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‘Dirty Jobs’ man Mike Rowe celebrates Food4Kids founder Isidro Rodriguez, of Woodsville, for an episode of his new show, ‘Returning the Favor’

Remember when the Valley News wrote about Isidro Rodriguez, the founder of a food equality initiative called Food4Kids?

Here’s a little snippet to jog your memory:

The goal of Food4Kids is to ensure that children have equal access to lunch and snacks, regardless of ability to pay. Initially, at least, this would augment existing free and reduced lunch programs in public schools in New Hampshire and Vermont.


Beginning in December Rodriguez raised more than $4,300 through a raffle and donations from small businesses and individuals, which was enough to clear the school lunch debts at the eight public schools in SAU 23, which comprises the towns of Haverhill, Piermont, Warren and Bath, said Carol Smith, an administrative assistant to SAU 23 Superintendent Laurie Melanson. (Keep reading here.)

Welp, Isidro was hanging with the stars a couple months — or one star, at least! Mike Rowe, who is known as the host of the TV show Dirty Jobs, has a new show that you can watch on Facebook, Returning the Favor.

Courtesy Isidro Rodriguez.


Courtesy Isidro Rodriguez.

Courtesy Isidro Rodriguez.

Courtesy Isidro Rodriguez.

And the best part is that it was all a surprise to Isidro!

He told us about it when the recording happened this past spring, but we’re letting you know now that the episode has been released on Facebook.

“A film crew that I thought were just filming a documentary were actually filming an episode of Returning the Favor, whose host is none other then the dirty job man himself, Mike Rowe,” Isidro told us in May. “It was crazy — drones, food trucks, activities, they put on a FOOD4KIDS fun run and a community fair! … Things like this don’t happen in Woodsville, N.H.!”

Pretty neat! You can watch it below. I won’t spoil anything, but keep an eye out for your Upper Valley neighbors, town leaders, businesses, nonprofits and a really happy ending.

RELATED: ‘Lunch Equality’ Is the Goal for Haverhill Resident

NHPR: Upper Valley man wipes out lunch debt at Haverhill-area schools

From NHPR:

For Isidro Rodriguez, it started in 2009, when he was working in the Woodsville Elementary school cafeteria and saw what happened to kids with lunch debt. The student would take a tray of hot food…


“And then upon checking out, they’ll give their numbers, or enter their numbers into the system. If there’s a negative balance, most of the time they take that lunch back,” Rodriguez says.


Rodriguez says the policy was to throw out that hot lunch and give the student an alternative meal. At Woodsville Elementary, that meant a sandwich made with sunbutter, which is like peanut butter but made with sunflower seeds.

Read more here.

Oxygen channel wraps up six-episode series on woman who disappeared from a Haverhill road in 2004

UPDATE, on Friday afternoon: Oxygen has cleaned up the blog post in question below after an inquiry from NHPR. Here’s our post from Thursday afternoon, shortly before 3:

The Oxygen channel recently wrapped up a six-episode “docu-series” on Maura Murray, who disappeared in Haverhill in February 2004 when she was a student at UMass-Amherst. She was driving on Route 112 for unknown reasons and crashed her car in the snow.

Members of the New Hampshire State Police, Fish and Game officers and search and rescue personnel tag an area while looking for evidence of missing college student Maura Murray in Haverhill, N.H., on July 13, 2004. (Valley News – Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

I haven’t watched any of the episodes, but people interviewed include members of Maura’s family, investigators and Senior Assistant Attorney General Jeffery Strelzin.

After the finale aired on Saturday, the show published a blog post that claimed that the “Maura Murray case has been reopened,” but in an email exchange this afternoon, Strelzin disputed that characterization.

“That is not accurate,” he said. “The case has never been closed, so it can’t be ‘reopened.’ “

I asked about some of the other claims made in the network’s blog post, including claims about the results of blood tests on “wood chips” collected at a home near the crash site showing the DNA of a man and another unidentifiable person, and assertions that state investigators are “going back and re-interviewing everybody” and “going back to the very beginning, looking at all the forensics, re-examining everything from day one on.”

Here’s what Strelzin had to say about that:

Since this is an open case, I can’t tell you the specifics of what we do in any investigation or plan to do.


As far as the pieces of wood, they are not so (much) “wood chips,” as just slivers of wood. As for the DNA report, the results are so non-specific as to have no real investigative value.

So, with all that in mind, if you want to watch, you can do so online here. Some appear to be available to the general public, while the first two episodes are asking me to log in to a cable provider account (such as Xfinity, DIRECTV, etc.).

* * *

Here’s an article that appeared in the Valley News in April 2013, in which Concord Monitor reporter Jeremy Blackman talked to Maura’s father, Fred Murray, nine years after her disappearance.

Man Continues Long Search for Daughter Lost in Haverhill

By Jeremy Blackman
Concord Monitor

Published in the VALLEY NEWS on April 7, 2013.

Fred Murray is running out of options.

Nine years ago, his 21-year-old daughter, Maura, vanished from a dark, snowy stretch of Route 112 in Haverhill. It happened in an instant: One minute the Massachusetts college student was spotted near a crashed, crumpled black Saturn sedan; a few minutes later, when a local police officer arrived on the scene, she was gone.

In the years, months and days since, Murray has been scrambling to piece together what happened that night in those pivotal, awful minutes.

In the beginning, there was hope. Tips and leads streamed in, search dogs were unleashed, helicopters took to the air. Sightings were reported to authorities — inside a church in Vermont, at a convenience store in central New Hampshire, at a bar in Rochester — but never confirmed. The FBI questioned college acquaintances. Local and national news outlets published stories about the disappearance, about the strange personal events leading up to it, about Fred’s disdain for the New Hampshire police’s handling of the initial search. Fred went on daytime television to discuss the case. Strangers on the Internet theorized endlessly about Maura’s fate: Had she been kidnapped, murdered? Was it suicide? Did she freeze to death in the woods or run away to a new life? Is she still alive?  (more…)