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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.