Cheers and Chocolate - April 13th

Cheers and Chocolate - April 13th
Every Woman's Place

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Saturday, March 9, 2019

Muskegon Heights Tigers Hit 100% On State Review

You can feel it county wide, this feeling of all of us getting the dust blown off, picking ourselves up and saying enough is enough.  We're tired of being counted out and we're better than what you think.  It's happening in every corner of the county.  You can see it first hand in the new construction Downtown Muskegon.  You can see it in Norton Shores where things continue to boom.   Even Roosevelt Park has seen over $2 million in growth!  You want action?  It's in Muskegon!

All of this progress is great but there was recently a goal met by The Muskegon Heights Charter Academy that is just amazing.  For so long, Muskegon Heights has struggled with that "one sided story".  If something bad happens in the Heights, every news truck and gum shoe reporter is there and they can't wait to tell you how there was another failure.  From this authors perspective, when I speak to a career day at any school...I will ask them "When you hear something on the news about Muskegon, what to you hear?" and 100% without fail they say "Someone got shot in the Heights".  Imagine the toll that takes on an 8th grader.  Imagine more, the toll that takes on an entire community?  Why even bother if that's all you ever hear and see?  It's changing and it's changing fast and it's being led by a new generation of leaders and people who are just tired of what's been told.

Visit Muskegon Heights Academy Online. 
Muskegon Heights truly is a "City of Friendly People" and if you spend any amount of time getting to know folks around town, you'll see it's true.  The pride in the heritage of being a Heights Tiger is as strong today as it ever was and the school is truly a center point of the community.  The school has struggled, this is true, but what happened recently shows that the corner has been turned and that being a Tiger still carries the pride it should!

Over the last 18 months, the school has been under the watch of the State of Michigan and were required to meet 14 goals in order to satisfy an agreement with the Michigan Department of Education.  It was in intensive time of evaluating everything in the district from books to playgrounds, social and academic clubs, facilities and more.  The scrutiny was heavy but when the report came back, it was 100% across the board on all 14 of the goals!  A new day has dawned in the Muskegon Heights School District and the foundation has been laid to build on!  It was so incredible to be there to hear the story first hand.

I met with school Superintendent Rane Garcia and Principal Eddies Jones to talk about the work that went in to this monumental success, take a listen.

It's so great to see the success.  It's also great to see that what makes school so important and so memorable is being put back in for the Tigers.  Rane and Eddies are remarkable leaders and it was so good to stop in for a visit.  We all need to celebrate the victories of our area!  Big and small, the accomplishments of all of us make up our story.  A story that's getting better every day.

Visit the City of Muskegon Heights Website

Sunday, March 3, 2019

No More Sidelines Under the Sea Gala Coming Up March 16th

It's coming up on 13 years of fun now.  It's such an amazing and growing organization that has had an impact on anyone who's taken the time to so much as say hello at the Folkert Community Hub.  Of course, way back when when it all began it wasn't the Hub or the growing group of kids and families with unique abilities.  No, it was a garage, and a request from a little girl...who wondered why she didn't have friends like her siblings.

We're talking about No More Sidelines and it all began when Alivia Blair asked her mom why she didn't have sleepovers like the other kids.  Alivia has Autism and that question set in motion a tidal wave in Cyndi Blair.  She started seeking other parents who had kids with some differences and a small group formed.  The word got out about the small collective and how they were finding ways for their kids to just be normal.  The group grew and the reach got bigger.  The kids who at one point were "on the sidelines" were now in the game.  The kids who were in their own hall way at the school were all of the sudden interacting with their peers from the rest of the school and they were finding in no short order that their differences, were not as big as their similarities.  No More Sidelines broke down barriers and continues to do so daily.

