One of the resources that allows ACSET Community Action Agency (CAA) to address the most urgent needs of Kent County residents is its diverse board. CAA boards are made up of representatives from the private and public sectors as well as consumers of their services.
Public and private sector representatives bring a wealth of experience, resources and community connections to the board. They represent government, business, religious organizations, welfare, education, law enforcement or other groups and interests in the community served.
Consumers provide meaningful input and insights that are essential to fighting the causes and symptoms of poverty.
By bringing together this diverse group of individuals, the CAA board can:
Help ACSET CAA better understand the needs of the community
Ensure ACSET CAA focuses on the greatest needs of low-income families in Kent County
Make a difference for everyone who seeks the services of ACSET CAA
ACSET Community Action is currently seeking new consumer sector members. Consumer representatives must be low-income and qualify for a CAA service at the time of their appointment.
This is a great opportunity to make your voice heard, gain leadership experience and help others.
Questions? To learn more or find out if you qualify, contact Sarah at 616.336.2228.
Summer is knocking on our door, and Blandford Nature Center seems as busy as ever. As we close out the end of the school year, prepare for Summer Day Camps, and develop our Community Programs for the upcoming months, we have many openings for volunteers to come out during this busy, sunny season. Check out the Volunteer Opportunities below to get a sneak peek of all the things happening around Blandford!
Farm Day Open House
When: 10 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, May 27
Don’t miss this family friendly event down on the farm! Meet the goats, chickens, and pigs; say ‘hi’ to your local farmers; check out our plant sale; listen to a story; and play some games. This is a great option for a Memorial Day ‘stay-cation’.
2017 marks the 6th year of Blandford Nature Center’s fundraising trail run/walk! Join us for an evening of fitness, food, and fun. Run or walk the trails through Blandford’s property. Afterwards, celebrate the summer solstice with us at our Summer Celebration!
As the temperatures rise and the sun shines brighter, Blandford is preparing to take on a few landscaping projects in the various gardens and green spaces around BNC. We need help planting.
We’ll be making several trips to buy/collect native plants from local nurseries so there will be a variety of days available for planting. Please specify a time frame during that day’s open hours so we can plan accordingly.
In preparation for an upcoming Poverty Simulation, volunteer staffers Mary, Cindy, Tom and Rhoeda were busy at work compiling participant packets and organizing materials.
The Poverty Simulation is just one of many programs at Access of West Michigan to create solutions to poverty through education and collaboration. The goal in these seminars is to bring awareness of the realities of poverty and to encourage people to get involved.
The “Living on the Edge” poverty simulation provides an opportunity for participants to walk in the shoes of someone living in a low-income environment. The participant must navigate with their “family” how to provide for expenses, make ends meet and be sustainable throughout the event.
As staffers of the events, Tom and Rhoeda have been working with and learning from these simulations. What began as a way to simply get involved with the community has become a meaningful experience of inspiring participants to engage and learn.
Both Tom and Rhoeda, married, retired and living in Muskegon, volunteer to prepare for the simulations by preparing the packages of money and ensuring all participants will have what they need. At the simulation events, Rhoeda loves interacting with the “family members” working hard to stay afloat.
“I like interacting with the participants,” she said, “watching them get into their roles, with their comments, discussions — they’re deep in thought.”
Tom has also been moved by his experiences of being a part of the simulations.
“I heard a participant comment on how she really thought about it when she had to go do the different things, like leaving her child home to go work,” he said. When families are involved, things get personal.
Rhoeda gets excited about these events, because they’re so important.
“The way it changes people’s attitudes,” she said. “The way they treat people in poverty can make a big difference.”
Mary and Cindy also volunteer in the preparation for the simulation, and equally appreciate the opportunity to watch people’s attitudes change.
“I like to see the interactions with the families,” Mary said. “They cooperate with families, make a community of their own.”
After an afternoon of packing, planning and preparing, the team of volunteers was ready for the upcoming event. For them, it’s not just hours to fill their time, it’s an opportunity to create an awareness of poverty — on a personal level.
And these staffers would know. Some have lived it.
Each year, ACSET Community Action holds it Walk for Warmth to raise funds for emergency heating assistance for low-income families in Kent County. And each year, students at Sibley Elementary participate in activities to support the walk and help their neighbors in need.
For more than 10 years, second graders engaged in the social studies unit Learning About Communities, have worked together to make positive changes in their community. The students, known as the “Sibley Warmth Force,” write letters to local businesses to ask for donations for the annual Walk for Warmth.
“Our studies focus on citizenship and building community,” explained Bernice Wisnieski, a second grade teacher at Sibley. “This service project is an awesome way to bring the lesson to life.”
This year the second grade students wanted a way to get the entire school involved. They worked with the principal and scheduled the first Sibley Walk-a-thon for Warmth. Along with the Walk for Warmth on February 11th, all students at Sibley Elementary took turns walking on March 14, holding signs with the names of businesses that helped support the cause. Many of the older students remembered this project from past years and were excited to participate again.
In addition to the walk-a-thon, the students made and sold fleece blankets and brought in pennies for a total of almost $2,000 in donations. ACSET Community Action is grateful to the students for their hard work and warm hearts; to the businesses for their generous donations; and to the Sibley teachers for creating a community that cares for those less fortunate.
Your Community in Action! is provided by ASCET Community Action Agency. To learn more about how they help meet emergency needs and assist with areas of self-sufficiency, visit www.communityactionkent.org
Participants in the ‘Living on the Edge’ poverty simulation at Metro Health were assigned profiles detailing their name, age, family, income level and other related details. Each “family” then completed four weeks, made up of 15-minute increments, in providing groceries, paying bills, attending doctor’s appointments and other requirements as outlined on their profiles.
Afterwards, participants engaged in small group discussions to debrief and learn from one another’s insights.
Linda Bos is a registered nurse with Metro Health and attended the workshop. She, along with Heather Rayman, were given the roles of a 75- and 72-year-old couple struggling to make ends meet. Bos, playing the role of Anthony Xanthos, and Rayman playing his wife, Zelda, spent each “week” trying to keep up on their mortgage payments, provide $50 for food and make it to expensive doctor appointments.
At one point during the four weeks, they couldn’t buy groceries. Towards the end of the month, they were evicted from their home as they couldn’t provide proof of their mortgage payment.
Mobility was also a major issue for them.
‘We were struck that we were always concerned about traveling places,” Bos said. “We were never together — it split us up. We never did things together.”
Conversations about how they were doing or if they wanted to plan a vacation never arose during their time of balancing their meager budget and keep all their bills afloat “We sure didn’t talk about anything fun,” Bos added.
To accompany the small social assistance check they received for the month, Bos sought out other options.
“I also tried to get a job, but there was age discrimination,” she said. “There were forms to fill out that were difficult.”
Not having an opportunity for additional income made balancing finances even more troublesome.
“There was no way out for us,” Bos said. “Neither one of us could get a job.”
Rayman was reminded, “Don’t forget we have to eat at some point in our life,” as she recalled the struggle of purchasing weekly groceries.
For both Bos and Rayman, living life as an elderly couple with little money was an eye-opening experience.
“Everything was tension-producing rather than pleasurable,” Bos noted.
That tension is something Bos knows first-hand. While currently employed and doing well, she has felt that same stress.
“There was a time when I didn’t have money to buy diapers, when we didn’t have money to pay the mortgage,” she said
Bos and Rayman agreed that this simulation could change the way they work with their patients and others they encounter.
“I think for me, I’ll be much more cognizant of transportation needs,” Bos said. “I’ll think, ‘What can I do to relieve some of those transportation issues.’”
Bos’s work as a nurse involves serving moms and newborns.
“I try to be very intentional with younger moms,” she said. “I’ll ask, ‘Do you need anything else for your child?’ ‘Do you have diapers?’ ‘Do you have formula?’”
