Monthly Archives: April 2014

Science Night

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Science Night at Vicksburg Middle School: Families from the Vicksburg Middle School (VMS)were treated to science activities and exhibits when they attended the Family Science Night in March. Representatives from several area industries were present to demonstrate how science can be applied in daily life, business, careers and hobbies. It was sponsored by the VMS Science Department and VMS. Pfizer, Bridge Organics, Sheriff’s Department Crime lab, Dovetails of SW Michigan, Bronson Hospital, Critchlow Alligator Sanctuary, and Earth Explorations were the presenters.

Pictured here are: Ayden Flickinger (orange sweater); MacKenzie Hogue (goggles & hairnet); Chase Stenger, (orange striped hat looking through microscope); unidentified person looking through the twin lens of the microscope. Science Night photos by Jammi Fuller.

Schoolcraft National Honor Society Inductees

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Schoolcraft High School was first granted a NHS charter in 1957. This charter was reactivated in 1959 and has been functioning continually since that time. A student must maintain an average of 3.5 or better in core classes in order to qualify for membership. Academic performance, however, is only one of the qualities which determines a student’s eligibility. The four other criteria for membership into NHS are: scholarship, leadership, character, and service. New inductees are placed on probation for the first year. During this year, new members must continue to maintain a 3.5 average and conduct themselves as befits an honor student according to Pelton. Photos by Stefanie Blentlinger

Vicksburg School District Staff Participate in Wellness Program

By Sue Moore

Wellness is a goal many people work to obtain, and not so many succeed, said Kim Armitage, science teacher at Vicksburg High School. She is the positive force for the employees of the Vicksburg School District as she spearheads the drive for healthy school employees through an incentive offer of a ‘Fitbit’ to every person signing up for the wellness program that was run through West Michigan Health insurance staff.

“We thought it was a good idea to offer a ‘carrot’ to sign up for this goal setting opportunity. We asked the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation if they would finance the cost of the gadget that participants could use to track steps, distance, calories burned, and stairs climbed. They agreed to fund the ‘Fitbit’ for whatever number of staff that signed up for the program and we
were off and running,” she said.

Joining the program did involve a commitment to fill out a questionnaire about current exercise activities, foods consumed, and a blood draw that would give the status of cholersterol and sugars as a base line. When that was completed, staff were
provided the ‘fitbit’. It was expected that over 100 personnel would take part in the program, she said.

The instrument clips on to clothing and measures the above items along with monitoring sleep patterns. Participants can set up their own goals, exercise regimen, fiber intake and reducing the amount of sugar they eat. The important thing is motivation to reach goals by bringing greater fitness into each person’s life, Armitage said.

Dancing with the Stars Helps South County Community Services

By Sue Moore

Dancing the night away is a fun way to raise money, especially if it is for a good cause, says Jim Shaw, board member of South County Community Services (SCCS). He should know, as his band played for many years for dances, but that meant he and his wife Virginia didn’t have much chance to “cut a rug,” he says.

The “Dance Across the Decades” will be held on Saturday, April 26, from 7 to 11 p.m. at Local 357 Plumbers and Pipe-fitters Union Hall, 11847 Shaver Road in Schoolcraft. Seventy-five percent of the ticket price of $75 per couple or $40 per individual is tax deductible and goes directly to provide client services at SCCS, Danna Downing, executive director says.

Shaw is one of the ten SCCS board members who has worked hard over the years to raise funds for the agency. He claims that he will need to purchase a brand new set of shoes. This is not because the old ones are worn out but his current choice of foot wear has rubber soles, and they likely will be sticking to the dance floor all night. This time he expects to be twirling Virginia around
to make up for all the years they missed.

It’s all for a good cause, he says, so those who just want to get together with friends, have a fun evening and support SCCS, are urged to attend. The tickets are available from any of the board members or just by calling the SCCS office at 649-2901. Tickets include music, food, and prizes for best steppers. The music will be provided by DJ Dan Can who plays all kinds of music from the 1940s through the present.

Board member Kristina Powers Aubry has planned the gourmet delights and munchies for the occasion, and ordered up plenty of beer, wine and soft drinks. She has a raffle going with prizes such as free rounds of golf at Angels Crossing, custom made furniture and other surprises she will only reveal that evening.

People who don’t want to dance but would surely enjoy watching the Shaws get moving on the dance floor, should get their tickets
reserved right now, says Larry Forsyth. He is also on the board and expecting to be in the peanut gallery on April 26.

Vicksburg Rotary Club Selects Tim Moore as its Hero for 2014

ImageTimothy Moore, a long-time Rotarian with a strong community involvement, has been chosen as Vicksburg Rotary Club’s Hero of the year. He has had perfect attendance since joining the Club in1964. He has held all of the Club’s leadership positions and was honored by the Club as a Paul Harris Fellow.

