Monthly Archives: August 2015

Celebrating Social Security and Medicare’s Anniversaries

A celebration will be taking place at the August 17 meeting of Kalamazoo County Advocates for Senior Issues (KCASI): the 80th anniversary of Social Security and 50th birthday of Medicare. These programs have been life changing for millions of people throughout the years, though not without controversy.

Social Security was signed into law by President Franklin D. Roosevelt on August 14, 1935, in the midst of the Great Depression. It was a sweeping bill that produced programs such as unemployment compensation and public assistance as well as old age pensions.

Medicare was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson on July 30, 1965, with a declaration: “No longer will older Americans be denied the healing miracle of modern medicine.” Medicare was originally conceived as a foundation of universal healthcare coverage. Although that expansion never occurred, in 1972 it was expanded to provide coverage to persons with permanent disabilities and end-stage renal disease.

The public is invited to join KCASI members to celebrate these momentous programs with cake and a program that looks at history; remembers why these programs are important and some thoughts for the future. The meeting, on Monday, Aug. 17, begins at 1:15 p.m. at Senior Services, 918 Jasper Street, Kalamazoo.

50th Anniversary Golf Outing

blue-sky-wallpaper-photo-and-white-golf-ball-in-green-field-stock-free-photos-for-commercial-use-General Motors’ Fisher body plant came to Kalamazoo some fifty years ago and brought with it lots of folks looking for good-paying jobs. It’s time to get this group together once again, according to Bruce Aldrich. He has organized the 50th anniversary golf outing for UAW workers and salaried employees on Friday, Sept. 18, at State’s Golf course between Schoolcraft and Vicksburg.

There will be a shotgun start at 10 a.m. as a four-person scramble. Prizes will be awarded for the longest drive for men from the gold tees, women from the red tees. A putting contest on the front and back practice putting green is offered at $2 per person entry fee, above the $30 each for the actual 18 holes and buffet lunch in the club house.

The event is limited to 144 former employees and their guests, according to Aldrich. He can be reached at 269-345-4010 for further information and registration.

Seaver Named as New Vicksburg Arts Director

Leeanne Seaver has been appointed to lead the new Vicksburg Village Arts & Cultural Center.
Leeanne Seaver has been appointed to lead the new Vicksburg Village Arts & Cultural Center.

Where does one find an academically strong, arts-oriented high school with big-city resources and small-town values?

The search brought Leeanne Seaver back her to alma mater, Vicksburg High School. “When we returned from New Zealand, where my daughter, Makena, started high school, we thought we’d have to move back to Denver or maybe even Chicago. We were thrilled to discover that what we wanted was right here in Vicksburg,” Seaver said.

Now graduated, Makena Seaver, VHS ’15, agrees that Vicksburg turned out to be just what she was looking for when they located to the area. “Makena began her freshmen year at Kelston Girls College—one of six students of European descent among 856 Polynesians in Waitekere, West Auckland.

“It was an amazing experience. That’s hard to beat for broadening her education, but we really couldn’t be happier with how it continued to develop here in Vicksburg,” Leeanne explained. The focus on music and theatre was the key. Makena dove right into plays, band, musicals, and she took advantage of the Advanced Placement Extended Fine Arts Program available cooperatively at Portage Central High School. “It was tailor-made for Makena, and it turned out to be just the right place for me, too,” Leeanne said.

Thanks to the strong values this community has placed on the arts, the Village’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) made a commitment to promote the creative culture in Vicksburg.  Seaver has been hired as Director of the Arts to lead efforts to establish an artists’ collaborative gallery, to enhance both visual and performing arts in the community, and to create a network of artists in Vicksburg and the surrounding area.  There are currently over 60 members listed in the Arts Collaborative, representing a wide range of visual and performance arts.

Seaver grew up in the Vicksburg area but moved out of state after high school. She brings back her experience as an award-winning producer, published author and freelance writer, and photographer.  Leeanne holds a masters of arts degree from the University of Denver, Colorado, where she worked in broadcasting for over 20 years.  She co-founded and directed the national non-profit organization Hands & Voices, and continues to serve on its board.  That combination of skills took her to New Zealand where she worked as a consultant in communication, public relations, and media. “I think my diverse background will lend itself to the challenge of showcasing the amazing creative brain trust in our community,” Seaver said.

Efforts have already begun on setting up the Vicksburg Village Arts & Cultural Center (VACC) that will focus on a wide range of activities. A top priority is launching a gallery to feature fine art painting, drawing, pottery, jewelry, leather, metal, fiber, wood and photography, as well as provide space for music and performing arts events. The VACC plans to hold workshops, demonstrations, a speaker series, and perhaps music classes in the future.  A “soft opening” is set for on Thursday, September 10.  It will provide an opportunity for invited guests to mingle and meet in a gallery location which is currently under negotiation.

There is an ongoing call for artists to exhibit and work in the gallery.  For more information on how to become involved in the artist collaborative network, those interested are encouraged to email The network will be open to artists in Kalamazoo and surrounding counties as well as the local community.

The Authority has spearheaded the endeavor to celebrate Vicksburg’s heritage by showcasing unique boutiques in historic storefronts and welcomes dining, event and entertainment opportunities to enhance quality of life in the region. For more information contact

Artists and Exhibitors Sought for Arts Gallery

The picture is taking a little time to develop, but The Gallery at Vicksburg’s Cultural & Arts Center will be viewed clearly in a “soft opening” for invited guests on Thursday, Sept. 10.

The time is set: 5-7 p.m. So is the location. But since negotiating for the downtown storefront site was underway as the South County News was going to press, it hasn’t been revealed.

