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Thursday, August 31, 2017

The United Way's Day of Caring 2017 - September 8th - Downtown Muskegon

We covered the United Way's Day of Caring last year as the events were wrapping up at the Muskegon Farmers Market.  We talked to some of the United Way Staff, a few of the companies that pitched in and gave you the over all feel and something must have worked out....because it's a year later and it's about to happen again and it's bigger than ever.  Last year the focus was on the beautification projects around town.... this year... it's honoring those who were willing to give all.



The United Way Day of caring is September 8th this year.  It all kicks off at the LST 393 in the morning with the Muskegon Host Lions Club doing a pancake breakfast for those who are in for the day of service.  After that, the teams are spreading out to area homes, where veterans live and they will go to work on household needs and yard needs as a way of saying thank you for the willingness that they had to serve our country and protect our freedom.  It's an overwhelming endeavor, but...when the hundreds of volunteers get together to accomplish this return gift to area vets, well, as the old saying goes, many shoulders lessen the load. After the work is done, the crews head back to the ship for lunch and a recap of the event.
United Way of The Lakshore Online!

This also serves as the kick off foe the United Way's yearly capital campaign.  As a community, to help support the work they do and the programs they run.  Programs like ALICE....advocacy and education for Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed people in Muskegon.  Essentially, the working poor.  The United Way also offers education programs, mentoring programs, Dolly Partons Imagination Library, Lights on After School and so much more.  Not to mention the reach they have in support of countless other agencies who all work to help the people of Muskegon.  We are proud partners with the United Way.

As the day approaches, I went right to the top!  Stephanie Stewart is my guest.  She's the Community Engagement Assistant at the United Way of the Lakeshore.  She is also an up and coming young person in Muskegon who's proving day in and day out that what you're seeing and hearing around town..all the Watch Us Go stuff... it's real.  It's reaching a younger generation and the attitude of complacency and head scratching is being replaced by get out of our way... we're going to fix this.  I do have to add in a personal note, this was the first time I got to speak to a "20 something" about all we are seeing and doing in Muskegon....I have to be upfront....I got a little choked up when I heard that they are not seeing things as a gimmick or more lip service.  They are in....it's all hands on deck from more than just one generation now.....and it feels great.  Take a listen to our talk below.


September 8th!  As you heard in the video, more volunteers than ever before.  All coming together this time around to honor veterans with some extra hands to help, a way of saying thank you.  All coming together too to prove that when Muskegon makes up it's mind that something needs to get done...and we all jump in together, there is nothing or no one who can stop us!  We are getting stronger as a community daily and the work of the people of the United Way of the Lakeshore is helping to showcase that work!

Trevor Hilson Sits Down With County Commissioner Bob Scolnik

Bob Scolnik is an entrepreneur, politician, and community activist who was born in Albany, New York. His love for service began when he became a member of the United States Army.  It was this service that brought him to Muskegon and ultimately introduced him to his lovely wife Merle.  






Upon arriving to Muskegon, Bob immediately made an impact in our community.  He devoted a lot of his time and talent to making Muskegon great, by becoming the owner of Muskegon Brake & Distributing.  As if owning a business was not enough, Mr. Scolnik continued his passion for public service by starting his political career on the Norton Shores City Council.  

He then decided to run for County Commissioner and is currently serving his eighth term in office.  From starting a business to being a public servant in the military and as a politician, Bob Scolnik has a passion for making Muskegon County a great place to live, work, and play.

It is within that spirit that he continues to be highly involved with the Boys and Girls Club.  Bob has helped organize, promote, and host the Club’s premier fundraising event for the past two years.  He also does concerts as fundraisers for organizations. Currently he is working on a fundraising concert for Family Promise in November. It has been a pleasure getting to know Bob, and I thank him for everything that he does for Muskegon.


Monday, August 28, 2017

Muskegon Community College Celebrates The First Day At The Applied Technology Center Downtown Muskegon

At times, the tour seemed unbelievable.  As I was given a walk through this morning of the new Muskegon Community College Applied Technology Center Downtown Muskegon I was doing all I could to pay attention to things like names of machines and applications of their use.  I did what I could to remember what this, that or the other gadget cost, and what it meant to have on hand, but as the information flooded in, the surreal feeling of being in such an incredible setting was just too much.


