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Saturday, February 24, 2018

10 Years of Dancing With the Local Stars - My Thoughts

It's not often I use Positively Muskegon to editorialize, but as we've completed 10 years of Dancing With the Local Stars, I've kind of been thinking it was time to say a little something from someone who's never been a part of it, never actually been able to go to a show or really had anything more to do with it than lend a little hand helping promote the event and the reason it happens. 

From an observers stand point, I have to tell you what an amazing source of pride I get knowing that this event has flourished the way it has in Muskegon.  More often than not, Muskegon is seen as "that city" in West Michigan.  We who live here know the real story, and we've all worked very hard to change that image and mindset.  Here at Positively Muskegon, we've worked to not only change that image outside of our own area, we've worked pretty hard to change the minds of the people right here in Muskegon.  Our projects, big and small all equal up to what makes our community thrive.  We've got grand affairs like Dancing With the Local Stars and we've got those who do things like put on bake sales, church rummages...kids activities....city parties.  We've got amazing community organizers who face adversity and work for unity in the community and we've got people who refuse to see lines on maps as to where one neighborhood begins and one ends.  We are a hands on community and when the time comes...everyone finds a way to pitch in.  It never fails.

As for celebrity.  Well...now, that's a stretch.  I bet if you took a camera out on a street corner and asked 50 people who Muskegon's "celebrities" are, there would be a lot of head scratching.  I bet, if you asked even some of those who are thought of as the celebrities...who the celebrities are...they too would have a puzzled look on their face.  That to me is one of the greatest things about Muskegon.  We might be a little short on "celebrity" but....we have Judges like Brenda Sprader and Annette Smedly....we've got Sheriff Michael Poulin.....we've got fitness expert Becky Biesiada....we've got Dale Nesbary of Muskegon Community College...John Felske....Fire Chief Bob Gagnon, Mayor Gary Nuelund..... Karen Buie....Matt Schmitt...Mary Switzer...DJ Hilson.....Frank Peterson...Tim Lopez...Christina Fetcher.....the list goes on and on.  I don't think any of them would wake up in the morning and say "Well, another day in the life of a celebrity" but every one of them know that there are people here in Muskegon who would go hungry without their effforts, so for half the year...they spend their free time preparing for the modern day version of our "Town Follies" and they do it because they know it's their give back to our great community.  Of the "Town Follies" comment...I say it with nothing but love and years of lasting proof that in any town....there is enough talent and drive to accomplish amazing things among those who just do a tiny bit more than the day in and day out of their daily life.

As I write this, the final two performances of Dancing With the Local Stars are only a few hours off.  Months of preparation and practice will be complete.  Food pantries will be the recipient of the abundance, Muskegon will have been entertained and we will have proven once again that nothing or no one stands in the way of us accomplishing what needs to be done to take care of our most vulnerable in Muskegon.  Those who know food insecurity and those who have seen first hand the effects that hunger levies on the people of this or any area. 

My sincere respect to the Women's Division Chamber of Commerce, the cast of Dancing With the Local Stars and all who have been involved in making this event larger than life while maintaining a small town feel and making Muskegon a place I am so proud to call home.  Truly...a blessing in our community.  Time to take a bow.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The Lebanon Lutheran Church of Whitehall's Outreach to White Lake

We report a lot on the work that gets done to help those in need in and around Muskegon.  We have also said from Day 1 that Muskegon is pretty much Fruitport to Montague as far as we're concerned, but quite often the stories about things like hunger, food insecurity, clothing needs and household items seem to come from in the city limits and from neighborhoods that are considered "blighted".  Well, the need for human service is everywhere.

Follow Lebanon Lutheran Church on Facebook
Recently, I got a tip about some serious outreach going on in the White Lake Area at a church called the Lebanon Lutheran Church in Whitehall.  Founded all the way back in 1872 by Swedish lumber workers the Lebanon Lutheran Church was built to help foster the deep feeling the immigrants had for faith as well as using catechism to help their children learn how to read.  If you think back to 1872 as well, a congregation was an important part of life too.  We didn't have the immediate connections we do now, people could gather to praise, catch up on what's happening, find out who needed a hand and use the collective's mind power to help solve issues. 

Well, in as much as times change and the way we connect is a little more rapid, some things stay the same and when it comes to the Lebanon Lutheran Church that community mindset is still first and foremost.  As we talked earlier, those in need are everywhere.  Zip codes don't define who's hungry, who's lonely or who might be struggling to make life happen.  Yes, even in the White Lake Area there are those who need food pantries, a hot meal, a safe spot to gather and a place to rely on when times are tough.  The Lebanon Lutheran Church operates numerous community outreach programs to serve so many people.  In the summer, they work to provide backpacks for kids to head back to school.  Year round, they provide breakfast on Wednesday mornings.  The food pantry is there for those who need to come and make sure the shelves are not bare.  Meeting space for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, quilters, support groups...in my mind...they are doing exactly what a church should be doing in a community.  The Sunday service is great, but the real mission is 24/7 in my mind and from meeting Pastor Doug Ogden, it's clear to see that he and his congregation feel the same way.

Doug and I had a chance to sit down and talk about his church and the work they do for the White Lake area.  Take a listen to what goes on to help those in need a little to the North.

