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Thumbs Up/Thumbs Down: Views from the Echo Press Editorial Board

Sarah Block, Jasmine’s mother, hugs Earl Melchert as she meets him for the first time since Jasmine’s return. (Beth Leipholtz / Echo Press)

Coming to the rescue — twice

Thumbs Up: Earl Melchert of Barrett is one of the most deserving candidates we've had for a thumbs up. In fact, he deserves two thumbs up. First, he helped rescue the missing 15-year-old Alexandria girl, Jasmine Block, by spotting her running in a field near his home on Sept. 5. He helped get her in his truck and immediately called 911. One of the men who was later charged with abducting Jasmine came close by Melchert's home, looking for Jasmine, but didn't see her because she was scrunched down, out of view in Melchert's truck. Working together and following up on Mechert's call, law enforcement agencies later arrested the suspect and two others. Last week, Melchert helped Jasmine once again — giving her $7,000 reward he received for her safe return home. "The reward money means nothing to me," Melchert told the Block family. "I want to present this money to you and Jasmine you guys deserve it." Jasmine's mother, Sarah, said that Melchert and the police department will forever hold a place in her family's hearts."He's really a hero to us," she said after meeting Melchert during the reward presentation. "He didn't have to help her and he did. He risked a lot of things and put himself in danger."

Scholarships for young children

Thumbs Up: Here's good news for families in the Douglas County area: They may qualify to receive a portion of the historic $20.7 million in early learning scholarship funding the Legislature provided in an education finance package enacted earlier this year. Families with children ages 3 to 5 may be eligible to receive scholarships of up to $7,500 per child, per year, to help pay for high-quality child care and early education to help them prepare for school.

The scholarships must be used at a Parent Aware-rated program. This may apply to a licensed family child care, child care center, Head Start program, preschool, or school-based pre-kindergarten program. "The best thing about these scholarships is they are designed to get funding in the hands of families who need it most," said Rep. Paul Anderson, R-Starbuck in an e-mail. "I urge people in our area to see if they are eligible to receive money to help their children get off to a good start educationally." Lakes and Prairies Community Action Partnership is administering the scholarships in a nine-county region, including Douglas. Call 218- 512-1584 for more information.

Billfold finders

Thumbs Up: Carla Draack of Alexandria sends a thumbs-up to the man and woman who located her billfold at Walmart on the evening of Oct. 9. "They brought it to my home before I knew I'd lost it and before I got home," she said. "If I knew who they were, I'd like to formally thank them."

Anonymous comments

Thumbs Down: We know we can't please all readers all the time. And readers have every right to send us a critical comment if a story or coverage riles them up. But don't do it through an anonymous note, with no return address or phone number. This doesn't accomplish anything. It doesn't give us a chance to respond or shed some light on the concern. There may be an explanation or a flat-out correction to their assumptions. That's what happened a few days ago when we received a note from someone who was convinced that a commentary submitted by a local reader was "fake news" and criticized the newspaper for printing it. The sender left no name, no way of contacting him or her to explain that we spoke directly with the commentary writer. If you have bad things to say about someone, at least have the courage to put your name to your accusations. Otherwise, you're just slinging mud in the dark.

Worthy award

Thumbs Up: Congratulations go to Alexandria's AARP Smart Driver Course program, which is held at the Alexandria Senior Center. The program was ranked fifth in the list of the top 15 hosts nationwide. Offered by AARP Driver Safety, the course is the nation's largest classroom and online driver safety course and is designed especially for drivers age 50 and older.

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