Monthly Archives: May 2016

50 Years Together

David and Carol Cross, formerly of Vicksburg, now of Brooksville, Fla., are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. They were married in Hamilton, Mich. on May 14, 1966.   Both are retired from Pharmacia/Upjohn. They have been blessed with two children, Karen (Rick) Clipfell of Vicksburg and Timothy (Deborah) Cross of Kalamazoo, and 9 grandchildren. A family dinner is planned for this summer.

Gibby’s in Mendon Serves Great Burgers

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Steve and Michelle Crouch welcome patrons to Gibby’s in Mendon. Photo by Sheryl Oswalt.

By Sheryl Oswalt

This month’s drive took us south to Gibby’s in Mendon. While the kitchen looks small, they can really put out the food. If you stop in at lunch, you’re likely to find the guys and gals from our farm (Oswalt Family Farms) there. While Michelle Crouch, part owner, might comment if we smell a little like we came from a barn, she hasn’t kicked us out yet! Lunch hour is actually busy with lots of the local farmers and ag business workers stopping in to fuel up for the day.

Being a regular there, I wasn’t sure what I would learn that was new to report. Imagine my surprise when I realized that Michelle and I went to the same high school! Steve Crouch was a 1982 graduate of Vicksburg. His wife Michelle graduated from the Lakewood School District; just a few years after this writer. Years after graduation, Steve found himself working to set up a plant for Eaton Corporation in Mexico. Michelle was working at Stryker Medical. After two years of going back and forth and three more living in Mexico, Steve was ready to find something a little closer to home. He had always enjoyed cooking and had often thought he would like to own a bar. While Michelle was supportive of the idea, she fully intended to keep her job and focus on raising the children.

In the summer of 2009, Steve began managing JJ’s Bar & Grill in Mendon. It had been a few years since he managed the Tasty Freeze in Vicksburg but like riding a bike, it all came back to him. By October of that year, they were the owners and in November Michelle answered Steve’s call for help and left her job at Stryker. Owning an eating establishment is more than just cooking food and perfecting your menu; it’s about finding the right help and setting up rules and operating procedures.

Having been a big baseball fan, Steve was particularly fond of Kirk Gibson; thus the name “Gibby’s”. They like to think they own a restaurant with a bar in it and not the other way around. We particularly like dining there because we can enjoy a beverage with our meal but it still feels like a family eating place. They don’t keep bar hours and the eating areas are large and bright.

The big draw is their daily specials, their burgers and broasted chicken. Wednesday’s lunch special is a bacon cheeseburger with fries for $5.75. Steve says his record is 85 burgers in one lunch period. Again– – this is a small kitchen with 3 people pushing out 25 burgers in 25 minutes–pretty impressive. These aren’t micro-burgers either; I’m a hearty eater and I can never eat more than half my burger. Not only is it HUGE–it’s good quality meat. It’s definitely the place to go for large portions and consistent quality food. Not only do they provide a great value with their daily lunch specials, they have a large following with their daily dinner specials.

Thursday nights are particularly busy with their Brehm broasted chicken dinner special where you can get two 4-piece meals for $14.99. Being that they can only make eight chicken meals at a time with the specialty broaster, Steve makes sure to keep the servers aware of the wait time. Unlike your large chain restaurants, you won’t have to wait for a table with your buzzer but you might have to have a beer or two while he makes your meal especially for you. The fish and ribeye steak dinners are also very popular, bringing in the locals and regulars from Marshall to Gobles.

The Crouches are big supporters of the Mendon Little League teams and Rocket Football and particularly enjoy being part of the Father-Daughter Dance at school. “Couples” and their families can enjoy a meal before the dance and 15% of the proceeds go back to the Mendon PTO.

If you’re looking to frequent places owned by locals that give back, try Gibby’s!

Cindy Kole Honored by YWCA and United Way

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Cindy Kole, feted for her volunteerism.

“It’s been a good week,” Cindy Kole of Vicksburg declared as she learned that she was selected to receive one of the YWCA’s Women of Achievement awards on May 5. To add to that recognition, United Way of the Battle Creek Kalamazoo region has singled her out for an Exemplary Leadership award this week.

