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Monday, December 9, 2019

Giving Back Christmas 2019 - Sunday December 15th at the VFW on Apple Ave in Muskegon

There are key moments in life where you will most likely never forget where you were when it happened.  Maybe it was a historic event, maybe it was the birth of a child or the news of the loss of a parent.  No matter, the who or what...the "where" seems to stand out to all of us for one reason or another, and the "where" in the case of Positively Muskegon will always be tied to the "She Shed" of Andrea Rosema, and her event called "Giving Back Christmas"

It was just a fledgling idea without a lot of direction, this blog and my whopping crew of no one except me, and a GoPro camera.  I had just come off a couple years of some less than adequate job experiences which really left me up against the wall.  I'd get out of the 9-5 job and hope I could get home early enough to try and get the paperwork in to the bank to keep my house, because $10 bucks an hour just can't make it happen.  I had left the only thing I did as an adult, radio, on principle a couple years earlier.  I really enjoyed the NASCAR job I left it for, but when that dried up and I came back to work...finding something to do wasn't all that easy and finding someone who understood the purpose behind what I wanted to do as opposed to how much money they could grab as fast as they could grab it.  I was heading for a wall...and fast.  I had a blog program I knew was free and I had to ask the wife to use the Best Buy card to buy the cheapest camera I could find....6 months same as cash.  I needed a little direction in the whole thing and from out of nowhere, popped up Andrea Rosema.
Follow Giving Back Christmas on Facebook

She was putting on a party for kids.  It was a fun day for kids and families at the VFW on Apple filled with cookie decorating, letters and cards to soldiers, snacks, giveaways, music and fun.  There were a handful of friends pitching in and a few sponsors that gave her some things to give away...it was Andrea's chance to put a little something good back in the world, and my introduction to the infamous "She Shed".

We sat huddled around that GoPro, 4 or 5 us us.  It was FREEZING but as we talked everything fell into place.  While I had been a part of some of the largest and most detailed events you can imagine...this was the biggest thing Andrea and her friends do every year and my role in it....give them the floor!  Help them spread the word.  Show the world just how awesome every corner of Muskegon is and how vital Andrea and everyone like her are to making sure that we chug along no matter what we are facing.

So much has happened since.  Yes, Muskegon is in much better shape.  Yes, we've grown a little.  Yes, the "she shed" is still freezing and YES!  Andrea is still at it and you are still invited to bring the kids out for a great gathering this Sunday from 1p-5p to the VFW 7729 at 6285 E. Apple Ave for some holiday cheer and fun.  The list of things to do is long and it's FREE for anyone to attend!

Andrea and I met up in the "she shed" once again and had our yearly visit....where it all began!

Remembering your roots, well, it's kind of a big deal to us.  To know we grew to what we are today from one request from a mom wanting to show her kids, and the neighbor kids BY EXAMPLE what it is to take care of your community....we'll forever br grateful to Andrea and her squad.  As long as she'll have us...we'll keep going back to help spread the word.  Positively Muskegon's heart and soul lies within Andrea...and people like her.  We are ever so thankful for all who have helped us along the way.

For a real treat, click on picture below....it will take you back to our first visit with Andrea and friends.....where it all began.

Friday, December 6, 2019

The Tommy Davis Memorial Fund - Tragedy Brings Triumph To Muskegon

If you remember back a little, about a year an a half ago an isolated but remarkably scary incident happened right in the heart of Downtown Muskegon that left all of us in utter shock, two families devastated and lives forever changed in the blink of an eye.  We don't ever claim to be a perfect community, but when we lose people to acts of rage and violence anywhere it's sorrowful for all of us and we all continue to ask why?

That question of why is the haunting that will follow the ones closest to the victims for the remainder of their lives.  Why can also leave a pretty big cloud in the mind of those who are trying to remember the great things and memories of those who were lost.  What made them who they are?  What were their passions?  What light did they bring to the world and since it was taken away, should that light be forever extinguished or, should those who remember carry on with what they loved?  There really is no right or wrong answer, everyone grieves in their own way, but for the Davis family who lost their son and brother Tommy, a big part of their healing is not only remembering Tommy, but honoring his memory by carrying out who he was, what he loved and supporting the community he was so proud to call home, Muskegon.

Tommy was a Mona Shores graduate.  He LOVED basketball.  When he completed his education he went to work at Mercy Health so he could continue his love for his community and help those who needed a hand and he loved his friends and family.  One thing was more than clear in talking to his mom and brother...above all, his love for Muskegon was undeniable.
Tommy Davis Memorial Fund On Facebook

After the family had a little time, they decided that what Tommy brought to the world was more than could be let go.  So, they got themselves in the position to form a non profit organization to continue the memory of Tommy and to help that memory live on by supporting the things he loved!  Basketball...let's set up a camp for K-6th grade to learn some skills and send them home with a basketball of their own and some other goodies.  The $10 registration fee for the camp?  Went right back to the basketball team at the school for their assistance in helping at the camp.  Food.  We all know that there are so many in Muskegon who are "food insecure".  Let's get a food truck out here and feed 181 family members in remembrance.  Leftovers?  Muskegon Rescue Mission got them!  In fact the food truck was so big and proved to have such an impact they are doing another on on December 19th at Nexxes Realty on Broadway in Roosevelt Park on December 19th.  It's the very beginnings of exactly how we do things in Muskegon.  It's friends and family leading by example and refusing to let someone's memory fade or good they brought into the world go away because of one violent act.  This is how Muskegon builds community and it's a story we just love to tell.

I met up with Sherri and Eric Davis to learn more about Tommy and to find out how they are working, day in and day out to keep his light shining and to make sure that his love for Muskegon carries on even though he's not here any more.  It's a pretty touching conversation with a couple of truly remarkable people.  Take a listen.