She said she anticipates building upon that intention with those she sees.
“I think so often we don’t want to offend people,” she added. “But it’s really just about asking, ‘I want to help, what is it that you need?’” That intention, she said, can come through her following up with her clients through phone calls or other additional conversations.
Rayman added, “I feel like this makes me much more aware of things like transportation, medication, samples, getting them to a care manager or something like that — things I didn’t really think of before.”
As the simulation event drew to a close, attendees were reminded that while they stopped playing a role in a fictitious family, there are so many in the community who must continue with that difficult reality everyday. And now that the participants had experienced the frustration and stress of living in poverty, they, and all, are left with the question Bos wondered, “What might you do differently?”
Here’s what Dr. Jen had to say about Maury Pawvich:
Sometimes you cross paths with a cat so flipping adorable and outgoing that you cannot fathom why on earth he was wandering around town, aimless and abandoned. Seriously, this guy right here? Totally AWESOME! You all know my affinity for the fat-heads, but it just isn’t my penchant for pinchable cheeks that drew me in, but rather magnificent Maury’s alluring aura and his gentlemanly nature. Born in late 2010, the marvelous specimen of all things feline somehow ended up homeless and in search of a place to call his own, when a Wyoming resident took it upon herself to take him in temporarily until we were able to.
Although upsetting, it was really no big surprise when this studmuffin tested a very strong FIV+, considering he was ‘all boy’ and had been roaming the mean streets for who knows how long. I don’t think Maury was the aggressor in any skirmishes he was involved in, but he did suffer a nasty injury to his left rear foot that tore one of his claws completely off, leaving him with a nasty, smelly infection that needed immediate treatment, lest he lose that toe. After antibiotics, neutering, flea treatment, vaccines and deworming, my handsome tuxedo (former) tomcat was ready, willing and able to head on down to our sanctuary and become an official Big Sid’s Kid.
Again, not astonishing that he made fast friends with anyone he came into contact with, charming the other cats and the volunteers alike with his come hither gaze, affability and eagerness to be best buds — forever! Of all of the newbies we had taken in in December of 2014, Maury adapted the easiest, settling in like a champ and quickly learning and engaging in the daily routines and rituals with great enthusiasm.
He is SUCH a gracious, gorgeous guy that you can’t help but fall for him, hook, line and sinker, within mere minutes of making his acquaintance. Maury is absolutely delightful and I speak for all of us when I say how thrilled we are to have him as one of our own, that is until we to find him the kind of purr-fect home he deserves!
Can’t adopt, but still want to help? Find out how you can sponsor a cat!
Crash’s Landing and Big Sid’s Sanctuary have a common mission: To take at-risk stray cats off the streets of the Greater Grand Rapids area, provide them with veterinary care and house them in free-roaming, no-kill facilities until dedicated, loving, permanent homes can be found.
Registration is now open for the 3rd Annual Buck Creek Cleanup, which will be held this year on Saturday, August 13 from 8 am to noon and includes a free lunch. Check in at Lemery Park (4212 Byron Center Ave. SW in Wyoming) at 8 am.
Spend the morning cleaning up trash along and in Buck Creek while meeting new friends. Start with a Biggby coffee and Marge’s Donut Den breakfast, meet your team leader to get directions and a super cool t-shirt, then head out to various sites along the creek.
Car pool with your neighbors and wear clothing that you don’t mind getting dirty, comfortable shoes, waders, or boots are great. (Flip-flops are poison ivy-friendly.) Bring bug spray and a reusable water bottle (stainless steel is eco-friendly.) Gloves will be provided unless you have a favorite pair. Supervised children are welcome.
All volunteers are invited to an Osgood Brewing lunch, compliments of Grandville Mayor Steve Maas.
Contact Pete Miller 517.420.4003 for more information or to sign up, or go here to register. For more info, go here.
This event is being organized by Schrems Trout Unlimited and the newly formed Friends of Buck Creek. Friends of Buck Creek is a group of concerned residents, businesses and governmental units that are interested in improving Buck Creek. Buck Creek is more than 20 miles long,and has an approximate watershed area of 50 square miles. Currently Buck Creek is a cold water resource that is highly threatened because of its urban nature.
At seven years of age, when the bullets came flying and people said, “Run!” Augustin Nsabimana ran. As he and family members fled the advancing troops of the RPF, this Rwandan youth saw what no child should see: decapitated and decomposing bodies of the sick, the slow, and the unlucky. Underneath it all was the terror that bespoke his family’s flight: Run! Run, or you could be next. In this story of loss and redemption, grown-up “Auggie” tells of the national chaos that was 1994 Rwanda and the parting words of his brother, which became the title for his book, “See You In Heaven.”
Alan Headbloom hosts Feel Like You Belong, a show filmed at WKTV focused on sharing the life stories of immigrants, expatriates, and refugees to the United States.
Wyoming Public Schools closed the doors last weekend and ushered in the end of the school year. This Monday, churches and volunteers from around the area will reopen the doors to Wyoming Jr. High School and welcome in over 200 kids to participate in a worldwide, faith-based movement called KidsGames.
The idea started over a decade ago in the Middle East and Spain to give children an experience in a sporting event over the summer. Since then, KidsGames has expanded and evolved all over the world, including right here in West Michigan.
“One of the founding fathers of KidsGames International, Michael Wozniak, is local here in West Michigan,” said Jack Ponstine, the founder of KidsGames in Wyoming. “There was already an event in Byron Center, so he reached out to me to get one started in Wyoming. That was nine years ago.”
KidsGames is a free event for children entering 1st-6th grade. It is focused on making the week as fun as possible while building strong character and building a relationship in Christ. Each night starts with the whole group (kids and volunteers) meeting in the gymnasium to talk about the mission for the year. Past years have worked with Feeding America and sending sporting equipment to low-income areas. This year, the goal is to raise money for water for Flint.
After the opening meeting, kids are broken into three different groups to learn about nutrition, stories from the Bible, and play experimental games with life lessons incorporated throughout. Kids are then placed into small groups for Bible Discovery Time with a small group leader.
Following small group, it’s time to get active again as kids can choose between many different activities or “Tracks.” The Tracks are led by volunteers and include different games, sports, and crafts. Tracks for this year include basketball, beauty 101, crafts/scrapbooking, drama, jewelry making, karate, legos, painting 101, painting 202, soccer, and wacky science.
“We have more volunteers and Tracks than ever before,” said Ponstine. “We couldn’t do it without the volunteers”
Last year, 64 volunteers from 13 different churches helped out at the week-long event. All 64 were needed to help make the experience as positive as possible for the 181 students, from 57 different schools, that attended.
Things don’t look like they’re about to slow down in 2016 either.
“We already have over 100 that have pre-registered. That doesn’t include the large number who will register on Monday when we start,” said KidsGame coordinator Shane Buist.
When the week is over, Jack Ponstine hopes each family leaves having checked all four boxes:
1. They had a great week with the other children and the leaders.
2. That parents enjoyed dropping their kids off knowing the fun they were about to have and the lessons learned.
3. A positive relationship was built with the small group leader.
4. A strong relationship with Jesus Christ was built upon.
In the end, it all comes back to spreading the word.
“My goal is to get churches to come together to spread ministry,” said Ponstine.
Details about the event are below:
Who: 1st-6th graders and volunteers from churches throughout Wyoming What: KidsGames: West Michigan When: Monday, June 13 – Friday, June 17 from 6:00-8:30pm (Registration opens at 5:30 Monday night) Where: Wyoming Jr. High School (2125 Wrenwood SW, Wyoming, MI 49509) Why: Building character, making new friends, learning about the Bible and having FUN Cost: FREE!
High school students have learned many interesting tidbits about the residents they are getting to know at American House Senior Living Community in Kentwood.
