Monthly Archives: January 2014

J. Rettenmaier Company Gives Back to Schoolcraft

By Sue Moore

The J. Rettenmaier Company, on U.S. 131, just south of Schoolcraft has been giving back to the community. More than anything, the company has been very generous to the Eagle’s Nest (the Schoolcraft Administration Building) according to Sue Kuiper, executive director.

It started with a request to the employees, which now number in the 130s, for food donations to the Schoolcraft Friday Pack program, which provides food for needy children on the weekends.  The company has run an internal company food and financial drive for the at risk students in the Friday Pack program for the last several years.  The donations have come from all three plants in the U.S. and then the company matched what the employees raised.

Sue Kuiper is presented with a check from Thorston Willmann, general   manager of the Schoolcraft branch of J. Rettenmaier.
Sue Kuiper is presented with a check from Thorston Willmann, general manager of the Schoolcraft branch of J. Rettenmaier.

“This company never forgets us,” Kuiper said. “Many of their employees live outside of the Schoolcraft community but still come together in support of our local at risk students. They exhibit their loyalty and care for Schoolcraft.  This company continues to stand tall in its commitment to this small town and in such a very big way.  Since the Friday Pack participant numbers are at an all-time high, this contribution allows us to serve every student in need.”

If you’re not familiar with J. Rettenmaier, the company supplies fiber powders that the Kellogg Company puts into its cereals to stabilize them. The powders have zero calories, neutral flavor and are non-allergenic.  The powders are used in pastas to make them healthier, with the bakery market the strongest buyer of these ingredients.

The pet food market is also coming on strong for the company because pets need the fiber, just as much as people, according to Ryan Boldt, one of the corporation’s food scientists.

The company originated in southern Germany and is wholly owned by the Rettenmaier family with J. Rettenmaier as president.  Their expansion in Schoolcraft began in 1997 and they now have plants in Portage and Iowa.

Thorsten Willmann, the general manager came here about six years ago from Germany and has grown the U.S. version to another level with his vision and management style, according to Boldt who came to Schoolcraft after graduating from the University of Missouri and University of Michigan Flint’s MBA program in food science.

The FDA recommends up to 25 grams of fiber be consumed per day to obtain the maximum health benefit.  Some of this requirement can be obtained by the food additive fibers that J. Rettenmaier produces.  The company crushes apples, potatoes, peas and many other foods to make insoluble fibers that maintain integrity throughout a person’s digestive process, according to Boldt.

The company makes many different fibers going into food. Some of them are displayed in jars on the wall of the conference room.
The company makes many different fibers going into food. Some of them are displayed in jars on the wall of the conference room.

Fiber is nature’s pipe cleaner that scrubs the inside of the gut, he adds.  The product can also increase the shelf life of frozen breads and pizza dough with its healthy ingredients.  The company is SQF certified (Safe Quality Foods) through strict auditing and monitoring.

Cupcakes by the Dozen or Maybe Just One for January Dieters

Korina Thompson, owner and baker of the Salted Cupcake shop.
Korina Thompson, owner and baker of the Salted Cupcake shop.

By Sue Moore

Indulgences are easily forgiven during the holidays. The new Salted Cupcake shop, 224 N. Grand St., in Schoolcraft had any number of choices for the sweet tooth for its grand opening during the Christmas Walk and the three weeks afterwards.

Owner, baker, and saleslady, Korina Thompson, has a solution for the holiday indulgences. For the January special, she will offer the “Biggest Loser” cupcake, a low fat and low sugar pineapple angel food cake.

You need not worry that it will taste like cardboard as the many customers walking into her shop keep marveling at the freshness, the taste, and the quality of the cupcakes.

“You can make a cupcake with most anything, bacon, herbs, cheese frosting; they are all delicious,” Thompson says.

One of her most popular creations is her bacon chocolate chip cupcake. It is a maple cake with candied bacon, cinnamon sugar walnuts, and chocolate chips.

Her January menu also offers a browned butter cupcake filled with spiced pears and a goat cheese frosting as an example of her creativity and love of flavor combinations.

