Boy Scouts Honor Veterans

vest 3.jpgFor the past two years the Vicksburg Boy Scouts of Troop 251 have been honoring local veterans. This year they convinced The Vault to feed over 20 veterans. The scouts and their scoutmasters did all the planning, cooking, and serving to express their appreciation to the men and women in attendance.

They entertained the veterans and their families with a slide show about the activities surrounding the Vicksburg scouts’ 75th anniversary. They have much to brag about as did the veterans, according to Scoutmaster Kevin Borden.

Christmas in the Village to Brighten Downtown Vicksburg

By Sue Moore

Everyone loves a parade. Vicksburg’s reconstituted evening Christmas parade should be a great change from the past years. It has been planned for 5:30 p.m. on Saturday, December 5, to highlight the beautiful lighting in the downtown, according to Ken Schippers, village manager. He expects over 10 floats and seven or eight fire engines from visiting towns. There will be cash prizes for the best floats with State Senator Margaret O’Brien, State Rep. Brandt Iden, and County Treasurer Mary Balkema as the judges.

Fortunately, the Big Red Machine, a.k.a. the Vicksburg High School marching band, will still be available to lead the parade down Kalamazoo Avenue to Prairie Street and south on Main Street, according to Band Director Ben Rosier. The promise to participate comes with a bit of a sacrifice: Most of the band members want to be getting ready for the high school Christmas formal once they lead the procession; it’s a good bet that many of the band members will beat a fast retreat to their own festivities.

But that shouldn’t deter the youngsters as they will want to visit with Santa and Mrs. Claus inside the big tent in Oswalt Park on the corner of Main and Prairie Streets. It will be heated and those waiting in line with be treated to hot chocolate and cookies, compliments of Chapman Memorial Church of the Nazarene.

The Vicksburg Historical Society will be open for business with its annual bake sale at the Depot Museum from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The model train layout in the Historic Village will be open for train enthusiasts during the same hours as the bake sale, on December 5, plus the two Saturdays following in December.

All of the “Christmas in the Village” activities this year have been the responsibility of the Vicksburg Downtown Development Authority (DDA) under the leadership of Executive Director Kathleen Hoyle. Her committee of elves includes Stella Shearer, Ken Schippers, Julie Merrill, Mandy Kokalas, Carol LaFrance, Sue Moore, Chris Newman, and Ellie Folkers.

Lots of new and old activities have been planned for the day with vendors from the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market kicking off the events with a winter opening of the market. It will be held inside the community center from 2 to 5 p.m. Regular customers to the market will be able to refill their larders from some of their favorite vendors, including the soap maker, the root vegetable purveyors, and the apple and doughnut maker. There will be live greens for sale just outside the center.

Horse carriage rides around the downtown will launch from the north door of the community center every half hour. To keep the children entertained before the parade, BenJammin and Analisa will be performing from 3-3:45 p.m. in the center. There will be a magician, and most importantly, a mailbox for letters to Santa. Mrs. Claus’ Cookie Kitchen for children will be at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center at 200 S. Main, the library will have a children’s hour inside. Carolers from three Vicksburg area churches will be traveling the downtown during the afternoon with their special brand of Christmas music.

To top off the evening, the huge spruce tree in Oswalt Park will have a special lighting ceremony at about 6:15, with Rudy Callen doing the master of ceremony honors. Brian Pitts, Chamber of Commerce president, has organized a Pub Crawl after the tree lighting. Destinations will include the Hide-a-Way, Main Street Pub, and The Vault.

None of this would be possible without the tremendous outpouring of support from the event sponsors, Hoyle said. They include Frederick Construction, Ronningen Research, Bronson Hospital, Right Way Rental, Grossman Law, the Village of Vicksburg and the Chamber of Commerce.

Schoolcraft Christmas Walk

school x mas 4.jpgCome out and celebrate the Christmas Spirit in Historic Schoolcraft is the traditional theme of Schoolcraft’s Annual Christmas Walk. Local merchants welcome the community to this annual event which will be held Friday, December 4, from 6-9 p.m. and Saturday, December 5 from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Arts and crafts sales at local churches, special snacks at local antique dealers, and teas and treats offered by other community members such as the Schoolcraft Ladies Library will be scattered throughout the town. Two of the local churches, the United Methodist and First Presbyterian, will have baked goods and lots of homemade crafts offered for sale including knitted items, quilted goods and other handcrafted items.

Christmas festivities around town will include music, lights, and even wreaths offered by one vendor.

“Please come out and have a good time with us,” said Beth Pulsipher, organizer of the Annual Christmas Walk.