It all came home for me though as we were on the upper floor of the building looking out....looking out over Downtown Muskegon and I saw an actual city sky line.  We were on the corner of Third and Clay and as I looked out, I could see Western Avenue from one window, Hackley Park and Third Street from another and in all honesty...I could see nothing but promise for the future of Downtown Muskegon and the people who choose to become students at the Applied Technology Center.

Visit MCC on Facebook
Enough of my first impressions, today was day one!  Students were on hand and the building is open to use!  There will be another wave of openings in January when the Winter semester gets underway, but for now...the welding lab is open, classrooms are open, the Center for Experiential Learning is open on the first floor with a beautiful view of the park right across the street.  Soon to come the Entrepreneurial Fab Lab, the Prototype Center....the bookstore....credit union....the list goes on and on.  This is where people who want the jobs that will pay more than $10 bucks an hour will start and take the first steps to a more secure future for themselves and their family.  This is where the base will be formed for people to find their way into careers that can take them anywhere and where things like some education can lead paid apprenticeships  which can lead to secure work and in time journeymen's cards in skilled trades.  If you have not heard.... there is a sincere shortage in skilled trades in the USA right now.  These are high paying jobs that don't necessarily require a 4 year degree.

The educational opportunities are beyond my wildest dreams, but think too of the impact this is going to have on the growing Downtown Muskegon area!  There will be 500 students a day down there thanks to the Applied Technology Center.  Add them to the students already down there at the CIM, the business that keep popping up and of course the established places we've got and it shouldn't take you log to figure out that the demographic of "downtown" is changing quick.  Downtown Muskegon will be changing to a young, ambitious place to be supported by forward thinking educators and companies willing to invest in this community and it's people to make it better.  Folks, we've all seen the signs, but the rubber is hitting the road right now.... and it's happening.

I had a chance to sit down with Amy Swope and Dan Sybenga in the new Experiential Learning Center today to hear about all of this, and I also sprinkled in some photo's I took during the tour to give you a peek behind the scenes during the interview.  Take a look and listen.  



It's an awful lot to take in but it's also an open door to a better tomorrow on so many levels.  Better educational opportunities, better jobs, people being able to find work in Muskegon and put roots down to live here and raise families.  The pieces of the puzzle keep falling into place, one by one...slowly but surly.  We'd all like them to be together by tomorrow but on the grand scheme of things...we're approaching break neck speed on progress. It's an awesome time to be in Muskegon that's for sure.

For more on the Muskegon Community College Applied Technology Center, click on the image below and you'll go right to their website to see all the classes and programs offered.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

The Team Hannah 5k September 16th to Benefit Tuberous Sclerosis in Whitehall

Gonna start this one off with a disclaimer.  I had no idea there was even such a thing as tuberous sclerosis until I heard from Jennifer Bevans.  I'd be willing to bet everything I own too, that Jennifer wishes she's never heard of it, but her daughter Hannah has it, and Jennifer as you will hear shortly has become a walking Wikipedia on the subject.  You can hear from the expert in a few.
Team Hannah Online




In a nutshell, here's what happens.  Tuberous sclerosis is a genetic disorder.  It's found in the DNA and it causes random, non malignant tumors to grow in people.  In Hannah's case, it's been pretty profound.  She's had them in her eyes, her brain.. two days before she was born, the doctors did an  ultrasound and found 24 tumors in her heart before they stopped counting.  Can you imagine that?   She found her way into MRI's and CT scanners immediately after she came along and her friends and family immediately surrounded her with the love and support needed not only to help Hannah, but to help shine a light on the condition and help those researching it as well as treating the condition.  One of the amazing things that happen in Muskegon every day and one of the reasons Positively Muskegon was founded.

Of course, like any effort to diagnose, treat or educate people about a condition that happens to 1 in 6000 people, it takes a few bucks.  Team Hannah was formed and since day one, they have worked to find ways to make a difference and one of them has been the Team Hannah 5k in Whitehall.  Set to take place on September 16th, registration is going on now.  If you get signed up today, you still have time to get in on the commemorative t-shirt, but shirt or no shirt... the $30 for registration will not only get you a picturesque run through Whitehall on a beautiful fall day, you'll know that your donation goes to help Hannah and others who deal with this rare condition and those who work to help treat it.

