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Tuesday, December 22, 2020

2020 Continues to Give - Free Mental Health Help from Services of Hope in Muskegon


I'm willing to bet that at some point in the last 10 months, there has been a moment or two where you've felt the need to drop to your knees and give in.  "I can't take it anymore" has been heard far and wide and as we look back over all we've been through, there's really no escaping it.  For some, that's the kind of mental state they live in day after day.  Life is hard, life gets harder and in a year when there really are no answers, life can be unbearable.  Mental health, there is still a stigma.

It's a little more top of mind for everyone this year, mental health.  What we've seen and been put through could be equated to trying to get a sip of water out of a fire hose.  We've seen friends and family split over politics.  We've seen people struggle over finances and work.  We've worried about friends and neighbors, we've worried about health and procedure.  We've worried about who's right and wrong and we've worried at the end of the day about ourselves.  There's no shame in needing to take care of you...because without you...none of those mentioned before that you care so deeply for, well, without you...they are really all lost.  You are needed.  You are the key to your world and all those in it and we're thankful you're here! 

We all know the holiday's can be stressful too.  This time of year evokes a lot of emotion to begin with and 2020 presents a series of challenges unique to itself.  Do you stay home and stay safe?  Do you celebrate traditionally?  Do you Zoom your get together?  Add all of that to what some already go through during the holidays, like too many houses to visit, which relatives will feel disappointed if you don't make it, work, life, money....it's adding up again isn't it?  Stop.  There's help. 

To begin with, let's be open.  I am 17 years sober.  I wouldn't be 17 years sober without an absolutely incredible counsellor who helped me navigate the first 3 years after I quit drinking.  She helped me heal everything within that's made me who I am today, which is perfectly flawed and able to understand what's broke, what's fixed and where I can find ways to keep things working properly.  Jane was sent to me as a final gift for living through the hell of addiction and her loving guidance made me into the son, husband, step parent, "geepa" and human I am today.  Why the story?  Well, it's to let you know that no one can go this alone and there is no shame whatsoever in asking for help.  I consider this life a miracle now, and it took work to get here, and it takes work and willingness to give it all away to keep it.  I want that for you too. 

Services of Hope Online

Now, that first step.  Ask.  Don't know who to ask?  That's why we're here today.  Services of Hope is a counselling center in Muskegon and they have been given a grant to help out a great number of people who are willing to ask.  They have funding to get you started with some free visits with telehealth or any kind of digital platform for the moment.  Yes, it's a matter of safety to begin.  You doo need to register soon and do a little orientation before the 30th though, it's a grant that came in quick and has to be used quick, so act on it.

Jax Bliss is part of the staff at Services of Hope and she sent a message today wondering if we could help spread the word, and what better gift could we possibly give than helping someone past their darkest hour in a year filled with them.  Take a listen.

Let's go over it again. No one can do it alone and there's no shame in asking.  Mental health is real, it's important to maintain and the first step for you is being offered right here and now.  Reach out and ask is all you have to do and the first three visits won't cost you a penny.  231-722-7980 is the number.  We wish you happiness, health and a much better 2021 for all.  

Thursday, December 17, 2020

500 Toys for Christmas - A "Wrap Up"

A little over a month ago, in fact it was November 4th, we introduced you to Keysha Mcclanahan who was gathering up a few friends to combine some efforts after a successful "trunk or treat" event at Halloween for kids to try and catch a little lightning in a bottle twice.  It's not a job easily done any time and if there's a global pandemic going on as well as a lot of people wondering "what if" over a multitude of life's problems, catching lightning can be seemingly impossible.

Well, Keysha and company were not going to let any odds against them stand in the way of at least trying.  After all, Christmas is on the way and kids....ya, they know things are different his year and they too have had to endure a lot of upheaval.  Working remotely for school in a lot of cases.  Parents doing their best to shield them from worry and fear.  Some of their favorite activities might be shut down, or the budget might be a little tight in some cases.  Way back in March, they started saying "we're in this together" and that meant everyone, kids included, but what about Christmas? 

The 2020 Toy Team

Well Keysha and her crew consisting of Tina Grissom, Willie Wilson and Shawanna Evans jumped in head first.  They set a goal to collect 500 toys for area kids this year.  Way back in November, it seemed like a huge goal.  They had a drop off spot or two and the ball was just rolling.  Then, as it always seems to do, Muskegon and all it's people made lightning strike.  One or two drop off locations became many.  Restaurants who can only do take out still found a corner.  Churches pitched in.  Human service companies dug a little deeper and even hair care places said "Sure, we're in".  