What a gift it is to all of us to know that the strength and hope we have in our community is alive and well in people like the Davis family.  This was not the easiest thing for them to do, and it's more than understandable....but to be a gift....in the face of loss...that is where true strength lies and that is were hope abounds.  They never planned to be in this role, but to let the memory of their son and brother fade over the acts of another...that wasn't really in the plan either.  Our most sincere thanks to the Davis family for coming on to tell their story and know, that we'll be following what goes on as their outreach grows over time.  Do you wonder where miracles come from?  They come from Muskegon Michigan and they come from families like Tommys'.

Please, click on the photo below and follow their website for more information on how you can help.

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Santa's Helpers of Muskegon - 5 Years of Helping Others

5 years is a long time to keep a cause going.  Especially a cause that involves the kind of effort and emotion put forth by the folks behind Santa's Helpers of Muskegon.  Facing the fact that there is a need for some is hard enough.  But then, to take action on that need and work to pair kids and families who have little or nothing with those who can give just a little is what they have been doing, and it's been a growing endeavor.

It began as a way to cope with loss.  Karen Gagnon and her daughter in law Bri Shotwell with the loss of a daughter and granddaughter, and Cathy Strait lost a child as well.  For some, facing grief, the holidays only amplify those feelings of loss.  Instead of internalizing that anguish they decided that their loss could be channeled to help make someone else's life a little more blessed.  So, they got the idea together to find a handful of those who might need a little help and try to make a difference.

Find Santa's Helpers on Facebook or Help Donate Here
Year one, was quite a task.  They had 30 kids to help.  Every thing from necessities like clothing and personal items to a couple of toys and some of the things that make the season memorable. Year two, the word spread a little and the outreach got bigger.  Along came a couple of sponsors to help out and so did a few more "sponsor families" who were able to dig a little deeper to help.

The story isn't much different than we hear anywhere else.  The need, is generally among the working poor.  The families who have what it takes to pay the house payment and the utility bills....hopefully, but the extras....those are just more than can be afforded.  They are our friends and neighbors who probably don't let on that they are having a hard time, but might be food insecure, living pay check to pay check and barley getting by.  It's a story that repeats itself over and over and seems to continue to grow.

So, we're on to year 5.  I met up with Karen, Bri and Cathy once again. Last year, Karen's pet cockatoo stole the show, but this year, we met at Rocket Pizza which has served for the distribution site for the gifts in years past to talk about their group and their mission.  Take a listen.

What I love the most. Tragedy to triumph.  The insurmountable loss felt, even today with Cathy's tears can be turned in to a miracle for others and all it takes is the realization that planting a seed is all it takes.  Helping one, soon turns in to helping two and so on.  A miracle isn't walking on water or floating in mid air... a miracle is making sure that someone else knows that there is love in this world.  Giving someone else just a little hope that somewhere out there...someone did something for them with no strings attached and that someday down the line...they can return that gesture.  A miracle is humanity and we're all a part of it.  Be part of a miracle today. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Recovery Congregations Helping Addicts in Muskegon - Learn More November 18th With Dr. Monty Burks

We are immersed in a world that seems to be ever increasing when it comes to addiction.  What's more frightening, is that what we're addicted to seems to be getting more deadly as time goes on and those addicted cross all boundaries of socioeconomic backgrounds and life styles.  The arguments have all been heard that it's the fault of one entity or the other, or maybe it's just society getting "soft" and everyone wanting the easy way out....but the reality is...addiction doesn't discriminate.

We are still in the midst of the "Opiate Crisis" by every definition of the word.  Prescription painkillers can be the start for some that lead them to the next level searching for that feeling on the street.  Alcohol is available on every street corner it seems and comes in increasingly tempting flavors for people to try.   Let's add in vaping which some consider a healthier method of delivering a drug, nicotine...which is honestly a harder habit to break than an opiate, and while we're at it we'll toss in nefarious street dealers that taint what's being sold so their customers can reach a higher high, which sometimes ends up with death.  We have a real mess going on and we have remarkably limited resources to fight it.
Click Here to Visit the Muskegon County
Cooperating Churches on Facebook

Do keep in mind, this is all being written from the perspective of a recovering alcoholic.  16 years now by the grace of God and in as much as I don't feel the bite anymore, I see day in and day out the struggles some have and how remarkably difficult it is for them to find help.  I also know first hand how hard it is to get that help when you are willing to try and that there is no certain path for anyone in recovery.  There is however a couple of key things in any recovery and as I spoke to today's guests, they stand true.  One of the first things is faith.  This isn't to corner you into any secular religious experience...it's just a reminder that faith in something will be necessary and the other is humanity.  People are key in to making sure anyone who is willing to have a paradigm shift in their life, people around them will be required to help them transition into who they will become.

Dr. Monty Burks is the Director of Faith Based Initiatives in the Tennessee Department of Health and Substance Abuse Services and has helped pilot some incredible programs there involving church congregations to provide a safe haven for those living with addiction where they can find love and support during their time of need in an environment free of judgement.  Quite often, people with substance abuse problems are left with nowhere else to turn due to their problem and with an eroded support system, the outlook goes from bad to worse.  In Tennessee over 300 churches participate in the program, and with Muskegon having 240 churches in it, the goal is to get 50 churches or more to participate in this program.

Dr. Burks will be speaking on November 18th on a few different occasions.  In the morning the first talk begins at 9a at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, then there will be a discussion at the United Way followed by a return to St. Paul's at 5:30p so anyone who's interested can hear the idea.

