchan said.

Charchan will pay 100 percent of books and tuition expenses for a grade point average between 3.91 and 4.0; 90 percent for a grade point of 3.81 to 3.90; and 75 percent for a grade point average between 3.0 and 3.8.

“I’ve never paid less than 75 percent yet,” Charchan said. “They are all A students. They make me pay, and I enjoy doing it.”

Patty Hutchens

Chinese students visit

There was an international flavor at North Pines Middle School recently when 10 students from Beijing visited classrooms for a week and learned about American culture.

The students returned the favor at an assembly Monday with a presentation on Chinese culture that embraced topics as varied as food and Chinese opera.

Kit Zhang discussed the Chinese New Year and how it is celebrated, showing a picture of red packets that are exchanged. “We put lucky money in it,” he said. “We are all very happy to receive the red packet.”

The students picked American first names for their weeklong trip. While in Spokane Valley, the students and their teacher stayed with host families and shadowed students during classes.

“They just get a chance to absorb our culture,” said Principal Gordon Grassi. It’s an experience Grassi hopes is rewarding for everyone involved.

The school has hosted Japanese students before. Grassi said participating in the program, run by Worldwide International Student Exchange, is a good way to expose local kids to other cultures.

Eighth-grader Klaira Luna signed up to show Heidy Xu around for the week. “I just wanted to see what it would be like,” she said. “I’m really glad I got Heidy.”

Heidy, who has been studying English for years, said she liked trying foods such as pizza and hot dogs. “I like pasta best,” she said. “It’s great. It is a wonderful trip.”

Nina Culver

Corner could get camera

The Cheney City Council will vote Feb. 10 to decide if the city will install a camera at First and College streets.

The Cheney Police Department has received a $69,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to install a camera and the software needed to run it.

During the public hearing held Tuesday, Chief Jeff Sale told the council the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals deemed there is no expectation of privacy in public places. He said the camera will be effective in catching those who commit crimes in the area, but probably wouldn’t have much of an effect on crimes involving drugs and alcohol.

Baltimore, Newark, N.J., St. Petersburg and Tampa, Fla., Tacoma, Post Falls and Liberty Lake are among cities that have installed cameras in high-crime areas. Sale presented a video of a newscast from Baltimore about a potential rape that was thwarted by police through use of the cameras.

“The cameras are there to assist and complement what we do,” Sale said.

During late-night hours, felony crimes, misdemeanors and assaults have increased in the area, he said.

“It is completely different down there from 10 o’clock at night to 3 o’clock in the morning,” Sale said. “What you see down there during your normal course of business is not what is down there at 3 in the morning.”

Resident Tom Davis told the council he thinks the city should take advantage of any opportunity to increase security.

Lisa Leinberger

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