It's this kind of togetherness that sets this community a part.  I want to take you back a little here a minute on a side track.  Way back when in 2001, I really got my first look at how Muskegon does it.  It was just after 9-11.  We at the radio station decided to go collect spare change to help the recovery efforts and I was at the corner of Henry and Sherman.  I was out there for a few hours and literally had so much money come in, I had to start dumping it in my car.  This very same thing came through when I helped the Old Newises out for a few years, I saw it happen again and again with cancer benefits, help for women's shelters, reading programs, benefits to help special needs kids.  I have a very deep and very personal connection with the grass roots charitable work that goes on here in Muskegon and it's truly one of the things that fills me with pride and truly, sets us a part from all of the other communities.  We never let a need slip and more over, if that need is for kids, come hell or high water, we make it happen.  It's in this togetherness that we are able to set aside what the rest of the world is doing, circle the wagons and stand in unison with pride and say "Watch us Go".  It's a great slogan to see on billboards, but it's really people like Keysha, Tina, Willie and Shawnna who make it happen.  We are blessed to have them here.

Now, on to the results!  At the time we recorded, well, the goal had been well beaten.  In fact, not only was it beaten, there were still more toys coming in and at first glance this morning...500 toys had gone over the 800 mark and the level of gratuity was coming through in every picture shared on Keysha's Facebook page.  So without further adieu, let's meet the team that made a Christmas Miracle happen for so many kids this year.  

There's nothing better. Seeing first hand how a few people come together despite all odds and most everyone throwing their hands up in the air over things and saying "we can do this".  Watching people build community, share their passion, build up one another and make sure that some of the rights of childhood are not lost in the whirlwind of a temporary crisis.  Simply put, we're standing here in awe of the accomplishment and we're again standing in awe of the way the people of Muskegon never ever fail each other.  We are truly blessed to be who we are, where we are and in a time that we all share.  Our many thanks to Keysha, Tina, Willie and Shawanna for keeping that Christmas Spirit alive for all of us. 

Thursday, November 12, 2020

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 9, 2020

Overcoming Barriers Inc - Meet Kaja Thornton-Hunter


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

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

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

Overcoming Barriers Inc On FB

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

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

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

Friday, October 30, 2020

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


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

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

Salvation Army Muskegon Online

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

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

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

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

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

Want to be a Bell Ringer?  CLICK HERE

Monday, September 21, 2020

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


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

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

MAP Benefit Infor on Facebook

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 24, 2020

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


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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

The Lakes Community Garden - Extreme Generosity For Muskegon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Taking Back Muskegon - Meet Michelle Tyson Who's Got The Future of Our Kids in Mind

It's always one of the greatest things we do to come across those who make the decision that it's time to do "something" no matter what that "something" might be.  If you're wondering if we have any experience in the field, take a trip back to 2015 when Andrea Rosema told us about "Giving Back Christmas".  Not only did her idea to do "something" take hold and grow, it set the pace for everything this blog and ideal would become.   Well, Michelle Tyson is making it happen again.

Michelle sent in a post request to the Facebook group promoting a "Royal Family Photo Contest" and like any other post, it goes into hold until someone can take a look at make sure it's not some ad for free sunglasses or the latest junk post from some clown trying to steal your data.  We curate the group pretty heavily to protect what gets on and make sure that it's relevant and free of the typical internet trash you see everywhere else.  We often too will ask who posts a little more if it's an intriguing post and seek to learn a little more and if it fits, good...if not...we explain the group rules.
Follow Taking Back Muskegon on FB and Enter the Photo Contest!!

In talking to Michelle briefly, I asked about the contest and a little more abut her purpose.  She explained that before the COVID stuff, she and a circle of friends began a grass roots effort to help support the kids in her area by hosting some events, offering a safe space fight crime and give kids at an early age the thought that street life might look glamorous on TV, but the reality of it is, it's not.  It's a game of smoke and mirrors and the end result for those who get pulled into it, is a cycle that needs to stop.  So, like any other small group of folks who start off with a dream, it's been elbow grease, grit, drive and determination to get things going, maybe raise a few bucks to find a place to call home and then expand their centers over time.  In comes the COVID shut down and everything gets put on hold.