I was able to meet up with Kate Kesteloot-Scarbrough of Mediation and Restorative Services and Lily Marx who is the Coordinator of the Muskegon County Cooperating Churches organization to discuss this incredible program and learn a little more.  As with any discussion about addiction, I am pretty candid about my own and we talk a lot about what to expect.  Take a listen.

A new approach is sometimes what's needed!  Get informed and learn more!  This is showing great promise in Tennessee and any weapon in the fight against addiction is a useful one.  You can follow the link below to visit the Muskegon County Cooperating Churches website for more details.  Our thanks to Lily and Kate for the invite down today.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

VFW 446 Dedicates a New Monument and Bench at Muskegon's Veterans Causeway Park

It was a cold, but sunny day.  A stiff  wind played a little havoc with the audio on the public address as well as the video camera.  It was an important visit though, a new monument was being dedicated in Michigan's Most Beautiful Mile and our invitation was an exclusive to us thanks to Pam Hassett.  Asking if we could come and capture the event, we were honored to be asked

If you've never been to the Causeway Memorial Park, it's easily one of Muskegon's most sacred spaces.  remembering those who've made the ultimate sacrifice for out freedoms.  This years water levels made recent improvements to the park.  It was a tough time for the park, so much work went in to making sure that the natural beauty of the park was preserved, but had to revert to man made tactics to fight back the rising waters.

No matter what mother nature deals out, it's up to all of us to adorn the park with monuments to remember family, friends and strangers who gave all.  It's a spot of quiet reflection for some.  A photo op for others and a community treasure to us all and the members of VFW 446 added to the spots this past week.

We're letting the ceremony speak for itself.  We'll begin with the National Anthem.  Welcome to the dedication and unveiling.

You can visit the VFW 446 Facebook page by clicking on the photo below. Our thanks for the chance to come and share the dedication of this beautiful new monument.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Help Break a World Record in Muskegon For Canned Goods Collected With More Than One Purpose

You can be a part of a Guinness Book of World Records attempt at the Mercy Health Arena on November 21st by bringing in canned goods for a donation to help stock the area food pantries.  The goal is 100,000 canned goods to go directly to area food pantries after the attempt and what a way to put your name in the record books right?  100,000 canned goods equals about 4 miles of donations...so we've got some work to do.

But...let's take a peek here and you'll see it's SO much more than canned goods.

Click Here for the 100,000 Canned food Drive Event
Meet Lisa Kujawa.  Lisa has a remarkable story that I'll try and boil down to the Cliff's Notes version.  A few years ago, Lisa lost a nephew to a cancerous brain tumor.  We all know the devastating effects cancer has on everyone, but when it's a child that has to endure the hardships and struggles of the diagnosis, treatment and overall misery of the disease, it's especially hard.  While she saw the struggle and ultimate loss of her nephew, along the way she saw needs that most might not notice otherwise.  First step was organizing a drive to replenish the arts and crafts area of the children's hospital.  Lisa rented a U-Haul and in short days time, it was filled with the needed supplies.  During her collection along came a guy on a bicycle.  As they talked she spoke of an auction coming up and the man on the bike wanted to donate an item to it.  Delivering the item was difficult however, as the man was homeless and all of his possessions were in a storage unit.  He made the donation though.  The idea of good sprang forth a multi faceted way of tackling an issue.  A homeless and hungry person helping brought in the idea of the canned food drive and as Lisa's desire to help the kids at first with the arts and crafts supplies blossomed, she thought she could do one even bigger and even better.  How about a camp for kids with diseases that just lets them be kids?  No limits on what they can and can't do on the playground.  No one to say that being a kid can't come first, just a place to leave cancer at the curb and go be a kid.

With all of this amazing good happening in and around Lisa, she founded the Golden Key 501c3 to really put things in to motion.  Her long term goal is to make Golden Key Camp a reality for kids, and she says in our interview she's really hoping to get it done in our area.  It's a long road she's travelling to get there, but with some exposure like a World Record attempt and the good karma that comes along with making sure that while you're working to achieve one goal...you're helping others along the way, the "snowball" effect of good happening will take hold quick and the miracle will unfold quickly. 

The idea being, November 21st or before, gather up some canned goods for the food pantries and the World Record attempt and while you're at it, bring along a buck or two to help her work her way toward the dream of making this camp happen for kids.  As we talk in out interview....when you start these kind of projects, you never really know which way the road might take you, but in Lisa's case the road keeps helping her find another way to help someone, in someway that she never really planned on.  It's a pretty amazing story with a few moving pieces.  Take a listen.

Pretty remarkable and if you've followed me, or this blog for any amount of time, you know that I am always all about a tragedy becoming a triumph and we've seen that kind of thing happen more than once around here in Muskegon.  It's always an honor to be a part of and it's always so incredible to learn the stories of those who want to make our world a better place even if it's one can and one dollar at a time.  CLICK HERE if you'd like to email Lisa to help her project.  You can learn more about the Golden Key Camp if you click below and by all means, PLEASE...be a part of the World Record attempt on November 21st in Muskegon.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Suicide Remembrance and Prevention Walk Downtown Muskegon September 28th at the Olthoff Stage

Suicide.  It's a subject so taboo, even those who are considering it don't dare talk about it.  Those who have lost someone to it have a hard time coming to grips with the what and why around the loss of their loved one.  It seems like a final solution to someone who's life has become unmanageable but the truth is, the pain that is caused to those left behind is beyond any measure and the void left...and the unanswered questions last a lifetime.