Like I said, I can't even pretend to say I understand this one, so let's leave it to mom, Jennifer Bevans to explain it all a little better.



We all have hurdles in life, but if I may interject momentarily, it just seems unfair that some are so high.  Meeting the Bevans family today, I found a sweet girl, a mom and dad who have been given a mountain to climb, and they do...and they do the best they can with it and don't come off asking to be considered super heroes for it or anything and I just hate the fact that the struggle for some people is this hard.  I do take great comfort in the fact that ours is a community built on support and that so many have been involved for so long to help these folks and others like them.  I was honored that Jennifer asked up to come help tell the story and I hope that if you are a 5k type person....you are able to find your way to Whitehall on September 16th and join Team Hannah!  The registration is below!



Tuesday, August 22, 2017

2017 Autism Awareness Run in Muskegon

It's one of those things that in some circles...it's still all "hush hush".  We're talking about Autism.  Well, it's really nothing to be silent about and it's really nothing to be afraid of.  One of the greatest things I have had the good fortune to be part of so many kids and families lives who have Autism through being part of No More Sidelines.  That's where I got to know Cindy DeVries who we'll hear from here in a little bit.



Autism Awareness Run on Facebook

First off, some personal experience.  Like many others, early on, autistic kids scared me.  They were different.  In my school days, they were at their end of the hall with maybe the exception of lunch and they took the "special classes" and that was about that.  My first real exposure to autistic kids came when I was a camp counselor at Camp Optimist when I was 21.  I had never been a camp counselor and I was given the biggest group of 11-13 year old boys and 3 autistic kids.  Talk about going in head first.  It was a tough couple of weeks, but I found out that there was a special connection somehow with 2 of the autistic kids, Alan and Alex.  Alex and I bonded over "gimmie one".  "Gimmie 5" seemed a little hard to him so I would just offer my index finger and say "gimmie one" when he did something cool, and it opened a door for him.  He let me in and I had a new friend.  So much so, without me knowing his parents arranged at their own expense for him to come back for one more week at the end of the summer so Alex could spend that time again with that door open.  To this day, the gravity of the moment I walked in for the last week of camp to see him and his mom and dad all waiting for me still makes me pretty emotional.  To know that something as simple as that gave that boy a chance to come out and feel safe... it's a heck of a thing.

Today, I am pretty at home with autistic kids and families.  Every journey is a different though, and of course, every family heads into that journey looking for a way to manage, learn and grow.  There are wonderful organizations in Muskegon like Pioneer Resources that are there to help every step of the way, and with any organization, there comes a need for funding.  Which leads us to the fun portion of the story... let's have a motorcycle run!

Saturday August 26th The Autism Awareness Run kicks off at Pat's Roadhouse in Muskegon.  Registration gets underway at 10:30 am and the run wraps up back at Pats with a great picnic dinner and lot's of fun for the entire family outback on Pat's spacious deck and patio area!  You'll get a scenic ride all around the area as well as the satisfaction of knowing your're helping some pretty awesome kids and families out along the way.

Which brings us back to Cindy DeVries.  We met up at Pioneer Resources to talk about the event and autism in general.  Take a listen!


Saturday is looking like a great day for a ride and what better cause?  Help some of these great families out with their kids and learn a little more about autism.  Let's all push forward on making what was once the unspeakable part of our everyday language.  If you'd like to know more about Pioneer Resources, please click on their link below.  If you'd like to donate to help the autism program, please specify that with your donation.  





Sunday, August 20, 2017

Chef Prize to Benefit Make a Wish Michigan September 17th at Hampton Green Farm in Fruitport

Chef Prize is set to make it's return to the beautiful Hampton Green Farm in Fruitport on September 17th.  This is the 3rd year for the friendly annual competition and expo showcasing all things delectable from area artisan restaurants, bakeries and purveyors of libation.  This year too, the proceeds of Chef Prize will go to a much higher purpose, benefiting  Make a Wish Michigan.  Make a Wish provides once in a lifetime experiences for kids facing major illness.