Each resident has a story, they’ve learned: Betty Reynolds was the first teacher at Battle Creek Christian School; Lois Laffey was a pilot. Margie Halstead is an artist who has 10 children, 35 grandchildren and 53 great-grandchildren. Margaret Gazella’s husband had to leave on their wedding day to fight in World War II.
“I love talking to the residents,” said Kelloggsville freshman Miles Thomas-Mohammad, while crafting glittery cardboard flowers with several ladies, and learning even more details about their lives. “They are so nice.”
They’ve learned other things as well while joining residents for crafts, games and snacks. Kelloggsvile senior Thu Nguyen, who is from Vietnam, said special moments happen over Bingo and just getting to know each other. “I want to make them feel happy so they don’t feel lonely,” she said.
And residents like it too. “It makes you feel young again,” said Elaine Wigger.
Added Ginger Kay, “It’s nice to have young people here, because they are so positive.”
A group of about eight Kelloggsville students, many who are English-language learners, visit the assisted-living and memory-care facilities monthly to spend time with seniors. Coordinated by EL teacher Susan Faulk, the volunteering opportunity is a way for students to give back and step out of their comfort zones and get to know others.
“The students gain patience and confidence as they work with the seniors,” Faulk said. “Many students are really shy and feel awkward around the seniors at first. I see their confidence grow as they realize that they are able to help someone else. I also see them having to learn patience, as a game of Skip-Bo and Rummikub can take a long time with a senior who has to think for a long time before taking action.”
For the past two years, Faulk has also coordinated a volunteer group at Women At Risk International Volunteer Center, a Grandville-based nonprofit organization that unites and educates women and children in areas of human trafficking and sexual slavery.
American House staff said the visits are very meaningful to residents.
“It’s always exciting to see people cross age barriers relationally,” said Susan Faulk’s husband, Steven Faulk, American House chaplain.
Activities assistant Betty Torres said the residents “love relating to the younger crowd. They have a lot of good stories to tell, our residents. They get so exited about a group coming in. It fulfills their whole being.”
Be sure to check out School News Network for more stories about our great students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan!
Started volunteering at the start of the millennium - 15 years
20 years of service to WKTV
The WKTV community gathered at Stony Brook Country Club on April 1 – and that’s no April Fools – to celebrate the volunteers to who make the station so special.
Since its inception as only the second community media station in the country in 1974, WKTV has given everyday citizens a platform for their voice and message to be heard. Volunteers have access to state-of-the-art video and editing equipment, studio space, a television channel, and an online newspaper to help mold their messages and stories about the communities they live in.
The best part? It’s all free!
Over 300 volunteers take advantage of the services WKTV has to offer in production, recording, editing, writing and filming. The Volunteer Appreciation Banquet is one way for the station to say thank you.
The banquet started with cocktails and a meet and greet before everyone sat down for dinner. The presentation of the awards followed dinner, but not before the premier of the annualvolunteer appreciation videos courtesy of Nate Diedrich and the WKTV Production Staff.
“Producing these videos for the volunteer appreciation event allows us to express our sincere gratitude for all the effort our volunteers and producers put into creating quality content throughout the year,” said Nate.
When the room finally quieted down from all the laughter, the awards were ready to be handed out.
Volunteer of the Year was rewarded to Doug Remtema for his willingness and ability to help out on multiple projects at the station. Doug is a real pro and makes life easier on whichever project is lucky enough to utilize his talents.
Doug Hansen was recognized for Lifetime Achievement. Doug started at the station back in the 80s and has continued to be a resource for both volunteers and staff members.
Kathryn Gray was chosen as Citizen Reporter of the Year for her ability to make individuals come alive through the written word.
Community Service Programming went to Thomas Hegewald. The Community Service award is given to the volunteer who not only creates their own programming, but is also willing to volunteer on other projects as well.
On top of the four individual awards, volunteers were recognized for their individual service at the station.
23 volunteers were first year volunteers, 16 joined the 100 hour club, six citizen reporters in attendance were recognized for their yearly contributions, four volunteers were recognized for five years at the station, two volunteers were recognized for 10 years, four volunteers were recognized for 15 years, and two volunteers were recognized for 20 years of service.
19 shows were recognized for Program Dedication Awards.
WKTV is run by the volunteers who make everything possible. The volunteer banquet is one more night for them to shine.
Full list of volunteers recognized:
Volunteer of the Year: Doug Remtema
Citizen Reporter of the Year: Kathryn Gray
Community Service Programing: Thomas Hegewald
Lifetime Achievement Award: Doug Hansen
100 Hour Club
Terri Rees – 711
Doug Remtema – 494
Gary Vande Velde – 480
Alan Dunst – 446
Mike Bacon – 279
Barb VanDuren – 278
Thomas Hegewald – 249
Tom Sibley – 220
Sophia Maslowski – 190
Phil Moore – 172
Carrie Bradstreet – 149
Dan Simone – 122
Kristyn Miller – 117
Nathan Krzykwa – 111
Doug Hansen – 110
Athina Morehouse – 103
A Day in the Dirt – Gary Vande Velde
Catholic Forum – Alan Dunst
Community Awareness – Donna Smith
Feel Like You Belong – Alan Headbloom
Fools for Christ – Jim Dohm
High School Sports – Paul Kableman
Is That Really Me on TV – Melanie Evans
OnPoint – Thomas Hegewald
River Reflections – Rosemary Burns
Senior Exercise – Chris Rush
Silent Voices – Dennis Lawrence
So & Mo Presents – Sophia Maslowski
Sounds of Summer – Patty Williams
Talking God & Guns – Janice Brown
Tips, Tricks & Techniques – Chef Terri Rees
Veteran’s History Project – James Smither
Whittlin’ Time – Mike Bacon
VMTV – Hung Nguyen
You’ve Got To Be Kidding Me America – Carrie Bradstreet
Dan Davis – Whittlin’ Time
Gina Greenlee – OnPoint
Robert Gonzalez – Sports/Plus
Wendy Jenkins – Silent Voices
Mark Kelly – Sports
Mark Lange – Sports
Linh Le – VMTV
Cameron McCargar – Sports
Brice Miller – Sports
Athina Morehouse – OnPoint
Angela Peavey – Indie Films
Reid Petro – Indie Films
Steve Pham – VMTV
Bill Roelfsema – OnPoint
Eric Sheler – OnPoint
Michelle Sheler – OnPoint
Downie Streahl – Sports/Plus
Kevin Ton – VMTV
Lillie Towns – Silent Voices
Barb VanDuren – Chef Terri Right Hand
Arturo Varela – Mision Evangilistica
Chris Williams – Sports
Ray Boisvenue – Fools for Christ
Karen Graham – Schubert Chorus/Plus
Mike Moll – Sports Announcer
Ron Schultz – Sports Announcer
Mark Bergsma – Sports
Anne VanDreumel – Shubert/Plus/Plus
Girbe Eefsting – Digital Cinema Guild
Eddie Grover – Various Shoots
Gary Vande Velde – Day in the Dirt/Sports/Plus
Mike VanDreumel – Mr. Fix It/Everything
Mark Tangen – Dream Wheels/Festivals of Chefs
Dick Visser – Board/Direct: Reading Train/Beanie Babies/Crafty Ladies
For many, human trafficking seems like something that takes place in a faraway land when in reality it could be happening right next door.
“There was a mother who was human trafficking her own daughter,” said Women At Risk Youth Ambassador Jenn Amo, who is the featured guest of the Community Awareness’s upcoming show on Women at Risk, International show set to air this month.
Amo tells Community Awareness host Donna Kidner-Smith that there is a lot of misconceptions about human trafficking in that those involved in the trade will target just about anyone: age, race, income and gender really don’t matter.