This is coming from an author who's stood on the edge.  The darkness and depression is real.  That thought of escape seems so easy and "the way out" seems like a solution.  The hindsight in the matter is no one knows what the future holds and that what seems so broken and unfix-able...it's only temporary.
Suicide Walk on Facebook

How do you break the taboo?  How do you break the stigma attached to suicide?  How do you find a beacon of hope in the middle of the abyss?  You talk.  You take that first step and you say "HELP".  It's not easy.  It's not the most proud moment in most lives but it's the new beginning that only comes once rock bottom is hit and the rebirth of who you'll actually be.  But, who do you ask for help?  Well, that's where the Suicide Prevention Coalition comes in.

The Suicide Prevention Coalition of Muskegon County helps in a number of ways.  From crisis lines to group meetings, they work to take away the whispers surrounding the topic.  They offer settings for those who are left behind after a suicide as well as those who have come close, but survived....like me.  They are hosting an event Saturday September 28th at 11am at the Olthoff Stage across from the Frauenthal Center.  The event is a walk in remembrance of those who have left us as well as a prevention walk to hopefully reach someone out there who might be considering he end as an option.  The event will have some music, some spoken word, light refreshments and about a mile walk in remembrance.  There will be educational opportunities and outreach available as well.

Scott Teichmer is a member of the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Muskegon and invited me down to talk about the cloud over suicide as well as the event coming up this weekend, take a listen.

Take it from me.  What's to come is a miracle and life...it's truly a gift.  No matter the circumstance, there is help and you thinking that the end is any kind of easy way out...I implore you to reach out for help, because it's not.  Call locally if you need help. 231-722-4357.  Call the national number 1-800-273-8255.  Text - 741741.  Don't let something temporary become eternal.  If you'd like to know more, about the Suicide Prevention Coalition of Muskegon, click on the photo below to visit their Facebook page where you can go on to their website.  Please, attend the walk this Saturday and support their efforts and those who have lost someone to suicide.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Talk Sooner - A Way to Help Parents Navigate the Difficult Conversations With Their Kids

It's always a tough spot.  Conversations about the "unspeakable" things are necessary but, when it comes to addressing things like drugs, sex, abstinence and more how do you get the ball rolling?  After all...the scariest part of this conversation just might lead to your child seeing that first crack in your infallibility and they might find out that you're speaking from experience on a few things you'd rather they not know about.

Talk Sooner is a collaborative effort across a few counties in West Michigan.  It's a website and an app that's designed to give you and idea of how to begin the dialogue on the "taboo" subjects.  Honestly, it's probably not going to be that comfortable no matter the tools you're given, but...the reality is, this kind of conversation needs to come from a parent.  Talk Sooner also is filled with information about things you may not be aware of.  What's popular among young people that are trying drugs now a days?  What's the street lingo about these and what kind of effects do they have?  It's made easier if you start talking about it sooner than later...thus the "sooner" part of the Talk Sooner idea and that talking...it's another key focus the group is working on with their message.

Visit Talk Sooner Online
We are all so busy.  We have high pressure, just in time schedules and they get even more demanding when the critters come along and need things like rides to practice, help with homework, new gadgets....the list goes on and on right?  Talk Sooner is stressing the importance of turning it all off and talking.  Using mealtime to communicate directly as a family....however you describe family....to just talk.  Talk about the day, talk about hopes and dreams.  Talk about stress, talk about victories, talk about failures.  Get those lines of communication open and ease in the tough stuff once in a while.  Maybe ask if any of their friends are doing things they think are not 100% right.  Ask if something is on their mind.  Practice the art of discussion and keep that tunnel vision on the tablet or computer screen away for a while as you do.  Let's face it...parent...it doesn't mean BFF...it means responsibility to raise a good human.

I met up with Missy Gallegos and Logan Jensen to talk about the outreach and message and let you know how you can get that app!  It was a beautiful, sunshine filled day at the Muskegon Farmers Market, take a listen.

Grab the app. Will it make you a difficult conversation superhero? Probably not.  But, it's a start to help you help your kids navigate an increasingly difficult world where we as the "grown up's" start to disconnect with what's actually being presented in the peer pressure circles today.  Knowledge is power and while a drug talk or the talk about the birds and bees will never feel like a chat about last nights episode of your favorite show.....it's a conversation that will make a life long impression on your child...and THAT is your legacy.  Talk Sooner is here for you as a resource.  Click below to visit the Apple App Store for the free download.  Andriod App Coming soon.

Friday, September 13, 2019

No More Sidelines and Muskegon Civic Theater Penguin Project 2019 - Peter Pan Jr.Oct 12-13 at the Frauenthal

It's project that's done across the country, but the power of what it does for a community is only a few years old around Muskegon.  The Penguin Project is an adaptation of a pretty familiar play that gives people with unique abilities a chance to be a part of a production that they would most likely otherwise never get a chance to do, and mentors and those who see the play a chance to see that what were thought as limits, well.....

No More Sidelines was founded in Muskegon about 15 years ago now.  Simply to be an organization that broke the stigma of "those kids" who were down the hall and away from other kids in a school.  The idea that a physical challenge or maybe a learning curve or genetic trait somehow isolated some kids, the idea kind of got to Cyndi Blair and the founding families of No More Sidelines.  So, like any great organization, out of a garage was born a group of friends, peer to peer support, outreach and engagement which has exceeded the wildest dreams of pretty much anyone involved in the early days.  The garage turned into the Folkert Community Hub on Seminole Road which is now the center for all things No More Sidelines and about to unveil a stunning new renovation to the building.  Stay tuned for details on that.

