Category Archives: FEATURES

A day in the life of Russell Bergstrom

By Kelly Sullivan
Guest Writer

Starting his morning five days a week at 4:15 is not a problem for garbage man Russell Bergstrom. He is “20 years Military” and at age 59 still appears as strong as the day he left the service. Bergstrom is about 5’5”, and built like an impenetrable stone wall. His hair is graying blond, and he has a strong handshake and respectful smile for anyone who will give them in return.
He has two tattoos easily visible since the “style” at the Bellingham Sanitary Service Company, or SSC, seems to be to rip off the sleeves of their neon yellow work shirts. The shirt is a part of Russell’s uniform, in addition to a pair of old jeans and work boots. The tattoo on his right arm is that of a smoking bulldog reminiscent of his days in the Marine Corp. “Once A Marine, all ways a Marine,” he says. He got it in 1971 at Jimmy’s tattoo parlor in Hong Kong. The other on his left bicep is an American flag with the name Tita signed above and Allan, Adrian and Abram below– his wife and three sons.

Bergstrom normally does the route himself. This is not a problem for a man who can lift with ease the huge green bins, the “TotersTM” us mere mortals grunt and groan about dragging the 10 feet up our driveways. Today he has some help from Andy Lord, a fellow garbage man. Lord is a “floater” which means he doesn’t have his own route yet.
Bergstrom received his own route after seven years as a floater. “It was the highlight of my career,” he said.
russellgarbagemanBergstrom’s truck is number 53, parked in the back of the lot. He remembers the first time he saw his truck it resembled a “burnt marshmallow.” Over the years it has received a new paint job, new engine and new transmission.
“It’s like a new truck,” he said. “It’s like my own.” He has the utmost respect for his truck, and treats it well. You need a good truck to be a good, safe driver, which is very important to Bergstrom.
Bergstrom’s route starts leaving the company lot on Holly and F Street. He turns right and drives up Holly towards downtown before going behind Rocket Doughnuts. Then he drives up to the museum and behind in the alley where the residential houses are. His route is only residential housing, as other trucks come by afterward for the commercial and business district. Bergstrom drives a “rear load truck,” the one used for residential routes. It is one of four different kinds the company owns and sends out every day to collect Bellingham’s massive amounts of garbage.
After a few houses downtown he then speeds up Magnolia and takes a left, right into the Super Supplement’s parking lot. Bergstrom has been a garbage man for 13 years now, which is easy to see as he handles the mammoth truck in the small alleyways with an experts ease.
“Tight alleys are just part of the job,” he said.
For the record Bergstrom prefers to be called a garbage man. “It’s the old title,” he said. “I still call supper, supper,” he added half jokingly.
Bergstrom and Lord are only two of the many garbage men that serve Bellingham. Their small roles however, keep the city functioning. Their obvious skills, and passion for the job ensure the streets are kept clean and daily life can move forward smoothly for us.

Bergstrom said he has found over the years there’s no stigma that comes with the title of garbage man, just old connotations and impressions. He recalls the past garbage men “with the beer bellies, smoking, drinking, a cigarette hanging out of their mouth.”
“That’s not me,” he said. “I believe a garbage man doesn’t have to look like garbage.” This is one of his ’50 tips’: holding the garbage away from you while you work keeps you looking clean.
Bergstrom received a degree in sociology from Western about 30 years ago. He found that even back in 1976, the position of garbage man had moved upwards in the eyes of society.
“With more pay, one earns more prestige,” said Bergstrom. While “shoe shine boy” in his opinion is at the bottom of the list of powerful jobs, Bergstrom earns $23.35 an hour, and says his position is no longer one step above the shoe shiners like it used to be. Working at Sanitary Service Company requires that Bergstrom and Lord are in the Teamsters Union.
“I’m a union man,” Bergstrom said. “I believe in unions.” This ensures that they receive at least eight hours pay five days a week. They work from about 6:30 in the morning until 2:30 in the afternoon when they dump their load off at the “burners”, the transfer stations on Slater Road where they used to incinerate the garbage. Today it’s loaded onto trucks or train cars for a trip to a distant landfill.

