Bubs 73 Sponsors 7th Annual Bike Ride

bubs 73 2By Sue Moore

It takes a village to care about Chad “Bubba” Hildebrand. He died at age 36 in 2008. Shortly after, a foundation was started to celebrate his legacy with events taking place throughout the years, according to his mother, Kathy McCormick. The Bubs 73 Foundation was created to give back to the young people of Vicksburg, she says.

The 7th annual Benefit Bike Ride to raise funds for his foundation is set for Saturday, May 9 at high noon. “There will be upwards of 200 bike riders leaving from the Vault parking lot, depending upon the weather,” McCormick believes. “People in the community come just to watch these beautiful machines string out across the back roads, on their secret destination around Three Rivers, Mendon, and Vicksburg. We just want to make sure that the bikers’ parking area stays in a straight line out to the open field in front of Family Fare, to leave room for customers to get in and out of their store.”

Two family friends of Bubba’s, Jim Barnes, and Al Balog, volunteer as road captains and planed the route this year, with two stops along the way for food and camaraderie. The return to the Vault is slated for approximately 4:30 p.m. with Dani Jamerson’s band headlining the entertainment beginning at 6 p.m.

Bubba participated in Vicksburg High School athletics, particularly football, where he wore number 73 on his uniform. Herode bikes a lot, and so does his mother Kathy. His brother Cy Hildebrand who lives in Indianapolis, comes back often to help with other events in Bubba’s name. They also sponsor a cribbage tournament, a euchre tournament, and a golf outing to raise funds. All of the money has gone back into Vicksburg to help kids, according to McCormick. They have supported the Back Pack program, South County Community Services, Vicksburg Little League and Rocket football, the Hearty Hustle, Relay for Life, Sunset Lake Elementary walking track, and especially two scholarships in Hildebrand’s name for deserving high school seniors. The Benefit Ride usually raises $3,000 to $4,000 in registration fees.

Food for the evening meal has been donated by Bold Restaurant in Texas Corners, by Shane Sheldon who was a friend of Bubba’s, his mother reports. The Vault has also stepped up with lots of donations for the event she says. Also taking place that day in Vicksburg is the Hearty Hustle, which will end before the bikes roar out of the village.

April 1865: Civil War – The Final Days

lee at appomataxSteve Rossio, a well-known lecturer on the Civil War, will be at the Vicksburg Community Center to give a presentation on Tuesday, May 19 at 7 p.m. His talk will focus on April, 1865, the final month of the American Civil War, the fall of Richmond, the capture of Jefferson Davis (with a local connection), the road to Appomattox Court House…and the death of Abraham Lincoln.

Rossio captures those final harrowing and pivotal days of the American Civil War 150 years ago. It was a conflict that lasted four long years, claimed the lives of 700,000 people, devastated the Old South but saved the Union and brought an end to slavery. The reenactor’s presentation is sponsored by the Vicksburg Historical Society. Rossio is the Portage City historian at the Portage Library and has chronicled the history of Portage in its Heritage Library section. He is especially interested in Civil War history and travels the U.S. to reenacting events. He lectured in Vicksburg last year in October appearing in uniform as a sergeant in the Union Army and describing the life he led during his enlistment. He was so well received that the Historical Society wanted him to return, according to Ted Vliek, president of the group.

H & H Feed & Grain is Family Owned and Operated

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Ryan Hunter holds his son Houston in his arms while Reagan Hunter stands with their daughters, Payten and Kyla. Their new building is going up behind them on VW Avenue in Vicksburg.

By Sheryl Oswalt

What’s going up at the corner of W Avenue and Portage Road? The folks at H & H Feed & Grain have contracted with Zeeland-based Top Line Equipment to construct a new feed processing facility to replace their existing mill.

The original feed mill was built by Frank Woodhams in 1961. Pat Hunter, a man with a marketing degree from Western Michigan University, found himself working as a feed salesman in the mid-seventies. His father-in-law, David Huntley was in road construction. When road construction hit a rough patch, the two decided to purchase the mill from Woodhams and opened as H & H Feed & Grain on October 1, 1978.