As things begin to open up again, however, that desire to make change happen continues to grow and a couple months of staying home and staying safe are not going to stop Michelle and crew.  While we were not aware of when things would begin to open up, to keep some awareness happening, they came up with the "Royal Family Photo Contest" which you can enter through their Facebook page to the right.  Why not get the family gussied up and looking good for a picture?  Probably better than the stretchy pants and robe everyone's been wearing around the house, right?  A fun thing to do as a family and a great way to draw a little attention to the cause.  Offer up a prize?  Who wouldn't love a cash prize?  Then start to tell your story.  Open that channel of communication with others and let the good word spread and let them see that when you're pushing to make something happen, there's bound to be someone else who's gonna come along and push too.

It snuck up on ya didn't it?  Michelle is building community.  She's a modern day hero and she's said that any difference, is a big difference....and it's up to her to make it, even if it's just in the life of one other person.

I dropped by to see Michelle in the City of Friendly People and learn a little more.  Take a listen to our chat on the corner!

Imagine if we all took that one moment to follow that divine spark?  That little voice in your head that says - "Do something about it!".  Michelle did that and in time, her following that voice will lead to a life changed forever.  It might be one....but that's a legacy and much like Andrea starting a Christmas event for kids, Michelle is starting her own journey and to be here to watch it grow...and help her with that....that's what it's all about at Positively Muskegon.  Michelle, we're here for you!

Monday, June 8, 2020

Lighthouse for Veterans Heykoop Car Show Becomes a Cruise in 2020 on the 4th of July at Mart Dock

It's a year of adaptation and improvisation.  Lot's of things have a different spin on them and some things have had to pull the plug because the whole idea of social distancing and safety is kind of impossible for some events.  While the Stay Home order is a thing of the past, the message of proceed with caution holds true and when we first heard "The New Normal" we didn't really know what that meant, but it's becoming more clear, it means some adjustments for everyone.

That's not to say that the world has come to a screeching halt.  Not in the least.  Some events have had to make some modifications and to continue on for the purpose they do, those modifications are so very important because the work that goes on....it's really important too.  Such is the case with Lighthouse for Veterans.  Started by Natasha Heykoop and her family after the tragic loss of her brother to suicide, Lighthouse for Veterans is an organization that provides retreats for Veterans so they can work through some of the issues they face among peers who may experience some of the same problems they do.  It's a unique situation to them as they often feel isolated and that no one understands other than those who have served as well.  Lighthouse also provides community education.  Helping others understand what to look for when it comes to signs that someone may be giving that they are suicidal and how to help them seek the help they need.  Sadly, funeral expenses.  If a Veteran falls victim to suicide, often the family has to deal with the cost of the funeral as well as the immense cost of the loss of a loved one.  Finally, awareness.  Lighthouse works to share the message that we lose Veterans daily and the Veteran suicide won't just magically go away someday.

Click Here for Details on the Heykoop Memorial Cruise
4 years ago, we began to tell the story of Natasha and her desire to do a little something.  We were in a freshly cut field off Getty and Airline which was the spot they found to get things started.  It was a launch with a few friends and family members, some car owners that caught wind of what was happening and even a little picnic table with some pot luck food on it and a handful of raffle prizes.  Now, just 3 short years later, the even has grown to need a little bigger space.  You'll find this years even once again at the Mart Dock in Downtown Muskegon for the kick off on Saturday July 4th.  Yes, a car cruise on the 4th of July to help Veterans is exactly as patriotic as it sounds and yes, you really outta be there.

While in years past, it's been a car show, this year...it's going to be a cruise with the line up starting in the morning and the cruise hitting a few destinations with a return back to Mart Dock in early to mid afternoon.  Logistics are going to be a little different and patience will be greatly appreciated, however there will be time for the public to see some of the great items up for raffle or get some event merch to help support the cause once the cruise takes off.  There will be refreshments and fun for those cruising and when they come back to Mart Dock, prizes will be given out.

As always, I got my annual visit with Natasha Heykoop to hear about the event, the modifications and of course the purpose.  And, as always it's just amazing to me to watch something so incredible take hold in place of such a tragedy.  Take a listen to our chat and start polishing up the car for the 4th of July!!  It's going to be epic!