As they turn down the first alley, Lord who is bolstered onto the back of the truck by his own strength, grins and exaggerates wiping his brow indicating how quick Bergstrom is on the job. He rolls quickly down the alleys of Franklin/ Ellis, Franklin/ Grant and Grant/ Humbolt. At every stop between every two houses, Lord hops off the back of the truck and sets up the garbage cans while Bergstrom jumps out of the driver’s seat and comes over to help. The two work like a well oiled machine.
Bergstrom explains another of the “50 tips” a garbage man needs to learn to be good at his job. One example of this is the way the floater sets up the driver for a quick and efficient stop- and- go. If there is one garbage can on each side of the alley Lord first goes to the one farthest from him, on the driver’s side, and pulls it up to the “toter dumper”. These are the two big claws on the back of the truck that pick up, and hoist the garbage cans into the “hopper”, the big bin on the truck that crushes, and stores the garbage for the day’s run. Lord then runs over and pulls the one on his side up to the dumper and together the two place the toters on the claws. They then return the emptied trash bins to where they sat, almost as if they had never been touched.
Another tip is when there are two bins on one side of the alley. Lord would first set up Bergstrom by taking the bin farthest from the truck and places it in front of the driver’s toter dumper before then going back and setting up his own.
“It’s not rocket science, but it makes things go smooth,” Bergstrom said.
Further down the alley he waved and shouted a friendly ‘Hello’ to a customer awake at the hour before the suns comes up.

“We have some very nice customers,” he said, recalling that a few days earlier he’d received an entire cake from one of his customers. Once Bergstrom received a $100 bill from a woman on Chuckanut around the Holidays.
On the other end of the spectrum Bergstrom also recalls some particularly gross stories he’s had during his career. Back when he was a floater he was assigned to the routes northwest of Bellingham. He found in that particular area, for some reason most people wouldn’t use garbage bags, but threw their garbage right into the bins. During the summer, especially with the once-a-month pickups, the smells could be quite overwhelming, he said.
Russell Bergstrom has easily dispelled the old notion of the garbage man. He never once alluded to disliking his job and he clearly enjoys his work and is proud to say he is a garbage man.

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Cookin’ it up at the Co-op

By Matt Benoit

Horizon Editor

 Instructor Dorothy Hopkins said the idea came to her after seeing the film “Julie and Julia,” about food industry icon Julia Child.

Coop (3)“While contemplating the movie, I realized that the need for basic cooking skills is still apparent and that many in our culture are missing the value of preparing their own meals,” she said. “Preparing our own food helps us stay connected with ourselves, our family, and our community.”

So, Hopkins began offering a series of three cooking classes at the Cordata Community Food Co-op this fall, with priority given to Whatcom Community College students.

The classes cost $15, and I was fortunate enough to attend and, perhaps somewhat apprehensively—participate—in one of them.

The classes take place in the Roots room of the Co-op, a fairly spacious room located on the second floor of the building, and it is essentially contains a full kitchen. There are stacked plates on the counter next to the sink, a multi-burner stove covered with silver pots and pans reflecting the shine of the ceiling lights.

This particular class has few students, and when one of them fails to show, I become an involuntary participant. Today’s class will cover cutting, cooking, and safety techniques and the basics of shopping in bulk, all in preparation for the two-dish meal itself: buckwheat, potato, and spinach pilaf with a quinoa and black bean salad.

We begin the class in a normal, academic way, sitting around a rectangular table. Hopkins explains the basics of bulk shopping, including what a PLU means (price look-up), as well as advice on buying and keeping spices.

Next, Hopkins passes out recipes and other handouts, then instructs us to look at the course cookbook, “The Whole-Life Nutrition Cookbook.”

Coop (5)She explains what Quinoa is (an ancient Incan grain), adding that part of the focus of her classes is about experimenting with grain. At this point, I’m wondering if you can snort Quinoa or not.

Anyway, we now have to draw up a shopping list. Ashlynn Backus-Owen, a second-year WCC student working on a liberal studies degree, happily volunteers to do this.

Backus-Owen, 20, said she decided to take the classes because she simply didn’t know how to cook, possessing only baking skills. When she saw the classes advertised on a bulletin board at the college, she thought she would try it.

“I’ve always wanted to take a cooking class,” she says, adding that the fact there is more than one way to do things in cooking appeals to her. “I like the creative aspect,” she says, “mixing it up.”

Once she finishes writing up all the things we’ll need to buy (while hopefully staying on a budget of around $15, says Hopkins), we voyage downstairs and advance to the bulk section. Hopkins shows us the rows of rice, beans, lentils, salts, and other products just waiting to be scooped and poured into bags and containers.