Hunter recalls purchasing the mill while interest rates were “manageable” in the 10% range but shortly after climbed as high as 22%. Plans to make a go of the feed mill based strictly on providing feed for the local farmers was put to the test; diversification was a necessity. Hunter and Huntley figured the best way to combat receivable collection problems and pay for a mill was to raise the animals themselves, to produce feed for their own use rather than depend on others. After a period in the poultry business, they converted their farm facilities to raise hogs in 1985.

Today, the operation is owned and operated by Pat’s son, Ryan, and his wife, Reagan. Both Vicksburg graduates, they reconnected years after graduation. Together they are raising her two daughters, Kyla, 10, and Payten, 8. They recently added a son, Houston, to their family. Family is important to Ryan and Reagan. They manage the operation from their office with a view of the new mill and space for the children to play or do homework.

Along with the feed facility on Portage Road, H & H operates 20 hog facilities within a 60-mile radius of the mill where they raise over 150,000 hogs a year. They are farrow-to-finish growers, controlling the product from birth to market. Sows give birth to an average of 14 live piglets that stay with their mothers for 21 days when they are weaned from their mothers and moved to the nursery facilities. From there they grow from 14 pounds to 45 pounds. They then go to finishing barns where they are fed and are shipped to market at 290 pounds.

Hogs eat an average of five pounds of feed a day throughout their life; creating a need for 2,200 tons of feed per week. Ryan is proud to report that 93 percent of his feed ingredients come from a 50-mile radius of the mill and that approximately 50 percent of those ingredients are by-products of the cereal, flour and soybean processing and ethanol plants in Michigan. These become recycled products rather than ending up in a landfill. The new mill will be capable of producing 80 tons of feed an hour compared to the 200 tons a week produced by the old mill in the beginning years.   They mix only hog feed, with 70 percent of it for their own hogs. Hogs are now shipped to Indiana for processing, but Ryan indicated once the Clemens Food Group’s Coldwater processing plant is operational (slated for late 2017 or early 2018) they will be shipping to them. It will be the state’s only pork processing plant.

Ryan is proud to say that all their facilities are MAEAP (Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program) verified and they strive to be good neighbors and vigilant caretakers of their land and animals. Ryan gives credit to the 50-60 local residents who have a variety of special skills that range from caring for the hogs, delivering feed to over 50 locations or mixing feed from over 300 bins containing 60 different ingredients.  Many of them have known him since he was just a youngster and take pride in being part of a successful local business. Working in agriculture is both rewarding and challenging as the value of products varies so greatly, Ryan said.

Olde Mill Golf Course Serves Up Great Meal

old mill 3By Sheryl Oswalt

In their third season at Olde Mill Golf Course, owners Cheryl and Bert Hovenkamp have teamed with Creative Catering Services and The Garden Griddle to provide restaurant and banquet services for their facility at 6101 W XY Avenue in Schoolcraft. They are very excited to be actively booking events in the new banquet center. (Check out the beautiful photos on the Events tab of the Olde Mill website, http://www.oldmillgolf.net)

So where does this story begin? Educated yet still unemployed in 2010, Sarah Cox held a brainstorming session with her mother, Janice Kimble. They concluded that above all, they loved to throw parties. Much to her mother’s surprise, that evening ended with daughter Sarah going home to build a website for their new catering business. The need for access to a commercial kitchen can make entry into the catering business very difficult. They were blessed when Hope Woods Senior Community in Kalamazoo approached them with a proposal: access to the center’s commercial kitchen if they would provide meals for residents Monday through Friday. This helped them build a client base, along with participating in festivals. Catering continues to be a big part of their business with much of it being for the business sector.

In 2013, they were able to purchase a building in Mattawan and opened the first Garden Griddle on December 12. Not only have they gained a following there, they were awarded the 2014 New Business of the Year tribute by the State of Michigan.

They pride themselves on providing “farm fresh to table” meals. Sarah indicated that while each location seems to have its own best sellers, the reuben, French toast sandwich and build your own cheeseburgers seem to be popular in both locations. For those looking for a vegetarian meal, she recommends the grilled cauliflower sandwich.   They also offer gluten-free options, including bread from Free Love Bakery, a new incubator business she has been working with.   She pointed out that all their meats are oven-roasted or smoked and shaved on-site; you’ll find no deli meats in their sandwiches. Soups and deserts are created from scratch.   When in season, they do most of their shopping at the local Farmers’ Markets. To expand on their efforts to provide food fresh from the farm to the table, this year they will be planting one acre of their own vegetables for use in their catering and restaurants.