Her other January special is called a Champagne Manhattan that isn’t for the dieter but will get rave reviews from those who can afford the calories. It’s made of champagne vanilla cake and cherry sweet vermouth buttercream.

Thompson perfected the signature cupcake for which the store was named. It is a salted caramel, dark chocolate, and peanut butter confection that gets its unique flavor from the combination of the salt and sugar. It sells out every day with eight dozen the usual allotment, in addition to the monthly menu specials. Everythingis made fresh daily by Thompson.

Guests dining in have the option of washing down their sweets with whole, two percent or vanilla soy milk in a tall glass rimmed with sprinkles, or they can enjoy a cup of fresh coffee. It is roasted especially for The Salted Cupcake weekly, ground daily, and made to order in 51 oz. French presses.

Thompson’s cupcakes have been getting rave reviews.

Melissa Bosma on the left and Kelly Kiser on the right.
Melissa Bosma on the left and Kelly Kiser on the right.

“Best cupcake I have ever had,” says Melissa Bosma, returning with her cousin to purchase another round of delicacies.

Maddy Ring, Schoolcraft High School senior says, “It is a very unique store with the best frosting I have ever tasted. The specialty salted cupcake is to die for.”

Thompson is new to Schoolcraft, having found the vacant storefront at 224 Grand St. while searching for the perfect location. Until then she paid the bills with her job as a waitress at Bonefish in Grand Rapids.

She has always had a passion for baking according to her mother, Sharon Amsterburg, who helped out in the store over the holidays.

“I never even cooked a meal at home, but Korina loved to cook and experiment,” she says. “My friends would remark that they couldn’t believe she was my daughter.”

After graduation from Grand Valley State University’s hospitality school, Thompson decided to start her own beverage catering and bartending business in Manistee. Although she loved bartending, her passion was food and baking.

She spent several years in Grand Rapids waitressing and attending The Secchia Culinary Institute at GRCC, refining her recipes while baking for friends and colleagues at work.

Now she gets up each morning at 3:30 a.m. to start making cupcakes for the store opening at 11 a.m. She stays open until about 6 p.m. and Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. or until the last crumb is sold, she says.

Specials are posted on The Salted Cupcake’s Facebook page, along with the monthly menu including the vegan and wheat free choices on Wednesdays. The store is open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. It is closed on Sunday so Thompson can rest up and do her planning for the week ahead.

The opening during the Christmas Walk had its moments of terror when both ovens she was using broke down and her supplier had to hurry to Schoolcraft with a quick substitute. She sold over 20 dozen cupcakes on the opening day after all the repairs were made.

Thompson is a one person shop owner who hopes to expand the business into wedding orders, savory appetizer cupcakes, birthday parties, and other sweet endeavors.

Vicksburg Council Receives Symbolic Keys to New Pavilion

Left: Kristine Powers Aubry, Margaret Kerchief, Ken Schippers, and Bill Adams display  the block of wood as the keys to the newly built pavilion at the Historic  Village.
Left: Kristine Powers Aubry, Margaret Kerchief, Ken Schippers, and Bill Adams display the block of wood as the keys to the newly built pavilion at the Historic Village.

By Sue Moore

The symbolic handing over of the keys to the new pavilion by the Historical Society leadership took place at the last December meeting of the Vicksburg Village Council.  Having no keys to give since the structure has no doors, Margaret Kerchief and Kristina Powers Aubry, president and vice-president respectively, handed over a block of wood to Ken Schippers, acting village manager.

The two representatives of the Historical Society were leaving their posts as officers at the end of December and wanted to tie up loose ends of their two years of work on the pavilion and other projects.

It has been the norm in the past for any building constructed in the Historic Village to be given over to Village ownership, once it has been completed, as the park is Village property.

A unique arrangement between the Village, the Historical Society and the Historic Village was worked out in 2007 where the buildings’ interiors are the Society’s responsibility, but the land and the exterior of the buildings are owned and cared for by the Village of Vicksburg.

