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Sunday, February 5, 2023

The Bling Thing - Friends of the Hackley Library Benefit Feb 10th and 11th at Barclay Place Events Center


The annual call comes in and it's almost as exciting as any holiday, visit from an old friend or hearing from someone you admire so much because they give more than they take and their heart is in such a good spot. 

 Doing what I do for a living, well...yes, it's driven by purpose and in that you get to find the purpose of what makes many others lives complete and that is a gift that not many get to experience.  

When the phone rings and I hear "Klingenmaier Here" it's time for the Bling Thing.

Barb Klingenmaier is a member of the Friends of the Hackley Public Library and they work to help fund the programs the library puts on for adults and kids to help foster literacy and engagement with the historic spot in Downtown Muskegon.  They are a group steeped in tradition and pride in all things Hackley Library and they tend to the Bling Thing event as well as the used book sale and other ways to reach the annual goal of $20,000 to help aid the programs that happen.  They are also some of the hardest workers in preserving the amazing history of our treasured block that is "all things Hackley" with the park right across the street from the library sharing the moniker as well as the archives in the Torrent House across the street, which by the way... the Friends of the Hackley Public Library mobilized to save from the wrecking ball a few years ago.  Imagine that space a parking lot now?  It would be an insult to our Downtown.

Barb's passion is infectious and her deep caring is gold.  Sure we shot our interview giving you the who, what, where and why of this years Bling Thing coming up at Barclay Place Events Center on February 10th and 11th.  You'll find all the amazing jewelry at either the Friday night "advance" opening where with $15 donation will also get you plenty of delicious chocolate and tasty wine and then Saturday the event opens up to those who are looking to support the cause and shop away up until the 'big discounts" come toward the end.  After we filmed though, Barb made sure to stop and ask all about me...wanted to know how I was, made sure that things were ok and showed the deep level of care she puts into just about everything and everyone she touches.  To know Barb is a true treasure and to have her here in our community....well, she's an asset not many other towns are lucky to have.  

Come one, come all to the Bling Thing Friday Feb 10th and Saturday the 11th. The Barclay Place Events Center is just off Sherman in Muskegon, and it's a stunning facility. We actually filmed while the Bridal Expo was gearing up so you can get a peek of the facility while you hear the details.  There's something for everyone and you can even find some amazing estate jewelry that is as timeless as it gets.  Enjoy the surroundings, enjoy the company and enjoy the purpose that the Friends of the Hackley Public Library work so hard to preserve this coming weekend!  

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Salt Dispersed - A Showing and Discussion About Slavery and it's Lasting Effect - February 5th in Muskegon


Black History Month begins February 1.  There will be events throughout the month teaching us about Black history.  Through the years that we’ve observed Black History Month, recognition of the significance of Black Americans’ contributions to our lives has grown, and hopefully so have we all.  Some of us are old enough to remember the strife of the Civil Rights era in the US.  With the generation responsible for that period of great progress “aging out,” and awareness and fairness not where we’d like to see it, it’s up to all of us to find new ways to learn and contribute to the effort.

Working to understand the long-term implications of slavery isn’t easy.  I am a 52-year-old writer whose earliest exposure to the concept of slavery was the TV mini-series “Roots,” which I was shielded from watching start-to-finish due to my age and the subject matter.  I was only seven at the time it was released, so I can’t really blame my parents for wanting to keep someone that young away from the brutality depicted.  But even viewing only portions of it left me with a clear message:  “Slavery was bad.  People were forced to work for free or they were beaten.”

As I became an adult, my understanding of slavery grew, and along with it, my loathing of the practice and of the mindset that allowed it to happen.  Most would agree that freedom should be equal, and many voices have screamed to end segregation and discrimination, but even legislation enacted with the goal of making our freedom more equal doesn’t necessarily address the impacts of slavery because they’re still not understood from the perspective of those who endure the unfairness.

 An event at 3:00 p.m. on February 5th at First Presbyterian Church of Muskegon (at the corner of Sherman Ave. and Wickham Dr.) aims to help the community understand the long-term issue.  First, there will be a showing of the video “Salt:Dispersed,” a one-woman journey by British performance artist Selina Thompson.  Like so many Black British persons, Thompson, when asked “where she was from,” found that explaining she was from England didn’t quite seem to be the answer people were looking for.  In time, she came to realize that through the enslavement of her people, her own ancestry had been stolen.  There was no path for her to trace back a few generations to see “where she came from,” because those who came before her had been rounded up by force, stowed on boats, and brought to some unknown corner of the world to be bought and sold like livestock.  The emptiness in that thought alone is enough to give you a moment’s pause.  And it should. 