On my visit, I found the staff quick to greet us and explain the menu options. Mother-in-law Bonnie chose the reuben and I decided to give the French toast sandwich a try.   Dipped in maple syrup, the sandwich was certainly over the top—both in flavor and probably on my bathroom scales as well! Bacon, ham and Swiss cheese were sandwiched between home-made sour dough bread and grilled—yum! We didn’t save any room for dessert. Sarah says her carrot cake and chocolate cakes are the most requested.

old mill 2While everyone helps with catering, for the most part you will find Janice at the Mattawan location with Sarah’s husband Zach, and Sarah at the Schoolcraft location. They hire about 20 regular employees and have several additional on-call workers for catering events. Starting May 8 and every other Friday thereafter, Olde Mill and The Garden Griddle will be hosting a 9 & Dine couples event. Tee times start at 6 p.m. and the cost will be $35 per person. The first night’s meal is slated to include prime rib. Make a point to check out this nice new facility with a nice variety of great home-made specialties. It’s clear that they put their heart and soul into their work.

Residents Hear Special Assessment Plan

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A citizen expressing his dissatisfaction with the idea as the hearing was opened to public comment.

By Sheryl Oswalt

Residents from Brady and Wakeshma townships gathered in Vicksburg last month to hear a proposal to create a Special Assessment District to fund the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority (SKCFA) in their respective townships.

The proposal met with opposition, including calls to recall authority board members or disband the authority.

Prairie Ronde Township had also been expected to participate. A failure to provide notice to residents prevented it from doing so.

The purpose of the consolidated meeting was not only to share costs of holding the meeting at the Performing Arts Center but to provide residents with a consistent message. Randy Smith, Brady Township supervisor and chairman of the authority’s board, presented the need for the proposed changes in funding.

The authority has been underfunded since its inception in 1999. Additional funds will be required from member communities to continue the current level of service, according to Smith. Villages of Schoolcraft and Vicksburg as well as Schoolcraft Township have determined that they can continue to pay their portion of the cost, including the proposed increases, from general funds.

But Brady, Wakeshma and Prairie Ronde officials feel that they can no longer support the Authority out of their general funds and are looking at their options, including creation of a special assessment district.

The creation of the assessment district would mean that funds could only be spent for the purposes stated in its creation. Currently the townships are using general fund monies to pay their share of the cost, taking money away from other functions such as repairing deteriorating roads, Smith pointed out.

Wakeshma and Prairie Ronde are offered 50-50 cost share options through the county for road projects but aren’t able to take full advantage of the offering when their funds won’t stretch to the full extent of the match.

The amount collected in a special assessment would be limited to the amount needed to guarantee a balanced budget for the year. Each township would determine how it would spread the assessment: per property or based on state equalized valuation or taxable valuation.

Some residents were critical of the proposal. Resident John Stears proposed recalling the fire authority board. Another resident asked how residents could disband the authority. Others called for putting the special assessment issue before voters.

Another pointed out that funds were going to have to come from somewhere and that an election would not change that.

special assessment
Citizens gather at the public hearing for Brady and Wakeshma townships to determine if a special assessment district should be formed. It would help fund the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority for these two townships.

Craif Rolfe, attorney for Brady Township, pointed out that townships are not statutorily obligated to provide fire and rescue services.

Fire Authority Has Served South County for Sixteen Years

By Sheryl Oswalt

Bringing six local governments together in 1999 to form the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority was a seldom-seen act of political initiative, according to Bob Thompson, supervisor of Schoolcraft Township in that year.

The communities determined that it was no longer feasible for them to operate fire protection services individually as the expense was overwhelming their budgets. Those participating in this ground-breaking cooperation included townships of Wakeshma, Prairie Ronde, Brady and Schoolcraft and the villages of Schoolcraft and Vicksburg.

The district covers 144 square miles and is a merger of three fire departments located in the villages of Schoolcraft, Vicksburg and Fulton. Their services include fire suppression and ice and water rescue for a population of approximately 16,000. The service is run by paid-on-call personnel. The stations are not staffed.