The Gathering of Greens

trees 5The Schoolcraft Friends of the Library and the Schoolcraft Community Library welcome the public to view the Gathering of Greens/Jubilee of Trees entries at their Tuesday, December 8 Punch and Cookie Celebration. While viewing the beautifully decorated trees and wreathes, visitors can enjoy some tasty cookies and punch while voting for a favorite entry! Votes are 25 cents each.

Entertainment for the evening includes the 6th grade Schoolcraft choir singing carols and a barbershop quartet performance by “Four Got to Shave” — all starting at 6 and going to 7:30 p.m. Visitors are urged to arrive early to enjoy these special performances.

Awards will be announced on December 9 for the top 3 entries that received the most votes including a special “children’s vote.” All proceeds from this event will go towards children’s programming. New this year, select entries may be purchased at the circulation desk. Tournament of Writers awards will also be presented. It’s an evening of fun not to missed!

SCCS Celebrates the Season of Giving

pat oswalt tree ornament
This angel ornament honoring the dearly departed Pat Oswalt (and her beloved MSU Spartans) will be installed on the Tree of Life.

Staff members at South County Community Services (SCCS) are fond of saying it’s Christmas all year around at their agency. That’s because they believe that whenever there is someone to listen and help a family in need, it is a lot like Christmas. Whenever SCCS staff, volunteers and donors remember others with a gift of time and resources, it ensures the spirit of Christmas is there when it is most needed.

A third of the people who live in the South County are either living in poverty or near it in so-called “ALICE” households–asset limited, income constrained, and employed. For these households, an car repairs, going back to school, illness, and holiday costs create hard-to-manage challenges.

SCCS is a United Way agency with a mission to help families manage these times and support them as they work to move their families forward. It takes an investment of about $20,000 to serve approximately 500 people each year during the holidays. With the generosity of the community in full throttle, the agency usually raises another $10,000 to add to its emergency assistance funding. This money can be matched with family resources and funds from other agencies to keep homes heated and lighted during the winter months. It can cover other expenses that hit hard during the rest of the year.

Community donations help to underwrite holiday food boxes, household bags, gifting and family-friendly parties with Santa. Family adoptions, in partnership with individuals and groups, make holidays a little brighter for over 100 families. Area faith groups do the bulk of the adoptions, but there are always opportunities for individual families and groups to adopt a needy family. Volunteers to help assemble Santa bags and household bags are critical to the holiday operations at SCCS. And volunteers also are needed to help make the two holiday celebrations festive.

In addition, anyone who wishes to honor a loved one during the holidays may participate in the annual Tree of Life project. All the donations from Tree of Life are used to support the year-long emergency assistance program. Anyone interested in supporting these efforts may call 269-649-2901 for more information.

Celebrating Our Veterans

vets depot
David Aubry, Rotary president; Richard Coppes, Rotary Club’s World War II veteran; Bob Merrill, Lions Club World War II veteran, Dave Reno, Lions Club president.

Retired Brigadier General Warren Lawrence never lets an opportunity to be respectful to our nation, according to Kristina Powers Aubry who worked with him at KRESA and on many projects for the Vicksburg Historical Society. When he discovered the need for a new flag pole at the Depot Museum, he sprang into action, she said.

“The old one was rusted and useless, so he devised a way to pay for a new one. He went to the two Vicksburg service clubs and requested $250 each to buy a collapsible one that would be easy to maintain. Right-Way-Rental was willing to sell the village a new flag pole at cost,” she said.

The best part of his genius was to get two World War II veterans from the Rotary and Lions clubs to be part of the dedication on Veteran’s Day this November. It turns out that Bob Merrill from the Lions Club and Richard Coppes from the Rotary Club both served in the Navy, so he recruited the two “old salts” to cut the ribbon.”

In the meantime, General Lawrence, a member of the Historical Society’s Board of Directors and the Historic Village committee, invited the presidents of the service clubs to research the names of their members who served in World War II to honor their devotion to the country. David Aubry from Rotary and Dave Reno from the Lions, went through the impressive list, only to discover that all of them were deceased except for the two standing with them to cut the ribbon.

Bronson Hospital to Close Emergency Room Services

Bronson Methodist Hospital will be closing its satellite emergency department at Bronson Vicksburg Outpatient Center (BVOC) at the end of the year. All other services at the site will remain open, according to the System Director, Laura Howard.

The location has been experiencing a steady decline in the number of emergency patients it sees each year, as well as in the severity of illnesses and injuries it treats, Howard said.