Hope the Turtle Wax in the garage isn't all hardened and dried out.  The cruise will be awesome of course, but the purpose is so much more.  What Natasha and her group have built out of the ashes is amazing and they are to be commended and supported for what they have accomplished and continue to do even when the times throw them a serious curve ball.  Take a few minutes and visit their website and help support the work they do to prevent Veteran suicide and advocate that we all know more about the signs and what we can do to help.  It's our great pleasure to watch such things grow right here in Muskegon.  July 4th...enjoy the cruise!

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Mom On a Mission - Meet Jessie Wilde Emerging Media in Muskegon

Wasn't so long ago, there was this guy who had the idea that maybe starting a blog in Muskegon talking about good people, who do something that has a beneficial impact for our community got his start and, from there, things kind of grew.  It was a pretty simple idea really, backed up by a GoPro camera and a free blog program, and it all kind of grew from there.  The important thing though, is though that while you grow, you don't forget where you started or that others might follow.

I'm a firm believer in not only watching others blossom and grow, but helping them along if the opportunity is there.  One of the things I disliked the most about the end of the "traditional media" days, was the lack of anyone coming looking for a job.  In fact, the last two years I was on the FM radio, there wasn't a single applicant trying to get in the business.  Between market consolidation and the slow decay of a once vibrant medium and economic driver, no one wanted to come learn what I was doing.  It was pretty sad, because I had incredible mentors that made sure I knew more than any college could ever teach me.  I am no "shove it down your throat" teacher, but to pass along some advice and nuance once in a while....it's how wisdom moves.  I keep my eyes open and will introduce myself when I think I see some promise, and you know what?  I think I see a LOT of it.

Follow WildeJessie on Facebook for Her Live Events
Meet Jessie Wilde.  Jessie is a "Mom On a Mission".  Jessie is multi-faceted in her life and work.  She helps run My Space Office and Storage on Getty Street in Muskegon.  She's the Founder of WildeJessie Business Consulting and in her newly emerging endeavor, she's taken to the digital world to speak to young women about challenges they face and how they can share some knowledge and experience among themselves to not only show that they are not alone in the day to day of life, but...that the situations they face are probably not unique and that there are others too who deal with the same and resources for answers.

Jessie works on the Facebook Live platform at the moment.  The humblest of beginnings like we all have.  She's right out of her house on Thursday evenings and features a guest who's got some real world experience on any number of topics and with the use of the comment section of the Facebook platform, she's able to take question in real time and see if there can be an answer right there.  She also features some giveaway's on the discussion.  A way to not only help get the name of some smaller local business out there, but to give those mom's a chance to win a little something and add a little fun to the show.  She got all this going with just an idea of "How can I add to our community, and what does it take from me?"  It's that kind of innovation we love to applaud and help support.

Had a chance to talk to this incredibly energetic mother of 5, take a listen!! 

Get the feeling you're watching a star launching? Ya. Here too!  Join Jessie for the fun of one of her live chats on a Thursday if you are a mom on a mission too, or maybe you're a mom that can add to the conversation.  One thing is for sure, Jessie has the right attitude and drive and sure seems to grasp the idea that using media, talent and drive to benefit everyone, including herself a little is what it's all about in a town like Muskegon.  Very thankful to Jessie for her time and very excited to watch her grow.  There will come a day when we say.... "Ya, we had her on Positively Muskegon once." and that is what building people and community is all about.  To visit her website, click on the photo below.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Fillets for Families - Help The Fish Monger's Wife Help Area Food Pantries

Muskegon finds a way.  No matter the circumstance, Muskegon always finds a way to take care of our own as well as some of the surrounding communities when it comes to times of need.  It might be a benefit for an individual or group, it might be a benefit for a cause, it might be a benefit for a large amount of people you'll never see or meet.  If the need is there somehow, we manage.  In our lifetime, we've never seen need on such a scale, but little by little, we're all still finding our way.