Kole and her husband Kevin are graduates of Western Michigan University. They settled in Vicksburg in 1980 to raise their two children, Marcus and Alli, both Vicksburg High School graduates. Kole went to work for what was then National City Bank, later PNC, where she quickly moved up the ladder because of her encouragement of others to fulfill their full potential. “I love the impact of giving back to others and seeing people I helped advance. My mom instilled that in me as a young person living in Port Huron.”

Her many volunteer activities in Kalamazoo include serving as president of the Irving S. Gilmore Keyboard Festival board; Kalamazoo Institute of Arts board for 12 years; Heyl Scholarship board member; Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation, Vicksburg Little League board, and chair of the United Way campaign from 2014 through 2016. Within PNC she held many positions where she inspired women to take on challenges and responsibility. She co-led charitable contributions for NCC and PNC for Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri. She held the position of community executive at PNC which was much like president of this region of the bank.

She retired from PNC in 2015 and soon found herself bored so accepted an offer to become the director of advancement at the KIA. Kevin has retired and loves to play golf at Olde Mill. Their son Marcus is a manager at PNC. Daughter Alli is membership and volunteer coordinator at Ministry with Community.

Gilmore Young Artist to Perform in Vicksburg

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Daniel Hsu in concert. Photo by HIPIC.

By Sue Moore

When Daniel Hsu walks on stage at the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center at 3 p.m., May 8 to play a piano concert, he will not be calm, cool and collected. “I definitely have nerves; without nerves it means you don’t care. I think nerves add something special to any performance.”

It seems he would have gotten over being nervous; he’s won several prestigious contests, including the one bringing him to Vicksburg. Hsu was chosen as the Irving S. Gilmore Young Artist for 2016. He is one of two new young artists of exceptional talent to receive the award. The Young Artist award comes after an extended period of critique by a six-member panel–while the artists in question have no clue they’re being judged.
The New York Times recently called The Gilmore’s selection process “the music world’s version of the MacArthur Foundation’s ‘genius’ grants: a prestigious prize that cannot be applied for or sought.”

Each winner receives a $15,000 stipend to further musical and educational endeavors as well as the commission of a new piano composition–to which the artist will have exclusive performance rights for a year.

While it came as a surprise to Hsu when he received the phone call from Kalamazoo last fall, he knew there was something familiar about the call: His older brother, Andrew, had been chosen as a Gilmore Young Artist in 2014. Andrew Hsu is currently a master’s degree student in piano and composition at the Juilliard School of Music. Music runs in the Hsu family; their sister, Ashley, is working on her master of fine arts degree at Columbia University, now studying writing. But before that, she had studied piano at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia as did Andrew and then Daniel, who started there at the age of 10. Some day they may even return to play in concert together, he suggests. “We are a very close family,” Hsu says as he proudly ticks off his siblings’ accomplishments.

“Our parents sacrificed a lot,” Hsu says. “I was home schooled and my mother will travel with me to Kalamazoo for the performances I have scheduled in Vicksburg, Kalamazoo, Lansing and Marshall. My parents have little or no musical background. It’s rumored that my dad played violin as a child but he never pursued it. We live two blocks from the Curtis Institute, which is good because there is so much going on. I’ve never learned to drive because I can walk most everywhere.”

He has taken first prize in the San Jose International Piano Competition, the MTAC All-State Concerto Competition, the Pacific Musical Society Piano Competition and several others. “The best part about competitions is meeting people and making friends of the other competitors, who I hope will be friends for life.”

The prestigious Curtis Institute is a tuition-free school of 177 students. “There are no requirements for how many hours I have to practice but nobody can be a slacker in this school,” Hsu remarks.

“It’s hard to create a program for listeners and still play what I enjoy. I’ve chosen a Schubert piece which is one of my favorites but very difficult. A Liszt piece is on the schedule although it is not very well known. I’ll end with a Mussorgsky piece that has a lot of different characters in it. I’ll have to put my public speaking class to good use to explain to the audience the styles and sounds that are fun to play and listen to.”

Tickets for the May 8 event are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $5 for students 18 and under and $25 for families of five or more. Reservations can be made by visiting http://www.vicksburgcommunityschools.org/pac or by calling the Vicksburg Performing Arts center ticket office at 321.1193.