Muskegon Civic Theater Online
Sports were the main focus early on as the kids of NMS intermingled with the "other kids" around town.  But maybe not everyone is a basketball player of soccer buff.  Along came the idea of bringing The Penguin Project to Muskegon and seeing what performing arts could do.  The adapted plays pair the actors with mentors on stage and in Muskegon we've seen Annie Jr., Alladin Jr. and this year, Peter Pan Jr. comes to life on the stage at the Frauenthal on Oct 12th and 13th.  It's an amazing performance not only to see, but to support because no one walks away from this the same person they came in.  Lives are deeply touched.  Lifelong bonds are made.  New talents are discovered and as you'll hear in our video portion...even participants who were "non verbal" worked so very hard to speak,  They found their groove.

Yes, the tickets are for sale.  It's quite an endeavor on the biggest stage in town, with professional costumes and sets.  It also requires a little fundraising to help with the cost of the whole thing, so...No More Sidelines is inviting you out to see their home at the Folkert Community Hub and enjoy a "Peter Pan-cake" breakfast with all the fixins' on September 21st.  The address is 640 Seminole Road and the word is, those at the breakfast will be treated to a show preview as the cast performs some of the songs!

I met up with Cyndi Blair and Mark Lewis, who brought me in to the No More Sidelines fold years ago, as well as show director Michelle Prince to talk all about it!  Let's go!

Still the best bunch I've ever gotten involved with.  The shows are incredible and no different than any other stage play you'll enjoy to the fullest!  The purpose...is amazing.  The effects on the performers and production people are life changing and for Muskegon to have something this incredibly special, it's something to be proud of.  Click on the link below to get your tickets for Peter Pan Jr and don't miss it at the Frauenthal October 12th-13th.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Ballet Nepantla at the Frauenthal Center September 18th - Experience Latino Culture in Muskegon

After a hugely successful first time Latino Festival event at Hackley Park this last weekend, the Latinos Working for the Future have their sails full and are so encouraged by the reception they received at the event, they are ready to spread the cultural experience a little further in Muskegon with a wonderful ballet at the Frauenthal Center on September 18th.  Not only is it a rich experience of music and dance, it's an educational opportunity for up to 1000 kids who can get in free for the show.

Let's go back a little first.  The Latinos Working for the Future is an organization that's been around a while, but recently the leadership of the group has gotten a little younger....a little more focused on spreading the word and a little more "outfront" about wanting to show the community just how remarkable who they are and what they bring to all of us culturally.  The success of the festival in the park celebrating the food, dance and music was just the tip of the iceberg from the group.  They are young, energetic and out to do more.

Latinos Working for the Future on Facebook
Up next, will be a first time presentation in Muskegon for a ballet!  Ballet Nepantla will be presented at the Frauenthal Center.  From their Facebook Event Page - "Ballet Nepantla dancers are trained in classical and contemporary ballet and merged with ballet Folklorico, the traditional dance of Mexico.

Nepantla is a term/idea that comes from the Nahuatl language. It means to be in a space of "in-between-ness.” Gloria Anzaldúa described being in a state of Nepantla in Borderlands (1987), and in Light in the Dark (2016) as a cultural and historical place of ambiguity. Nepantla is also an artistic space of "in-between-ness," as Ballet Nepantla dramatically represents. In a pithy sense, it is what la India María humorously stated, when describing her own identity: "no soy ni de aquí, ni de allá." Indeed, she was in a state of Nepantla. That is the reality many grow up with in South Texas, and many who grow up in places everywhere.

Ballet Nepantla delves into those in-between spaces through its dance performances. In October 2019, the company will be performing its new show, "Valentina," in several South Texas locations. “Valentina" is a historical ballet that tells the stories of the strength and resilience of women during Revolutionary Mexico. Ballet Nepantla would like to present “Valentina” to a Michigan audience. "

I met up with Ana Olson from Latinos Working for the Future at the Frauenthal Center to talk about the organization and the ballet and how the 1000 kids can attend free, take a listen.

Jump right in!  Take the kids for free and help support a group on the move to help show us the rich culture of Latino Heritage and experience something beautiful while you are at it!  The success of the Latino Festival, followed up by the ballet coming soon and the drive and passion behind the Latinos Working for the Future will be an asset to all of us in Muskegon.  Help support their efforts by checking out the show!  Click on the pic below to get tickets!

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Walk to Remember - Support for the Loss of an Infant September 28th at Heritage Landing

The unimaginable.  It's so hard to even begin to think of the difficulty that parents have to face in the event of the loss of an infant, a stillborn pregnancy or a miscarriage.  Strictly from an editorial stand point, it was a fear so great for me that combined with a couple other factors, I stayed away from having kids of my own.  More often than not, along comes a happy and healthy baby, but what happens when the worst case scenario plays out?

The truth is, there is really no quick answer as much as there is no right or wrong answer and the reality of that is, it's even harder for those who are suffering that loss to manage because we're all accustomed to getting an answer...processing the thoughts and moving on.  It's not going to happen in this case.  Combine that with the usual support system of family and friends who surround us...who usually know how to offer some words of comfort or maybe a little something to uplift us....they are all searching for answers too, and trying to find the words to fill the void.  It's no place anyone would want to be and no one can ever be an expert on the situation, because a loss like this is so overly traumatic that it's unique to every situation and again, there is no "one answer".

Find More on The Walk to Remember on Facebook
While there may not be experts, there are others who have shared this grief and who have gone on to take their sorrow, anger, questions, rage, and hopelessness and reshape them.  There are some who once they have healed the best they can, they take what they have learned and they share that with others who are experiencing the same and together they find at the very least, that they are not alone.

Such is the case with Chris and Missy Near.  They lost two kids as they were trying to build their family and through their experience, it was one simple question that led them to a change in their lives to help others cope with grief and loss because they understood all that went along with it.  Chris was wandering the halls of the hospital when he saw a door tag like theirs...it signified that the patient in that room too lost a baby and his knock on the door to ask if he could talk set into motion a system of support that is still going today.