Coop (4)She shows us the proper way to do this, and then shows us the ultra-cool liquid dispensers, which include maple syrup and olive oil, the latter of which we need. I get to hold the bottle, stick it underneath the pour spout, and push the magic button. While I’m doing this, I notice the big, red emergency shut-off button, no doubt there in case someone gets carried away with Vermont’s finest and sends it spraying everywhere.

We tackle the produce section next for limes, lemons, spinach, and red potatoes among other ingredients. At the checkout stand, our total comes to nearly $30. So much for the budget. Later though, Hopkins explains, we’ll have enough food for 12 servings, meaning you could eat off it for a week at $2.50 a meal.

Heading back upstairs, we go over basic kitchen safety. I’m told to remove the synthetic windbreaker I’m wearing because of it’s flammability factor—Hopkins shows us a small article from the Bellingham Herald in which women’s robes were recalled after 9 deaths occurred as a result of catching on fire; most of them were in the kitchen when it happened.

Fortunately, I don’t wear women’s robes, but, not wanting to have any chance at burning up like a gas-soaked rag, I remove my polyester jacket.

We divvy up responsibilities and go to work. I get to cut the potatoes, slice the lemons (which I accidently cut into slices instead of wedges), strain the Quinoa, check the potatoes, pour the potatoes, set timers, and generally try to stay the hell out of everyone else’s way.

Coop (1)Eventually, the food is cooked, and we sit down to enjoy it together. It is this sitting together for a meal, says Hopkins, that is so important. She cites the Center for Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University, which created a family meal day after their research suggested that children who eat at home with their families a majority of nights during the week have lower rates of cigarette smoking, eating disorders, alcohol and substance abuse, and higher grades.

“Preparing and sharing meals creates relationships and relationships are what enrich our lives and make them worth living,” says Hopkins.

The food, I must admit, is better than I expected, and there is something about the pride of successfully cooking your own meals that make it taste just a little bit better.

For college students, Hopkins adds, the skill of cooking is a basic survival skill, especially in a world where cheap, fast food is seemingly everywhere.

“Our culture is relying on the fast food industry to nourish us, but our health is not in their best interest,” she says. “Fast food is notorious for having low nutritional value.

Our health in our later years is determined by what we eat now.  When we select our ingredients for our recipes, we are taking charge of our health at a core level.”

Between the five of us, we don’t make much of a dent in the amount of food we’ve cooked. There are lots of leftovers. Hopkins sums up her impetus for the classes.

“Offering these cooking classes is my way of making the world a better place,” she says.

“This one small act has rippling effects.  The students at WCC are just starting their adult lives.  Soon, many of them will be marrying and starting families of their own.  Their children will have to eat.  If a student takes a beginning cooking class from me and is then able to prepare for his/her children healthy and nutritious meals from the start, those children will grow into the strong, happy, healthy adults we want the next generation to become.  What a satisfying feeling to realize that by teaching someone how to use a knife and cook rice, I will have positively impacted another person 20 years later.”

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Volunteering through WCC Clubs and classrooms

By Emily Huntington
Horizon Reporter
Student Volunteers (1)Several classes and student clubs on campus have great volunteering opportunities for students. The best part is, you don’t necessarily have to be a member of the club to do it.