Schoolcraft Co-op Preschool Gets Kids Ready

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Schoolcraft Co-op Preschool children in their classroom. Photo by Linda Lane.

By Linda Lane

Incorporating a school-like atmosphere, the Schoolcraft Co-op Preschool offers a licensed preschool program that focuses on a positive environment and encourages responsibility for three and four year-old kids, and young fives as well.

“We’re different from a traditional day-care environment. The co-op component allows parents and relatives to play an active role in their children’s preschool learning environment,” Emily Glerum, president of the preschool board explained. “We’re not open 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. like a day care and we’re not really competing with the other local preschools. We don’t have to remain within the state’s guidelines for school funded programs. We try to make our curriculum more rigorous and more like a day at kindergarten for the kids,” she said.

Under the direction of Angela VanHorn, a licensed director, the Co-op Preschool implements the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program also used in school systems.

“We have a really great balance between academic and play,” VanHorn commented. Recent science studies included such diverse topics as planting seeds in a jar to see them germinating, watching yeast feed on sugar to fill a balloon with air, and creating a cloud in a jar.

“The squeals of delight from the kids when they watched the cloud escape from the jar into the room was fantastic,” VanHorn exclaimed. “They wanted to know if it was going to rain inside!”

Operating at 224 E Cass Street, across the street from the former Schoolcraft Lower Elementary School, the Co-op Preschool is not affiliated with the First Presbyterian Church although they rent its facilities. Families do not need to be Schoolcraft residents, nor a member of the First Presbyterian Church to participate with the Co-op Preschool.

A requirement of the program is that parents or a child’s relative (grandparent, guardian, or other relative) must volunteer at least once every month in the Co-op center. The Co-op Preschool Board of Directors is comprised of parents who are also among the many volunteers that help.

The Co-op Preschool is usually filled to capacity with children; it has room for 12 three year-olds and 16 four year-olds for their Kindergarten Readiness program. Parents can chose either a half day or a full school day for their kids. The four-year-old program incorporates a Kindergarten Readiness Program. The Co-op operates the same calendar as Schoolcraft Community Schools, September through mid-May. The day care expenses are tax deductible.

The Schoolcraft Co-op Preschool has some openings for the fall program. An application can be obtained by calling 269-679-3012 or emailing schoolcraft_preschool@yahoo.com.

Cambri’s Cancer Fighting Celebration

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Cambri Dorko wearing her fight cancer t-shirt.

By Sue Moore

“Cambri Dorko is a sweet little girl and is fighting for her life. She’s such a little fighter and still full of energy,” said Jennifer Taylor, her third grade teacher at Sunset Lake Elementary. Taylor has only seen Cambri in the classroom for ten days this year. That’s because the child was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastoma cancer in 2012 when she was only four years old and a begindergarten student at Sunset.

“We all want to help her, so a benefit concert has been planned for May 12, at 7 p.m. at the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center (PAC). Many of the teachers and musical artists in the school have come together to plan this concert and perform free of charge. We want to help cover this family’s expenses which have been monumental,” Taylor said. She is being assisted by Alicia Zager, Cambri’s second grade teacher at Sunset, Ben Rosier the high school jazz band leader; Dusty Morris, the choir director; Patty Heintzelman, the elementary and middle school choir teacher; and local performers Benjammin and Analisa, who have kids in the Vicksburg school system.

“The PAC could hold 800 people and we expect it to be packed to the rafters,” Taylor said. “The school staff and administrators have been on this from the start. We’ve communicated through Facebook, and the many friends this child has made at the hospital. In fact, a contingent of her doctors and nurses will be coming with her to the concert. She will get a few days off from chemotherapy treatments to come with her mother, Shannon, to feel the love we all have for her and cheer her on in her fight to survive this terrible disease that has brutal side effects from the treatment.”

A team of Stryker employees heard about Cambri’s illness and created a beautiful Christmas for her and her mother. They too are helping with the concert preparations, Taylor said.

Performers include the VHS Jazz band, Hannah and Emily Tatay from the VHS choir and former students of Taylor’s, Benjammin and Analisa, and the fourth and fifth grade choir from Sunset. A video for Cambri is being prepared by Troy Smith, the high school film and video teacher, and his students. The cost is $5 per person at the door and $20 per family, or a donation in Cambri’s name.