The hour-long video will be followed by a discussion of the film and the issues it raises, hosted by George Barfield, nationally renowned as a National Consultant and Trainer for Cultural Sensitivity.  In the spirit of willingness to understand a point of view that otherwise may stay silent, it’s a free event and open to all.  I was invited to the church by Adam Bell and Roxanne Deibel to learn a little more about the event and their hopes that hearing the point of view of someone who sought to answer questions about her ancestry and its legacy will help us all understand the pain of racism a little more today.  Take a listen.  


We can all use a better understanding of history...all of history.  Recognizing that “slavery was bad” is a step; the abolition of slavery was a step. The Civil Rights Era was another.  But the declaration "Oh, now I get it” is not enough, and the broad strokes of legislation and viewing the impacts of slavery from the 1,000-foot viewpoint have not acknowledged the long-term losses of the individuals who were at one time viewed as commodities.  That’s the goal of the presentation:  to learn about these losses from a personal standpoint, and to learn how to discuss them constructively.

Our thanks to Adam and Roxanne for the invite today.

Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Muskegon CROP Walk Sunday October 2nd


I am going back a few years on memories of what kinds of charity things stuck out when I was younger.  Keep in mind, I went to a small Catholic school and being taught that giving was an important part of life began early and often.  I remember vividly things like "Operation Rice Bowl" and "Holy Childhood Stamps" which we were supposed to either fill a cardboard bowl with pennies, nickels and dimes with or see what you could get out of the grandparents for the commemorative stamps.  There were candy bar sales too....but I just passed those out on the bus for free to avoid getting beat up.

Well, 1980 is when the CROP Walk came on full tilt in Muskegon and while I was just a lad of 10 over in Belmont at Assumption School, the idea of the CROP Walk was brought on to us full tilt and with the idea that a lasting and purposeful event was beginning to help end what was just broad stroke "poverty" back then and today is better defined as food insecurity and while in 1980 "food insecurity" was probably just as real here as it is now, no one spoke of was an issue "somewhere else" and those "pitiful people" who had to suffer could sure use some help.  42 years later.  Those pitiful people could be right next door hiding behind the smiles you see on the faces of everyone else in the world not knowing where their next meal is coming from.  Not here to be a bummer....this is the reality for some.  It really sucks.

The Muskegon CROP Walk people, some of which have been a part of making this walk happen for nearly it's entire existence.  Since 1980 over a MILLION dollars has been raised by this loyal group to help those who are in need of food assistance.  A portion does go to world based programs in rural areas to help aid there as well, but here in town places like the Mission for Area People Healthy Food Pantry benefit, so does Community enCompass and The Saturday Breakfast at First Congregational Church has been known to fill a belly and a heart or two.

Tim Breed volenteers some time with the CROP organization and met me at The Coffee Factory to talk a little more about this weekends event and how it all works to help, even after 42 years.  If it ain't broke....don't fix it and through the up's and downs of 4 decades....the CROP Walk keeps truckin!  Take a listen.


It's a short notice between now and October 2nd but there's still time!  The CROP Walk gets underway with registration at 12:30 and the walking at 1 at Central United Methodist Church on 2nd Street in Downtown Muskegon.  If you'd like more information or to make a donation, please CLICK HERE or on the image below.  

Sunday, August 21, 2022

Showers and Laundry for the Homeless of Muskegon - Cindy Nichols Begins Her Quest

 We search for those in Muskegon who make their mind up that if it's going to be, it's up to me.  Well, it's the grit and determination that we're built on....we sustain on and the challenge we all live for.  We have a great system of reliance on each other and we also can innovate ways of getting things off the ground that others won't even try.  It's fair to say however that other ideas pop up in towns and we'll "borrow" them if need be.

Cindy Nichols splits her time between Muskegon and Lansing.  While in Lansing, she's seen a project in action that she really wants to get moving in Muskegon because she sees a need and wants to fill it.  

There's a grass roots program in Lansing going on between organizations that focuses on helping homeless get showers, laundry, clean clothes, a little fellowship and even a crack of joy out of the day.  The Cardboard Prophets the All Washed Up Laundromat and other community organizations collaborate to provide services to those in need in an almost festival atmosphere.  Clean clothes, new clothes provided by area pantries and shelters as well as ways to clean up, food, information and more.  Cindy is currently working with local donors and small pantries to provide DIY laundry kits.  It really requires no more than a plastic tub and a detergent pod for a portable laundry kit, but she really wants to see this idea bloom for a couple of reasons.