For some time, ambulance traffic from south Kalamazoo County has been directed to Bronson Methodist Hospital’s Trauma and Emergency Center in Kalamazoo. Effective 4 PM on December 31, walk-in patients will also be directed there.

Bronson’s board of directors and executive team have been monitoring the slowdown in use of emergency services at BVOC for over a decade. They delayed closing the department until it was clear the trend was not reversing and south county residents could easily access emergency care in Kalamazoo.

Bronson will continue to provide outpatient services Monday through Friday at BVOC that are still actively being used by local physicians and patients. These include lab blood-draw and specimen collection service from 7 a.m.-5 p.m. and radiology services from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
A total of 29 employees will be affected by this change. Bronson’s human resources team is working to inform them of other open positions in the system that they are qualified for and how to apply, Howard said.

The public relations department provided the following helpful answers.
Why can’t Bronson sustain emergency services at Vicksburg?

Each year, Bronson evaluates consumer demand for services against the resources it takes to provide those services.  In recent years, fewer people have been coming to the Vicksburg location for care and most of the visits have been for minor illness and injury which can be taken care of by primary care doctors, urgent care and walk-in clinics. It was no longer feasible for Bronson to continue to maintain the overhead costs of providing emergency services at a location that wasn’t being fully utilized when doctors, nurses and staff could be deployed to other Bronson sites that need them.

Did you consider making it urgent care?

We evaluated the idea and determined that the Vicksburg location would not be able to attract enough patients to cover the cost of providing the service. Bronson does provide walk-in immediate care service nearby in Portage. Bronson FastCare is located in the Meijer store at 5121 South Westnedge.

Lab Draws/Radiology services will now be sent to Kalamazoo. Will there be a delay in results getting to Vicksburg doctors?

Radiology continues to be available at Bronson Vicksburg with no service changes. The labs draw station currently utilizes a courier to transport lab specimens from Bronson Vicksburg to the main lab at Bronson Methodist Hospital twice daily, so most routine test results will continue to be provided electronically to Vicksburg doctors same day, just as they are now.

Describe the services that will still be at Bronson Vicksburg after 12/31/15.
These services will remain open and fully staffed:

Bronson Anticoagulation Center, open Mondays and Thursdays from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Call (269) 341-6156.

Bronson Outpatient Nutrition Services, open Wednesday by appointment only. Call (269) 341-6860 or visit

Bronson Outpatient Rehabilitation, open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Call (269) 544-3230 or visit

Bronson ProHealth, open Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. Call (269) 341-8938 or visit
Bronson Outpatient Testing, open Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Radiology services are available 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. No appointments are necessary.

Does Bronson have other plans for the space being vacated by the emergency department?

We are exploring other uses for the space and will keep the community informed as potential uses are identified.

Because Bronson Vicksburg is not an inpatient facility, ambulance traffic and patients with life threatening conditions have been directed to Bronson Methodist Hospital for many years. If someone is experiencing a serious medical emergency, the recommendation is always to call 911.

The Local Hospital Has Endured Many Ups and Downs

By Sue Moore

“The little guys did it!” read the editorial from the Kalamazoo Gazette on December 15, 1969, according to Water Over the Dam, a history of the Village of Vicksburg. Who the “little guys” were and what they did is the history of Franklin Community Hospital, the predecessor of Bronson Vicksburg Hospital.

Added the editorial: “If you ever want an example of people working for people, this is the story to tell.”

A look back at how far this community has come in supporting its own hospital, tells a lot about the dedication of the residents and the medical staff that struggled to make high-quality health care a priority in the south Kalamazoo County area.

Rudimentary hospital services became available in 1909 in a home on Kalamazoo Avenue in Vicksburg. It was a two-bed operation with a nurse who opened her home to patients on the first floor. It closed a few years later. In 1921, Molly Franklin willed her home on North Main Street to be the next hospital to serve the public. It opened in 1924 as a seven bed unit and struggled to make ends meet until the village of Vicksburg’s elected trustees voted to take it over in 1927. Even then, it was unable to meet its bills and closed in 1929. By popular demand, it reopened in 1931.