Hampton Green Farm Online
First a little about the event.  Hampton Green is nestled away in Fruitport out Farr Road and they raise champion dressage horses.  They are incredibly beautiful and they compete world wide in the sport.  In the Rio Olympics, their now retired Grandioso competed for team Spain.  Hampton Green is also the home of a lot of different events focused on helping Muskegon area non profits raise a few bucks for their cause by hosting wonderful benefits that are turn key for the charity, meaning all the charitable group really has to do is show up and Hampton Green takes it from there.


Make a Wish Michigan Online

Hopefully, you're familiar with Make a Wish.  Kids facing terrible illness make a request to have a once in a lifetime dream come true.  It might be a trip, or the chance to be a firefighter for a day...maybe it's a shopping spree or maybe it a reunion with a family member from far away....the request is made, and Make a Wish goes to work on it doing all they can to pull out all the stops and make the wish as spectacular as it can be.  It's an endeavor that once you've seen it, it becomes pretty near and dear to your heart.  The wishes are not free, however most places that are part of the wish do what they can to work with the group and the kid granted the wish to go above and beyond.



The stories of Make a Wish events...they go from the most uplifting to some pretty tough ones....but as Bonnie Nolan from Make a Wish tells us, the good far out weighs the bad and these kids see just how wonderful this world can be when we all choose to wrap our arms around a cause.  Take a listen to our talk below.


Ok, so let's recap a minute.  Some of the best food you'll find anywhere.  A setting that's as marvelous as you'll find and a cause that is undeniably one of the best around.  Let's all make a plan to be part of Chef Prize at Hampton Green Farm on September 17th.  We can enjoy the car show, the music from Natchez Trace, some wine, some sweet treats, cooking demonstrations and the peaceful serenity of the early fall on the farm.  Grab yourself some tickets by clicking on the link below and we'll plan on seeing you for Chef Prize 2017 September 17th.

  

Friday, August 18, 2017

Muskegon Area Girl Scouts Building Buddy Benches

Have you ever heard of a "buddy bench"?  Have you ever had the opportunity to sit on one?  Well, the kids at the Reeths Puffer elementary schools will not only get to know what a buddy bench is, they will have the opportunity to put them to use on a daily basis and quite possibly building friendships and understanding.   Local Girl Scout Troops came together to build the benches and get the job done.




Tee Vallejo sent me a message a couple weeks ago telling me about the project, and I was curious.  So, I packed up the camera and headed north.  The buddy benches are another project in a long list of things the girls in troops 4580, 4800, 4802, 4824, 4826 and 4829.  They have worked in the past with Pound Buddies, did a partial make over at the Reeths Puffer Intermediate Library but the buddy benches have a special meaning.

These benches are being built to honor Doreen Hicks.  Doreen is currently battling cancer.  She is also a life long Girl Scout and her lesson to the young ladies has always been to respect one another, speak kind words and that kindness matters.  All very sage and wise words in today's world.  As Doreen continues her fight, they thought it best to offer others the chance to experience her wisdom with a gift of these benches.

So, what is the purpose of a buddy bench?  It's simple.  If someone feels alone, or left out or just needs a chance to have a spot to plunk down for a few minutes of thought and reflection....the buddy bench is there.  It's also a signal to others to say "hey, i could use a hand over here....anyone care to come sit a spell?"  In all honesty....the entire planet needs more benches where people can just sit down and talk.

I met up with Tee and Girl Scouts Lauren Maples and Avy Warrick to learn about the project and see the work going on.  Take a listen.


The benches will be presented on August 23rd and it's pretty cool to think that in a very unique and special way, elementary students in Reeths Puffer will have a way to send a subtle sign that they are in need of a hand, or maybe an ear.  It's not easy for kids to ask for a hand, it's not easy for adults to ask for a hand, but we all need one.  The Girl Scouts have found a way to offer some respite for years to come and a lesson to all about compassion and kindness!  Kudos to these great young ladies and their troop leaders!

