Editor’s note: This post is Part 21 of “Celebrating the People of Bloomington,” a special retrospective revisiting some of the stories Bloom has published since its inception in 2006. The details in these stories have not been changed since they were originally written, but we have provided updates when possible. Each story highlights an individual who contributed to making Bloomington a compassionate, diverse, and creative community. For more stories from “Celebrating the People of Bloomington,” click here.
Chitakorn Setmark: A Chef of Vast Experience and Heart
Chitakorn Setmark grew up on a farm in northeast Thailand. The middle of five children, he started helping his grandmother prepare meals at an early age. By the time he left home for his compulsory two-year military service, Setmark had come to love the hours he spent in the family’s kitchen. “When I left the army, I needed to find a livelihood,” he says, “and cooking was the only thing I knew how to do.”
Setmark, 41, honed his skills at a succession of restaurants in Bangkok, Thailand; South Africa; and Orlando, Florida. In 2010, he settled in Bloomington, met his future wife, Waew Chantar, and together they opened Bangkok Thai Cuisine in October 2013.
Janiece Jaffe: Jazz Singer
Janiece Jaffe was 30 and working as a preschool teacher, raising four children, when she decided to redirect her life. “I woke up one weekend and said, ‘I have to sing. If
I don’t sing, I’m going to regret it for the rest of my life,’” Jaffe says. She enrolled in the jazz studies program at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and became an improvisational vocalist. She performs regularly in Bloomington and around the world, lending her voice to a variety of musical settings. “I figured out a long time ago that it isn’t about me,” she says. “It’s about the music.”
Jaffe is also a sound-healing practitioner, using improvisational chanting and singing bowls to create healing musical tones.
Sandy Kellar: My Sister’s Closet Helps Many
In the 18 years since she founded My Sister’s Closet, the local nonprofit secondhand store selling to the public and giving work attire to the needy, Sandy Kellar has seen many women suffering poverty, abuse, and homelessness.
Kellar says they need help getting their lives back on track. Suitable interview attire is a start.
“We want them to leave knowing someone cares,” she says.
Despite a large donation from 100+ Women Who Care and the help of volunteers,
My Sister’s Closet struggles to remain open. Money from sales to the general public helps pay rent, utilities, and the salaries of three employees. “We can’t survive if people don’t support us by shopping,” Kellar says.
Morgan Scherer: A Long Hike That Raised Thousands for African Children Is Now a Book
In 2013, when Morgan Scherer was a senior at Bloomington High School North, he conceived what he calls a “bold dream” to raise money for refugee children in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
With his dog, Niko, Scherer hiked the northernmost 500 miles of the Appalachian Trail, raising $10,000 from sponsors and donating it to the Bloomington-based nonprofit organization Giving Back to Africa.
The story of Scherer’s journey is now a book, I Just Kept Walking. Author Elsa Marston juxtaposed Scherer’s story with a fictional one about a Congolese boy named Mobembo whose family becomes refugees from political violence. “Mobembo walks to save his family’s lives,” Marston says, “while Morgan walks to support their schooling.”
Chef Erika Yochum: Her Creativity Never Rests
Erika Yochum likes to read cookbooks for fun, especially at bedtime. She owns more than 130, and they’re piled up around her bed and all over her house. “Well-written cookbooks are like a story,” she says.
Yochum, 46, opened her first restaurant at age 19 in her Michigan hometown. At 25, she moved with her family to a farm 15 miles east of Bloomington. Over the next few years, Yochum played with recipes for tamales and began selling them at a flower stand that she and her aunt Pat had at the Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market.
Now, Chef Yochum and her sister are co-owners of Feast Bakery Café, opened in 2009. “We are constantly evolving,” Yochum says.
Anna Wrasse: Songstress With a Future
Anna Wrasse is pretty sure she penned her first song when she was 10. “Then I probably deleted it,” she says, laughing. “I probably thought it was horrible.”
In September, Wrasse won the Ferdinand Folk Festival Singer Songwriter Showcase for 2016 in the under-18 category and performed at the Dubois County, Indiana, event.
Wrasse began with piano at the age of 6. Shifting her attention to composing, she started playing guitar. She says working on stories and poems at a local Young Women Writing for (a) Change writing camp helped develop her songwriting.
Earlier this year, the 13-year- old eighth grader at Jackson Creek Middle School released a seven- song debut CD titled At Night.
Jim Keplinger: Comic Book Writer
The Off Campus Housing Agency (OCHA) wanted
to develop a marketing campaign that would appeal to college students. They felt they had a winner with the slogan “OCHA’s Gotcha!” and noir detective–like Agent Ocha, who seeks out the best rentals and enforces tenants’ rights. Now OCHA needed a comic book illustrator to realize their idea.
Enter Jim Keplinger, who has written and illustrated comic books such as Shadowhawk and G.I. Joe.
“College students should glom onto this,” says Keplinger, who will soon complete an 8–12-page Agent Ocha comic book.
Keplinger also studies information science at Indiana University. Like Agent Ocha, he transforms information into useable knowledge.