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Sunday, July 30, 2017

The North American Indian Exhibit At the Muskegon Museum of Art Ends September 10th

A little over a year ago, we started telling you about a big endeavor happening at the Muskegon Museum of Art called The North American Indian by Edward S Curtis.  Well, it's hard to believe that in a little over a month the exhibit is going to close and if you've not seen it, I am here to tell you, you are going to regret it.

September 10th is the end of this incredible show that no one has ever done before and might never happen again.  It's been unique to Muskegon and the history lesson is incredible.

Muskegon Museum of Art on Facebook
Beginning in the early 1900's Edward S. Curtis photographed the Native American people and their culture like no one else.  He was a very accomplished photographer and set out to capture the people and their lifestyle.  He collected the photo's, wax recordings, stories, traditions and trust of the people and luckily, a librarian in Muskegon had the foresight to subscribe to his work.  Today, it's not know if all 20 volumes of his books are held anywhere else.  It's also not known if all 723 of his portraits have ever been displayed anywhere together.  This is truly a masterpiece of history right here in Muskegon.

You have until September 10th to see this exhibit for yourself.  You honestly owe it to yourself and your kids to go see this.  I might be sounding preachy...but my first glimpse of this was when I went to tape this story ad I was literally floored.  The beauty of the people.  The sounds of their voices.  the nature in which they lived and the surroundings they had.  All make you stop dead in your tracks. Photos of people like Geronimo in his elder years.  Mothers with newborns, kids, families...incredible.

Judith Hayner joined me to talk about the final few weeks and when's the best time to visit.  We also talked about the 13,000 plus that this exhibit has brought to Muskegon from all over the world to see.  I knew going in that this would be a world wide draw, and they are still coming.  This is definitely Positively Muskegon.  Take a listen.

The tourism draw and the financial impact are great, but there is so much more here.  The impact this exhibit will have on your heart and mind is overwhelming.  It's a must see.  I can't encourage you strongly enough to make the time to get there to see this before it's gone.  You'll be a richer person for the experience and if you bring your kids, you'll be exposing them to a piece of history that in my opinion is becoming forgotten in a hurry.  It's a piece of history we can't forget either.  Click on the image below for a link to the Muskegon Museum of Art.  Thanks to Judith Hayner for this incredible exhibit and for her time for a recap as the event draws near to the end.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Dynasty Painting Revisited - Found A Home to Paint

Way back in April we introduced you to a young man named Enrique Gutierrez of Muskegon who's got a painting company called Dynasty Painting.  As you may recall, we met up for a chat at Gracie's Bookstore in Lakeside so Enrique could lay out his plan to find someone who was in need of a had to get their house painted.  The requests came in and the decision was made, and it was closer to home than expected.

Last week, Enrique got a hold of me to tell me that the selection was made and that he'd picked a neighbor right across the street.  As the events unfolded Bob Fitzpatrick had just lost his wife of 36 years and Bob had to spend most of his time with her in her final days, as anyone would.  Dealing with the effects of a long term illness is hard, on any number of levels.  There are financial burdens, emotional tolls, time constraints and just the overwhelming magnitude of the situation.  Bob did what had to be done though and saw it through for his wife.

Find Dynasty Painting on Facebook
Being close by, Enrique saw what was happening and when the time came, he felt this was his calling and here is where he was mean to do his work.  Enrique approached Bob and told him the plan.  Like so many others, Bob kind of had a hard time getting his head around the idea.  He said to me before we started the interview that he thought there were so many more out there who were "more worthy" of something like this. It seems the most selfless people say that when something comes their way.  None the less, he agreed and in the first week of August, the work will begin.

Here's the really great part.  What was to be the work of Enrique...has blossomed out to include area football teams pitching in, other area painters wanting to lend a hand, people from as far away as South Haven wanting to do their part to feed the crew for a day.  They have even had an offer from Skeetown Tavern for a project completion party.  Folks...allow me to shout it from the mountaintop.... THIS IS HOW COMMUNITY WORKS!  I for one and proud to have had a chance to help tell the story.

As we promised you a few months ago, when a house was chosen we'd follow up not only to make sure you knew it was still going on, but to show you first hand just how awesome Muskegon is and how well we take care of one another.  Here's a little chat with Enrique and Bob.