Schoolcraft School Board OKs Building Consolidation

By Sue Moore

The Schoolcraft School Board, after considerable deliberation, voted 5-1 to move forward with consolidating four buildings into three at a special meeting April 18. Trustee Ryan Ludlow was the lone dissenting vote. Trustee Mike Rochholz left before the vote.

The timetable for vacating the Early Elementary Building will depend on which of two plans are chosen.

Vacating the building by this fall is part of Plan A. Plan B provides a longer lead time, depending on proposals from construction managers.

“This isn’t a big project relative to the earlier bond issue that was defeated,” Superintendent Rusty Stitt said. Both plans involve moving kindergarten and pre-school classes to the Elementary building. Only a small amount of remodeling is needed, Stitt indicated. Two locker rooms will be converted to classrooms and a window will be installed for ventilation. A bathroom for pre-schoolers will be remodeled.

Just under 90 fifth grade students would leave the elementary and attend classes in the Middle School where there is space available for three classrooms. A larger issue involves the future of the Early Elementary school, built by the WPA in the 1930s. For the moment, the plan is to mothball it until a decision can be made about its future use, Stitt said.

“Our biggest concern is declining enrollment,” said Business Manager Rita Broekema. “We can’t graduate 95 and go forward with 68. With 13 years of declining enrollment the trend data is not encouraging. The birthrate is lower in west Michigan than the state average. Plus the school district is land-locked so we can’t expand, even though 18 percent of our students are from school of choice.”

Trustee Kathy Mastenbrook urged the townships and village to begin planning for growth in hopes of increasing population and reversing the trend. Trustee Skip Fox urged, “All board members and administration to be on the same page with the sequence of events and do it right.” By closing the Early Elementary, a savings of approximately $100,000 each year could be realized, Broekema estimated.

At the regular board meeting, Trustee Ledlow said he was still listening and wanted to take more time with discussion and communication. Board President Darby Fetzer assured the members the move would be well thought out. “We will want to talk to the village and the planning commission [about the future].”

Curriculum revision recommendations from Principal Ric Seager came to the board via a collaborative process with the teachers, led by Jennie Stull, Tracey Branch and Christy Winkle. The board authorized a six-year plan and an expenditure of $129,578 over a period of two years for an English Language Arts program offered by McGraw Hill and used in area school districts including Gull Lake, Comstock and Marcellus. Trustee Jason Walther congratulated the teachers and administration. “It’s the right solution based on teacher and staff excitement. This was a grass roots effort.”

Village Manager Announces His Retirement

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Ken Schippers, Vicksburg village manager.

By Andrea Smalley

The Vicksburg Village Council regular session April 18 began with a surprising and emotional moment. Village Manager Ken Schippers announced that the Liberty Lane paving would be done in August–and so would he.

Meeting attendees expressed surprise and disbelief, but broke into applause as Schippers continued, “I’ll be around. If something happens, they can call me.” He stated that, “It’s time to enjoy life a little bit,” and reminisced about the one wintertime vacation he and his wife took to Jamaica where he called back to Vicksburg every day. Citizens and council trustees spoke about their respect and admiration for Schippers. “I speak for the council and the citizens. None of us believe there’s another person out there that can replace you,” said President Bill Adams, prompting a second round of applause.

Trustee Gail Reisterer added, “One of the things I’ve always admired about you is your honesty and your willingness to go the extra mile. You have been a very special person for this village.” Schoolcraft Township Supervisor Don Ulsh said, “This guy has done so much for Schoolcraft Township that people don’t even know about. Any time we’ve called Ken he’s never said no. He’s always said, ‘I’ll meet you out there.’” Ulsh told the council, “It’s going to take two guys to replace him.” That prompted a third round of applause which became a standing ovation.

Schippers has been with the Village of Vicksburg for 23 years. While serving as the Director of Public Works in 2013 he was appointed acting Village Manager, then Village Manager in 2014. He has retained both the DPW and manager duties since then, working with the Village Council, DDA, and other institutions on the revitalization of Vicksburg. “I like to think over the years we’ve got a lot of stuff done,” said Schippers.