“In West Michigan, at any given time, about 2,400 minors are for sale,” Amo said, adding that while most of these are online, the number is appalling.
The goal of Women at Risk, International (WAR), a non-profit headquartered in Wyoming, is to provide protection around at-risk women and children. The organization hosts a number of programs designed to help those in need along with educating the public on a variety of issues such as human trafficking.
Amo visits schools and other organizations talking to students and parents about the signs of and how to prevent becoming a victim of human trafficking.
“We call it our wheel of risk because everybody, no matter who you are, faces multiple things in a lifetime,” Amo said. “Sometimes you can handle it on your own and at other times you don’t know where to turn.”
Through the Community Awareness program, Amo discusses the signs of human trafficking, safety steps people can take to avoid or prevent it, and the importance that the entire community must stay vigilant in reporting questionable activities.
“The traffickers have always been there,” Amo said during the program. “As marijuana was legalized, people thought it would just eliminated what the traffickers do. Instead, we saw an increase in human trafficking. They basically just changed what they were trafficking.”
Amo also discusses what WAR is about, volunteer opportunities and the WAR Chest Boutiques located at 2790 44th St. SW, Wyoming, and 25 Squires St. Square NE, Rockford. These stores are the retail arm of the non-profit featuring hand-crafted items created by at-risk-women (and some at-risk-men) in WAR’s partnering programs that are in more than 40 countries including the United States.
For more about WAR, visit www.warintertnational.org. The Community Awareness program featuring Women At Risk runs Monday, March 7, at 9 p.m. , Wednesday, March 9, at 11 a.m. and Friday March 11, at 10 a.m.
For more than 40 years WKTV has been providing quality programming for the communities of Wyoming and Kentwood thanks in large part to the many residents who volunteer their time at the station.
On April 1, the station will honor those volunteers at WKTV’s Annual Volunteer Appreciation Dinner at Stonewater Country Club, 7177 Kalamazoo Ave. SE, Caledonia.
“It’s an opportunity for us to express our appreciation for all the hours put in by the volunteers in all the various aspects to the station,” said WKTV Community Media Coordinator Nate Diedrich.
In 2015, about 319 volunteers logged almost 9,000 volunteer hours. Through the effort of those volunteers, WKTV has been able to provide a variety of programs including the very popular Senior Exercise program, which was started in 1993, and High School Sports, which has been a part of the station’s line up for more than 30 years. A few years ago, seeing the need for hyperlocal news, WKTV added a citizens reporter section, now.wktv.org.
At the Volunteer Appreciation Dinner, volunteers will be recognized and honored for programs and projects done at the station in 2015.
Some of the awards that will be resented at the dinner include the Lifetime Achievement Award, Community Service Programming Award and Volunteer of the Year. Years of service are recognized and there is a 100-Hour Club awarded to those who have volunteered more than 100 hours within the year at the station.
The April 1 event starts with cocktails at 6 p.m., followed by dinner at 6:30 p.m. and the award presentation at 7:30 p.m. Cost is $10. Reservations must be made by March 24. To RSVP, visit www.wktv.org or mail to or visit in person, WKTV, 5261 Clyde Park SW, Wyoming, Michigan, 49509.
No, Virginia. There is no St. Baldrick. Nope, no such saint. But there is a St. Baldrick’s Foundation. And every year, people around the U.S. and in some countries shave their heads to raise awareness and money to fund childhood cancer research.
St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer-driven charity that funds more in childhood cancer research grants than any organization except the U.S. government. Its name is a combination of “St. Patrick’s Day” and the word, “bald.” People who shave their heads are known as “Shavees.”
Things sure have changed since the event’s inception on March 17, 2000, at Jim Brady’s Bar and Restaurant in New York City. What began as a challenge between three friends has morphed into the world’s largest volunteer-driven fundraiser to benefit childhood cancer research.
Childhood cancer affects thousands of kids and families around the world each year. It’s the #1 disease killer of children in the U.S. The statistics are sobering: Worldwide, a child is diagnosed every three minutes. (Worldwide, 175,000 children are diagnosed with cancer each year.) And in the U.S., more children die of childhood cancer than any other disease—more than AIDS, asthma, cystic fibrosis, congenital anomalies and diabetes combined.
Approximately 1 in 285 kids in the U.S. will be diagnosed with cancer before they turn 20. What’s particularly tragic is that at the average age of 6, kids will lose 71 years of life to cancer. They won’t grow up, marry or have children of their own.
“I can’t wait for the event!” said Patrick Schrager, who is organizing the March 6 event. This will be his eighth year as a Shavee and his third year running an event. His fundraising goal is $15,000. If you’re interested in making a donation on Schrager’s head, go to St. Baldrick’s website or call 888.899.BALD.
Now you won’t be blindsided when you happen across a bunch of bald folks Sunday, March 6, at 84th Street Pub &Grille (8282 Pfeiffer Farms Dr SW, Byron Center). Au contraire. You’ll know that they stand in solidarity with kids being treated for cancer.
It’s often said laughter is the best medicine. Unfortunately for many, laughter simply isn’t enough. So for the fourth year in a row, Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids (GCGR) and LaughFest are partnering with Michigan Blood and Blue Care Network to host blood drives during LaughFest. The drives will be held February 29-March 3, 2016.
“We are thankful for this partnership with Michigan Blood and Blue Care Network,” said Wendy Wigger, president, Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. “Many cancer patients rely on blood product transfusions. Donating blood is a great way for loved ones, and even complete strangers, to make a real difference in the health of patients in need.”
For every person that donates blood, Blue Care Network (BCN) will donate $5 towards LaughFest’s High Five campaign, which supports the free emotional healthcare, cancer, and grief support programs offered through Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. Individuals interested in donating directly to the “High Five” campaign may do so by clicking here.
“Hundreds of Michigan patients are in need of blood every single day,” said Jessica Iloff, manager of community responsibility at Blue Care Network. “Whether they suffered an accident or are receiving treatment for cancer, these patients depend on lifesaving transfusions. Blue Care Network is happy to partner with Gilda’s Club and Michigan Blood each year to make it convenient for LaughFest attendees to provide blood to those who need it most.”
Donors will also receive a t-shirt, along with a chance to win tickets to see Michael Palascak, Roy Wood Jr., and other hilarious LaughFest shows.
Please visit one of the following locations for your chance to save a life, support Gilda’s Club and share some laughter.
Grand Rapids Donor Center 1036 Fuller NE, Grand Rapids
Monday, February 29, 9 am – 7 pm
Grandville Donor Center Grandville United Methodist Church
3140 Wilson Avenue SE
Thursday, March 3, 12:00 – 7:00pm
Michigan Blood wants to remind the public that they are the sole provider of blood and blood products for the majority of hospitals in Michigan, including Spectrum Health, Metro Health, and Mercy Health Saint Mary’s. Donations that are given outside of Michigan Blood do not stay local nor have a direct impact in your local community. Donate blood at Michigan Blood and help save the lives of patients in Michigan hospitals. Any healthy person 17 or older (or 16 with parental consent) who weighs at least 110 pounds may be eligible to donate.Blood donors should bring photo ID. For additional information on donating blood, and to make an appointment, click this link.
About Michigan Blood Founded in 1955, Michigan Blood is a fast growing, independent, non-profit blood bank headquartered in Grand Rapids. It provides blood products and services for more than 50 hospitals throughout Michigan and is an established leader in quality and service. Michigan Blood collects more than 125,000 units of blood each year at nine permanent donation sites and more than 3,600 mobile blood drives in 40 counties statewide. Michigan Blood has a nationally recognized stem cell (marrow) program and created Michigan’s first public cord blood bank. In addition, Michigan Blood provides therapeutic apheresis, cellular therapies for the treatment of cancer and transfusion medicine consultations. For more information, click this link.
About Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids is a free cancer and grief support community of children, adults, families and friends. Its comprehensive program includes education, structured sharing times, networking, lectures, workshops and social activities. Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids is the largest and busiest of the 52 affiliates in North America. The organization runs entirely on charitable donations and currently serves more than 10,000 individuals each year at its clubhouses in Grand Rapids and Lowell, Mich., in various schools and in five community centers. For more information, visit their website.
About Blue Care Network
Blue Care Network of Michigan features award-winning disease management programs and the largest HMO network of physicians and hospitals in the state, with more than 5,000 primary care physicians, 16,000 specialists and most of the state’s leading hospitals. Blue Care Network is the affiliated HMO of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan and an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association. For more company information, go here and here.
What started as a routine tree removal ended up igniting an inner-passion in Wyoming resident, and former city commissioner, Greg Bryan.
“If the city was smart, they would’ve replaced my tree and this group never would’ve been created,” exclaimed Greg with a tinge of humor in his voice before getting serious once again. “When the city came in and chopped down my trees, I said to myself, ’this has to stop!’ So, I called [city council member] Kent Vanderwood and told him we have to do something.”
That ‘something’ has morphed itself into a group called the ‘Tree Amigos,’ a Wyoming, Michigan citizens committee supporting a vibrant tree canopy. The group started as a Neighborhood Watch campaign to raise awareness of the Gypsy moth blight in the Oriole Park neighborhood.
Now the group has a new focus: to establish a new commission centered on planting trees in the City of Wyoming. Ultimately, the goal is to have Wyoming become the 120th city in Michigan, and part of 3,400 communities nationwide, to become a part of Tree City USA. In order to achieve status as a member of Tree City USA, a community must meet four core standards of sound forestry management: maintaining a tree board or department, having a community tree ordinance, spending at least $2 per capita on urban forestry, and celebrating Arbor Day.
A tree planting program is nothing new for Wyoming. In fact, a program existed back in the 70’s to plant and install trees under contract by the township. However, the program ran out of money due to budget cuts and the city hasn’t planted trees since.
“There’s so much beauty and serenity in trees and the wildlife that comes with them. There are also huge health benefits as well,” explained Tree Amigos member Stelle Slootmaker on her decision to help lead the group.
Those benefits? Well, trees are extraordinarily energy-efficient. Amazingly, 100 trees remove 26 tons of CO2 and 300 pounds of pollutants from the air. They provide the net cooling effect of 1,000 air conditioners! The same number of trees can also intercept more than 200,000 gallons of rainwater each year, reducing the need for storm water controls, and providing cleaner water.
On top of reducing costs for the city over time, trees can also add market value to residential real estate. One large tree can add 10 percent.
While trees are helpful from a numbers perspective, they also benefit in ways that are more difficult to measure. Trees build strong ties to neighborhoods and communities. They help promote better psychological well-being and make people happier. More trees are linked to faster hospital recoveries, increased employee productivity, less crime, and reduction in stress and anxiety.
According to one survey, having on average 10 more trees in a city block improved how someone rated their health by a level comparable to an increase in annual personal income of $10,000, moving to a neighborhood with a $10,000 median income, or being seven years younger.
With all the benefits of trees, it seems like a no-brainer for the city to implement a tree planting plan. However, whenever there’s work to be done, there needs to be someone willing to take up the new workload. It’s always easier said than done.
That’s where the Tree Amigos come in. The group has already put in the time and effort to research the steps to make Wyoming a part of Tree City USA. They have also taken the time to present the idea of forming a new commission to the City Council. Most importantly, the Tree Amigos aren’t simply dropping the workload for someone else to pick up. They’re looking to be on the front line as volunteers wherever this effort takes them.
“It’s important to Greg. He represents a neighborhood that needs help with trees,” said Wyoming City Council Member Kent Vanderwood. “It’s the right response for us to get behind as a city. Whatever I can do to help, I’m going to do.”
Two members of the Tree Amigos, Stelle and Arborist Bill Brown, gave a formal presentation at the City Council meeting on February 8. They are meeting with the Council again this Wednesday, February 24, to talk about the next step.
Bill is hoping everyone is on the same page going forward, “I grew up in Wyoming. This is what I do everyday. I understand the importance of trees. It’s something Wyoming needs now.”
After almost 15 years on the job, former Wyoming Deputy City Manager Barbara Van Duren retired. Her retirement was celebrated at the Wyoming Public Library to make room for all the people in attendance! 28th West, the re-development of 28th street, was a project close to Barbara’s heart. In the words of Barbara Van Duren, “28th streets needs a facelift.”
One Wyoming 1 on 1 offers mentors the opportunity to make a difference in children’s lives. Not only that, but the children will make just as big–if not bigger–of an impact on you! Deb Havens shares her story on mentoring Amber and the bond they’ve created.
The Wyoming Department of Public Safety recognized their top employees. Among those honored was Jason Caster for Officer of the year, Brian Illbrink as Firefighter of the Year, Terra Wesseldyk as Civilian of the Year, and Lt. Kirt Zuiderveen received the Chief’s Award of Professional Excellence.
Harriet Sturim, a proud Wyoming homeowner since 1977, highlights some new and positive building in the city. From the new Veterans Clinic in Metro Village to the new businesses on 28th and 36th street, the City of Wyoming is continuing the city’s growth of vision and progress.
Wyoming’s, and most like Kent County’s, oldest home was put up for sale in 2015. For the first time in 179 years, the ‘Rogers Mansion’ was put on the market for someone outside the Rogers family. The house comes with the original skeleton key to unlock the front door. History is all around us.
General Motors used 2015 to invest in their Burton location with capital and full-time job opportunities. $119 million and 300 jobs were announced in June and another $43 million 55 new jobs were announced later in December! A reinvestment in West Michigan manufacturing is sometime to get excited about.
Wyoming continues to add new businesses to the area. Three new businesses found a home at the corner of Clyde Park and 44th Street. A four-story WoodSpring Hotel, a Fox Powersports, and a J&H Mobil Station with a Tim Horton’s right next-door broke in the dirt.
The Pinery Park Little League was in troubled water as they risked losing their contract to the fields at Pinery Park with the Wyoming City Council due to a lack of transparency and losing their 501(c)(3) status with the IRS. Fortunately, the league was able to get it together but will need to run more efficiently going forward.
Wyoming Public Schools found themselves on the winning side after election day with the passing of a sinking fund to help the school. The sinking fund works a little differently from a bond issue and will end up raising over $400,000 per year with little, if any, increase to Wyoming tax payers.
The Great Candy Cane Hunt had another successful season with Santa being delivered by the fire department and then leading the children on a candy cane hunt throughout Pinery Park. The event continued at the Wyoming Senior Center with “life-size” jenga and connect four that families could enjoy!
When members of Wyoming-based Christ Lutheran Church approached Gladiola Elementary School Principal David Lyon about “adopting” the school, Lyon filled out a wish list of possible ways the church could support them. Instead of choosing one community service project, they wanted to fill all the requests, which were as diverse as helping out at Math Night to providing emergency buckets for classrooms in case of a long-term lockdown event.
“It really gives us a sense of community and of someone understanding needs that are not necessarily apparent,” Lyon said. “They asked, ‘What do you need done?’ and said, ‘Let’s make that happen for you.'”
Now church members regularly volunteer to help students in reading and math; they shelve books in the library. Their presence is felt throughout the Wyoming Public Schools building.
“We wanted to reach out to our neighbors and be of assistance,” said church member Kathy Reister, a retired pastor.
Church members of all ages have contributed. Middle school members assembled “Germ-free Buckets” for classrooms so students can easily access hand sanitizer and tissues. A Boy Scout troop made up of church members plans to spruce up the school courtyard. Members made homemade bags filled with school supplies and donated them.