An excerpt from Water Over the Dam:

“Between 1924-1951, village taxpayers were levied from one to two mills annually for operating expenses of the hospital, a tax which was removed when the operation became self-sufficient in 1952. When the need for larger and improved facilities became apparent in 1941, a hospital auxiliary called the Hospital Guild was formed to add additional services. Its first project was to promote the building of an addition, which was completed the next year, bringing the capacity to 20 beds. Almost immediately, it became apparent that this expanded facility was already inadequate. In 1948, the Guild became a nonprofit and a building fund drive netted $55,000 within a month to complete a 16-bed addition, with the largest gift being $2,500 from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

“By 1960, the hospital was often blessed with wall-to-wall patients, with the downstairs halls holding the overflow. Then came a very real challenge. In December, 1962, an independent area survey by the University of Michigan’s Bureau of Hospital Administration dealt an acute body blow to Vicksburg’s as-yet uncrystallized plans for enlarging its plant. The report concluded, “If the opportunity to express an opinion occurs, Bronson and Borgess hospitals governing bodies and medical staffs should build enlarged facilities of their own and encourage closing of the Vicksburg hospital. Relying on Kalamazoo is preferable to the continued operation of the 25-40 bed facility.

“The stubborn, never-say-die spirit that made the students of Vicksburg High School choose the Bulldog as their symbol was now evidenced by their elders. The U-M was right–Vicksburg did have a big investment in its hospital, not just financial, but emotional. Years of tender loving care had flowed from the hospital to the community and from the community to the hospital.

“The hospital board initiated a fund drive to raise $500,000 for an addition to the hospital building which would enable it to meet the stringent new requirements of the Michigan Department of Health. Pledges came in totaling $450,000 in short order. But all activities came to a halt in 1965 with the advent of Medicare. A completely new building would be needed to provide adequate hospital facilities.

The New Hospital Takes Shape in a Cornfield

“Despite an undercurrent of dire prophecies and muttered comments as to the futility of sending good money after bad, or pouring money down a rat hole, the response by the general citizenry was again heartening. On a momentous day in October 1968, ground was broken to build a 50-bed hospital on N. Boulevard in Vicksburg that would ultimately cost over $1.3 million. Bonds were sold to meet construction costs to the tune of $650,000. Big chunks of the local share came eventually from foundations and corporations, and they all said they wouldn’t have given the money if the little guys hadn’t been behind it. But behind it they were, with payroll deductions at the schools and factories, and with meaningful, dig-deep-in-the pocket contributions from thousands of concerned well-wishers. The opening day dedication ceremony took place on December 14, 1969. The Gazette called the sprawling one-story building, ‘a crown jewel in a cornfield’ that was constructed to serve an estimated 18,000 people in a service area of eight townships and two small villages.”

Having a local hospital helped to attract Dr. Lloyd Appell, who arrived in Vicksburg in 1955, just as a tornado blew through the village. Fortunately, that did not deter he and Grace from settling here and becoming an integral part of the community. The same could be said for Drs. David and Paula Schriemer in 1989. Having the hospital close by meant they did not have to send their patients to Kalamazoo, where it would take a valuable hour out of their daily schedule if they had to travel back and forth to visit a patient.

Once the hospital was sold by the village in 1985 for $1, slowly some services ceased to exist and were moved to Bronson in Kalamazoo. It closed the primary care beds in late 2003 and mid 2006 but have continued to offer outpatient services to this day. The challenge for the future will be to find a higher and better use for the facility that is still in very good condition, thanks to the care that Bronson has given the building over the last 45 years.

Schoolcraft Lions Help Bring Sight to Vision Impaired

sch lions 2
Aimee Sherman and Tobi Cherry (left of Eric Kent in yellow), two people helped by Lions Club donations to Michigan Eversight, listen to the organization’s Community Relations Liaison Alexandra Teska (right), discuss the organizations’ operations at the November Lions Club meeting.

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft Lions Club got to see how its work and donations have given people their eyesight and improved their lives in a presentation at their meeting this month.

The club donates around $500 annually to Eversight, formerly known as the Michigan Eye Bank. The organization coordinates all corneal transplants in Michigan. They also assist in research and education of eyesight conditions. The organization works so often with Lions Clubs across the state that Eversight Community Relations Liaison Alexandra Teska was asked about them in her job interview.

“That’s how important you guys are,” Teska told Lions Club members.

“We are thankful that you can help us achieve our mission every year.”
Teska says corneal diseases can be easily cured with a cornea transplant. Eversight has been so successful that there is no Michigan waiting list. The success rate for surgeries is 90 percent. “That’s the highest success rate for any kind of transplant,” she said.

At the meeting, the Lions were introduced to some of the people who were positively affected by Lions Club donations. Tobi Cherry of Sturgis is one of those people. She struggled with visual difficulties for years.

Cherry’s eye problems first became noticeable in high school. After college, her eyesight steadily worsened until consultations with doctors revealed her only hope for normal eyesight was a cornea transplant. The procedure ended up being a life changer.

“Wow, I cannot tell you how much better my quality of life is now!” Cherry said.

