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Shon Cook Law Offices in Whitehall

Shon Cook Law Offices in Whitehall
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Thursday, November 12, 2020

500 Toys for Christmas - Keysha McClanahan and Friends Are Out to Make the Holidays Brighter


What a year.  No matter how we look back on 2020 in the future "remarkable" will have to be one of the words that gets kicked around.  From the problems we've had with the pandemic to how we've struggled with dealing with it, our political differences, our unsure futures, who we've lost, what we've lost and why....this will be etched in our minds.  It's been over 100 years since such times and let's hope that in the next 100 we remember better.  

Of course too, there have been those who've left another memory.  There are those who have risen above.  There are those who have carried on.  There are those who did more with less and gave all they had because that's what was needed.  We have seen champions on every level.  We have seen amazing acts of selflessness and we all know those who have quietly done things for friends and neighbors who will never get any credit, recognition or praise.  They did what is right, because it's the right thing to do and that was all they needed.  Big or small, humanity has certainly risen to the occasion and in our world, it's finding those who preserver and continue to offer the assurance that no matter what comes along, in the end, we will indeed be ok.

This is the story of Keysha McClanahan and her group of friends who have decided that with the holidays so rapidly approaching, that they'd set a goal of gathering up 500 toys to be distributed to kids who have equally been through the ringer in 2020.  Those who's parents may have to focus more on food and rent rather than toys and games.  It's kind of the story every year for some, we all know that.  The world isn't perfect after all, but this year it's these acts of kindness that really need a spotlight.  

Keysha is a preschool teacher at  Glenside she's also part of The Deborah Project supporting single mothers, self described she's a "pastors wife, mother, granny author and educator and the organizations she's with see the need in real time, day after day and it's so very real.  Recently, there was a "Trunk or Treat" event that they held with much success and it inspired Keysha and friends to give it another shot to see if it can be built upon as Christmas approaches.  The goal?  500 new, unwrapped toys to provide to some of the moms and families that they reach to help them out in a time when it's needed most.  They are frontline helpers with those in need.  They are not a giant agency.  They are friends and neighbors who have come together to bless who they can and they represent exactly how community is built.

How can you help?  Well, it's pretty easy.  There are a couple of drop off locations.  Emmanuel Tabernacle at 1885 S. Getty is a drop off location as well as Soul Filled Eatery located at 3232 S. Glade Street.  It just so happens that Keysha's husband is the Pastor at Emmanuel Tabernacle so that made it pretty easy for a drop off point.  Just added drop off locations are MOCAP, Genesis Salon and DVG Beauty Boutique.  You can also find some contact info in the photo below if you'd like to make arrangements for maybe a pick up from a work collection.  How about that for an office or shop project this year?  A great way to help.

Keysha was able to spare a few minutes to talk with us about all she's got going on and share her and her friends desire to make a difference, take a listen. 

This is what builds Muskegon.  Piece by piece and little by little we set ourselves a part by making sure that needs are met.  It doesn't often come with a lot of fanfare or pomp and circumstance.  It's also not the kind of thing that rips your attention for headlines but this is the memory we should all take away from the year that was.  No matter the strife, no matter the fear, no matter the stare downs we had or the times we walked away not on speaking terms....there were those who still assured that the needs were met.  They did it humbly.  They did it for others.  They did it because it was the right thing to do and it's our greatest honor to once again, be able to shine a little light on those who step it up and make it happen.  We live in a town of miracles, and you're watching one unfold now. 

Monday, November 9, 2020

Overcoming Barriers Inc - Meet Kaja Thornton-Hunter


Our travels have taken us to so many incredible places and we've had the opportunity to meet some awesome people.  It seems a little crazy to look back to when all of this started with a GoPro Camera and this very free blog program, but when you stick to what you believe in and let those beliefs guide you, at least we've found, the stories that need to be told come to find you.  Well, that happened today while we were out filming for the Muskegon Channel.

Our amazing guest chef LaKisha Harris invited a friend along for a segment to add a little creole zip to a dish, Kaja Thornton-Hunter who's line of seasonings is catching on and quite often featured in L'Soul Filled recipes, and while we were in between a couple of takes and something was cooking, I asked Kaja if she worked elsewhere to go along with the start up and this is where our story begins today.

