Recent Research Presented by Purdue Students

The poster below, “Identifying Best Practices to Improve Community Reach of Public Health Notifications,” was created after Megan Peek, Hailey Brenneman, and Elizabeth Mann – all undergraduate students at Purdue Fort Wayne – reached out to similar communities in Indiana as well as free news stations for television and radio. They asked questions regarding basic health notifications and public alert practices within these communities. Then they asked the television and radio stations about possible ways they could notify community members. Based on these responses and various articles concerning the topic, they identified specific recommendations that seemed to work best for the strengths and limitations of Blackford County. This poster was presented by Megan Peek at Purdue West Lafayette’s Engagement and Service-Learning Summit on March 2nd, 2023.


The poster below, “Composing a Public Health Plan for Hartford City,” was created by Victoria Hoffman, Hannah Richendollar, and Kira Creech, all of whom are undergraduate students at Purdue University Fort Wayne. This poster discusses how they wrote the first draft of the public health plan that we will present in the upcoming meetings. It highlights some of the recommendations that were made and will be discussed at the May 6th meeting, including littering, sweeping the parks for discarded needles, and the local emergency notification system. These recommendations are based on comments from the online survey. While most of the comments come from Hartford City residents, the survey was also open to anyone who had lived in the county for at least five years. Some of the other recommendations listed will be discussed in the fall meeting, once all of the air, water, and soil results have been analyzed. This poster was presented by Victoria Hoffman at Purdue West Lafayette’s Engagement and Service-Learning Summit on March 2nd, 2023.


The following poster, “Working Together for Change: A Hybrid Learning and Community-Based Approach to Drafting a Hartford City Public Health Plan,” describes how undergraduate students at Purdue Fort Wayne in a senior seminar class taught by Dr. Steiner worked together through the challenges of hybrid-learning to draft this public health plan. It discusses how the students split into two groups to divide and conquer the task of drafting this document. Each group had a face-to-face student leading 3 online-students who did their part remotely. The group led by Megan Peek worked towards researching and identifying best practices for public health notifications in Blackford County. While Peek’s group was researching this, the group led by Victoria Hoffman researched other approaches to public health plans and then wrote the first draft of this plan. This poster was presented at the 26th Annual Student Research and Creative Endeavor Symposium on March 24th, 2023.


By Megan Peek and Victoria Hoffman

Purdue West Lafayette Students Present Posters at Professional Meetings

Hannah Bard, under the supervision of Dr. Ellen Wells, presented “Comparing Demographics Between Blackford County Residents and Research Study Participants.” The abstract of this poster is as follows:
Our team conducted a study about metal contamination and health among adults in Hartford City, Indiana. The objective of this analysis is to compare demographics between Blackford County residents and study participants to determine if our study population reflects the actual population of Hartford City and Blackford County, Indiana. This cross-sectional study recruited participants using posters, announcements through community partners, and door- to-door canvassing. Data were collected from May through December 2002 using an online survey which could be filled out by the participant alone or with assistance from study staff. There were 245 participants that provided full data on their gender, age and race. Study data were compared with data from the U.S. Census Bureau via the STATS Indiana website. Data were managed and analyzed with Microsoft Excel. Analysis included descriptive statistical analysis, and comparisons used Student’s t-tests and Chi- square tests. Our study participants were 62.7% were female and 37.3% were male. Blackford County has a smaller proportion of women, with 50.6% female. In 2021, Hartford City’s population was 6,067 people and Blackford county’s population was 12,091 people. Thus, our study population was approximately 4.02% of the Hartford City population, and 2.02% of the Blackford County population. The Hartford City study median age (59 years) was higher than the overall county’s median age (43.6 years). Initial results suggest our study population has more females and is older than the entire population. Analyses are ongoing. The results will help us understand how representative our study population reflects Blackford County.

Rebecca Eyrick and Sharon Kulali, under the supervision of Dr. Ellen Wells, presented “Self-Reported Health Concerns among Adults in Hartford City, Indiana.” Eyrick and Kulali are students in the School of Health Sciences in the Department of Public Health at Purdue West Lafayette. This is the abstract of the poster:

Metal recycling plants may release environmental contaminants (air pollutants and heavy metals) into nearby communities. The citizens of Hartford City raised concerns about a local metal recycling plant and a variety of health concerns. As a first step to address these concerns, the goal for this analysis was to evaluate self-reported health indicators in adults from Hartford City. We completed a cross-sectional study of Hartford City adults (≥18 years old) in 2022. Participants completed a questionnaire regarding their demographic characteristics and health status and concerns. Data was available for 283 participants. Stata 17.0 was used to perform statistical analyses. The majority of participants were female (61.8%), White (96.1%), not Hispanic or Latino (98.6%), married (52.1%), and had an Associate’s degree (44.0%).  Their mean age was 56 years (SEM: 1.1) Most participants indicated that their mental (91.2%) and physical health (80.6%) were “about the same” or “better” in the past 12 months. 22.8% of participants indicated that had had at least one cancer in their lifetime, 47.3% had been diagnosed with hypertension, 42.8% had allergies, and 42.0% had high cholesterol. The highest concerns for citizens of Hartford City were cancer (29.3%), drug use (27.9%), and water quality (20.1%).  Other highlighted concerns were air quality, soil quality, poverty, and obesity. Additional analyses to determine correlations of demographic characteristics with health outcomes are ongoing. These results contribute to our understanding of the health concerns among Hartford City adults.

by Victoria Hoffman and Megan Peek

Preliminary Findings

PhD student Edem Fabrice has put together some preliminary findings of soil samples. A relationship between metals is found wherever there is an asterisk (meaning that where one is high or low, the other is also high or low). There are still many other samples that need to be tested before much more can be said. Save the date to come to the community meeting next spring to learn more! Thank you!

Preliminary Findings

West Lafayette Architecture Student Shuangwen Yang Re-Envisions a Future for the Site

Imagine what could be. That is the theme of Shuangwen Yang’s reimagination of what could possibly replace the current way in which the crushing operations impact the neighborhood around Hartford Iron and Metal. She envisions a memorial honoring those who have died from cancer and neurological diseases in the community and creating a place where children can safely play – a place people can be proud of and take ownership of. Listen to her describe and present her beautiful designs here. Thank you, Shuangwen, for giving of your talent and envisioning a beautiful place for our community.

by Eric Evans

Summer 2018 Update

New Video about our Earth Day Activities

One of Dr. Steiner’s students, Luis Nunez, just completed a video about our Spring Earth Day activities. As you may recall, students in Dr. Steiner’s sociology classes, the Sociology Student Association and the Communication’s Honors Society collaborated with Blackford County Concerned Citizens, the Community Harvest Food Bank and the IPFW Food Pantry to give away live vegetables to food insecure residents on Earth Day.

Students volunteered all semester—sterilizing grow beds, shoveling dirt, planting seeds, and tending seedlings– to grow vegetables in the Purdue University Fort Wayne’s greenhouse to give to the community.

Purdue Fort Wayne’s physical plant and the Environmental Resources Center provided invaluable support to make this project successful.

Dr. LeBlanc’s Health Communications’ students helped us emphasize healthy eating patterns.

The Department of International Language and Cultural Studies translated plant care instructions into multiple languages.

Library Mini-Garden Giveaway Students made buttons, tied gangly plants to stakes, and canvassed neighborhoods to distribute information about the project to the community.

The idea originated with Blackford County Concerned Citizens.

As you know, BCCC and residents have been asking city officials to work with Hartford Iron & Metal (HI&M) to discuss their possible relocation to a nearby industrial site. The steel recycling plant has been contaminating the neighborhood air and water with heavy metals that are known carcinogens. If the discussion to relocate HI&M to the industrial park succeeds, a large brownfield will remain.

This pilot project was initiated to show Hartford City residents the feasibility of above-ground gardening on brownfields.

Dr. Mohammadpour’s students in a Sustainable Construction course designed an imaginary greenhouse suitable to the current lot where Hartford Iron & Metal is operating, and they showed how relocation to the industrial site would be beneficial to business expansion.

Preparing Trees for Planting Jabin Burnsworth also brought a carload of AP Science students from Manchester High School.

On Earth Day, many of the vegetable plants were taken to Hartford City, but we had more than enough and students were eager to share. Students helped distribute the live vegetables to students at semester’s end, and Community Harvest Food Bank was eager to help distribute the rest.

It is through projects like this, that Blackford County Concerned Citizens and the Hoosier Environmental Council are helping reduce the risk of cancer and neurological disease in Blackford County.

City-Wide Trash Pick Up This project was sponsored by a START grant from the College of Arts and Sciences and a Purdue Student Service-Learning Grant that provides seed monies for research, development, and community-building projects in which faculty and students work directly with community members, civic leaders, and regional institutions to accelerate Fort Wayne’s growth and enterprise.