Enter a small business.  Smallest you could possibly get as seen by some.  The Fishmonger's Wife located on Sherman on Norton Shores.  Most of the year, it's just a husband and wife team running the place.  They ramp up in the Summer of course to meet demand adding some help to take care of the customers at the counter as well as the growing online business they added a couple years ago.  None the less, it's a micro enterprise and like any other small business, faced with everything we're facing now, an uncertain future when things were put on hold for a while.  They were very fortunate in the fact that they do operate an essential business, providing food, and that they were able to stay open and that's something that the Peterson family is not taking for granted and not forgetting others with through all this.
The Fish Monger's Wife on Facebook

The Fish Monger's Wife actually saw somewhat of a spike in business.  Adaptation was essential of course.  They had to shutter the friendly store front and find a way to deliver their freshly caught food in a contact free way.  The removal of a screen from the fresh fish processing area seemed to cover that necessity pretty quickly.  Kids home from school?  There's the lobby of the store.  This is what we have to do for now kids.  Taking card payments with the Ipad while customers read the number to them from the car, utilizing that web store a little more, temporary adjustments to keep people fed and keep things moving until they can once again open up to full service.

Through that, how do we pitch in?  Well, there's a pretty loyal customer base of their store.  There is also an abundance of fish coming from not only their fleet, but others out fishing too, so...the idea come up to sell some of that fish to their regulars, but...it would go to area food pantries to help make sure that in a time when others have not...especially those who are finding themselves in need for the first time..there's a supply waiting for them. Beneficial not only for those in need, but a couple other small business as well.  Keeping product moving, pantries full and hopefully, the worry and fear about where the next meal is coming from to a minimum for some.

We linked up with The Fish Monger's Wife herself to find out more.  We also talked a little about her small business, supporting other local small agricultural business and how you can help if you are so inclined to be a part of "Fillets for Families".  Take a listen.

Refreshing to hear some success in a business that's translated into a willingness to help others.  If you are a regular customer of The Fish Monger's Wife, you know the quality and service they put in to everything they do.  If you're not, might be a good time to try.  If you just want to help in a couple of ways, here's your chance.  You can click on the photo below to visit the site where the drive is happening!!  Cheers to the Peterson's for a great story, and a great cause when we need it most.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Volunteer Week in the USA - Brian Harris Talks About Volunteering in Muskegon

If you've been around town a while, you might know the face you'll see in today's video.  If you don't recognize the face, you'll certainly know some of the work he's been a part of over the years.  Brain Harris retired from the Muskegon County Sheriff's Department a few years ago, and in his "retirement" has gone on to work part time for the Norton Shores Police Department as well as Emergency Services here in town.

When he's not at one of those jobs, chances are you'll find Brian volunteering in some capacity.  Brian has his hands in a LOT of projects here in town that help a variety of needs.  He's passionate about organizations that help first responders as you can imagine.  He's also like a lot of other police officers, a pretty tender heart under it all and makes sure that a lot of organizations that help human need and especially kids out with their causes.  They range from the Fraternal Order of Police, to Kids Food Basket, Sportsmen for Youth and more.  Brian and his wife Tracy spend a lot of time investing in making life better for all of us through volunteering.

In Muskegon, we're kind of all used to volunteering.  We are resilient in the fact that we have to stick together at things to get stuff done.  There are organizations big and small who simply couldn't make it without the help of volunteers.  It might be a role out front helping at a festival or an expo, or it could be a role behind the scenes where your work goes on without much fanfare and you do your part without a whole lot of recognition.  Either way, it shouldn't be about the recognition or who's seeing you doing what you're doing, it should be about what matters to you and while you might not be able to contribute in ways that will get your name on a building or a street named after you, you take away the personal satisfaction that you did your part for what matters.

National Volunteer Week first came on the scene in the USA in 1974.  American's were asked to seek an opportunity to volunteer and in turn for communities to recognize the incredible amount of work that gets done by those who believe in the causes they help and reasons they do.   Today, even in the times we're experiencing now, there are plenty opportunities to do your part.  Food banks, human need organizations, churches, organizations like The United Way, Senior Resources and more need a hand now more than ever and it could be a great way for you to find some inspiration in the middle of a lot of desperation.  Certainly a great way to see the hope that comes from giving a little of yourself to help those in need.

Brian and I sat down for a chat to learn a little more about the volunteer experience.  Take a listen to his thoughts on what he's done over the years.  How he's grown from all he's learned and who he thinks are some organizations that would really benefit from you lending a hand when it matters most....right now.