On a recent Tuesday in the school hallway, church member Nancy Heidrich, a retired Grandville High School teacher, showed second-grader Zoey Winship cool addition tricks. She often reads to the students and offers a listening ear when they want to talk. “I enjoy it. I enjoy coming. I enjoy the kids,” she said.
Zoey likes it too. “She helps me with my work,” she said.
Being Prepared in Case of Emergency
The emergency buckets were recommended during a training offered by the Wyoming Police Department on emergency preparedness. They are something the school probably wouldn’t have purchased on its own, Lyons said, but they add a safety measure he’s thankful for.
In response to national school shootings, Gladiola, like schools nationwide, have lockdown drills, during which students practice what to do in case of an emergency.
The buckets, stocked with first-aid equipment, a flashlight, toilet paper, snacks, bandages, drinking cups, water and a fire extinguisher, will be stationed in all 24 classrooms for use in case of a real lockdown.
“It’s not a critical need until it’s a critical need,” Lyon said. “Hopefully we will never need to use them,” he said.
Be sure to check out School News Network for more stories about our great students, schools, and faculty in West Michigan!
The Gerald R. Ford International Airport (GFIA) is getting into the holiday spirit with a music festival, Irish dancers, and a visit from Santa Claus.
Santa will be passing out candy and listening to all the children’s Christmas wishes in the Airport’s Grand Hall from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, December 11. Photos with Santa are free, but the airport is requesting that guest bring in at least two non-perishable food items–or make a monetary donation–to Mel Trotter Ministries. Help spread the Christmas spirit throughout the area!
“The holiday season is an important time for the Mel Trotter Ministries Food Pantry,” said Abbey Sladick, Director of Community Relations at Mel Trotter Ministries. “The food donated will help sustain us throughout the year, and we are blessed to be able to partner with the airport to ensure many families in Grand Rapids will not go hungry.”
In addition to Santa’s appearance, and those helped through Mel Trotter, GFIA’s traditional Holiday Music Festival is running the week of December 7-11th. The 21st Annual Holiday Music Festival brings in elementary, middle, and high school choirs from around West Michigan to sing a variety of Christmas carols. Daily performances run from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
A total of 11 local choirs representing public, charter and private schools are set to sing 20 minute song sets throughout the day, putting passengers and guests at airport in the holiday spirit.
“Our airport is extremely busy around the holidays, but it is important for us to reflect upon what this season is all about,” said GFIA Executive Director Brian Ryks. “We are hoping we can put some smiles on children’s faces as they sit on Santa’s lap and listen to carols, and at the same time we are asking West Michigan to give back to the community by donating non-perishable food items to those in need.”
In addition to the music festival & Santa’s visit, piano players and Irish dancers will also be making an appearance at the airport during the holiday season. The Ardan Academy of Irish Dance will be performing on Sunday, December 20th at the airport from 2-4 p.m.
What comes to your mind when you think of Thanksgiving? Do you think of time spent with the family in front of the TV watching football? How about the food? Oh my goodness, yes, the food! Turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, and so much more. Thanksgiving is a time to carb-o-load and slip into a deep food coma.
For a holiday meant for giving thanks, it’s one that can easily be taken for granted.
One in seven people in our region are affected by food insecurity, or an unreliable access to healthy food. Those who are considered food insecure regularly have to skip meals or buy cheaper, less nourishing food because of a lack of funds.
After 34 years and counting, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank is looking to end that problem.
Feeding America West Michigan is a nonprofit organization that supplies food to more than 1,100 food pantries, youth programs, and other hunger-relief agencies in 40 of Michigan’s 83 counties. The food bank acts as the main supplier to the front lines of hunger all across West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
When it comes to food, Feeding America West Michigan can pack a punch – and a lunch! Last year, in 2014, the organization distributed over 26.5 million pounds of food. That food serves around 492,100 people, with at least 119,400 of them being children.
The majority of food donated comes from corporations, manufacturers, grocery stores, distributors, and farmers. In all, over 220 companies donate to Feeding America West Michigan. A handful of those companies donate over a million pounds a year.
In order to run efficiently and make sure all that food is delivered on-time and in good shape, the Food Bank makes fine use of its volunteers. On average, 40-50 volunteers help at the Food Bank each day. Volunteering opportunities include processing donated food, filling orders, cleaning, and re-packaging the food that arrives. If you can’t donate your time, there are other ways as well, every dollar donated provides four meals.
“The need is not going away. We still see more people needing help,” explained Feeding America West Michigan CEO Ken Estelle on the need for a food bank and food donations. “It’s a lot of working families. We see folks that have jobs, that are working trying to make ends meet but they just get to the point where at the end of the month there’s just not enough to pay all the bills.”
Year to date, Feeding America West Michigan is on pace to distribute more food this year than ever before.
The inability to pay the bills and afford healthy, nutritious food is a struggle for a large majority of the family that utilize the food pantries that Feeding America West Michigan supplies. Over 30 percent of client households had at least one adult member working for pay within the past four weeks before visiting a food pantry.
Here are some other numbers to chew on:
• 72% of client households choose between paying for food and utilities
• 72% of households choose between paying for food and transportation
• 65% of households choose between paying for food and medical care
• 58% of households choose between paying for food and their rent or mortgage
• 23% of households choose between paying for food and education
This Thanksgiving season, remember to give thanks for what you have and to give back to the communities you live in!
For more information on volunteer at Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank, click here.
Did you know that there is a VFW post right here in Wyoming that has been chartered since the mid-1940s? It might be better to start with a more basic question, do you know what the VFW stands for?
The Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) is a service organization comprised of veterans who have served our country overseas in times of war. To be eligible for membership, the veteran has to have served honorably as a member of the Armed Services of the United States in a foreign war, insurrection, or expedition that has been recognized by the United States Government. Also, a campaign-medal service badge has to have been issued.
Post #702 Wyoming-Grandville is one of 300 VFW posts in the State of Michigan and is currently looking for a place to call home.
With the WWII and Vietnam veterans passing on at the rate of over 100 a day nationally, it is imperative that Post #702 recruit veterans from the current global conflicts, with Iraq and Afghanistan being in the largest combat zones. In order better recruit, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 702 Wyoming/Grandville is looking for a post home to better serve the area’s local veterans.
Currently, Post 702 does not have a post home, but they meet on the 1st Tuesday of every month at the United Postal Workers Union hall on Burlingame Avenue SW in Wyoming.
Post 702 is very active in the community. Current membership is about 96, with about 10% being active. Some of the many activities they participate in are:
• Marching in both the Walker Memorial Day Parade and the Grandville 4th of July Parade.
• Manning booths at the Grandville Pre-Fourth of July Kick-off and Blueberry Festival.
• Active at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans working with their staff in providing activities not supported by the Michigan Department of Veterans Affairs such as the Bait Shop, Clothing Room, and Bingo two times a month.
• Wreaths Across America.
• Passing out American flags to each child in a Wyoming/Grandville elementary school around Veterans Day.
• Grilling hot dogs for the 6th grade at Cummings Elementary School this past Spring.
• Assisting the Grand Valley Armory with Christmas parties, picnics and other activities.
• Manning a booth in the Wyoming Metro Cruise.
• Raising donations for the Veterans Scholarship Fund for Grand Valley State University, Department of Michigan VFW’s Camp Trotter, and the veteran causes.
• Several post members are part of the WGVU ENGAGE committee for Veterans. This is the organization that produced the LZ Michigan program in 2010 at the Fifth Third Ball Park and the Veterans Salute at GVSU the past two Fall seasons.
In order to promote new membership to keep VFW Post 702 alive and flourishing, a central hub – a home – is needed. Without the influx of new membership, the VFW will have a hard time continuing to exist. Coordinating future activities engaging with the community would be easier with a post home complete with its own phone number and address.