One, awareness.  Let those in need of a hand connect with those who can help in a relaxed atmosphere.  Two, inclusion.  Should those who need assistance have to feel like they are less?  Probably not huh?  Three, let others come and be a part to either engage or support.  Who can't spare a roll of quarters to help with some laundry?  Got clothes you don't wear or don't fit anymore?  Here's your spot.  Are you an agency that serves?  What a great new contact to make to pull this all together!

Cindy and I met up at the Coffee Factory to talk about the project and her passion to get it going.  You might remember her friend Mark Poletti who joins us.  Mark was the guy out making pancakes for anyone who was in need at the 7th and Monroe Mini Pantry in the pandemic, in the dead of winter.  It seems that those who like to do good seem to find one another.  Take a listen. 


It's really not that far out of our reach if you think about it.  Cindy's idea will only take a little cooperation and coordination and if there's some buy in from the area clothing pantries and providers that might be able to do hair cuts, quick exams as an outreach, maybe some resource places that could help people seek housing or employment....they are all here....bringing them together for the common good is the next step.  EMAIL CINDY if you'd like to get involved.  Like so many before, it's that spark that begins an idea and those ideas can become things we never knew we couldn't live without.  Good luck Cindy!!  

Friday, August 19, 2022

The Grief Club of West Michigan


In Muskegon we get it done.  We are remarkably self sufficient on a lot of things and one of our best attributes is that we are able to do them without the copious amounts of funding that some other areas seem to have.  Hey, sometimes being the "scrappy" one pays off in the sense that we have to find ways to support one another where we can.  This applies to all kinds of areas and not more so than supporting one another.

I have long made no secret about my belief in groups.  It was a group that brought me to be who I am today once I was able to put down a bottle of booze and without AA, I wouldn't be here.  In the group setting, it's pretty simple, you see that you are not alone in what you're dealing with and you see too that us humans, for as complicated as we all see.....we're all really not wired too much differently and that we really can make things better if we just rely on one another.  That relying thing....we still need to do that. 
Grief Club on Facebook

We're grieving still.  What we've been through as a people and as a society has been borderline unthinkable.  A politicized pandemic.  Immeasurable loss of life world wide.  2 quick examples and we'll leave it at that because, who wants to hear it all over again?  Healing from the last couple of years isn't going to happen overnight.  

The Grief Club of West Michigan wants you to know you are not alone.  Grief comes in many forms and The Grief Club of West Michigan was formed to help parents, spouses or others grieving over a situation a non judgmental place to share experience and support.  The groups meet not in place of counselling, but they are facilitated by professionals with nearly 30 years combined experience.  There are events and gatherings to enjoy some fellowship along the way as well as working to build a network of those who also share the experiences you do.  More shoulders make a lighter load to bear. 

Laura Ecker and Beth Bolthouse are the founders of this group and invited me downtown to talk a little more about their work and passion for helping others, take a listen.

There's no shame in admitting something has you beat.  In Fact, if you want to know a secret...admitting something have your beat is the first step to healing.  Grief...the loss of a spouse, child or something so precious to you is a life altering change.  Why would there be any issue in saying that cut ya?  Rely on the web of humanity to heal, it works and it's powerful.  Begin by listening, maintain by sharing and when you do, your turn to become the anchor will happen before you know it....and you will have turned a tragedy into a triumph.  Learn more about The Grief Club of West Michigan here.  

Sunday, July 24, 2022

1M Project Unite Ignite Equip - Meet Jennifer Debrot


Faith.  Are you even sposed to talk about that in the media anymore?  Does a conversation about faith always have to be who's right, who's wrong and who's belief's should follow you to the ballot box?  The answer is simply no.  The idea that faith and all it encompasses puts us in camps that are meant to divide is the absolute opposite of what the root meaning is, in my opinion and there are those too who see faith as a bridge to helping others with an extended hand and open heart.

Jennifer Debrot is one of those in the faithful community who's doing just that.  Jennifer started the 1M Project when parts of her life had reached the bottom.  It's a story I understand fully even though our bottoms were most likely different.  For me, bottoming out was addiction and the belief that somehow I was able to fix myself with a bottle.  Jennifer explained briefly life had gotten to be more than she could handle when she had her moment to surrender.  For me, surrender meant admitting that alcohol won and that I couldn't do it alone.  For Jennifer, surrender meant that the gift she was given of a new day was to be kept by sharing it with others so they too could find the strength and inner peace that comes with knowing you're not alone.  