He has participated in the annual Vicksburg Rotary Showboat for 50 years, served on the script committee, in the chorus, and as a cast member. His community involvement has included: Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation, Vicksburg District Library expansion project, high school locker room building fund raiser, Vicksburg Historical Society, the local United Way committee, and most recently the community pavilion project where he procured trees and supervised the mill sawing of the timber.

He will be honored in May at the Rotary District Conference in Kalamazoo, when the 64 clubs in the area, come together. Other Vicksburg Rotarians who have been selected for this honor in past years include Warren Lawrence, Gordon Oswalt, Richard Coppes, and Jim Shaw.

Former Vicksburg Faculty Member Heads Up Project Lead the Way for KRESA

Members from local corporations who participate in PLTW, gathered in the Schoolcraft Middle School media center to see a slide presentation from Principal Chris Ebsch and Jason Luke (pictured below with Ebsch’s arm in a sling).

By Sue Moore

Science has become more hands on for students in the Schoolcraft and Vicksburg school systems through a KRESA program known as Project Lead The Way (PLTW). Jason Luke, a former counselor in the Vicksburg School system, moved to KRESA two years ago and pretty soon, PTLW was part of his responsibility.

He and others at KRESA researched what was needed by local industry, often hearing back that they need machinists, welders, and the like, coming out of area high schools. The hope was to find a program that could be integrated into math and science classes in K-5, 6-8, and finally in high school, in order to plant this seed early.

They found a good model in both the Jackson and Lenawee Intermediate School Districts and decided to adapt it to Kalamazoo County. They did this in Schoolcraft Middle School Carol Lafave’s, design and modeling class, Portage schools, Vicksburg’s course was set for Dave Vales Engineer and Design classroom in the high school.

Kayla Julien and Mikayla Meade, build a book tower out of masking tape.

The challenge was to find corporations to underwrite the cost of training and equipment needed to start the courses in 2013/14 school year. Luke approached the SW Manufacturers Consortium and ten companies donated the needed startup funds. At the same time, Vicksburg received a three-year grant for $35,000 from General Motors to expand the course in high school and even add a
class in robotics.

In Lafave’s Schoolcraft classroom, the industry representatives are right beside the kids, thinking ideas through, working hand-in-hand. The students are eating it up, Luke says. “The teacher becomes the guide and the students become the
problem solvers. He said “They want to produce something vs. handing in a paper that’s about half-done, as some of the more disengaged students have been known to do.”

In Vicksburg, it was all about redeveloping the drafting program because as in most high schools, woodworking, metals and home economics have been eliminated.

One year after first seeking support for introducing the science/tech education program known as Project Lead The Way (PLTW) into Kalamazoo County schools, organizers thanked the corporate sponsors and business leaders with a Manufacturers Appreciation Day in late February.

“We’re grateful to all the corporate partners who stepped up to help hundreds of students participate this year at our pilot sites: Portage Central and Schoolcraft Middle Schools and Vicksburg High School,” said Luke. “We’ve had more than 40 business volunteers, including machinists, engineers and management, working side by side with our students as they create, design, build, become frustrated and eventually produce a finished product. During the appreciation day, the business partners heard from the students themselves on why this effort is so worth it.”

River Fox, Riley Watts, and Nick Versluis show industrial representatives their work.

Luke says PLTW will expand to reach 3,000 to 4,000 young people in eight area middle schools next school year, and he anticipates up to 10,000 students participating throughout Kalamazoo County by the 2015-2016 school year.

Corporate sponsors of PLTW in Kalamazoo County schools include Accu-Mold, Humphrey Products, Schupan & Sons, Flowserve, American Axle & Manufacturing, General Motors, Stryker Corp., Graphic Packaging and Autocam. The program also has received funding from the Hall Technology Initiative and the Southwest Michigan Technology Consortium.

Now taught in more than 5,000 schools nationwide, Project Lead The Way engages students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) courses using hands-on, inquiry-based methods.

“Through this world-class curriculum and the partnership of area business leaders, students of today will
become the higher-level thinkers and problem-solvers needed for the workforce of tomorrow,” Luke said.Image

DDA Strategic Planning Begins for Downtown Vicksburg

Tanya DeLong and Jamie Poel listen to Kathy Hoyle, the DDA acting director, explain the visioning process the DDA is putting together.

By Sue Moore

A lot of dreaming took place at the strategic planning session for the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA). Seventeen residents met at the invitation of Kathy Hoyle, the acting director and expert in strategic planning, having already led the Village Council through the process and South County Community Services board.

A few of the common themes that arose from the two hours of discussion at the visioning session were the small town atmosphere, the historic theme in the community, the outdoor amenities, and the shopping, dining and entertainment offered. These will all be studied and elaborated upon while preparing a strategic plan to bring to the DDA board and village council for approval.

Hoyle’s position was partially funded by the Vicksburg Foundation with half of the six-month salary coming from funds held through its Tax Increment Financing (TIF) powers. Her charge from the Foundation and the DDA board, in creating the director’s post, was to bring citizens together to construct a foundation and structure for growth for the village.