Take the first step. No matter what your passion is, there's a need to be filled.  If it's people.  Some are going hungry.  If it's education, there are folks who can't read.  Is it pets?  There's an animal shelter that's filled with furries looking for forever homes.  How about the environment?  What better time to see what you can to to protect Earth?  It only takes that first step, it's a step for the greater good and it's a step that if taken, can benefit all.  There are some links below to follow for volunteer opportunities in Muskegon.  Follow your heart, and follow them. 

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Muskegon Civic Theater and No More Sidelines - The Penguin Project

We are very fortunate to live in a community that embraces some of the things we do.  One of which is our Muskegon Civic Theater and the other is an organization that began right here in Muskegon and has stretched it's reach across Michigan with it's message of inclusion, forgetting about what makes us "different" and seeing that on some levels we are all more the same than we are not alike.  That homegrown organization is No More Sidelines.

No More Sidelines humble beginnings came when a young girl asked her mom why she didn't have sleep over's and things like other kids do?  It was a question that set into motion a tidal wave for Cyndi Blair who founded No More Sidelines for her daughter Alivia so that she could experience what the "normal" kids do.  Friends, sports, activities, simply put....inclusion.  The idea of "mainstreaming" was kind of losing wind in it's sails, you know...where the kids down the hall got to do a class or two a day with the others, or maybe lunch...but they kind of stuck together and kind of only blended in a little.  With No More Sidelines.  It was anything but that.

If kids did it, well...No More Sidelines kids were going to do it too and they were going to do it in a way that fully integrated them into the lives and surroundings everyone else had.  Dances, movie nights, bowling leagues, sports games at high schools...you name it.  Along with the activities, came the message that the differences were really not that big.  If you've been around the group, even for 5 minutes...you realize quickly...no only are there few differences, you'll probably need to sharpen your skills around some of these folks.  They are quick witted, fun and full of adventure and most of all LOVE!

Help The Penguin Project With Go Fund Me
As time went on, a new challenge came along.  A collaboration of No More Sidelines and The Muskegon Civic Theater called The Penguin Project.  Yes, kinds who have downs, autism, anxiety disorders or maybe a physical limitation get their chance in the spotlight to be the star of the show.  2020 is the 4th year for the production and collaboration and the experience for both the Civic Theater members and the No More Sidelines participants enriches their lives in more ways than can be described.  The No More Sidelines group gets to learn acting and perform on stage at the Frauenthal.  The actors from the Civic Theater get to mentor the actors and shadow them on stage just in case a line is needed or a little nudge has to come along to help them stay on track.  If you've seen a performance, you won't forget it.  If you have not seen a performance, you owe it to yourself.  It's an experience unlike any other and the energy and excitement flows right from the stage into the audience.  It's amazing.

This year, with some of the challenges we're facing, a hand is needed in the fundraising for the performance.  Most everything has crawled to a standstill including some of the performances and events set aside to help the project, so there's an ask out there to see if we can all rally around two of our most special organizations in town to lend them a hand.  Jason Bertioa is the Executive Director of the Muskegon Civic Theater and he joined me today for a chat about all things Civic Theater and especially about the Penguin Project.  Take a listen.

Such a great combination and collaboration.  Both of these groups enrich lives and make our community a better place to be.  The arts are also an incredible way for young people to learn and grow..and as far as the mission of No More SIDELINES, well, let's add in no more hiding back stage or behind the curtain.  Out in to the spotlight and right front of the crowd where the cheers, love and amazing support come back to the performers 10 fold. 

To learn more about the Muskegon Civic Theater or No More Sidelines, click on their photos below to visit their websites.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Wags and Gags - Help the Noah Project - Postponed Till May 30

In Muskegon, we might not be experts at everything, but we have mastered the ability of making sure that things get taken care of for those who are not able to take care of themselves.  Be it a need of any kind, somehow, someway, we all find a way to circle the wagons in our own way to fill the cracks and make sure that the needs are met and that when the time is needed.  This applies to human need as well as the need for the companions we keep in our pets.

The Noah Project in Muskegon has been an all volunteer organization since the beginning.  From their website - Noah Project is a non-profit, no-kill animal shelter that is dedicated to provide for the compassionate well-being of rescued, abandoned, abused, unwanted or neglected pets. Animals in our care are spayed or neutered, receive all veterinary care and are treated with dignity, love and respect as they await to be matched into new relationships within loving forever homes. Our goal is to educate the community on animal welfare, collaborate with other shelters and ultimately strive for a world where every companion animal has a home to call their own."