Nevertheless, artists are actively being solicited to submit their work for a juried review at the opening. Up to a dozen will be selected for their painting, sculpture, metallurgy, pottery, photography and more, to be featured at the opening event.

Currently over 60 members listed in the Vicksburg Arts Collaborative have indicated an interest in this endeavor, sponsored by the Downtown Development Authority. For months, about 10 have met regularly under the direction of Kathleen Hoyle, DDA director, to discuss shared goals for a gallery in town. That effort continues with newly-hired Arts Director Leeanne Seaver, who will work directly with artists at the gallery, as well as producing several other events annually.

Fine arts as well as space for performing arts events, readings, and musical performances are envisioned for the gallery space which is currently being planned for downtown Vicksburg. Interested artists in all areas of the arts should contact Seaver at as soon as possible.

Blast from the Past

blast margosThis Schoolcraft postcard was postmarked in 1949. The Cottage Lunch on Grand Street, was owned by Charles “Pop” Keyser.  It later became Molnar’s in the 1950s and 60s, owned by Frank and Fern Molnar. It was known as the Village Inn from 1971 to 1981, owned by Roger and Carol Eichler. From 1983 to 1995 it was Bell’s Family Restaurant, owned by Jim and Norma Bell. Its most recent name of Marjo’s was for a time called Marjo’s West when there was a Marjo’s East in Vicksburg. They were both owned by Ken and Cheryl Fowler. The Vicksburg restaurant burned so now the restaurant on Grand Street is simply Marjo’s, owned by Rob Swarts and family.

DDA Annual Meeting Unveils Plans for Vicksburg’s Downtown

ddaBy Travis Smola

The Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority has major plans in the works for the downtown area.

After months of planning, a three-phase development plan calling for approximately $7.6 million of downtown redevelopment was unveiled at the authority’s July meeting. The goal is to transform and redefine the area. “Downtown Vicksburg will be a premiere destination that embraces our rich heritage,” said Director Kathleen Hoyle.

The first stage was the establishment of new downtown area boundaries for improvements and future use of grants. The new boundaries cover both sides of streets and all properties downtown. Previously, the boundaries were somewhat spotty in those areas.

The next phase is design for downtown amenities, including a new bike and trail system, architectural revival, park and municipal center development. The final phase will be identifying and applying for grants to help fund the projects.

“We’ve really been working on planning,” Hoyle said of the three-year plan. “That’s what’s going to put that infrastructure in place.”

One of the projects will be a façade program intended to restore historic buildings to their original appearance. “We’re going to have the funds available to make our downtown look as it did in 1880,” said Tanya DeLong, board treasurer. The authority plans to use historic photographs and grants to aid in this restoration process.

DeLong said board members are also planning wider sidewalks and bigger awnings on buildings to make the downtown area more friendly to shoppers. In addition, she said, many of the two-story buildings have dilapidated second floors they hope to see restored. “We can get grants to repair much of that stuff,” she said.

As a bonus, a historic tax designation would be expanded into much of the downtown region offering tax credits for anyone who buys an historic building. They plan to hire a consultant still to do a profile on each of the buildings.

To assist with development of a trail system and improvement and development of more park areas, the board has brought in Bill Deming, retired Parks, Recreation and Public Services director in Portage, as a consultant. “I was very excited to see what Vicksburg had in mind,” Deming said. Currently, he is working on getting funding from MDOT and the DNR to help with new trail construction. “If we can get this in, you’ll be amazed what this trail can do for a lot of things here,” Deming said. “It’s going to be a tremendous asset.”

Developing, growing and retaining downtown business will also be a part of the plan. Mike Oswalt, a board member, encouraged the public to take part in public surveys about the kinds of businesses people would like to see. “Let us know which of these business categories you think Vicksburg should have,” he said. They will use the feedback to put together plans for finding new businesses and helping existing ones fill those needs.

The presenters also discussed integration of arts, culture, parking area development, green initiatives and traffic safety issues. Vicksburg Village President Bill Adams acknowledged it was a massive plan; the authority would need a lot of support. “We want to call you together to work on what I think is going to be a game-changer for Vicksburg,” Adams said. “We’re going to have to enlist the support of all the people in South County [to get this done].”

Additional details of the DDA’s plans, including the project’s boundaries, can be viewed on its new website:

Partnership with Meijer Yields Great Benefits

The South County Community Services (SCCS) Pantry has once again been nominated for the fall Simply Give program at the Meijer #196 Store on Shaver Road in Portage. The campaign kicked off July 19 and runs through Saturday, September 12. Double match days begin on Thursday Sept. 3, designated “Hunger Action Day,” through Saturday, Sept. 5.

South County residents have been active participants in this program. Their $10 donation triggers a $10 match from Meijer in the form of gift cards for food-only use at a local food pantry. During double match periods, the SCCS Pantry receives $30 per card purchased. SCCS uses part of these contributions to provide a half pound of fresh meat for each family member served by the pantry. The money is also used to supplement areas of the pantry where there are food category gaps not covered by orders from Loaves & Fishes or private donations. In 2014, the campaign provided over $9,000 in food products to South County families served at SCCS. The SCCS Pantry provides 4 days of food to over 700 individuals each quarter of the year. In addition, local organizations make it possible to also distribute household supplies and birthday bags each quarter as well.

“You would be amazed at the number of working families who must choose between food and meeting other basic expenses each month,” comments SCCS director, Danna Downing. “We could not possibly meet these needs without the support of community members, Loaves & Fishes, and business partners such as Meijer. I wish everyone could see the ways in which this service helps our families,” she adds.

Simply Give cards are available from SCCS and at the Shaver Road location. For more information, go to