Not everything has to be a house painted.  Not every one has to bit off a part of community this size.  It's as simple as watching out for a neighbor, making sure that they are ok or if they need a hand with something simple.  It's about saying hi to a stranger or trying something new in a different neighborhood.  We are built on our connections and our community grows by the fiber we build between each other.  Be the change you want to see.  I want to close by saying how remarkably proud I am to have been a small part of this.  I think it's amazing to see an I hope your take away from this is that one random act of kindness is all it takes to change the world.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Learn About Some New Art in Muskegon Inspired By the YEP Program Through Community enCompass

We're seeing change going on in almost every corner of Muskegon.  Shops are popping up, houses are being built or improved.  We're seeing growth in tourism, some growth in jobs and honestly...and maybe it's just me, but I can feel an improved outlook internally about what we have and where we're heading.  It's a great feeling.

Some of the work is rapidly apparent.  You can see some of the murals up and down Western Avenue.  You can also see the clean up efforts that have gone on in areas of town to beautify and clean things up.  Other areas, you might not get to see as the way towns work anymore.  I'll be honest, I had never been as far down 5th Street in Muskegon as I was to do this story.  I had been up to where the new houses had been built, but this one took me up to the corner of 5th and Mason and honestly.. I felt a longing for the "good old days" of Muskegon.

There's the Masonic lodge, we'll get to that in a few...but there were also the classic corner stores.  A hardware... there was a tax place, which I assume was not always that, another empty corner shop... the true fiber of what made up a neighborhood.  I grew up out in "the burbs".  A neighborhood dime store or grocer was just a dream.  I would have loved that.
The YEP Program Through Community enCompass

Back to the Masonic Lodge.  It's been a while since it's had a face lift.  Well, that's being taken care of with a little inspiration from the young people of the Youth Empowerment Program (YEP) through Community enCompass and a little perspiration by artist Elloy Villarreal who's bringing to life a  mural of African American leaders who have inspired these young future leaders here in Muskegon.  The YEP program is spearheaded by Charlotte Johnson and the goal is to give young people the tools needed to become leaders now, and forever change their future and help them become pillars of society.  It's an awful lot to shoot for, but while some kids are spending their days playing video games, and hanging out at the mall, the kids of the YEP program are gaining work experience, learning urban farming, getting ready for jobs, college learning the importance of volunteering and the arts.  The YEP program is building rock stars in Muskegon.

I met up with Charlotte as well as a couple of the awesome young people in the YEP program and Elloy to talk about the inspiration behind the mural and who's faces we'll see popping up in there.  Take a listen to our chat below.

There's a little talk about the endeavor, now..it's up to you to follow the progress!  Take a drive down 5th Street!  Watch Elloy work and see the progress!  The dedication is coming up August 5th and the support of the community would be outstanding.  Give the guy a honk when you go by.  Renewal is EVERYWHERE in Muskegon.  It's great to see on buildings, but to me, it's even better to see in the bright young faces of the YEP program.  Carmella and Kevon were only a couple of representatives of the 15 or so other kids behind the camera for this story.  They were all awesome and left me feeling with much to be proud of.  We have good kids in Muskegon and good kids lead to a great future.  If you'd like to learn more about Community enCompass, click on their logo below.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

1st Assured Bail and Investigations Hosting a Run for Kids Food Basket August 5th

We've tried to highlight the people and business that do extraordinary things in the community to help where there is need and to be more than honest with ya, we're LONG overdue to get caught up with 1st Assured Bail and Investigations.  Tony Laskowicz is a local guy who got into the bail game a while back and has grown his business all over West Michigan.  As it's grown, he's also maintained the mindset of making sure he uses his platforms to help the communities he serves.

Muskegon's 1st Assured location opened a couple years ago down on Terrace street.  It was an area like many in Muskegon.  Kind of forgotten and unless you had business to do at the courthouse or the city offices, you probably were not heading down that way.  Tony also has a pretty keen eye for what's next so he put down his stakes and got the place opened up.  As Downtown Muskegon has continued to grow, his early vision has paid off.  He's now got a full staff in the place and the work goes on in Muskegon, Grand Rapids, Ottawa, Oceana....the list goes on an on.
KFB Run on Facebook

Early on, 1st Assured was in to help the Flint water crisis.  They have also been known to stock up some food pantries for pets when the need was there.  Some of the giving has been pretty loud, and I am willing to bet knowing them the little I do....more giving goes on quietly.  For our case here today though...it's time to make some noise to raise a few bucks for the Kids Food Basket of Muskegon.

August 5th there will be an all vehicle poker run to benefit the Kids Food Basket of Muskegon.  The numbers of kids that need that essential third meal daily is staggering in Muskegon and the need continues to grow.  The run kicks off at the 46 Bar and will take you on a fun excursion up and down the lakeshore while raising a few bucks and some awareness.  It's a $10 donation to participate and the money goes to make sure that the recipients of the sack supper's in Muskegon don't have to worry about where dinner is coming from.  Games, prizes and fun of course but most importantly another step in the direction of making sure that the most vulnerable in Muskegon are taken care of.