As the group grew, the Folkert Community Hub became home and it also became a place for the community to congregate.  They use the space for events, receptions, sports and more.  They have permanent tenants who work with other kids with challenges and they are beginning the construction of the next phase of the complex, the gym in the back.  From a meeting of a few people to a grand affair of a few hundred, the Folkert Community Hub is a home away from home, it's a fundraising tool for the group and it's become an asset to all of Muskegon.
Click Here for Tickets - Make Sure to Note Under The Sea Gala

March 16th will be the No More Sidelines 13th annual fundraising gala.  This year, it's got a theme of "Under the Sea".  You are encouraged to dress as a beach bum and enjoy the strolling cuisine, the huge slient auction, the live auction and the incredible fun to be had!  It's a great night where you have the chance to meet some of the group, see the facility and whoop it up for a great cause.  You can stop in to the Hub at 640 Seminole Road for tickets or click on the image to the right for tickets!

I met up with Cyndi Blair to talk about No More Sidelines and the party at the Hub as it was in the beginning stages of getting all decked out for a 75th anniversary party.  Take a listen.

It's a great time for a great cause, and to say I have a little bot of a personal attachment, ya...and understatement.  If you've never been, come on out!  If you've been there before, can't wait to see you again.  What was a feeling a isolation by one little in her early 20's has blossomed into an incredible force to show the world that what we think makes us different, is all just a mindset waiting to be broken.  My many thanks to Cyndi Blair for including me for all these years as part of the No More Sidelines family and her own family.

Visit No More Sidelines Online

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Does Your Food Pantry Need a Hand? Dancing With the Local Stars Can Help - Britta Cleveland Reports

So exciting to know that this year's DANCING WITH THE LOCAL STARS is already SOLD OUT!.. Knowing that all the funds raised from this years event will go directly to funding our West Michigan food pantries...helping to feed thousands in our area.  I just met with DWTLS Executive Director, Mary Kendall and Matt Kaley, who is the Executive Director of Love Inc. in Muskegon.  Teaming up to help feed residents in need throughout Greater Muskegon, Southern Oceana and North Ottawa Counties.

DANCING WITH THE LOCAL STARS is celebrating its 11th season....every year raising vital funds for West Michigan Food Pantries.    This year hoping to surpass the One Million Dollar mark.   Love Inc. located on East Apple Avenue in Muskegon proudly is the main donation hub for all our Muskegon, Southern Oceana and Northern Ottawa Counties food pantries.  This coming Thursday, February 14 at midnight Love Inc. will no longer accept food pantry donation requests for this years DWTLS donation recipients.
Apply to be a Beneficiary of the WDCC for Your Food Pantry

Please...if your donation facility would like to submit a donation request ...all are required to be sent NO LATER THAN this THURSDAY, FEBRUARY midnight.

The DANCING WITH THE LOCAL STARS is presented by the WOMEN's DIVISION Chamber of Commerce of Muskegon....hoping to raise vital funds for our West Michigan food pantries ....with the help of LOVE INC. Of Muskegon County.    DWTLS will be held Thursday, February 21...Friday, February 22...and two performances on Saturday, February 23......  Thank you again to Mary Kendall and Matt Kaley. ..... Best wishes to all the dancers and supporters of this event....hoping to raise over 1 Million dollars towards feeding our West Michigan residents in need.

Deadline:  Thursday, February 14....midnight

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Orchard View Elementary Students Get a Hand From Kids Food Basket

Kids Food Basket.  It's next to impossible to believe that in 2019 that we have to rely on a community outreach like Kids Food Basket to help assure that the children of our community are provided the 3 meals a day that are needed for proper nutrition to fuel their young bodies and minds, but the reality is, it takes a village..and it takes an organization like Kids Food Basket to maintain the food, and the awareness about the necessity.