For example, the veteran’s club has a variety of things students can do year round – and you don’t have to be a veteran.
“We encourage participation from veterans and non-veterans alike, with any and all means possible,” said Kristopher Powell, a member of the Veteran’s club.
Powell added that the best way to get involved in volunteer work through the club is to go to the meetings, held every Wednesday at 3 p.m. in Syre 216. Their latest project is gathering donations to send off to an army unit currently deployed in Afghanistan. This drive is in memorial of a Whatcom County soldier who was killed there recently. The club is coordinating their efforts with KGMI radio station who will also be collecting goods.
Last year, the veteran’s club sent members to an elderly woman’s home to clean out her garage. They usually pick the jobs that no one else will, by going to Whatcom’s Volunteer Center.
The communications club, advised by Guy Smith, does a variety of on and off campus activities throughout the academic year. They participate in food drives around Bellingham for the Food Bank as well as donating food for the animals at Whatcom Humane Society. Their big event is the annual Whatcom Literacy Council Trivia Bee and Silent Auction, taking place on April 2 at Bellingham High School. They are also hosting their annual trivia bee in the Syre auditorium on December 9 at 5 p.m., in conjunction with the business club’s book sale.
Student Volunteers (2)The communication club is “looking for three-person teams (of students) to compete for a really nice first-place award; there will also be some good raffle give-aways for audience members,” Smith said.
For questions, contact the communication club. They meet Thursdays at 2:45.
There is an opportunity for a resume stuffer through the business club as well. Right now students are being trained by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) on how to assist low-income people with filing their taxes. It goes from now until April.
Leah Congdon is the new service-learning coordinator and is here through a volunteer program called VISTA – volunteer in service to America. She is here for a year. Service learning is a new program at Whatcom that engages students in community service activities, while applying what they have learned in class to something in the community.
Congdon can be reached by e-mail,, by phone, 383-3072, or by stopping in at Kulshan Hall room 107.
Laura Overstreet’s Lifespan Development Psychology class has about a third of her students working with the Volunteer chore program, helping people with disabilities remain independently in their homes. Students with the chore program do yard work, house work, and other chores, like picking up groceries for them. This helps students see some of the psychological and physical challenges that people face later in life, and then they are able to apply it to what they are studying in class. They keep a journal of their progress along the way that will be turned in at the end of the quarter. Overstreet hopes that this program will open doors for more volunteer opportunities, and that her students will continue to help people, even when the class is over.
With the chore program, there is no training, so volunteers can get busy right away. Students give their preferences (male/female) and are matched with someone they can help. A lot of the students participating are nursing majors, so it gives them the opportunity to meet people for possible leads of employment, as well as making them more marketable since they have some level of experience.
On Make a Difference Day, Overstreet had her students volunteer for a day and write reflections on what they learned and how they felt.
“Out of about 60 students, 28 volunteered,” she said.
Several students, one being Rachel Clemons, helped paint at Lutherwood Camp on Lake Samish. “It made me feel great to help out with the chores that needed to be done at this non-profit Lutheran camp that hosts many camps for kids all year long,” she said in her reflection.
“I felt that Make a Difference Day was a good way to give back to the community and I’m sure I’ll be participating in this event in the future,” said student Kelsey Williams.
Student Cherie Swanson spent her time with the arthritis foundation, folding Jingle Bell Run t-shirts. Jingle Bell run is the annual Bellingham event that supports research and funding for the foundation. Swanson was looking for ways to make her application to Western stronger, and through Make a Difference Day she was able to become a reading intervention teacher at Shuksan Middle School.
“I try as hard as I can to set forth a positive example for my sons, and I believe volunteering speaks volumes about the kind of person I want to be and has a positive impact in the creation of the kind of community I am proud to be a member of,” she said in her reflection.

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Getting baked

By Matt Benoit
Horizon Editor

Late Nights at Library returns with extended hours, baked goods for all
Linda Lambert, library director at Whatcom, says her favorite thing to bake is chocolate chip cookies. Always.

“I love chocolate,” she says, adding that her favorite recipe is “chocolate coma cookies,” from a mystery novel by Carolyn Mott Davidson.
Lambert is just one of about a baker’s dozen of library circulation staff, Late Nights at the Library (4)librarians, classified staff, and work study students who can and probably will be baking up a storm of tasty treats for this quarter’s “Late Nights at the Library,” where the library will be open for extended hours in preparation for student finals and projects.
This year’s dates are Dec. 3 and 4, with a second “batch” on Dec. 7 and 8. The library will be open until 10 p.m., 1 hour later than normal hours for the quarter on Mondays through Thursdays, and 5 hours later than normal Friday hours.
Lambert says “Late Nights” have been occurring since 2005, when she had the idea to offer a basic package of ideas summed up in the library’s flyers for the event: cookies, coffee, and librarians. The library would offer extended hours, and, at the same time, cookies and other baked goods.
The event costs $600 each year, and is paid for through the Associated Students of Whatcom.
“I’m making chocolate peanut butter bars,” said Julie Horst, a reference librarian at Whatcom. Horst said the bars have a peanut butter base and are covered with chocolate. “They’re extremely addictive,” she added, mentioning that they’re loaded with fat, sugar, an entire pound of powdered sugar, and she doesn’t even have to actually bake them.Late Nights at the Library
One thing that most of the staff loves to bake are chocolate chip cookies. Kim Struiksma, administrative assistant in the library, makes her grandma’s top secret chocolate, chocolate chip cookies.
Jon McConnel, librarian, bakes chocolate chip cookies because he has a good recipe and, he added, it’s easy. “It’s what I bake for myself; it’s what I bake for the students,” he said.
“I bake my aunt’s recipe for 10-cup cookies,” said circulation desk librarian Linda Compton-Smith. She always makes the recipe, she said, describing the cookies as having a full cup of each of the ingredients—including peanut butter, chocolate, and coconut among others—in each batch.
Laurie Starr, another circulation desk librarian, says her recipes vary. She has made everything from snickerdoodles to double chocolate oatmeal cookies, and is thinking of making salted peanut bar cookies, which she described as butterscotch-like in nature. “It’s always fun,” she said of the baking.
The library usually never runs out of treats altogether, but Lambert said Ara Taylor, who manages the reserves at the circulation desk, has baked up things at home and run them to the library on the few occasions they’ve run short on treats.
Lambert said the one type of baked good seems to be consumed faster than others.
“Brownies always go first,” she said.