At a recent hearing of Brady and Wakeshma Townships, Brady Township Supervisor Randy Smith explained the formula used to distribute the costs of the district to the member communities.

The formula consists of three components, recalculated annually. Components include 30% population using the decennial census, 30% on members’ property valuations and 40% based on historical usage of manpower and equipment. Using that formula, anticipated funding levels for 2015/16 are Brady, 22.72%; Prairie Ronde, 13.07%; Schoolcraft Township, 28.99%; Schoolcraft Village, 9%; Vicksburg Village, 16.88% and Wakeshma, 9.34%.

Budgets for the past 16 years have covered immediate needs with what appears to be a line item for large capital purchases, including $70,000 for trucks & tanks. But little has been available to keep up with the needs of the 45-member team of fire fighters or for ever-changing communication needs.

As a result, the authority board has been faced with the challenge of asking member communities to boost their funding to cover such needs adequately into the future.

Board President Randy Smith reported that the authority was given a $128,444 “Assistance to Firefighters Grant” in 2009 to upgrade the radio communication system. In addition, Smith reported that in the past five years the authority was fortunate to receive more than $440,000 in grants to upgrade equipment.   At the same time, it can’t continue to wait for money to fall from the sky when equipment requires constant upgrading to stay current in a service industry where lives are at stake. It’s time to right the wrongs of the past and move forward in a responsible manner, he told the audience.

The Authority’s Board prepared a comprehensive 20-year plan to look at future funding. This plan was broken down into five department cost centers; consisting of vehicles, operations, facilities, manpower and equipment. What board members learned through this process was that additional funding of $187,295 would be necessary to adequately fund their needs into the future. That proposed increase is 38 percent of the current 14-15 budget of $488,295. Of that proposed increase; 68 percent would be allocated to capital outlay in categories of clothing, communications and equipment, 31 percent to manpower and the remaining 1 percent to facilities and operations. According to the presentation, wages were based on keeping the staffing at current levels. Detailed budget documents are available at a link on the Brady Township website as well as the SKCFA.org website.

The Villages of Schoolcraft and Vicksburg as well as Schoolcraft Township plan to continue to pay for the SKCFA from their general funds. The Townships of Brady, Wakeshma and Prairie Ronde are looking into their options. Officials there feel they can no longer use general funds to cover the payment.

Fire Authority Looks to the Future

fire authority use first
The South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority board has some big issues to decide upon in the next two months. Pictured here from left to right are representatives Mike Tomlinson, from Prairie Ronde Township; Jim Deming, Wakeshma Township; Randy Smith, Brady Township; Todd Carlin, village of Schoolcraft; Bill Adams, village of Vicksburg, Don Ulsh, Schoolcraft Township.

By Sue Moore

In the old days, the “standard of coverage” for a fire department was within the radius of a mile and a half, or more importantly, how fast a horse could run without falling over dead, said Tom Wieczorek, a consultant on fire department structure. He made a presentation to the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority’s (SKCFA) board of directors in April to determine if they might want to hire him to help develop a strategic plan for the department.

“Whoever follows the members of this board, we don’t want them to have to deal with the same problems we have been facing. We want to get them resolved,” Jim Deming from Wakeshma Township stated.

During the interview, Wieczorek was charged with coming up with a document detailing the scope of work he would do, the time it would take, the deliverables, and the price. Then the board would write grants to look for the funding, Randy Smith, chairman of the SKCFA board, explained to him.

Members of the Fire Authority board told him of their expectations, their problems, and their hopes that a plan would provide. Their biggest concern seemed to be getting and keeping qualified volunteers, especially on the day shifts, Smith pointed out.

How do we recruit better? The commitment level is extreme for volunteers, even though they are paid on call. The time away from their home and family is considerable for all the training they must have.

Would the consultant be able to identify any cost savings? We need to refine the budget. Do we want to run things the same as we are today?

“There is a need to look at our structure with the officers included,” Mike Tomlinson, Prairie Ronde’s member added. Deming told Wieczorek that a promise was made to residents of Wakeshma Township that if they joined the authority, there would always be a station there, Deming, the township supervisor told the consultant. There are only about 60 to 80 calls a year out of Fulton. Currently the authority runs three separate stations, one each in the villages of Schoolcraft, Vicksburg, and Fulton. Eight-five to 95 percent of the calls are for medical services which the fire department is mandated to accompany.