Located on Airline Road, The Noah Project is known far and wide for their work and their dedication to pets.  They rely solely on donations and volunteerism.  Funding doesn't come from any kind of annual budget from a municipality or entity.  When a need is there, it's met by the traditional methods, social media requests, word of mouth, email, fundraisers, donation buckets, and maybe even the ancient method of a phone call....what's that right?  Food, cleaning supplies, litter, cash etc...you name it....The Noah Project is 100% community funded and it resonates with those who adopt from them and help support their work.

This event has been postponed TFN.  We' will reissue the story when it is rescheduled.

See that part about fundraisers in the last paragraph?  Well, that's what we're here to talk about.  March 21st at the beautiful Trillium Events Center, The Noah Project presents Wags and Gags!!  A fantastic event focused on comedy, food, drink, silent auctions and of course, making sure that the needs of the shelter are met.  The comedy is coming from the Lighten Up Comedy troop, which features a comedian of any age level.  3 great comics coming for your entertainment.  The food?  Pasta bar and the fixins'.  Come hungy!  The silent auction?  Filled with all kinds of incredible items from local business....back to our opening statement of Muskegon circling the wagons...we're the best at it, including.... tickets to see Elton John up close and personal at Van Andel Arena when he makes a stop there on April 23rd.  As you'll hear in our chat...the tickets are close enough to the stage you'll scare Sir Elton.

I met up with Jane McGregor and Bill Vanderweele who are both board members of The Noah Project to learn a little more about the event and the cause...take a listen to our chat about this awesome event to learn more!

A fun night out with purpose.  The work they do at The Noah Project is of the heart and the support is fantastic.  It's a great thing to be part of a community that continues to give, and support so many important things, especially the causes that rely completely on the kindness of others.  Grab your self some tickets to the party and have a great night out, or if the fundraiser isn't your thing, make sure you stay in touch with The Noah Project on their Facebook page or their website.  Maybe some extra cleaning supplies or a little cat litter here or there from you....little things all add up to help support such a great cause!  You can visit the Noah Projects Website by clicking below!

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

A New Observance in Muskegon - World Water Day - Meet Shannon Donely

World Water Day was first declared by the United Nations way back when in 1993.  You know, back when we were asking things like "Got Milk?"  and when "Sleepless in Seattle" had us all misty eyed at the movies!  They slipped in an observation on us and most of us probably didn't even see it happen!  Kind of a bad deal too because let's face it...what's our life here without water?  Pretty empty.

Sure, Michigan has made news for plenty of other water issues over the last few years.  We still have the issues going on in Flint.  We saw the contamination of the Rockford Area, even in the construction of the new convention center in Downtown Muskegon, there was a pause for some water contamination that had to be mitigated before the project could continue.  It's a big issue and for a state surrounded by 21% of the worlds surface freshwater, it's something we all need to be more aware of and do our part to help protect and maintain.  No matter the size of the role, everyone doing a little something adds up.
Find the Lakeshore World Water Day Festival on Facebook

Well, there are those who do some and there are those who take their passion and put the pedal to the metal.  Shannon Donely is one of those who's taken her passion for water and has gotten behind it to educate, advocate and take action on one of life's essentials.  Let's face it, life on Earth is 100% dependent on water and without those who are willing to go the extra mile for it, we'd all be facing a very grave future.  Shannon is organizing the first Lakeshore World Water Day Festival which will encompass events from Muskegon to Grand Haven with the hopes, that in the future, it will be one BIG event going on between both sites and an all encompassing effort by all to help protect what we've got.

March 20th there's a "Zero Waste Potluck" happening in Muskegon.  On the 21st you'll find "Walk for Water" activities going on in multiple places and the events will conclude with The World Water Day Festival event at the Loutit District Library in Grand Haven with special guest speakers, poets and musicians.

I met up with Shannon to talk about the events and the importance of our water supply at The Coffee Factory in Muskegon.  It was a busy place when we met up, but what else would you expect from The Coffee Factory?  Take a listen.

Is it your time? Is now when you get involved?  It's very much a grass roots effort here on the Lakeshore and something we love to get to right out of the box!!  We wish Shannon and her crew the very best on their events, and especially their mission.  We too often take for granted I think just how lucky we are to have such an abundance of water here...to be the best stewards of it that we can, is where it all begins!