VFW Post 702 is looking for a suitable building within the cities of Wyoming and Grandville to call its Post Home. A building with a canteen (bar) is not a necessity. The VFW is more interested in being community involved and assisting other veterans than having a canteen to contend with. Members need a place that they can have family activities: graduation parties, wedding receptions, birthday parties, etc. A post home would provide for that. Serving the community and assisting other veterans is the most important to the post’s membership.
Your support of VFW Post 702 would help better support our local veterans and the local community.
Children with special needs create special families. Five years ago, some of those family members got together to create the Family Hope Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting not only their own children, but all special families. They’ve hit on a sure thing: the Special Families Fun Fest, returning for its 4th year at the DeltaPlex Arena on Saturday, October 17 from 10am-4pm. Lara Kitts is in charge of the event. “Some of us who have special needs family members know how hard it is to get the family out the door together. This is fun and there’s nothing else like it.”
Admission $5 per person, which includes 10 carnival game tickets (ages 2 and under free!). Tickets are available here.
Kitts says the Fun Fest provides a wide variety of events set up to provide physically and emotionally safe environments without stress, including carnival games, crafts, a petting zoo and a number of other activities—all without waiting in line. Even better, no one has to stay behind to take care of the special needs family member. “We have amenities such as a sensory room to provide family support if a child is overstimulated,” says Kitts. “We have volunteers who cover every exit to make sure a child doesn’t dart away. We’ve pretty much thought of everything.”
Those concerned that the Special Families Fun Fest may not have anticipated their particular need are invited to call in advance at 616-780-3839. Visit the Family Hope Foundation to learn more about this very special organization. For more information about Fun Fest activities, check out the event. If you would like to volunteer, Kitts says she would be pleased to find you a special role to fill at the event, sure to fill a special place in your heart.
Would you think the man who helped eradicate leprosy and polio from the interior of Nigeria would live in your neighborhood? Dr. Dirk Vander Steen has been serving with Rotary International for 37 years, and the last 20 years with Kentwood since he moved back to the United States and the West Michigan area in 1990.
“It is an accomplishment that I really treasure,” Vander Steen said proudly. In Rotary and even before that, Vander Steen has stamped his passport with numerous locations and different experiences all around the world.
As a youngster he was already traveling around the world– but not for a good reason. He spent months in Grindelwald, Switzerland with three hundred other boys from his homeland of the Netherlands to be researched on the trauma effects of wars on children. The reason being he was suffering heavily from lack of essential foods and vitamins.
He then moved to Canada, quit school at the age of 13 and began working in a grocery chain store. At the age of 21 Vander Steen said God gave his life a purpose.
“I went to a young people’s convention where I heard a missionary speak and that touched my life then and there,” Vander Steen explained. “After that, I drove to Grand Rapids, met the Dean of Calvin College and he took me in, even if it was on probation from my two years of high school experience.” Here at Calvin, Vander Steen met his wife Jean who also wanted to be a missionary, and after a year they were married and on their way to Nigeria.
The Vander Steen’s stayed full time in Nigeria for 13 years, and even today make it a point to go once or twice a year to complete his ten years as a Trustee of the University of Mkar in the Benue State of Nigeria. They also help out and bring gifts they collected from Rotary. The Kentwood Rotary’s most recent gift was musical instruments to a Rotary club in Jos, Nigeria.
“It was part of Rotary’s peace project in Nigeria,” Vander Steen said. “To make music instead of war.”
Vander Steen has served many roles in Tivland, Nigeria- being a Rotary Club member, making prosthetic limbs for polio and leprosy patients, translating a steward manuscript, working with local churches, and his most rewarding role of being a teacher.
“I see kids that I taught and have watched them grow to become heads of organizations and the university or even being my boss,” Vander Steen shared enthusiastically. “It is one of the most rewarding feelings to see them succeed.”
One woman in particular has stood out in his memory.
“In 1965, I had the first female students in my secondary school class,” Vander Steen explained.
In Nigeria, young ladies were not allowed to attend any secondary school due to social customs. Rhoda Ako, one of those first ten females in his class, became the Head of Nigeria’s Customs. Vander Steen said that he is most proud of her work to create unity in a country torn apart by tribalism, and by her kind heart.
“When Rhoda Ako heard that I was back in Nigeria about seven years ago, she came to say ‘thank you for believing in me and helping me when I wanted to drop out’,” Vander Steen remembered fondly. “I think that is the best reward a teacher can get.”
Vander Steen has put more than 50 years of his life into his mission work in Nigeria and in serving Rotary. He takes great pride in the role he played in eradicating and educating people from Nigeria in regards to leprosy.
“I have done so many different things.” Vander Steen recalls. “My life has been so enriched. God has blessed me and helped me be a blessing to many people on both sides of the globe.”
If there is only one event you can attend to help our Veterans who have served so courageously, this would be it. Every dollar raised stays local.
The West Michigan Freedom Cruise and its partner charity, Finish the Mission Veteran Relief Fund, is already having a major impact on West Michigan Veterans and we are excited to announce the details of the 2015 event schedule.
In part to proceeds from last year, we are nearly finished with the new G.R. Veterans Home Ampitheater Project which will be an incredible asset to all West Michigan residents including those residing at this facility. Help us rebuild this iconic home one project at a time–Finish The Mission!
2015 Freedom Cruise Event Schedule:
Wednesday, June 24th (5:00-8:00p.m.) WLAV/Freedom Cruise Summertime Blues&Cruise
This was formerly called “Blues on the Mall,” and now features classic cars, bikes, music, food and beverages–outside at the Delta Plex. Listen to great blues bands while enjoying beer and food at this historic event. Contact Marcus Bradman at Cumulus Broadcasting at (616)617-7061 for more details.
Thursday, June 25th The David Warsen Honor Ride
Starting points will be the Davenport University (south) and Driftwood Inn (north) with kickstands up at 5:30p.m. (please arrive at least 1/2 hour early.) Cars and motorcycles will then travel in a procession and converge in Downtown, Sparta, MI. for live music, food and beverages along with a special flag presentation to the family of the late David Warsen. Contact Elizabeth Morse at 616-887-2454 or 218-0488 for vendor information or event details.
Friday, June 26th (9:00a.m. Shotgun Start) The 2nd Annual Freedom Cruise Golf Classic
Four man scramble at Thornapple Point Golf Course. Sponsored by Fifth Third Bank, all proceeds will go to the Finish the Mission Veteran Relief Fund. Contact Josh Buckenroth at Fifth Third Bank to sign your group up, or for sponsoring opportunities. Josh can be reached at (616) 654-2566.
Friday Night Cruise (4:00p.m. until dark)
The Freedom Cruise is going “retro” as we welcome everyone to join us for a classic car and bike cruise up and down Plainfield Ave on Friday afternoon and evening featuring Perrin VPA (Veterans Pale Ale) which will be served up and down the avenue generating revenue for West Michigan veterans. Perrin VPA will also be poured at the Garage Bar & Grill Biker Block Party on Ottawa Avenue. Great food, beer and live music will be featured on Ottawa Ave.
Saturday, June 27th (8:00a.m.-4:00p.m)
Plainfield Motor Mile Power Cruise featuring plenty of muscle cars, classics, bikes, vendors and fun–sponsored by the West Michigan Mustang Club and Plainfield Motor Mile & Village Motor Sports. This is going to be an incredible day with all of the Plainfield automobile dealerships rolling out the red carpet for a great day of classic cars, cruising the strip and awards sponsored by the West Michigan Mustang Club. All makes and models are welcome to attend and bike enthusiasts are welcome to visit the Village Motor sports open house.
Freedom Rocks Grand Rapids Concert (5:00p.m.)