Founded in 2001 when Mary K. Hoodhood heard from a principal in Grand Rapids that kids were digging through the trash in the lunch room to find food to take home for dinner, she knew something had to be done.  First thought was to call Child Protective services, but digging a little deeper, it wasn't abuse or neglect, it was simply the fact that the homes they came from simply had no money for food.  People working two or three jobs to make ends meet.  Sacrificing time away from family to simply keep a roof over their heads.
Follow Kids Food Basket on Facebook

Since 2001, Kids Food Basket has extended their reach past Grand Rapids.  They now help out in Holland and Muskegon as well, and if you're sitting down, we'll hit you with some statistics.  In West Michigan there are currently 794,700 children receiving free or reduced meals at school.  SEVEN HUNDRED AND NINETY FOUR THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED!  There are 8000 kids fed daily by Kids Food Basket at 47 schools and there are 30 schools on the waiting list for help for their students.  Folks...those numbers are simply staggering and this is not a problem limited to inner cities or rural areas.  Food insecurity is real and happening right where we live.  Including the Orchard View School District.

OV Elementary has become one of the newer schools that are receiving the "sack suppers" for the kids to take home for that all important evening meal.   As mentioned, it's not inner cities, it's not ghost towns it's neighborhoods with great pride and hard working families like Orchard View who are struggling.  Our friends and neighbors.  Hiding behind their pride and need.  Kids at the OV elementary schools were hiding food in their pockets and desks so they didn't have to go hungry at night.  Just next to impossible to believe.

I sat down with Angel Mendiola from the Kids Food Basket and OV Elementary Principal Heather MacDonald and Early Childhood Specialist Brandy Carey to talk about the cause and effect, as well as what they have found since Kids Food Basket has gotten involved at their schools.  We also talked a little about how Muskegon came together to make sure kids got fed during the Polar Vortex.  Take a listen.

It's on us all.  This is all of our future and it's the simplest of basic needs.  It's a grass roots organization to the core and it's based on all of us doing our little part.  If you'd like to know more about Kids Food Basket or if you'd like to know how to help.

Friday, January 25, 2019

The Sled Wings Play Sunday the 27th at the LC Walker Arena and a Benefit to Happen at the Back Alley Comedy Club Feb 16th

We've been following along with the Grand Rapids Sled Wings for a while now.  After all, we are the original "Hockey Town" on the West side of the state!  The Sled Wings are an adaptive hockey team giving those who use mobility devices a chance to play a game that generally takes the full capacity of an athlete.  Now, this isn't to say that the Sled Wings lack athleticism in any fact, traditional hockey players might even have a hard time keeping up.

The Sled Wings affiliated with Mary Freebed Rehabilitation Hospital and have been around since 2001 and have levels of participation for everyone from mini mites to adults.  They play in sleds as you can assume by the team name that help them navigate the ice, and the play...we'll, it's equally as exciting as any other hockey game and when "regular" hockey players give the sled hockey a try, they gain a new level of respect for the players almost instantly.
For Tickets to the Comedy Benefit Click Here

Like any other hockey program, it takes time, dedication and investment.  It's hard enough to find ice time for any hockey team.  They travel far and wide, all hours of the day to find time to practice and play.  We have a chance to help them out in a couple ways.  First, the Sled Wings will be playing their annual game against the Muskegon Lumberjacks on Sunday January 27th.  The Jacks love this game and the Sled Wings love to compete against the top tier of developmental hockey players in the USA.  Second, you'll get a chance to enjoy some laughter at a night of comedy at The Back Alley Comedy Club on February 16th where there will be a special event held for the Sled Wings.  There will not only be a funny show, but some silent auction items, maybe some raffles and more.  It all goes to help the program and players and families of this great sport!

Today, I met up with Ricarlo Williams Winston who's a great stand up himself and manager of The Back Alley Club and "Hockey Mom" Angela Reynolds who's 15 year old son plays for the Sled Wings.  Her story is one that should be told on it's own...we'll work on that....but for now, learn a little about the upcoming game and the great night of comedy coming up to help out some remarkable athletes.

We're proud to support the Sled Wings and their work to bring the awesome sport of hockey to anyone.  Make sure you check out the game at the LC Walker Arena on Sunday Jan 27th and then head to the Back Alley Comedy Club on Feb 16th for a great night of laughter to help the program along.  To learn more about the Sled Wings, click on their logo below to visit their website.