I had a chance to catch up with Tony Laskowicz and Stephanie Kerr Cathey to talk about all of it, take a listen.

Making sure our kids are fed properly, I can't think of a more important cause.  I also cant applaud the work that Stephanie does to keep the Kids Food Basket Enough and Tony is always on the scene when the need arises for a good cause.  Enjoy the fun of the run.  If you'd like to know more, you can click on the image of the event above.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon - Where Friends Help Friends

I try to keep it well hidden, because let's face it, the whole world knows that I am a big tough guy who doesn't fear much and kind of refuses to grow up, but...if you can keep a secret, I'll let you in on a little part of me not many get to see.

Believe it or not, I have a very soft spot for those among us who are very fragile.

I can't explain where it comes from, but instinctively, I can usually pick out those who don't share the jaded view on life so many do and through the different slip and falls of my own life, I identify with them pretty easily.  You have hopefully by now heard my story enough to know that there were a few dark days in the past and that life today wouldn't be the amazing endeavor it is had they not happened.  Part of making sure you don't return to those days....is the willingness to give back freely what you have been given and I try to do just that, but in all of my efforts...none can come close to what Judie Pratt has done in 18 and a half years at The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon.

Some of the people at The Lemonade Stand
People struggle.  People have a hard time mentally and some fight things like bi polar disorder, depression, loneliness, schizophrenia,  PTSD and worse.  Some seem trapped in their own minds while others might have not gotten the ability to interact on a day to day level.  No matter the cause...sometimes life is too much to handle and there is nowhere to turn.  Nowhere except The Lemonade Stand.

Free of judgement, free of people talking behind your back, The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon is a 100% volunteer group of people who take care of each other and allow each other to heal naturally with assistance from the group.  The chores to run the home are divided up, the conversation is real and the feelings shared are sacred.  Today, there was a young woman who had just lost her brother to suicide who was sitting down to have lunch.  She began to tremble, and cry and in a matter of minutes, she was cared for, listened to and brought back to earth all by people around her.  She later shared in the group that she comes to The Lemonade Stand so she can feel like she has a family.  Some others shared that they come so they can have structure in their day,  others like the fellowship and others..they just like to have friends.   Talking with the people in the group, they were all gentle, welcoming and peaceful.  One guy was even a little surprised that "You are the guy on TV with Lauren Stanton once in a while aren't you" to which I said "Yep...I sure am".  It sure seemed like a big deal to him!

Judie wanted me to come see how everything worked before we sat down to talk, and even invited me to lunch.  Wednesday is the day for the "big lunch", with Sunday being the big traditional family dinner you'd expect put on by Curtis who takes great pride in the spread..  It was a ham dinner with all the fixins this Wednesday and after the short meeting, we headed upstairs to chat about her work and these remarkable people.  Take a listen to our chat below.

This fills my heart.  I absolutely love the work that's going on at The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon and I also believe that what we need to heal lies within all of us.  We need to take better care of people in our society who are fragile souls and we also need to learn from them.  I got about an hour and a half today and left feeling better than I had felt in months, all because I knew that the safety net of humanity is still there.  We define ourselves by how we take care of each other...and to know that Judie has dedicated her life to making sure that those who struggle have a safe place to feel at home and cared for, this is truly what Positively Muskegon was started for.  She isn't here for the accolades but every award I've been given should probably have her name on it instead....there are truly angels among us...and you met one today.  My thanks to Judie who also wanted special mention made about Rodney and the rest of the gang who handle most of the day to day operations,  and the good people of The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon.  To follow them on Facebook, click on their logo below!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Heykoop Veteran Memorial Car Show and Benefit July 8th in Muskegon

I am a big supporter of anyone who can take a tragedy and turn it in to something amazing and when I heard from Natasha Heykoop about a car show she was putting on to help raise awareness and a few bucks to help veteran suicide awareness and prevention I thought there might be a little more to the story.

So, I agreed to meet up with her to hear a little more about it and her reason for putting it on and what I found was a touching story of someone wanting a better outcome for others than she had.

