Shahla Farzan

Shahla Farzan is a general assignment reporter and weekend newscaster at St. Louis Public Radio. She comes most recently from KBBI Public Radio in Homer, Alaska, where she covered issues ranging from permafrost thaw to disputes over prayer in public meetings. A science nerd to the core, Shahla spent six years studying native bees, eventually earning her PhD in ecology from the University of California-Davis. She has also worked as an intern at Capital Public Radio in Sacramento and a podcaster for BirdNote. In her free time, she enjoys hiking, combing flea markets for tchotchkes, and curling up with a good book. 

Before she was the interim minister at the Central Christian Church of Austin, Janet Maykus was a chaplain in health care settings, a job that required training in infectious disease control. So when she heard reports of the coronavirus spreading in some U.S. communities, she knew it was time to overhaul religious practices at her church.

Elsie McGrath is an unlikely renegade.

For much of her life, the 81-year-old tried to avoid confrontation and follow the rules.

But that changed in 2007, when she became an ordained priest — and in doing so, broke one of the most fundamental rules in Roman Catholicism.

"This was definitely not part of the plan," McGrath said, of her ordination. "This was what the spirit within me was leading me to."

She was excommunicated along with fellow priest Rose Marie Hudson and Bishop Patricia Fresen, who ordained the two at a synagogue in St. Louis.

B’nai Sholom temple has stood on a quiet, tree-lined street in Quincy, Illinois, for almost 150 years.

When Lisa and Dan Macheca bought a century-old Methodist church in St. Louis back in 2004, they didn't think much about the cost of heating the place.

Then the first heating bill arrived: $5,000 for a single month.

"I felt like crying," Lisa Macheca said. "Like, 'Oh my gosh, what have I gotten myself into?' "

Josh Davis likes to name his pigs after flowers: Petunia, Iris, Violet and Daisy.

That’s not the only thing that sets him apart as a hog farmer.

For the past three years, Davis and his wife, Alicia, have been raising one of the rarest pig breeds in the world on their farm in Pocahontas, Illinois. The American mulefoot hog was a popular breed in the Midwest in the early 1900s, but now, there are only a few hundred left. The Davises are among a small group of farmers hoping to revive the breed by putting it back on the menu.

Shirley isn’t familiar with the concept of personal space.

The 80-pound Alpine milking goat wanders around the yoga class, closely inspecting the other participants and occasionally stepping on a stray finger.

“I guess Shirley is going to help me demonstrate this next pose,” said instructor Alicia Davis, as the goat parks herself at the front of the class.

When Martha Wade spells a word, it sounds like a song.

Her daughter, Sharon Wade, sits with her on a plush couch and tries to come up with new words to stump the 86-year-old. As her mother’s full-time caregiver, Wade looks for activities to challenge her physically and mentally.

Sharon Wade’s situation is not unusual. Unlike previous generations, an increasing number of older Americans are choosing to continue living in their own homes, rather than moving to nursing facilities. Meanwhile, the high cost of in-home care means that the burden of caring for elderly adults often falls on family members.