At 18 Kaja started he working life in a group home.  Working with special needs people who may have a mental or developmental disability and learned at a very young age just what a rewarding and valuable path she was heading down.  After all, she was heading in to the family business so it wasn't a completely new experience, but like any upstart there are ropes to be learned and the finesse of the day to day to warp your arms around.  Off to college she went where she also learned a little about what you'll see coming up on The Muskegon Channel.  

Overcoming Barriers Inc On FB

Spending some of her time working for HGA Support Services and Health West after school, when the opportunity came for her to take over the family business, she was ready.  Today, Kaja is the Founder and CEO of Overcoming Barriers Inc. in Muskegon Heights.  It's a non profit organization that helps those with disabilities find happiness in their home, their personal relationships, and be contributing members of the community.  They have 5 residential homes for adult foster care where they can help with some things as much as possible while encouraging as much independence as possible.  They have an independent living program which is tailor fit to every individual to access vocational, educational and recreational opportunities and they also have a skill building program where the match up mentors with those they serve to help share knowledge and a little understanding which not only helps with soft skills, it enriches the lives of both the mentor and mentee as we all work toward more ways of "together".  

As the smells of the recipes coming together swirled in the air, and we had another quick few minutes to visit, I figured it best everyone gets to know this incredible woman and hear more about her passion, those she and her staff serve and see first hand that there truly are miracles in action right here, and right now in Muskegon Heights and all of our surrounding communities.  Take a few minutes and learn about Overcoming Barriers with Kaja Thornton-Hunter.   

Amazing how life leads you where you need to be next.  We are always just amazed by the kind of work Kaja and her staff at Overcoming Barriers Inc does.  Helping those who are looking for no more than what we all have is truly the highest form of work that can be done and as we spoke in the video, the rewards are beyond measure.  Lucky for us, we've found yet another amazing organization to brag up here in town.  We've got another incredible cause to help champion and we've been given the ability yet again to show you the beauty of humanity when it comes to what's really important and that's our ability to show love, compassion and care.  Tune in tomorrow on the Muskegon Channel for the food...you will NOT be sorry there either.  :)  Our many thanks to Kaja for spending a few more minutes with us today to talk about her passion.  To learn more, click below.

Friday, October 30, 2020

The Salvation Army of Muskegon Gearing up for 2020's Holiday Season


It's just about time for the the final stretch of what could be considered the most unforgettable year of most of our lives, 2020.  Most, I think would be in agreement that moving on and getting done with it is exactly what the Dr. ordered but as we work toward that finish line and maybe glance back at what was a little, we just can't forget a few things and most of all that there are still friends, neighbors and family who are struggling and there are places still needing a hand in helping.

One of those places for sure, is the Salvation Army of Muskegon.  As charitable work has intensified across all areas of our community it's really quite easy to think that "someone's got that" but the reality is, it's still all hands on deck and the need is still very real for things among members of our community who you may never imagine are food insecure, working multiple jobs to keep up, relying on food banks and pantries to feed their kids and more.  It's still a very harsh reality as we try to close out the year and with the uptick in the virus, it could be getting worse. 

Salvation Army Muskegon Online

The Salvation Army is one of the tried and true human relief agencies that always finds a way here in Muskegon.  From the food distribution that they have had going recently to the years and years of things like the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day, the ringing of the bells at the entry ways of your favorite stores and the gift distribution that they have done for kids who would otherwise go without, the Salvation Army has been "Doing the Most Good for quite some time now and it's our turn to do what we always do when it starts to get a little cooler outside and we hear that all too familiar ringing somewhere off in the distance, even if it's only in your mind because you are reading this right now.  If you need a basket for Thanksgiving or Christmas, check back here after November 2nd for the link to sign up.  Click on the Salvation Army logo above.