Aimee Sherman’s parents didn’t have insurance for surgery when she was born blind. The Lions Clubs of Michigan footed the bill for an experimental surgery years ago that gave her sight at age three. Sherman now has 20-20 vision with astigmatism. She says she’ll take it, as she could originally only see light, shapes and colors.

“I’d always known the Lions club had helped me, but I didn’t know much about them,” Sherman said. She’s just recently joined the cause as one of the club’s newest members.

Also present at the meeting were 17-year-old twins Madison and Malia Nichols. The girls just got their first jobs at Kohl’s and will start college at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids next year. No small feat considering they were born blind as a result of corneal glaucoma.

The girls’ mother, Heather Nichols said the doctors knew quickly after the twins’ birth something was wrong. Both girls had emergency corneal transplants at just four months old to give them sight.

The Schoolcraft Lions stepped in to help after the girls’ initial surgeries. Both girls required additional special treatments that could only be done by specialists at Duke University in North Carolina. The Lions Club footed the bill for transportation and lodging costs while they were there.

They were also involved in helping print and distribute a book the girls wrote when they were 11 years old. The book, “The Blind Pocupine,” was written by the girls for fun, but is now distributed as an educational tool to raise awareness of the importance of corneal transplants.

While the girls don’t have perfect eyesight and have to see an eye doctor on a regular basis, they are no longer blind and are able to live a normal life. They are thankful for the Lions Club’s contributions. The girls are soft-spoken, but were happy to share their experiences of a vacation this summer where they got to see Niagara Falls, Mackinac Island and more.

The next big step is something that may seem impossible for someone once blind–learning to drive. “The doctor OK’d both of them, but mom is not ready for that yet,” Heather Nichols said.

CEO James MacPhee Announces Retirement from KCSB

Jim MacPhee
Jim MacPhee will retire from Kalamazoo County State Bank in December.

James D. MacPhee, CEO of Kalamazoo County State Bank, has announced his retirement, marking 47 years as a community banker and 43 years at Kalamazoo County State Bank. A public open house reception in his honor will take place from 1-4 p.m., December 10, in the lobby of the bank in Schoolcraft.

MacPhee joined Kalamazoo County State Bank in 1972. He was promoted to senior vice president in 1981 and named chief executive officer and to to the Board of Directors in 1990. He also has been a state and national community banking leader.

MacPhee has been a member of the Community Bankers of Michigan since he joined the bank. He was elected vice president of the association’s board of directors in 1994 and chairman in 1996. “Jim MacPhee has been a key voice for Michigan community bankers,” said Judi Sullivan, president and CEO of the banker association. “He has a passion for community banking and has been an advocate for community banks here in Michigan and across our great nation.”

At the national level, MacPhee has been involved with the Independent Community Bankers of America (ICBA). Leading up to being elected national chairman of ICBA in 2010, MacPhee was named a member of the association’s board of directors in 1997 and appointed in 1998 to serve as an at-large director. He also served as vice chairman and chairman-elect on the organization’s Executive Committee.

MacPhee’s ICBA assignments have spanned nearly every standing and ICBA services corporation board – including the Congressional Affairs, Policy Development, Tax, Lending, Membership and Strategic Planning, Education and ICBPAC committees.

“Community bankers have been very fortunate to have Jim MacPhee involved with our mission and delivering our message,” said Cam Fine, president and CEO of the Independent Bankers of America. “He has been a difference maker in both his hometown and nationwide. Jim has done everything he could to help the industry survive, grow and thrive.”

MacPhee’s work did not stop with the state and national community banking associations. In 2007 he was elected to the position of Director of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis (FHLBI). “It is an honor and a privilege to have been elected by my peers and serve on the board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis,” said MacPhee.

The FHLBI is part of a system of 12 banks across the United States established in 1932. MacPhee was elected to the position by the banks in Michigan and Indiana that are members of the FHLBI. A primary benefit of Federal Home Loan Bank membership is access to reliable liquidity through secured loans, known as advances, which are funded by the FHLBI.

In addition to MacPhee’s professional community banking contributions, he has been an example of what community banking is all about: serving the community. MacPhee has been chairman of the Schoolcraft Downtown Development Authority, Bronson Hospital Foundation Board Director, chairman of the Kalamazoo County Fair Renovation, Schoolcraft Businessmen’s Association, Schoolcraft Community Association and many others through his career.

Under MacPhee’s leadership, Kalamazoo County State Bank continues to celebrate over “100 Years of Caring,” giving back to the families, businesses and numerous non-profit organizations to make a difference in the communities it serves.