So was born the 1M Project.  The idea being that their organization would unite, ignite and equip those they met with the ability to believe and know that with a little faith and belief in God and fellow man...things would get better.  Even more exciting about Jennifer's approach?  The realization that a church and it's message are not confined to 4 walls.  Those who need the help....they are in the community.  They are in jails.  They are in rehab centers and some of them are nowhere.  Kinda harkens back to the memory of a man who once lived who washed feet, walked among lepers and said "that which you do to the least of my brothers, that you do onto me".  This is faith in action and it's a heck of a lot more influential than someone yelling from a pulpit.

In action means a little outreach and after a couple years when the outreach had to be a little less impactful because of a pandemic thing....Jennifer and team were ready to roll on July 23rd at Hackly Park.  Free food from Occidental Eats, motorcycle stunt shows, live music, blood donations, vendors and more all gathered for the beautiful sunshine filled day.  It was a busy one for everyone in Downtown Muskegon and to know that a gathering of good like this was happening and we were invited to meet the honor of the highest magnitude.  Let's have a chat with Jennifer Debrot, we're just on the other side of Hackley Park so the music is a little quieter and you can hear her remarkable story.   

Faith is not fear.  Faith is action, kindness, forgiveness and love.  Rewind that last sentence.  It begins with love.  To find the kind of faith comes first.  You need to love yourself.  Not in a self centered or arrogant way, but to see the value you possess and how much you mean to someone. Next, forgiveness.  You have to have the ability to forgive yourself and others that have you in the place you think there's no return from.  Life can change on a dime if you know that nothing is held against you forever.  It might not be easy, but that first step is admitting wrong and forgiving.  Kindness.  Once you start sowing comes back 10 fold.  Trust me on this's unbelievable the treasures life gives you and there's no dollar value in the world that can compare and finally action.  Once these things fall into place, action is easy.  You will be immersed in making a difference, no matter how big or small the path you take will give you the deepest satisfaction of life you could ever imagine.  No 4 walls hold that kind of power.  

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Life Align Recovery in Muskegon - Meet Nick Scharlow


Being an observer is part of what we do as a media company.  We try to keep an eye on what's happening around town and we try to keep an eye on people who are doing remarkable things to help others.  Some are able to do a little something to be a part of it all, and others can go all in.  It's in the collective contributions of us all that we build strength in community and to highlight people who are willing to make a difference, well....that's kind of what this blog is all about.

Meet Nick Scharlow.  Nick is a Muskegon local who had a "wild streak".  Well, some might define it as a wild streak, addiction usually starts off as a good time, this I am more than well aware of, but in the end, if addiction is truly the's slavery.  Addiction isn't so much about the substance as it is the necessity to self medicate for an underlying problem.  The soothing of the inner pain, or even physical pain leads to someone seeking relief.  Once found, that interruption in agony and the temporary "fix" offers the false reality that it's ok, and that if you just have more, you will be too.  It's a long and dark tunnel that some can never escape.  Others who do....well, that's where we pick up Nick's story.

After a run in with the law, Nick was sent to treatment in Ann Arbor.  It worked, for a while, but like many others, there was a slip.  A return to treatment was necessary where in the stay a little more clarity came about and some of the comfort of the recovery community in Ann Arbor was missing when Nick came back to Muskegon, so....the old saying comes in to be.  "If it's going to be, it's up to me."  Nick decided that Muskegon could use a much more active and engaged recovery community, so he started one.

This isn't to say that the traditional AA stuff and 12 step programs are not paramount.  There are simple basic elements there that are undeniable.  However, the idea Nick is bringing is along with the support and stability, how about some activity?  Maybe some sober outings?  How about community based work projects to keep people occupied?  A drop in center on Merriam Street, centrally located between Muskegon Heights, Norton Shores and close enough to Muskegon to bring people in.  Holistic healing approaches.  It's a peer to peer non profit working all pathways to recovery.  It's a chance for those who are struggling to find a new way away from the chains that hold them.

There is a Grand Opening event coming up.  It will be on June 24th at their location.  The address is 3375 Merriam.  Some free food on hand and a chance to meet those who are working to make it all a reality.  Nick Scharlow and I did get a chance to share stories of recovery as well as his new organization.  Take a listen. 

The story of any addict. While all unique, none are all that different.  It's the idea that somehow, we're 6 feet tall and bullet proof and that life on life's terms can be handled by grit, booze (or a drug) and denial of a problem.  When I sobered up, my counselor told me that "We're all bozo's on the same bus".  Yes, it was a lighter moment in our work, but it's the reality.  We're all more the same than we are different and it takes more than one to make it on the other side of an addiction.  Learn more about Life Align of Muskegon by stopping by their open house on June 24th or visit them online.  You can click on the photo below to follow Life Align on Facebook too!