Thus, the ceremonial keys to the pavilion were handed over.  Nevertheless, Powers Aubry and Kerchief cited the work that still needs to be accomplished for the spring opening of the Farmers’ Market.  The steel roof, the electrical finishing work, and future construction of bathrooms will be needed to complete the project.

Additional funds will be needed but the Council accepted the symbolic keys with the caveat that the Historical Society would continue to raise money and complete the construction through Frederick Construction Company which has donated time and talents to coordinate the project.

Powers Aubry also gave an update on the Historic Village Committee’s strategic plan, which was finalized in December, so that she could feel that her work was done.  She has been the long-serving chair of this committee that is appointed by the Village Council and answerable to it via yearly reports.

The plan includes other buildings that might be built in the Historic Village.  A general store is envisioned with a sweet shop, such as Doris-Lee’s used to be.  Much of their equipment was donated to the Historical Society a few years ago.

A small chapel to go with the gazebo already on the property would follow  so that weddings could be performed in an enclosed place.  Other buildings in the dreaming stages are an opera house, a granary, spring house, and a mint.

Schoolcraft Principal Named Regional Principal of the Year

Aimee McCaw honored for her work at Schoolcraft’s Elementary School.
Aimee McCaw honored for her work at Schoolcraft’s Elementary School.

 By Morgan Macfarlane

Elementary Principal Amie McCaw has been named regional principal of the year by the Michigan Elementary and Middle Schools Principal Association (MEMSPA).

McCaw learned she had been given this prestigious honor in mid-November, but she was really surprised by a video created by Schoolcraft Elementary staff and students, shown at the annual MEMSPA conference in early December.

“I was very surprised and honored to have received the nomination for this year,” McCaw said. “There are many outstanding principals in our state and I was very humbled to be recognized by such a great organization. I have served this organization for seven years as a legislative representative, conference planning committee and will be serving on the Executive Board for Principal Professional Development beginning next year.”

McCaw has been a principal for seven years, two of them at Schoolcraft Community Schools.

The Ultimate Weight Loss Procedure

By Sue Moore

Making a New Year’s resolution to lose weight isn’t so easy for some people who are morbidly obese. Options for those people include bariatric surgery.

Darci Schimp, a Vicksburg High School and Michigan State University graduate, counsels bariatric patients in her work in Bronson Hospital’s Medical and Surgical Weight Management Department.

Her work involves teaching, pre and post-surgery, and counseling for life-changing behavior. She works with a team which includes a dietitian, a psychiatrist and the physician.

Patients have to be followed and cleared well in advance if they are requesting the surgery.  They have to work at exercising although some with severe health issues find it hard to meet the exercise requirement, she says.

Still, this is a second chance for some people who have not been able to lose weight any other way, she says, so they have chosen surgery to help battle diabetes, heart disease and other life-threatening weight issues.

Many advances have been made so bariatric surgery is less risky. Today there are four types of procedures available.  The first is lap band where a cinch is placed around the stomach.  A second procedure reduces the size of the top of the stomach; a third option is a bypass where the intestine gets stapled; and, finally, there’s a procedure where 80 percent of the stomach gets removed.

Some insurance companies will cover bariatric surgery because they realize their expenses will be less costly ten years later when the patient does not develop diabetes and other life-threatening diseases, Schimp says.

“It gives a person a second chance and my job is to make sure they don’t go back to their old eating habits that caused the weight gain in the first place,” she says.

Clinical Trial Volunteers Pave Way for Better Healthcare

Beth Prudden waits for tests being run on her by staff of the Jasper Clinic.
Beth Prudden waits for tests being run on her by staff of the Jasper Clinic.
Photo courtesy of the Jasper Clinic.

By Kaye Bennett

Beth Prudden of Schoolcraft says that volunteering for a clinical drug trial had been on her bucket list for a long time.  Her husband David had volunteered when he worked at Bronson Methodist Hospital; so had their son Mark, while he was a college student.  But Beth’s schedule never permitted it until she retired in 2011.  When she saw a newspaper ad from Jasper Clinic, seeking female volunteers for a trial of a breast cancer drug, Prudden went on line for more details.

