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Wings Over Muskegon

Wings Over Muskegon
August 9th-11th

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.