This will be an event that will rock your summer as we escort the American Fallen Soldier Project and portrait of fallen West Michigan Navy Seal, David Warsen to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans Amphitheatre. This event will honor the family of David Warsen, followed by a free concert featuring national recording artist Madison Rising.
Sunday, June 28th (1:00p.m.) Blessing of the Rides
Classic cars, muscle cars and motorcycles are welcome at the Veterans Home for our closing ceremonies and blessings over all those who participate by the Christian Motorcycle Association. Contact Ted Vonk for more information at (616)-874-2604 or (616)-822-0367.
The City of Wyoming will hold its annual Memorial Day Ceremony on Monday, May 25 at 7:00 pm at the Veteran’s Memorial Garden (2300 DeHoop SW). Harriet Sturim, 5th District Auxiliary Chaplain, will be the guest speaker for the event, with her address entitled, “Voice for our Veterans”. The Lee High School band will perform along with the Wyoming Department of Public Safety Honor Guard. Bronson Swan, a graduate of Lee High School, and a veteran, as well, will perform “Taps”. Mayor Jack Poll will host the ceremony. In addition, the newest arch for the Veteran’s Memorial Garden (made possible by Community Development Block Grant funding) will be recognized.
“The City of Wyoming prioritizes the recognition those who have served, and continue to serve, our country in the armed forces,” according to Rebecca Rynbrandt, Director of Community Services for the City of Wyoming. “Our Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day Ceremonies are a tribute to that service. We are grateful to have a place in Wyoming (Veteran’s Memorial Garden) where we cannot only hold these ceremonies, but where people can honor and reflect, at any time, on those who have protected, and continue to protect, our freedoms.”
The City of Wyoming Parks and Recreation Department is committed to creating community through people, parks and programs by providing services, facilities and activities for the citizens of Wyoming and the greater metropolitan area. For more information, please contact the City of Wyoming Parks and Recreation Department at 616-530-3164 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our Facebook fan page at https://www.facebook.com/WyomingParksRec.
As editors of Wyoming/Kentwood NOW, Colleen, Mike and I appreciate all the contributions we get from people willing to help us share news about our communities. Our mission is to provide something other than what might already be out there on mainstream media. Wyoming and Kentwood are big geographical areas with many neighborhoods. Finding the stories within them take volunteer citizen journalists, like Kathy Gray of Kentwood, to write out the information and share it with us online.
April is National Volunteer Month and along with Michele Smith-Aversa, we salute Kathy Gray for her time, talents and contributions to this website and the community. But Kathy does far more volunteering than just writing articles for us.
Here’s a woman who loves Kentwood. She’s been a resident here for some 22 years. She works full time for Spectrum Health in physician IT training, has a husband and two kids, and yet finds the time to volunteer – a lot!
I admire people who can do this. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do more of myself. So I want to know how and why?
“I think it started out when my kids were little,” Kathy explains. “I’d come home from work, especially in the wintertime, and I would hibernate. I didn’t like that.”
Kathy decided to change her routine. She began to get out more in the evenings, first by joining a church community and getting involved with groups there. “Once you volunteer for things, you find they are addicting,” she admits laughing. Anytime someone would approach her to volunteer, Kathy would ask ‘What do you need? What do I do?’
“I believe we’re all on this planet to help one another – that’s my Christian philosophy,” she says. “You do whatever you can. Even if it’s helping a mom with three kids getting groceries in her car – that’s why we’re here. And it feels so darn good at the end of the day!””
Over the years though she has learned to use discretion. “It has to be a good fit for me. Something that I look forward to doing.”
One of her favorite projects is running a mobile food pantry at her church, Kentwood Christian Church, with her good friend Laura Boumis. For the last seven years, they have partnered with Feeding America to provide 5000 pounds of food the second Monday of every month to roughly 150 families in need.
“All we ask is that they register by name and phone number. So they don’t have to show proof of need,” says Kathy. “Anyone can come for it.”
The produce, baked goods and dairy products are collected by Feeding America from area stores just prior to their expiration date. The church pays Feeding America $500 for the food truck which works out to one dollar per person from each church member.
“It’s about distributing good food for use before it goes bad,” she adds. “And there are a lot of people who need it.”
Kathy admits that she looks forward to working Food Truck Mondays, despite all the work involved. “There are some days we’re standing out there in the rain and the sleet and the snow and the heat, and by the end of the day we look beat but we feel great!
“There’s just no greater high in the world!”
In addition to running the mobile food pantry, Kathy, along with her 17 -year old son Daniel, volunteer as Sunday Sandwich Makers for Kids’ Food Basket. One Sunday a month, you’ll find the Grays and their friends and family on an assembly line making 2500 sandwiches for 37 schools’ Monday lunch.
“Ham and cheese sandwiches are the fastest. Peanut butter slows us down,” she laughs.
Her most recent volunteering project is perhaps her most meaningful. She and her husband of 28 years, Duke, have become involved in the West Michigan Honor Flight for World War II veterans leaving Grand Rapids on May 16th.
“My dad was a World War II veteran and I started learning more and more about how they are dying off so rapidly now. Their mission (Honor Flight) is to get veterans from all across the United States to see the World War II memorials and tour Washington D.C., ” Kathy explains.
The one day event is a full one for the senior veterans and their guardians, beginning at 4:30 a.m. and ending after 8 p.m. in the evening. Upon their return to Grand Rapids, they will be celebrated with a parade, dancing, music and well-wishes from the community. Kathy and her husband Duke will be in charge of the Wheelchair Brigade, 100 of them.
“When the veterans get to the hangar in the morning they’re assigned a wheelchair. Most of them are still spry and fit but during a long day like that, they might need a wheelchair to get off their feet. And by the time they get back here, they’re exhausted. It’s been a 14 hour day. They’ll really need them.”
For Kathy, being a ‘doer’ is the best option for living life. “Otherwise,” she says, “I have a tendency to get depressed being a couch potato. And it’s too easy to have a pity party!”
April is deemed National Volunteer Recognition Month. We decided to pay tribute to some of our Citizen Journalists who have gone above the call of duty to deliver quality stories.
Meet Michele Smith-Aversa. She has been with our online-media site since the onset. Her creativity, intelligence, compassion, and strong writing skills have been a pleasure to witness. Writing is her passion. She lives to share the written word.
“I find life to be boring. Writing gets me out of reality. It’s an escape”–she said.
Michele lives in Wyoming with her husband Mark and in addition to writing and volunteering she loves to sew, bake, make jewelry and decorate. “If I can create and change something boring and make it beautiful to present to the world–that’s something.”
She is a member of the Cascade Writer’s Group and is working on getting her murder/love story book published. It is a 17 chapter, 70,000 word novel entitled, “Christmas is the Season.”
Her volunteer work at Focus on Ferals on 76th and Clyde Park is another passion. She looks after the cats, socializes them, cleans floors and kitty litter–anything she can do to get them adopted out. “If I can make a difference in one life–my life is worth something,” she said emotionally.
Michele’s life has been a constant struggle with her fight with Borderline Personality Disorder and anxiety. “I fight day in and day out. I don’t ever remember not being like this,” she disclosed.
She is currently in treatment at Pine Rest in a (DBT) dialetic behavioral therapy program.
“I take life each hour at a time.”
Michele also recommends that people don’t treat others with depression lightly by saying: Get over it, or let it go. “Unless you can teach me how to get over it, don’t say that,” she explained.
The WKTV Citizen Journalism team is proud to salute Michele Smith-Aversa. With all of her writing talents, she tends to take an ordinary story and make it extraordinary. She uses her rare brand of humor to examine everyday life situations in a unique manner. We are definitely happy to have her on board as one of our superstar writers!
If you would like to become a Citizen Journalist, call the station at 261-5700 and ask for Colleen, Janice, or Mike.