Located on the Bronson Hospital campus in downtown Kalamazoo, the Jasper Clinic, built by The Upjohn Company and Bronson in 1984, conducts human trials of existing medications and potential new medications, as well as medical devices and diagnostic tests, such as glucose monitors.  While most of its work is for pharmaceutical companies, the clinic has also done trials for device makers, medical foundations and food companies.  Jasper became an independent business in 2003, after separating from Pfizer.

The clinic staff, comprised of nurses, lab technicians, pharmacists, a dietician, physicians, recruiters staff coordinators and project managers, is highly trained and very experienced, says Dean Knuth, Jasper’s president and chief executive officer.  Some have worked in Kalamazoo research units since the 1970s, when Bronson and The Upjohn Company collaborated to form the Bronson Clinical Investigational Unit (BCIU) by converting one hospital floor across the street from research labs.

Prudden learned about her study in the newspaper, but volunteer recruitment for studies also includes social media, radio spots and promotional materials in physicians’ offices.  However, “Word of mouth is the best tool,” says Knuth.

Prudden’s experience, like that of all Jasper volunteers, started with a trip to the clinic, where the study coordinator explained the study (the “protocol”) to her.  “Safety is paramount.  We tell them as much as is known [about the drug being tested],” says Knuth.  “But it can be challenging to express scientific concepts in everyday language.”

That’s where the Institutional Review Board (IRB) comes in.  The IRB is a panel of experts that reviews every protocol in research units like the Jasper Clinic, to ensure the safety and well-being of volunteers.  The US Food and Drug Administration also needs to give permission for any study involving drugs being tested for the first time, says Knuth.

After learning the details of the study she was volunteering for, Prudden signed an Informed Consent, indicating that she understood the protocol and what would be happening.  Then she underwent a blood draw, submitted a urine specimen, had an electrocardiogram done and was examined by a physician.  The next day she got a phone call from the clinic, congratulating her:  Everything had come back normal and she qualified for the study.  “I was very excited,” says Prudden.

Prudden’s protocol consisted of three sets of three overnight stays in the clinic’s 50-bed inpatient unit, each followed by two outpatient visits.  Activities are different for each clinical trial, but all have some things in common.  Most first-time volunteers are surprised by how regimented schedules are in the clinic, says Knuth.  It’s important to the trial that blood draws be done at exactly the minute specified and even meal times and menus may be strictly regulated.  Between procedures and meals, volunteers on some trials face long hours of relative inactivity, confined to the clinic. To combat potential boredom, Jasper Clinic has a lounge, with TV, games, cards and a pool table; most volunteers spend those hours reading or web surfing, using either the computers provided on the unit or their own devices.

Volunteers in clinical trials are paid, with the amount for each study reviewed and approved by the IRB.  The amount of pay depends on the time commitment and the type of procedures conducted.  The typical pay for a 24-hour stay is approximately $175, and would-be volunteers can receive up to $40 for completing the health screen, even if they aren’t selected for the study.

Money isn’t the only thing that draws people to volunteer, says Knuth.  Some people, he says, volunteer for a particular study because they have a friend or family member affected by the disease that a drug could someday treat; others feel pride in contributing to the development of new or improved drugs, or in playing a role in helping decrease the cost of health care.

Prudden was impressed by the Jasper staff’s professionalism and gratitude toward its volunteers.  “They really look after you to make sure everything’s going well,” she says.  She also enjoyed the chance to make new friends, a fact not lost on Knuth.  “I’ve been surprised at the number of friendships struck up here by volunteers,” he says.  Many of those friends then volunteer together to serve on future studies.

Prudden points out one more benefit of volunteering.  “It’s an excellent way to get lab work done and monitor your own health,” she says.  Prudden has already completed her second clinical trial at Jasper and wants to volunteer for others she qualifies for in the future.

Even with 3,500 volunteers in its database, Jasper Clinic is in constant need of new volunteers, says Knuth. Each protocol has specific needs regarding gender, age, weight and other physical characteristics. To learn more about Jasper Clinic or to inquire about volunteering, visit or call the Jasper recruiter at 269-276-8899.