Friday, January 18, 2019

Soup and Serve for Martin Luther Kin Jr Day With The United Way of Muskegon

The observance of Martin Luther King Jr Day is Monday Jan 21st and since the holiday was established and first observed in 1986 the way the day is marked has evolved.  The "day off" idea changed into a day of service where people could aspire to follow in the footsteps of Dr. King and do something for their community as he would have.

When it comes to service, The United Way of The Lakeshore is the leader.  For over 100 years now, The United Way has been "inspiring change and building communities" with events like the "Day of Caring", "Ride United", "Fill the Truck - Give United" and of course "The Dolly Parton Imagination Library". All programs designed to engage the community and bring people closer together.  In honor of Dr. King, this is the 3rd "Soup and Serve" lunch that they are putting on so you can stop in and see first hand the work that goes on and learn a little about some of the programs at The United Way.

Drop in anytime between 10-2p on Monday and you'll be greeted by United Way staff and volunteers.  You'll enjoy some delicious soup and get to see fist hand just what goes on to make the organization tick and how their outreach goes so far beyond the walls at 31 Clay Avenue in Muskegon.  They will also have an action element going on that day with area groups out helping some of our senior citizens "Clear a Path".  It might be some work around the house or yard, or if it happens...maybe some snow removal.  Just a helping hand for a friend and neighbor.

Always great work from the United Way and a great opportunity for you to stop in and learn a little more while enjoying a nice lunch on Monday!  For more information, please click on the United Way logo below to visit their MLK - Clearing the Path web page!

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Help The Noah Project - "Hug Your Ween" With Comedian Stu McCallister

Everyone wants to do their part, right?  We also know that if you want to give a pet a forever home that a rescue is the way to go.  The shelters are all bursting at the seams with pets who are looking for some love and attention.  The shelters are often run by loving volunteers and fund raising is always a key for the care of the animals.  We hear about the banquets...we hear about the kids who give up birthday presents to help....but what about the comedians?

Stu McCallister is a comedian from Grand Rapids.  He performs all over West Michigan and the mid west.  He's the founder of the LMNOPodcast and he hosted a show called Tonight Tonight with Stu McCallister and his annual Christmas card exchange is one of the most fun things on Facebook if you follow Stu.  He also uses his platform to do an awful lot of good.  He's been a part of Laughfest in Grand Rapids to benefit Gilda's Club for years and works to help promote the festival and the events surrounding it.
Follow Stu on Facebook

His good deeds extend to Muskegon too.  He's taken a shine to local animal rescue The Noah Project.  He's adopted 3 dogs from The Noah Project now, which includes the inspiration for the "Hug You Ween" project.  "Ween" is actually Winter the second adoptee from The Noah Project for Stu.  Winter seems to have taken on a starring role all her own.  Now starring in a series of stickers saying "Hug Your Ween", Winter is popping up on widows, coffee mugs, three ring binders...anywhere a sticker sticks really.  The stickers are available from Stu and they are 2 for $5 bucks and all of the proceeds go to benefit The Noah Project.  To date, a few hundred bucks have been sent to the shelter to help with the costs of food and care.  It's a way for one guy to give back a little to help the organization who's given him his forever friends.

It was adoption day for dog 3 Saturday.  I stopped in to see Stu as he was picking up BJ to go home and buddy up with Winter.  Take a listen to the chat!

A great friend and a great guy all the way around.  If you've never caught one of Stu's comedy shows, make it a point.  If you are an animal lover like Stu and would like to help The Noah Project out with a little contribution you can stop in to The Noah Project on Airline Road in Muskegon and pick a couple up or you can get a hold of Stu via his Facebook page and get yourself a couple of fun stickers, with a purpose.  If you'd like to know more about The Noah Project, click on their logo below.