After we talked, Doug gave me a nice tour of this beautiful and traditional church.  Plenty of room for everyone was the theme.  They sure go above and beyond for those in the White Lake area.  We had a nice discussion too about faith.  I always appreciate a hearty dialogue on the subject with my 12 years of parochial schools, but what I always appreciate more is when people put faith into practice.  Walk the walk....and from everything I have heard and seen, that's exactly what's going on at Lebanon Lutheran Church in Whitehall.  My many thanks to Pastor Doug Ogden for the visit and for taking such good care of his community.  If you'd like to know more about the Lebanon Lutheran Church, please, click on their photo below.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

A Return to The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon - Friends are Still Helping Friends

Back in July of 2017 we introduced you to Judie Pratt who's been running an outreach for people in Muskegon for 19 years now called The Lemonade Stand.  It's a group for people who suffer from mental issues and they come in all forms of disorders.  It might be PTSD, schizophrenia, bi-polar disorder...any of the mental conditions we hear about day after day in today's world.  Scary, and real problems.

19th Anniversary Celebration
The world can be a tough place.  It's even tougher if you don't really acclimate to society's "norms".  Everyone needs some support, and everyone needs to feel included, but what if the typical environments those things are found in are unmanageable due to the limitations of your mind?  Where do you turn?  A world of isolation?  I don't think anyone wants that.  At The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon those who need a place to belong can find some respite despite their challenges and it's all based on a group effort to maintain the house, keep order among the members and to sustain the group.  Judie is at the forefront of it, but is always quick to point out..it's really about the members.

Well, back around Christmas time, Judie lost her husband, sadly,  and the group Christmas party had to be delayed a while.  When they finally got around to putting it on, I shared the picture of the gathering and showed the group off on the Positively Muskegon Facebook page.  I have to tell you, out of all the stories we've done for Positively Muskegon and The Muskegon Channel, there are some that really touch your heart and Judie, and the people of The Lemonade Stand certainly did mine.  At first, I was asked if I could just come help cook the food for the party, so...sure...I can bake a ham, but when it had to be delayed...I retracted and waited to see if they needed a hand when it was rescheduled, but they got by.

Anyway, back to the picture share, thousands saw the picture and were intrigued enough to want to know more...so, instead of trying to answer every question, I figured it was time to pack the camera back up and head back to The Lemonade Stand for another visit to have Judie herself explain just what everything is about and how people can help or get involved if they want to.  Take a listen.

Simply put....this is why Positively Muskegon is.  I am a firm believer that as a society, our worth is shown by how we take care of our most vulnerable people.  It's been Judie's crusade along with her family to make sure that those who live in a scary world in their mind have a safe and welcoming place free of fear and judgement for almost 20 years now.  She's done it in a fashion that has given those she serves a sense of purpose to go along with that security as well as a full belly when it's needed.  If ever you wonder if miracles are happening in Muskegon, look no further than The Lemonade Stand.  They are happening every day.  To find The Lemonade Stand of Muskegon on Facebook, click on the photo below. 

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Britta Cleveland Visits Shoreline Natural Wellness and Fitness to Learn About an Upcoming Benefit for The Hope Project Feb 17th

Living here in our beloved Lakeshore West Michigan community it's so truly difficult to imagine the horrifying reality of Human Sex Trafficking actually existing right here in our own communities. Unbelievably this evil isn't just in major city America...but also right here in Muskegon.
Hope Project is a local and national nonprofit organization whose mission is to support the healing of girls and women who have survived sex trafficking and to prevent further cases through mentoring and counseling.  

Visit The Hope Project Online
Sex trafficking falls under the umbrella of Human Trafficking, a form of modern day slavery, and occurs when someone is exploited through force, fraud or coercion for commercial sex or when someone under 18 is participating in commercial sex.  It is beyond frightening to know that a large number of these victims are forced into these terrifying situations by their own family members....or by individuals who have fraudulently gained trust of unsuspecting, often young boys and girls with low self esteem.

I recently sat down with Mary Swarez of Hope Project of Muskegon County and Heather David of Shoreline Natural Wellness of North Muskegon to talk about ways we here in West Michigan can become more aware...and more active with prevention of the all-too frightening situation taking place in our own community. 

As you can imagine, providing continued mentoring, counseling and safe, undisclosed locations to house these young victims is a huge undertaking...financially and staffing wise.    This Saturday, February 17 from 9:30am - 10:45am Shoreline Natural Wellness located at 1500 Whitehall Road in North Muskegon will be hosting its Share The Love event to raise funds and awareness for Hope Project of Muskegon County.   Reservations are requested in advance for attendance...please call (231) 750-2525 for your reservation.  You can click on the image below to connect with Shoreline Natural Wellness and Fitness Facebook event.

For more information...to donate, volunteer or to just find out more about Human Sex Trafficking please contact Hope Project of Muskegon. You'll find their website linked above.

Shoreline Natural Wellness and Fitness Online

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Trevor Hilson Visits Oshki Clothing of Muskegon - Clothing With a Purpose

In July of 2017, Jackson Riegler, a 17 year old at the time, founded the clothing brand Oshki. He wanted to make a change in his community by trying to preserve the Great Lakes that we all know and love.

He donates 5% of his proceeds to the 5 lakes; Michigan, Ontario, Superior, Erie, and Huron, which have been badly damaged over the last five years. So far, he has had much success, especially a lot of support from his family and his friends.

The word Oshki means fresh in the Ojibwe (a Native American tribe) language. This word describes the Great Lakes perfectly, knowing that 21% of the world’s freshwater comes from these lakes. When talking with Jackson, which you can see in the video below, he wanted something that stuck and had a ring to it, and he found that in the word Oshki.

Jackson has put a strong impact on the community with his clothing business, by the effect he has had on the preservation of the Great Lakes. As he goes to college to study business, he hopes to find new ways to grow his industry. He wanted to make a change in the community with this business, and he certainly has. Take a listen to our chat below about everything Oshki.

Want to know more? Click on the logo below to visit the Oshki website and to see their awesome line up of clothing and their mission to help the Great Lakes.