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Welcome to the Carlin's - New Heads of the Salvation Army in Muskegon

We've been an ally for the Salvation Army of Muskegon for a while.  They do an awful lot of good work for a lot of people in Muskegon and while the mission is pretty evident when the bells are ringing around the holidays the work goes on all year long in a variety of programs and outreaches.  We try to keep up with it all, but trust me...it's a lot.



Salvation Army Muskegon on Facebook




Recently, there was a change of guard at the Muskegon Salvation Army.  The Sawka family was transferred to Indianapolis and from Big Rapids we welcome the Carlin's.  They are a young coupe with a 15 month old son and they have been in town for about a month.  We gave them a little time to settle in and to survey the new digs.

Like any new challenge, it takes a little time to get the lay of the land, a little time to get to know some people around town and see where skills sets match and where they think things are good and where things can be improved.  Fortunately, we've got a pretty healthy branch of the Salvation Army in Muskegon, so while Chris and Brianne don't have a mountain to climb to get things rolling, they will undoubtedly be leaving their mark in Muskegon in the years to come.

Take a couple minutes to listen to our chat and get to know  Chris and Brianne and when you see them around town, make them feel welcome.


The mission continues.  You hear the statement.  Doing the most good.  The Salvation Army never stops.  If you'd like to know more about the Salvation Army of Muskegon, click on the banner below and you'll be taken to their website!



Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Taste and See a Little More of Muskegon With Community enCompass September 25th

Community enCompass of Muskegon is rapidly gaining more and more of my attention.  Not because they are exquisite at timing their stories with us to almost perfection...but as we've done our stories with them, I am seeing more and more what a truly remarkable organization of people we have here and how their dedication to making Muskegon better at the ground level is really what community organization is all about.




We recently covered the mural that was added to the side of the King David Lodge inspired by the young people in the YEP! program that Community enCompass and earlier this year we paid a visit to the Mclaughlin Grows Urban Farm to see the first signs of life in the gardening season right out in front of Hackley Hospital.  The projects undertaken by Community enCompass are many, they are important and they are fundamental building blocks to any neighborhood.
Community enCompass on Facebook

You have a chance again this year to see first hand some of the work that goes on.  Taste and See is a fundraising event happening on September 25th.  The bus tour leaves from the 18th Amendment and will take you to 3 stops.  One, is the Mclaughlin Farm, the second stop is Sacred Suds which is a dro in center where people can find facilities to get their laundry done, use the internet if needed and maybe even some company while the wash is being done and the 3rd is where we met to shoot the video for this story.  Currently, in Muskegon the "4th Street Facelift" is going on including the restoration of a home that had gotten turned over to the land bank.  Now, when you make the turn down 4th street from Muskegon avenue...house after house has something going on by way of being cleaned up, fixed up and made to look good.  The whole neighborhood seems to be in and the house that's getting a complete make over will be a forever home to a family who's going to put roots down in  Muskegon to stay.

Back to the Taste and See.  You'll find great food provided by some of Muskegon's finest eateries, you'll be able to hear first hand how Community enComapass has impacted neighborhoods and lives.  You might find a little libation along the way as well as get a peek at some of the neighborhoods you drive right by in the busy day to day hustle of everyday life.  I was joined by Partick Thompson and Sarah Rinsema-Sybenga  at the home being redone on 4th street for all the details!  Take a listen.


A great cause and an interesting way to see some of the boots on the ground work going on.  We see daily the flashy stuff going on here in Muskegon, but for every billboard, every slogan and every ad campaign, there are dedicated community leaders who are out doing the back breaking work to bring neighborhoods back together.  They are toiling away to clean up blight.  They are working to unify neighbors and give kids a safe place to grow up and call home.  If you'd like to know more, or...get tickets to the Taste and See, click on the image below to visit their website!



Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Reeths Puffer Neighborhood Improvement Association - Together since 1968

A month or so ago, we welcomed Padnos Lakeshore Recycling to Positively Muskegon and offered a challenge to readers and viewers to tell us about their community programs going on and how Padnos could be involved.  We had hoped for a story or two about a scrap drive but it would seem that there are not a ton of them going on at the moment, but that's not stopping Padnos from shining a light on something great!