While the group meetings are not as popular as they once were, the Near Family still supports those who have lost a child.  Their mission is to help with the grief, offer some support to those who have lost and those who are around them looking for a way to help console.  Their outreach is there anytime it's needed and they still host one larger event yearly to help anyone suffering the loss of a child to see that they are not alone.

The Walk to Remember is going to be at Heritage Landing on Saturday September 28th at 10:30a.  It's a chance for parents to get together and see that they are not alone, that they do have memories worth cherishing and that hope can return after the pain subsides.  Chris and Missy joined me at Hackley Park to tell their story and talk about the event.  Take a listen.

Touching.  We first met Chris and Missy back in 2016 as they were preparing for that years walk and to know that they are still at it...still striving to make a difference for those who's path they know all too well....to us, that's a miracle.  We have truly incredible people here in Muskegon who are willing to help other heal and share the grief.  They do it without much fanfare...they don't expect a lot in return, they just know that the overall healing we all need, comes from within and being willing to give back that healing helps continue theirs. 

Friday, August 30, 2019

The Livability Lab - Muskegon's 100 Day Challenge

A while back, we told you about the Photo Voice Project.  It was a series of photos taken by area residents about their lives, the circumstances in their world and what they saw as positives and negatives.  The original story ran on our other page, The Muskegon Channel and it was called; "The South Heights Photo Voice Initiative".  A bright young man named Marquis Childers joined us to talk about his photo and the inspiration behind it.

Well, we are on to the next phase of the project.  The Muskegon Livability Lab is taking place on September 10th at the Folkert Community Hub and it's a day FILLED with information, speakers, breakout sessions, and data that has been acquired and studied by Michigan State.  You'll also get to see the Photo Voice Project once again give feedback, help target priority challenges, and yes, even have a chance to determine some next steps.

Does it sound like a lot?  Agreed!  Simply put...Muskegon is booming. We all see it, we all feel it and an event like this is designed to coincide with that boom to help define community priorities, what people feel is the most important part of their daily lives here in town and what that "Livability" term means to them.  As you'll hear in our interview, Mary McDonald makes a mention of something as simple as what time the street lights go out in a community are part of what factors into the "Livability" of a community.  This is not limited to just the city either, this is a discussion for the entire county so anywhere from White River Township to Ravenna Township is included.

Time is short to register.  They are asking registrants are in by September 4th as the event is September 10th from 7:30a-4p.

Take a listen to the chat between Mary McDonald, Marquis Childres, Kari Vanderhoff and myself at the Folkert Community Hub about this event for all the details.

Get signed up and save the date!  It's going to be a lot but, a lot is at stake!  Be heard!  Be a part of the future and let those involved with the Livability Lab know what your ideal Muskegon County is.  You can visit their website to register for the event by clicking below.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lakeshore Turns 50! Let's Have a Groovy Party!

50 years!  It seems to be a repeating theme this year.  Moon landing, Woodstock, the Trans Am was introduced the Beatles made their last public performance on the roof top of Apple Records and in the Muskegon area, Big Brothers and Big Sisters put down roots to begin to change the lives of kids, and adults who agreed to help them along with a little of their time and a little guidance when it comes to the art of growing up.

Since 1969 Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lakeshore has helped find those matches of "bigs and littles" and to date, over 12,000 kids have found their match through the BBBS program here in the Muskegon area.  That's a lot of lives that have been changed for "good" in a manner of speaking.  Good meaning positive and good meaning forever.  The impact that one positive role model can play with a younger person reverberates for generations and the impact that you can have by just including a younger person in your life for a few hours here and there, can literally change the world.

Click Here for Tickets to the Party
We've always asked for your attention on behalf of BBBS from time to time, because of the importance of the outreach of the organization.  It's not about how much money you can spend on a kid, or taking them along on fancy vacations or anything like that.  Sure, BBBS has to have plenty of fundraisers and ways to fund what they do throughout the year, but we direct your attention to them to maybe get you thinking if you do have those spare couple of hours here or there...maybe you find it in your heart to make that difference.  The organization has been run by some pretty cool people over our time with them too, so that always makes it easy to come and do a story on what's needed and why, or where you have the chance to get out and do a little something to help them in their work.

With a 50th Anniversary, they are rolling back the years and making things super groovy!  They are having a 1969 themed party to celebrate at the Bella Maria Event Center on September 26th.  Come dressed to get groovy and enjoy the hors d'oeuvers, the auction, the drinks, the band.  Get your photo done up in a custom VW Bus photo booth and more.  Tickets for the party are available in the link above and if you'd like some more details, take a listen to the chat between Suzanne Prell and myself.  We have all the deets.

A great party coming for a great purpose.  If you've had first hand experience with BBBS you know what a difference they make.  If you're curious, come learn more.  If you just want to hippy it up and come to a great party....that's cool too.  Our congratulations to this incredible organization for 50 years of making a difference in Muskegon and for the 12,000 plus they have served, which in reality is more like 24,000 because for every "little" a "big" has equally reaped the rewards of Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Lakeshore.  You can visit their website below to learn more.

Sunday, August 25, 2019

New Mural Going Up on 3rd and Monroe - Meet Artist Jube Rodriguez

The beautification of Muskegon continues everywhere you look.  From the big new buildings gong up to the pride being shown in neighborhoods and in yards, renewal is upon us and for all of us who have weathered the storm, it's a relaunch that feels so incredible.  Pride is bubbling and Muskegon is on the rise!  It's an effort from so many, and from the projects large and small...some of the real eye catchers stand out.