This year, the kettles will be out in a variety of ways.  There will be some at the stores for sure, where you'll find not only the coin and bill drop, but digital methods of donation too.  The Turkey Trot?  Well, can't really do the traditional delivery of hot meals, but the food is still going out, all boxed up and ready to be prepared for a great meal and the toys for kids, you'll find an Angel Tree at some of your favorite stores telling you what's needed and for the little extra it would take to find that new toy or clothing article for a kid, think of the mileage you'll get from that when it comes to letting go of all the ugly we've see this year and that random act of kindness that is so very essential.

We're no stranger to the Salvation Army, however, we have a new face to introduce you to!  Meet Lorri Dean, who's the Development Director of the Salvation Army in Muskegon, she's going to tell us a little about how she got here and what the biggest needs are this year, take a listen.  You might want to ignore the part about the Salvation Army lapel pins this year.  They are unavailable due to the Covid thing, but Andy wasn't aware of that before he shot his mouth off.  If you're a regular reader, it will come as no surprise. :) 

No matter the time of year, the need...it's always there.  the Salvation Army's outreach is hard to beat when it comes to meeting the needs of those in "regular times" and when the call goes out to double or triple the effort, like always they hunker down, rally the community and take care of those who need it most.  There are a number of ways you can help.  As Lorri spoke in the video, if you'd like to volunteer with some of the upcoming activities of food distribution, Christmas packaging or maybe you'd like to help with a little donation here online, you will find the links below and we hope that as you start to think about all that's to come as 2020 draws to a close, you won't forget the amazing power we all showed to take care of one another during the most trying times....and that spirit will carry you and yours through the rest of the season.    

CLICK HERE to help the Salvation Army with packing boxes on the night before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Want to be a Bell Ringer?  CLICK HERE

Monday, September 21, 2020

Mission For Area People Benefit at Pat's Roadhouse Friday Sept 25th


It's been a whirlwind for non profits when it comes to keeping things going.  Human need doesn't end when things get hard, it gets even harder for the agencies who strive to provide for those who have need that need to be met.  We've heard over and over that "we're in this together" and it's held so true in Muskegon.  We've covered the bases and those who have needed, most have found help from organizations like Mission for Area People.

Of course, that means that Mission for Area People has to scramble a little.  Yes, fundraisers and spaces for them are difficult to swing at this point.  Indoor rules and limited space.  People who's hours have been cut and funds limited by time off work.  It's an incredible time and all are working overtime to continue to provide.  Mission for Area People didn't shut down for the the quarantine.  Volunteers stayed home, but the staff and admins kept on up to help as so many depend on them. 

MAP Benefit Infor on Facebook

Well, with a little room to breathe and a lot of space to roam, Pat's Roadhouse on Getty is opening the back yard up Friday from 6p-9p for a quick fundraiser!  $8 bucks a plate for pulled pork and all the fixin's, a live band on hand, a silent auction happening and of course, a chance to pass the hat and see what can be raised to help such a tremendous organization that truly puts the needs before the pomp and circumstance in all they do.  It's a small, human need focused group in the corner of a church and their work goes to feeding people, clothing people, helping with the occasional financial shortfall with bills or medical expenses.  They really do practice what they preach.  We're always happy to help share their story and draw your attention toward their work.

Diane Stubbs and Suzanne Prell are with Mission for Area People and we caught up quick to get the scoop on all that's to come Friday.  Take a listen.

 Hey, it's a night out, it won't break the bank and it's for such a great cause. Open air, live music and a chance to help the work that sustains so many in Muskegon.  Mission for Area People is all that you'd expect.  Powerful, but humble and direct in their work for others.  Friday night is going to be awesome so maybe a nice night out in the back yard at Pat's Roadhouse is just what the Dr. Ordered.

To learn more about Mission for Area People, click on their logo below!

Monday, August 24, 2020

Door of Hope Muskegon - Sharing Experience and Strength To Help Build Others


We all begin with what we think we know right?  Quite often too what we think we know tends to change over time.  It's a funny thing about aging, and an even funnier thing about how we go from being a "know it all" to being older, wiser and willing to be there with a hand for those we can look back on and want to help avoid making the same mistakes we did.  If not mistakes, at minimum we'd like them to avoid some of the pitfalls we found along the way.  What we're getting at here, wisdom.  Anyone can learn anything from a book, but wisdom comes from those who have gotten out there, lived life for a while, had to stop and pick up the pieces once or twice and still, they look to find ways to get others around those curve balls life throws.  Wisdom leads to humanity and humanity builds us all.  It's what we have to give back to one another and the best part is, sharing it costs nothing.