The first step is the strategic planning session, focusing on strengths, struggles, opportunities and then creating a vision. She and Bill Adams, village president, went door to door downtown to meet the business owners, recruit them to take part in the process and get their input, even if they couldn’t attend all five planning sessions.

“A lot of very passionate people want to help and get involved,” Adams reported after his walk-about. Once the strategic plan is agreed upon, then a business plan to focus the DDA on a path of growth and activities to differentiate itself from other communities will be prepared. The third phase will be to implement the plans, launch new initiatives, and initiate marketing and communications activities.

Didik Soekarmoen, who sits on the DDA board and the Vicksburg Foundation, said he was really happy to see the changes and progress over the last few months. “The encouragement from the Foundation was just the kick we needed to get going,” Adams added.

The tools the DDA will have at its disposal include the tax capture funds from a 1995 tax base and the difference in the appreciated value of properties within the boundaries of the DDA. At present, this amounts to approximately $75,000 for 2015, once the Rise and Dine building is sold to John and Debbie Debault, the current lease holders.

Lions Club Schedules Clean-Up Day in Vicksburg

clean up day 009Rakes, shovels, and trash bags, will be needed to gather the last vestiges of winter when the Vicksburg Lions Club spends Saturday, April 19, cleaning up sites around the village from 9 a.m. to noon.

Lions Club members and any other volunteers will clean-up sites including the Kids Connection facility on W. Prairie Street, Sunset Elementary, South County Community Services, and the community gardens. They will also be raking leaves at local residences.

Recently, the service day has also been coordinated with the Vicksburg Little League’s own spring cleanup at their facilities. This year, volunteers will work at this site as well as Sunset Lake Park, the high school courtyard, and the new community pavilion.

The Lions Club has sponsored these bi-annual service days for several years now in order to refocus its efforts as a local service club. Up to 60 volunteers have joined them in the past years.

Individual volunteers and other community groups are encouraged to join in the effort. Interested parties can get more information and a site assignment by emailing the club’s service coordinator Katie Grossman at

Vicksburg is Home to a Minerals and Mining Company


By Sue Moore

Chris Hayward of Schoolcraft got his start in manufacturing just after high school in Vicksburg by stacking bags of perlite at Harborlite in 1987. Imerys acquired Harborlite Corporation in 2005, and the company has now been renamed Imerys Perlite USA, Inc.

Hayward has now moved up the chain of command to become U.S. Perlite Operations Manager of North America Filtration Minerals.

Other long-time employees are Peg Parsons, Mike Crouch, and Troy Cantwell, who have been with the company since 1975, 1987, and 1989, respectively. This longevity, speaks well for the company that has transitioned from ownership by the Blunt family to Imerys International, based in Paris, France.

Robert Blunt, Sr., founder of the company, saw the potential of a perlite based filter aid in 1948, when he was Grefco Minerals sales manager. He felt that the perlite mineral would make a terrific filtration aid, but the management didn’t see it that way, so he went out on his own, forming Harborlite Corporation in 1951.

Blunt purchased a perlite mine in Arizona in 1959 to have control of the product from end to end. His sons, Robert Jr., Bill and Dave, joined sometime thereafter, charged with opening a plant in Vicksburg, Michigan, in 1969 to be near the Upjohn Corporation, which became a steady customer. In 1992, World Minerals bought out the family interests, but Bill and Dave stayed on to run the corporation until 1997.

Meanwhile, Hayward had been transferred to World Minerals Headquarters in Santa Barbara, CA working as a technical services manager, but his wife wanted to come back to this area, where she has deep roots.

All this time, Hayward had been working his way through college, first KVCC then WMU, finally obtaining a BA in business in 2004.

He had left Harborlite to return to Michigan but got a phone call in 2005 from the new owners, Imerys, asking him to return as Vicksburg plant manager and U.S. operations manager, his dream job. He oversees eight plants in the U.S. and travels about two weeks out of each month.

The Vicksburg location is one of eight operations in the U.S. focused on mining and minerals. The plants are located close to each one’s customer base, with the actual mine for perlite in Superior, Arizona.

Chris Hayward holds up a bag of Perlite at the Imerys plant on W Avenue in Vicksburg.

Imerys is the largest industrial mining company in the world supplying mineral derived products to all kinds of industries, including but not limited to paint, inks, construction products, plastics, sealants and adhesives, lawn care and landscaping, health and beauty and nutrition products. It had revenues of $5.1 billion in 2013, with 15,800 employees.

The perlite that is processed in Vicksburg is largely used as a filtration media used in industrial enzymes, pharmaceutical fermentation broths, vegetable oils, fruit juices, corn sweeteners, beet sugar, alginates, waste and pool water, and inorganic chemicals.

There are nine employees in the local plant who know the business of expanding, sizing, and grinding the perlite to meet the performance requirements of the various industries. They can ship an order the same day or at least within one week, which allows them to stay ahead of their competitors who might need months to do the same, Hayward says.