We've got a LOT of artful things popping up to add to the luster!  We saw the addition of the mural on the wall on the Masonic Lodge a year or so ago celebrating the likes of Barak Obama, Fredrick Douglas and more.  We've got historical art detailing Muskegon's industrial eras on Western avenue, more recently some butterfly wings went up on the side of the Frauenthal and now, in Midtown on Third and Monroe, we have a local artist up on the scaffolding working on an inspirational piece for all to admire with a few hidden messages in it to relay to future generations of their limitless possibilities.

We got a call from the building owner, to say that we outta come see what was gong on so, we grabbed the camera and headed down to the Third Street Midtown District.  Third and Monroe to be specific only to be astounded by what we found.  Not only is the building being completely redone on the inside with beautiful, modern and affordable apartments that are some of the coolest you'll find anywhere, the exterior is getting a make over by local artist Jubenal Rodriguez.  "Jube" is a graduate of Kendall College in Grand Rapids and works as a designer in his real job. But in his spare time, he's got the brushes and buckets and he's leaving his mark on the community.

It's a project in part with Community ENcompass and the message is pretty clear.  "Hope Equals Power" and we'll let Jube tell you a little more about the project.  Take a listen!

Pretty awesome.  Pretty inspirational and a great feeling to know that an artist that's right from here in Muskegon who's doing his part to elevate.  Not only elevate, but to beautify and lave a mark that one day he'll be able to go by and say to his kids, or grand kids..."I did that".   Jube is leaving his mark on a building, that is being completely renovated in a neighborhood that was once forgotten but is now growing, reinventing and adding to the amazing change we're all seeing in Muskegon.  It's clearly written on the shirt of the kid in the mural.  "Hope equals power".  The collective hope of all in Muskegon has led to the power of change and the power of positive hope has brought on renewal, and it looks amazing.  Jube asked if we'd link up his Instagram account, so follow the link in the photo below and watch the progress of his amazing career.

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Zumba on the LST 393 in Muskegon to Benefit Every Woman's Place

If you've been a part of Muskegon for any amount of time, you know that one of our most precious outreaches in town is Every Woman's Place.  They have been at the forefront of helping victims of domestic abuse in Muskegon and surrounding areas since 1975 and they continue to offer respite and shelter in a time where you'd hope that society wouldn't need their services anymore, but...they do.

One of the best things about Every Woman's Place is the way Muskegon embraces their work.  Small donations to large fundraisers, EWP is funded in part by the generosity of gifts large and small and no matter the size, they all add up and help this incredible agency do their work to protect the vulnerable.  Cash donations, health care supplies and more all add up and make a true difference.  Of course, you can ask for cash and toothpaste only so much....it takes a little innovation and pop up ideas to keep things fresh and some moolah coming in and those ideas come from people of all backgrounds and practices.
3Z Club Crew on Facebook

So,  with all the ideas..willingness to help and ways to raise money that there are in town, put them to work right!  It's happening!  We have a group in town who LOVE to Zumba and they are trying to spread their love for the workout and combine that with a way to help EWP!  There's a group called the 3ZCrew here in town.  They are all about getting YOU involved with Zumba for the good of your health and they want to take this love of the sport and help out EWP!

You have a chance to give it a whirl on the LST 393 on August 26th.  There's going to be a special event on board the ship not only to get you up and get you moving...but to send the proceeds over to EWP.  Every dime raised at this special event will go to help the agency as well as the people they serve.  7p is the time and there are no real pre requisites to be able to participate.

I met up with Elisa Hoppper and Quintina Pittman from EWP to talk about the event, take a listen.

Sound like fun?  Well, join them!  Do something fun and help out a remarkable cause and get yourself in the groove of Zumba!  You can click on the image below to get registered to be a part of the event!  It's a small donation, that will go so far...get your Zumba on and go!!  If you'd like to know more about Every Woman's Place, click on their photo below that!

Click Here to Register to Zumba on the LST

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Humans of Muskegon - A Project Detailing All of Us

So, we spend a lot of time here on Positively Muskegon trying to find those who do something remarkable and work to make a difference for all of us here in Muskegon.  Big or small projects, they all add up and they all help weave the fabric of what makes Muskegon home.  Some have unlimited grandeur to share, while others pick a small project and do all they can with what they have to make it shine.  We're not the only game in town however.

There are others who are preserving our history one human at a time.

Thing is though, it's not always easy to get someone who's more accustomed to being behind a camera or a computer screen to come out in front of one, so....I had to use a little trickery to land this meet up, but we pulled it off.

I first got to know Tara Marquard through on Facebook through her project "Humans of Muskegon".  It's a simple premise.  She asks people to send in a photo of themselves.  Can be any kind of photo that best describes "you" and a short story or paragraph about who they are, what this world is to them and what their life is all about.  It's a project that's been done in some other cities, but Muskegon is such a diverse community and has so many people from every end of the spectrum that to know a little more about them and what makes them tick...well, it gets interesting quick.  I myself have submitted a couple of stories about some parts of me that make me a unique human from my meteorite on my night stand to some of what makes me love Muskegon the way I do.

What makes Tara a "Human of Muskegon"?  All through this project, Tara has managed to battle and win breast cancer...she's a friggin warrior....she's also managed to keep working until just recently when a lay off notice came, and she's pushed and pushed to find more and more people to help share their story instead of trying to hide under a shell and wish it all went away.  She's shown strength in the face of fear and persists in wanting to leave her mark with photography and giving others a chance to share what makes them who they are.  She's kind of shy, not really one for the spotlight but definitely is working to show us all as the real Humans of Muskegon.  Meet Tara Marquard.