Natasha lost her brother to suicide after his time in the service.  It's something that we're all becoming painfully aware of as it's happening more and more every day.  They say, that there are 22 soldiers a day taking their own lives due to the repercussions of war and the PTSD that follows.  You may have seen the 22 push up challenge on your social media feeds.  You've seen how some have gone on long runs to raise awareness about the issue and there are those too who sit and silently suffer with the never ending replay in their own mind.  It's a hell I don't think I could even imagine.  For Natasha and her family, it's left a pretty empty spot in their lives.
Heykoop Car Show On Facebook

In the wake of the loss however, like many others, Natasha wants to do what she can to protect others from having to live through what she is.  Education, awareness and even just the knowledge out there that if there is a hand to reach out for to ask for help, our soldiers can do just that.  Men and women who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice should never have to come home to a life of suffering and anguish.  If they need help, it should be immediate and without question and of course that takes some help from all of us.

Turning a tragedy into a triumph doesn't have to be a downer.  In fact, with Natasha's brother's love of cars, they thought that there would be no better way to honor his memory than with a car show.  The car show will take place at 3500 S. Getty in Muskegon July 8th.  You'll find plenty of cars, food, music, raffles, a silent auction and more.  You'll also find the spirit of a family wanting to make sure that their loss isn't experienced by another family.  It's a first year event on a piece of property that was once celery fields, right out behind Babbit's Sports Center on the corner of Airline and Getty.  That's where I met up with Natasha to talk about the event.  Take a listen.

I can't imagine the pain, but..I also can't imagine sitting there and doing nothing.  I am so proud that Natasha trusted Positively Muskegon to tell this very personal and very touching story.  I hope from the very bottom of my heart that something like this never has to happen again, but I also am willing to bet we have not seen the last of the losses when it comes to our nations greatest hero's and their struggles post war.  The best we can do is be there for them and support grass roots efforts like Natasha's car show.  Please, find a few minutes in your Saturday to stop by and offer your support to this wonderful family.  This is exactly why Positively Muskegon was started and we're honored to have Natasha here sharing her desire to make our world a better place.

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Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Importance of Muskegon's Rockstock - Andy O Editorial

Muskegon has seen it's fair share of good times and bad.  We've also seen some things come and some things go as we've discussed here a multitude of times.  Ya, I am probably waving the flag again, but I happen to LOVE this community.  I love it for who we are, what we can do and through the good and the bad, we're still standing.  Muskegon is a lot of things, but one thing we are not....is a community of quitters.

I know that there is a LOT of pride in Muskegon.  A LOT of it.  I know too, that for the last bunch of years, it's seemed like we've had more taken away than we've gained.  But follow along here for a few and hopefully, you'll see where I am going with this. I am going to use Rockstock as an example.

Rockstock got underway 10 years ago with some bar bands playing in Hackley Park.  A chance for people under 21 to get out and see some cool live music, parents and kids to get together to enjoy some noise and you know...what can it hurt to have another event in the park any way.  As a whole though, Muskegon was still contracting a little.  Brandon Baskin had a small event, with low prices and local people willing to pitch in to get something going.  Family and friends all pitched in, they still do, bands played..things were learned and step by step the event grew.  No one was biting off more than they could chew, slow and steady wins the race.

This is the second year that Rockstock was held at Heritage Landing.  Not to diminish what Summer Celebration was or what Coast West tried, they were both incredibly awesome events, but Rockstock has taken the same simple approach,  Keep prices low.  Make it affordable for families, offer things for kids to do as well as adults and find enough diversity in the music to please just about any palate.  If you saw Let There Be Rock and Crazy Babies on Monday there was plenty for the loud crowd.  If you were there for Echoes of Pink Floyd, the more cultured music palate was taken care of with one of the most incredible tribute acts I have ever seen and I don't mean maybe.

Rockstock Fans Enjoying Echoes of Pink Floyd
Tickets to get in were only $5, beers were $3 and like always, people came in droves both nights to enjoy the scene....but there was more.  People came out to be together.  People come out to be part of that Muskegon togetherness.  In or out of the festival site, Shoreline Drive was filled with people all coming together for the celebration.  We have proven once again that nothing stops Muskegon.   We might get knocked down....but you can bet we're getting back up and dusting off and going at it again.  This is an awesome community, and if you have not noticed, those "knock downs" are becoming further and further a part.  We're seeing in ourselves just how much we can do...it just takes being together.  It takes willingness to be patient...to grow...to try new things and adjust to make them fit.  We are seeing a better side of all of ourselves and in return...we're being seen differently through the eyes of the rest of the area.  Watch Us Go they keep saying... one by one....and in groups....we're giving them all something to watch and we're growing closer and closer as the truly great city we are.

Rockstock filled the most important need.  Be it music of fireworks...Rockstock brought us all together.  Muskegon is unstoppable as one.