Lateasa Moore has been there.  She was a mom at an early age, she did some moving around when she was young.  She had to work a little harder, find some direction on her own and didn't always have someone there to say "try this, it might be a better way".  Hey, sometimes the bumpy roads make for incredibly strong people and what they give back to society is unbelievable, but living through it...it's a task.  It's a lot of prayers at night, a lot of seeking a hand from folks, a lot of worry a lot of doubt and a lot of energy just to get by.  Life can sure try to break anyone, but it's in those broken spots that we all find our true strength and in Lateasa's case, she's bringing them back to throw a line to a younger generation that might very well be able to use a hand.  Like anyone, the motivation is to take what's been learned the "hard way" and lessen the blow a little for those who are still learning.

Lateasa and friends are putting on a multi week work shop.  Free of charge, won't cost you a penny and all that's required of you is to show up at Mahali on Peck Street in Muskegon Heights on Saturday mornings for a few weeks beginning on September 5th.  There will be information on things like soft skills in the work place and life.  Breaking generational cycles, emotional readiness, resume building, how to find your unique talents and gifts and more.  Wanda Liddell of Dominion Kingdom Catering will provide a live demo at Kitchen 242 and so much more.  You don't even need to being a pencil, all that's asked is that you register in advance so plans can be made accordingly.

Lateasa and I found a picnic table outside in Roosevelt Park to talk about this great series coming up and to get to know a little more of her story and find out what drives her to do more for others, take a listen.
Imagine if each of us just took the time to help 1 other person avoid some of the stumbling blocks?  Lateasa is out to share what she knows with a younger generation to help them along.  It's a giving heart and a desire to serve that builds community and it takes a little vulnerability and willingness to say, "I made the same mistakes too, here's how to do better".  This is the greatest way we can all give something back.  All the details you need are below, you can click on the image to visit their website. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Lakes Community Garden - Extreme Generosity For Muskegon

As I drove off and the line was forming, I overheard "Is there anything someone needs today...anything specific that anyone needs?"  Been that way for years at the corner of Evanston and Mill Iron in Muskegon at the expansive and lush Community Garden that sits just outside the Connection Point Church.  It's not only filled with the bounty of all things Michigan in the Summer, it's all free to anyone who needs it.

The humble beginnings sprang from the idea that Terry Luce had one day.  It seemed there was a seldom used ball field on the church property and he'd tug at the pastor once in a while and say how good a garden would look there.  Well, Terry was in the same boat as many of us have been when it "took root".  He got downsized and went back to the pastor and said.... "Well, I have plenty of time now", and so it began.

Soil got tilled up, seeds were planted and a garden grew.  Not all together out of the ordinary, but the mission behind the garden...that's where things get good.  Those first few seeds were way more than plants.  They were the seeds of an amazing outreach that's been going on ever since.  11 years of providing fresh locally grown veggies for anyone who needs them.  It's simply an extension of their belief in taking care of community, friends and neighbors who might be in need and being able to provide for them in ways that take more time and love than just a cash donation.

Provide?  Do they ever.  Out of the garden hundreds of zucchini's, bushels of beans, peppers of all kinds, cucumbers, squash, broccoli, corn, tomatoes, cantaloupe, cabbage, kale, onions....what was once that desolate ball field is now the plot where anyone can come and find what they need, free of charge beginning at 11a every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday while the picking is good.  There's a magnificent stand where you won't find so much as a donation jar because they don't want anyone there to feel the pressure to match what someone else might have given.  The one thing you won't find?  Your way into the garden itself, unless of course you're one of the volunteers that helps tend it.  The preservation of the garden is best kept to them and their work is to be commended.