Now, here's your chance!  Think about who you are and what makes you that person!  Share your story.  It doesn't have to have your name attached.  You can maybe hide behind some shades...you can maybe even send in a picture of a shadow!  But...be part of Tara's amazing project and show your human side!  You will find the link to the Humans of Muskegon Facebook page linked below!  Don't let this pass you by.  Tell your story and help Tara continue hers! 

Thursday, August 8, 2019

70x7 - Now The Fresh Coast Alliance of Muskegon A New Start For Many

We introduced you to 70x 7 years ago.  It was an organization in Muskegon dedicated to helping those who had spent some time in prison become re-acclimated to being part of society.  How do they get used to being out in the world again.  How much has changed in the world since they were sentenced and how are they going to fit back in when it comes to things like family, friends and how will they avoid the pitfalls that got them sent away in the first place?

They are scary and tough questions but 70x7 boldly answered them and did it on a level that people could understand.  After all, the Muskegon founder of 70x7 had his fair share of knowledge of life on the other side of the law.  After his time though, Nate Johnson's life had changed dramatically and he wanted to give back his new found freedom to others.  As he says, he was part of the problem and now, it's on him to help fix it.
Follow Fresh Coast Alliance on Facebook

Today, there's a new name for what was started.  70x7 is now called The Fresh Coast Alliance and encompasses so much more than just working to end recidivism.  Today, The Fresh Coast Alliance of Muskegon offers not only reentry programs, they offer recovery, employment, housing and counselling for substance abuse.  Their ministry has extended to include both men and women and encompasses a full approach through faith in rebuilding lives that were once thought to be lost.  Fresh Coast also works to help educate the public as well as legislators when it comes to issues revolving criminal justice reform and others issues.  Which brings us to our visit today.

There will be 2 opportunities to learn a little more about Fresh Coast and their work.  First up.. "Facing Choices".  August 15th at the Fresh Coast Alliance a discussion will be held.  It will be a discussion with parolees and probation servers about guns.  We are seeing far too much gun violence in more than just one area...and this will be a very frank and to the point discussion of the consequences both state and federal if you commit a crime with a firearm.   Then on August 17th there will be a convening of Clean Slate Michigan.  It's about working to get the record of those who have served their time and made life adjustments that are so profound, that consideration of a "Clean Slate" should be given to them so then can resume their life free of a record that can keep them from things like jobs, housing or other benefits.

Nate and I sat down to recap all the changes as well as talk about the upcoming programs.  Take a listen.

Amazing work going on to help break the cycle and offer some new hope for those who have faced some of the worst in life.  From the streets to the cell and back again....it's got to stop somewhere and an organization to help those who desire to change for good is an amazing resource for people and the community.  If you'd like to know more about Fresh Coast Alliance, please....click on their logo below to visit their website and support their work.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Kool Kids Concert at McGraft Park in Muskegon August 30th

You live and work in a town for a while and you think you have a pretty good grip on who's doing what, and more importantly who's doing what and why...and then from out of the blue, you get a message on social media about an event coming up wondering if you could share a link. Take a look at the link and you think to yourself, this might be a better story than a share, so you set that up and BOOM you find out more than you ever imagined was going on!

Let's start off with the sizzle!  Do your kids like to "whip and nae nane?"  Well, that's by an artist names Silento and he's coming.  Have you ever seen your kid "flossing"?  Not the kind of floss they get at the dentist office....do your kids like dance troops they see on YouTube and maybe some of the big talent shows like AGT on TV?  It's going to be a HUGE day for kids and families at the Kool Kids Bash at McGraft Park on August 30th.  It's a star stutted day with meet and greets, fun for everyone and it's all got a purpose behind it... the Reds Youth Project.
Get Your Tickets Here for the Kool Kidz Concert

If you have not heard, the Reds Youth Project is a mentor-ship program for young people  who need a hand with direction in their lives.  How to make good choices, where to ask the tough questions, where to go when something just doesn't seem right and there doesn't seem to be anyone else to turn to.  Erika Bell is a mentor in the program and she's gotten to where she is today organizing this benefit concert and bash by having just that kind of positive influence in her life as she grew up.  There is no one who doesn't need a balancing point from time to time and a group like the Reds Youth Project finds a way, somehow to fill in the cracks that are left behind no matter the life circumstance.

Like any other small organization, they have to find ways to raise funds where they can.  It's a never ending struggle for smaller organizations without dedicated fundraising arms to find the money they need to function, but they do it...and they do it because they all know that they are making a difference.  They have seen it play out time and time again, and in the end, taking care of the next generation is essential to community building and long term success.  Grass roots takes on a whole new meaning when you look at the time and care being put in to make a difference.

Back to the concert.  Silento took his "Watch me Whip" song to 2.4 million sales.  That's a lot of records or downloads or however the kids get their music now a days.  "Backpack Kid" first popped up on Saturday Night Live when Katy Perry played "Swish Swish" on the show and has become a way for kids to pass the time while getting down and The Future Kingz made their America's Got Talent debut in season 13 of the show! This is a BIG day for young music fans and it's happening right here in Muskegon.

I met up with Erika Bell at the site of the upcoming show with the band shell as our back drop.  Take a listen.

Pretty cool, and honestly...if you watched the interview, I am truly in disbelief it took me this long to meet Erika.  As we were wrapping up, I asked her if she was still looking for sponsors for this event and she said that the best form of sponsorship she could use....is someone to buy some tickets for kids who can't afford it.  She's a first time promoter of such an event and wants the experience to be a great one for the kids first and foremost.  Below, you'll find a link to the Reds Youth Project and you can help if you choose by getting a hols of Erika there and doing what you can to support this amazing day focused on kids at McGraft park in Muskegon August 30th.