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Students work out

By Jorge Cantu

 Horizon Reporter

 Life in college is a sort of juggling act, where students try to balance jobs, family, friends, hobbies, and school. So how are students able to stay fit and healthy? And how do they manage their time to do this?
The gym at the Pavilion on campus is free, yet many students still join other gyms around Bellingham.
Pavilion (1)Kevin George, a 22-year-old student at Whatcom, manages to work out on a regular basis at a gym he pays monthly for. He goes to Bellingham Athletic Club about three to four times a week.

“I usually go in the mornings before class,” George said. “I find that it’s a great way to wake me up and get my day going.”

Elon Langston, also a Whatcom student, is on the basketball team for the upcoming season. He gets regular workouts by going to practice, but also goes to Bellingham Athletic Club. The gym is a regular thing for him. “I try to go at least four times a week, although it’s hard with school and work to find time,” he said.
City GymLangston works at the Pavilion building on campus, where he monitors people going in and out of the gym. “I use the gym here only sometimes,” he said. “It is too small and usually too crowded to get a decent workout.

George said there is a positive side to having the gym though. ” It’s good because it is free,” he said.
Krystal Kern works at the new All Time Fitness gym off Cordata street. As a personal trainer, she recommends that students work out three to five times a week, and for at least an hour at a time.
“The majority of people who attend our gym are Whatcom students,” she said. “It is very close to the college and open 24 hours a day.”
Kern said it is also essential to make working out a priority and to have some sort of fit schedule every week if wanting to achieve results.
anytime fitness bryan and krystalAlicia Alvarez, a 46 year old Whatcom student, has stuck to TaeBo and other various workout tapes to achieve results. “I make time for working out, I make it a priority like I would taking a shower,” she said. “It’s the only way I am able to stay fit and healthy.”
Along with hitting the gym, another component of staying fit and healthy is simply eating healthy.
George noted that he makes up his meals at home a head of time, before going to school and work.
“I eat tons of sandwiches, basically trying to get my protein and vegetable intake for every day made sufficient,” he said. “But even if I don’t have a sandwich, there are tons of cheap healthy bars and snacks offered at almost any store and gas station.”
Alex Macleod, 21, is another student who is into eating healthy. “After gaining weight in high school, I made a decision to make working out a priority,” he said. “The only way I do not work out in the mornings is if I have a test to study for, but usually my homework is done the night before.”
Langston had a different view of eating healthy, though, “I eat whatever man,” he said. “I’m a college kid and don’t have mom cooking no more, so I eat whatever I get.”
Any time fitnessKern from All Time Fitness said that people tend to drink their calories. “Sugar is the one that really gets people!”
Bryan Hargrove, a personal trainer who works at All Time Fitness, commented on some of the cheap healthy foods students can get. “Trader Joe’s doesn’t use any preservatives or additives in their foods, which tend to be pretty cheap. They also don’t use shelf life extenders, which tends to make the food cheaper,” he said. “Also, produce in season seems to be cheaper, and always a good source of nutrition.”
“Staying healthy can be tough,” George said, “But once you realize that your health should be as important a priority as anything else in life, then you find the time to make it a lifestyle.”

 All gyms encourage you to call and set up a meeting.

Any Time Fitness (360) 306-5858
Student Price
$49.99/month with 24 hour gym use
$50 off 1 yr contract (which means $35.00/month)
$39.99 for key FOB

Bellingham Athletic Club (360) 676-1800Student Price
$129.11 for 3 months
Bellingham Fitness (360) 733-1600
Student Price
$29.99/month with no contracts

City Gym (360) 647-1511
Student Price (prepaid) $ 30.00/month

Gold’s Gym (360) 671-4653
Student Price
$39.99/month – A 12 month commitment
$59.99 Enrollment Fee
Pavilion At Whatcom Community College
Student Price
FREE with Student ID

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