Purdue Fort Wayne Moss Testing Project Underway

Dr. Sherrie Steiner in the Anthropology and Sociology Department and Dr. Jordan Marshall from Biology have begun the research grant to conduct another round of moss testing. If you are interested in volunteering to help water moss stations when our hosts are away, please contact Dr. Steiner at steiners[at]pfw[dot]edu. They are looking to create a list of volunteers who can assist our station hosts.  Thank you!

Record Turn-Out for Earth Day 2018 Activities

Earth Day 2018 Activities What a fine day we had last Saturday! The IPFW College of Arts and Sciences START program funded a record involvement of IPFW students to grow mini-gardens to give away at our events on Earth Day in Hartford City. Thank you, IPFW! Seven vans of IPFW students associated with Dr. Steiner in Sociology and Dr. LeBlanc in Communications joined us for a full morning of activities. Jabin Burnsworth also brought a carload of AP Science students from Manchester High School. Activities occurred throughout Hartford City.

Downtown Barbecue Compliments of John Oxley

 Downtown Barbecue Compliments of John Oxley Saturday was the best turn-out of citizens we have had at any event. The hub of activity was downtown at John Oxley’s barbecue. The food was quite an attraction, but Eric Evans, BCCC President, said that he personally talked with people non-stop throughout the event. Students gathered comment cards from residents and gave away mini-gardens to residents. The group made a great impression! Just look at the smiles.

Blackford Junior High School

IPFW student posters of information about Hartford Iron and Metal at the Junior High SchoolIPFW students had posters of information about Hartford Iron and Metal at the Junior High School. They gave away mini-gardens to visitors, answered questions, and talked about future plans for additional moss testing. Dr. Frank from Hoosier Environmental Council talked with residents about the public health implications of heavy metal exposure. We are grateful to Blackford Junior High School for opening their doors and providing a place for students to present their posters. Thanks as well to Katie at Common Grounds for providing coffee and snacks.

City-Wide Trash Pick Up

City-Wide Trash Pick Up IPFW students joined Hartford City residents in picking up trash to clean up city streets after this long dreary winter. There were almost as many student volunteers as there were volunteers from Hartford City! Everyone worked up an appetite for the lunch provided by John Oxley.

Library Mini-Garden Giveaway

Library Mini-Garden Giveaway The library was celebrating its expansion. Unfortunately, the wind came up and made the area quite chilly. Students stayed and gave away mini-gardens, but everyone was happy to get downtown to join others at John’s to warm-up and eat.

Preparing Trees for Planting

Preparing Trees for Planting Jabin Burnworth’s students from Manchester High School prepared trees for planting in recognition of Earth Day. They took the tree bundle to the park, separated trees, and bagged them to be given away at various locations for planting.Thank you, Jabin!

Mini-Garden Giveaway in Fort Wayne!

Mini-Garden Giveaway in Fort Wayne! When we collaborated with IPFW to grow mini-gardens in the IPFW greenhouse, we also collaborated with organizations in Fort Wayne. This week, more than 100 mini-gardens were given to students and food insecure residents in Fort Wayne. Faculty translated plant care instructions into Spanish, Burmese, Arabic, French and Japanese.

Community Harvest was delighted to receive the mini-gardens Community Harvest was delighted to receive the mini-gardens. This project built a lot of good will between students, the university, residents of Fort Wayne, and Blackford County Concerned Citizens.

Purdue Fort Wayne Funds Moss Testing!

Dr. Sherrie Steiner in the Anthropology and Sociology Department and Dr. Jordan Marshall from Biology applied for a research grant to conduct another round of moss testing. If you live near Hartford Iron and Metal and are interested in hosting a moss station on your property, please contact Dr. Steiner at steiners[at]pfw[dot]edu. They are looking to identify nine locations by the end of June. Thank you!

Come to the Junior High School Saturday April 21st

giving away free growing vegetables Blackford County Concerned Citizens is giving away free growing vegetables and distributing information about relocating Hartford Iron and Metal. Dr. Indra Frank will be present to answer any questions about health risks associated with pollution. IPFW students will be presenting information about air and groundwater conditions.


Saturday, April 21st from 10 am – 12 pm
Blackford Junior High School
700 West Conger Street
Hartford City, IN 47938

IPFW vans will also be downtown distributing vegetables and IPFW students are helping pick up trash in the community neighborhoods.

Note: The location was recently changed from City Hall to the Junior High School.

Please continue paying attention to this important issue. Thank you for your involvement.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at 765-730-4168 or email us at blackfordcoconcernedcitizens[at]gmail[dot]com.