Emergency Medical Services (EMS) are also a big concern. EMS is complex. You just can’t walk in and run it, Deming said. SKCFA contracts with the EMS services located in Vicksburg.

Their costs are not fully covered by Medicare, Medicaid or insurance which was formed as a nonprofit at the same time the Fire Authority was set up for the South County area.

The board members all chimed in unison, “We need to provide the best service for the least amount of money,” to end the meeting. They meet every third Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. at the EMS station behind the Bronson Vicksburg Outpatient Center. The public is welcome to attend.

Severe Weather Siren Installed at Indian Lake

2015-04-28 03.37.28Randy Smith, Brady Township Supervisor and chair of the Fire Authority board, is proud to point out the new installation of a siren that will sound whenever there is an immediate threat of severe weather approaching. It covers a two mile radius with its early warning system and was installed on the grounds of Indian Lake School last fall.

There is a large population of people around the east and south shore of Indian Lake, over 500 schoolchildren in the building nearby, and hundreds of residents in the Nazarene Camp who will be within earshot of the siren, according to Smith. “There are warning sirens in the Tobey School area, and in the villages of Vicksburg and Schoolcraft, but there was nothing to do the job at Indian Lake. Most of the camp residents and those on the lakeshore do not have basements in the event of a tornado. The campers and residents have been given information on where to seek shelter in above ground buildings,” Smith said.

Brady Township contributed $10,000 to the cost of the siren and a grant from The Vicksburg Foundation provided the remaining $10,000. The siren is activated by the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority chief or officers he might designate, with either a remote control device or by manually tripping the alarm at the station in Vicksburg for all four of the sirens according to Smith.

Gowns for Angels

Angel Gowns_02974_March 2015By John Fulton

Amid the devastating impact of the death of a newborn infant, or perhaps a stillborn, is a question grieving parents could do without. How to dress the tiny form for burial?

Krystle Chabitch and her mother, Dawn Crippen, have a solution. The two women make tiny gowns and suits for babies that don’t make it out into the world. Chabitch previously worked in a hospital environment and knows the need firsthand for these parents. She saw the grieving parents and families and felt their anguish.

The two are using donated gowns and make size-appropriate gowns and tuxes for boys and girls to be buried in. It’s a useful alternative for parents who otherwise are forced to look for burial clothing at stores that sell doll clothing or stores that provide a place to dress a do-it-yourself stuffed animal.

Chabitch heard of the idea first, but her mother said “We could totally do something like that.” Chabitch chimed in saying, “We help families through difficult times dealing with death. We wanted to ease the pain by offering them an alternative to doll clothing.”

Chabitch and Crippen use donated gowns from weddings, communion ceremonies and christenings to make the burial gowns. Each gown is repurposed into gowns with embellishments for girls and tuxedos for boys. The mother receives a matching heart made from the same material and embellishments as a keepsake. They are currently getting the inventory built up so they can begin providing the gowns in April to local hospitals and funeral homes.

They’re a part of Angel Gowns, a national organization based in Indianapolis, Indiana. It is celebrating a year of providing the service and is now a 501c3, able to accept tax-deductible contributions. The group has provided about 800 angel gowns this past year. Locally one of the hospitals would need about 5 gowns per month. They hope to provide gowns for both local hospitals in the near future.

Chabitch and Crippen believe they can supply the local need. The work is being accomplished entirely through donations and they could use donations of gowns in white, cream or light pastel. They also need a variety of swing supplies like material, buttons ribbon and lace.

Angel Gowns could use some critical donations, including dress forms, three wheeled chairs, office desk, eight foot tables, scissors, buttons, a variety of white, cream, pink and blue thread, and especially gift cards for Jo Ann Fabrics.

They have established two drop-off locations in the area: The Cutting Edge Salon in Vicksburg and Teddy Bear and Dollies at 6305 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo.

Chabitich and Grippen can be reached at 269-475-8016. Their Little Angel Gowns SW MI chapter has a Facebook page and a Pinterest page.

Schoolcraft Sports Photos