It was a second trip for me out to the garden to film the story.  As it turned out last week, I got there to film...and blew it.  Yep.  Plugged the mic into the wrong input on the camera but I found Terry Luce, Church Pastor Aaron Gregory and Rich Mitchell all very forgiving and we talked again about the passion for people and the desire to give grace with no expectation of return through their work.  Take a listen.

Can you imagine a world if we all just put in half of what happens here?   We're always so proud, an so humbled to show the good deeds that go on in Muskegon and our surrounding areas, but it really tugs at the heart strings when those good deeds are done of the sweat and labor of a few for the good of so many.  This is truly what makes Muskegon so incredible...these people represent the greatness that is our story in any time, and especially our times now.  Giant endowments are awesome and all the grants in the world are amazing, but quietly and humbly...the work of giants goes on too without much fanfare and it's truly a gift of the heart.  Our most sincere thanks to the crew at The Lakes Community Garden. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Local Mom Amber Horton Develops Sensory Kit for First Responders Handling Autism Calls

It's a fairly well known fact that when presented with a challenge for her kids, there's no greater force in the world than a mother.  That's amplified 10 fold when those kids have a bit more of a challenge in life like say Autism and if you mix in some real life experience on the mom's part and her ability to see that something is missing in essential services that could effect her job and her child....get out of the way and let the solution happen.

This is the story of Amber Horton who's an EMT at Pro Med here in town.  Amber is one of the front line workers we're all in awe of every time they have to come in to a desperate situation and somehow keep it all together in a moment of chaos in peoples lives and help them find a solution.  Her work has put her in about every unimaginable situation you can think of.  The life of an EMT is difficult and there's never much time for pleasantries and nice introductions when she meets most people.  It's more often than not a crisis situation and she's got one thing to do, stabilize things, assure people and get them in to the care of the hospital as quickly as possible.  In Amber's situation though, she's found a hole that needed to be filled when it came to helping someone.  What if the person they are responding to has Autism and is unable to communicate what's going on?

Visit Pro Med Online 
Inspired by her 5 year old son, who's on the Autism Spectrum and working on his vocabulary still,  Amber thought of the entire process of her work coming into the life of someone like her son.  Autism quite often sees things like noise, confusion, lights and more as "sensory overload".  Too much of what's not normal can trigger things like shutting down or running away to find a safe space.  So too can be the immediate influx of people that are new to someone with Autism.  Firefighters, EMT's, Police all might be on the scene along with parents and neighbors, maybe onlookers if it's an accident...a chaotic scene to some can become an absolutely unmanageable situation to others and without the ability to communicate what the problem is...things can go from bad to worse quick. 

Amber has created a kit that can be carried with all First Responders.  It's got things in it to help someone who's overwhelmed at the moment be able to communicate what they are feeling through simple picture language.  Imagine a picture of a person pointing to their stomach to express stomach pain, or maybe a person holding their head to indicate head pain.  It's all in a small book that can be easily shown and communicated with.  How about the loud sounds?  Sirens, people talking, machines making beeping noises and on and on.  There are some noise cancelling headphones included.  Too bright, how about some super cool shades?  They are in there.  Calming gadgets to take the mind off what's happening and most importantly, with the kit, will come the training for all of out first responder community, which might ask them to set aside most of what they have learned in a crisis response situation and adapt to help the Autistic person.  Amber also stresses the importance of Smart 9-1-1 when if a call is placed to 9-1-1, they will know in advance of a situation at a home and be able to respond accordingly. 

Leave it to a mom to get things right for her child and watch the ripple effect.  I met up with Amber at Pro Med in Muskegon.  Nice shady spot under a pavilion with 6 foot picnic tables to keep out distance and she told me how it all came about.  Take a listen.

A mothers love is set to go to the moon and back on this one my friends.  Amber's ability to see a necessity and develop a way to help others like her son, as well as other like her colleagues in the first responder field is going to have a deep and lasting impact for a lot of people.  This is an idea born of necessity and will grow out of purpose and love and it's starting right here in Muskegon.  As Amber mentioned....stay tuned for one of the events her husband puts on where kids can get up close and personal with the trucks and tools needed in the first responder world.  We've found some local hero's folks.  It's what we love best.