I got an e-mail saying I should go meet the Reeths Puffer Neighborhood Improvement Association.  Having never heard of them, I took the opportunity to make a little contact and was I ever surprised at what I found.  How about a little history to start it off?

Follow the RPNIA on Facebook
Founded back in 1967 and Incorporated in 1968 as a 501c3 the Reeths Puffer Neighborhood Improvement Association was organized to give the community a voice in their development, to educate and motivate youth and among other things to improve the community one person at a time.  Since 1968 the group has become so much more than your typical association.  I was blown away at the close knit family atmosphere I found and more than that the life long dedication that some of the members have put in.  They host events, they have educational opportunities, reunions, dinners, parades, community picnics, of course a fund raiser or two over the course of the year....a lot of the things you expect, but under it all there is a very distinct undercurrent of unity.  Stronger than I have felt in most any other story I have done this far.

The Family and Friends reunion is coming up August 12th and it's going to be a big one.  As people come and go from the area, one of the key focuses for the RPNIA is to bring everyone back together once a year.  They will celebrate with food, friendship, vendors on hand and community resource tables offering information about what's out there for people.  They also have a giant school supply giveaway for kids in the neighborhood so they can get back to school with all they need to get the year started off on the right foot.

I got a chance to sit down with Mother Oakes, Joan Betts, Priscilla Agnew and Peggy Watkins to learn a little more about the organization and the history and some of their upcoming events over the rest of the summer and on in to the fall.  There is a lot coming up with these wonderful women and let me tell you...they are not short on character one bit.  I loved meeting this group.  Take a listen.




Back to Padnos.  Padnos Shoreline Recycling is committed to making all of Muskegon a better place, and  since we couldn't find a scrap drive, Padnos is going to donate a very healthy supply of back to school stuff to the Reeths Puffer Neighborhood Improvement Assocaition for their dedication to making their community a better place.  I can't thank Padnos enough for introducing me to these remarkable hero's here in Muskegon and as I packed up to go...I assured these ladies...if they had need to get the word out again..I was only a phone call away.  Loved every minute of this, I really did.


Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Officer Jon Ginka Memorial Softball Tournament Set for August 10th in Ross Park

As a community, we mourned the loss of Norton Shores Police Officer Jon Ginka in May this year.  We're very fortunate around the Muskegon area to have the law enforcement and first responders we do.  They are honest, caring and community oriented.  They are also a pretty tight knit group and when one of them is lost, the ripple effect is overwhelming.





I remember the day of his funeral service and how strange it seemed to see patrol cars all over the Norton Shores Area that were not Norton Shores Police Cars.  I saw cars as far away as Muskegon Township out picking up the duties of the NSPD guys so they could have time to mourn and reflect.  Muskegon Township is only across town, this I know.. but, that's a long way out of a jurisdiction to travel to pick up a shift for a buddy.  I personally thought it spoke volumes of the unified group of men and women we have in area law enforcement.
Officer Jon Ginka

It holds true today, a couple of months later.  It's one big family and while the loss of Jon  will never be forgotten, the shift moves to his memory and taking care of his family.  Jon was a young father who by all accounts was full of life and full of love for his family.  Those around him wish him to be remembered that way.

August 10th they have come together to put on the Jon Ginka Memorial Softball Tournament at Ross Park.  There will be plenty of food with an open donation accepted, a dunk tank, raffle prizes, bounce house from Kangaroo Palace,  auction items and there will be "heated" competition between police, fire, Army and Coast Guard for the softball events!  You're invited out for the fun, but more over, you're invited out to be part of the community gathering as the healing process continues and we all have a chance to surround the Ginka family and show them how much we care.

I had a chance to sit down with Brian Harris, Alex Gellman from the US Army, and Officer Scott VanWylen to talk about Jon, his memory and this event take a listen.



Our community is strong because of events, and people like this.  We take care of each other in Muskegon, we take care of those who give of themselves to watch over us.  It's a "free" night of fun, but your donations will be gladly accepted to help out.  5-9 is the scheduled time for the fun.  We'll see you at Ross Park and if you watched the video.... yes....you'll see me in the dunk tank.  Share this story around will ya?  Help spread the word.