Adams last week wasn’t ready to say how the Council will conduct a search to replace Schippers. At least one council member is believed to be interested in the position.

The council meeting also featured a special community meet and greet session with the Vicksburg Police Department, where Assistant Village Manager Jim Mallery and Police Chief Eric West explained the department’s 10-point plan for building community relationships based on trust, a philosophy of service, and listening to the community.

Chief West said that this involves a presence at the Vicksburg schools, customer follow-up when complaints are registered, foot patrols, canvassing the neighborhoods, business checks, using social media, and attending monthly meetings throughout the village.
Officers have already implemented many of these steps, including attending drop-off and pick-up periods at the local elementary schools. West said that students and parents were confused by the police presence at first, but officers are now getting hugs and high fives. “Think of the possible and probable impact we will have on the kids of this village” said Mallery. “The respect level moves up.”

Officers have also implemented downtown business checks, where they leave blue slips reporting successful check-ups.

Meeting attendees and officers then broke out into small groups to discuss specific resident concerns, which included illegal parking and speeding at Sunset Lake, fireworks, skateboarding on the sidewalks, loud music and texting while driving.

In other business, Angels Crossing manager Jeff Rohrstaff presented a 2016 business strategy focused on increasing revenue by significantly expanding the golf course’s food, beverage, and event offerings. Rohrstaff introduced Joe Tsui, the newly hired manager of Food and Event Services, calling him a “magician. It’s unbelievable what this guy can do with food,” said Rohrstaff. Tsui has a following in the area, stated Rohrstaff, which will help bring the community, including non-golfers, into Angels Crossing. The Village Council approved an expenditure not to exceed $24,000 for the addition of a stove, convection oven, sink, and dishwasher to improve the course’s kitchen and facilitate Rohrstaff’s proposed strategy.

Village and School Board Candidates Need to File in July

By Sue Moore

Voters in Vicksburg and Schoolcraft villages and school districts will elect nonpartisan council members and school trustees in the November general election. The filing deadline to run in those elections is Thursday, July 26 at 4 p.m. All other countywide candidates for partisan political office have already filed their petitions with the Kalamazoo County clerk.

Terms of four trustees and the village president position held by Keith Gunnett will be filled on the seven-member Schoolcraft Village Council. The council terms held by Russell Barnes, Mike Rochholz and an open seat following the death of Carl Tackett will be on the ballot. An election to fill the remaining two years of a term now held by Sy Spears, appointed to fill Scot Dailey’s seat, will be on the ballot.

All other terms in the village, school and library elections are for four years unless they are to fill an existing vacancy.

There are currently two Schoolcraft Community Library seats up in November. They are held by Kelly Bergland and Ron Gammill.

The Schoolcraft school board has two seats up for election. They are currently held by Matt DeVoe and Skip Fox.

In Vicksburg, voters will fill three council seats now held by Colin, Chris Newman and Gail Reisterer and that of the village president currently held by Bill Adams.

Candidates for any village or school board office must file with the Schoolcraft Township clerk at the township hall. They will need a maximum of 20 signatures and a minimum of 6 for Schoolcraft and Vicksburg with the exception of the Vicksburg school board candidates who need 40 minimum and 100 maximum signatures to successfully file.

The Vicksburg school board seats up for election are currently held by Rudy Callen and Tina Forsyth.

The ballot in the general election will be a long one because the national, state, county, township, and villages will be at stake. “Voters should plan to study carefully the down ballot candidates as they impact citizens’ daily lives far more than that of the president of the United States,” according to Tim Snow, Kalamazoo County clerk.

Officer Daniels Commended

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Left to right: Chief McMillan, Jason Daniels, his wife Angie, son Caleb, and daughter Savannah.

An award for going above and beyond the call of duty was presented to Vicksburg police officer Jason Daniels by Chief Tracy McMillan of the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority. “This is a day as chief you often dread, when a fire call comes and you can’t get there fast enough to help.” Daniels was first on the scene at a 3 a.m. fire at 5582 East Y Avenue on April 20, where two people were trapped inside. He found heavy flames and smoke as he approached the structure’s front door. He could hear and talk to the people inside, trapped behind a seldom-used door with boxes piled high. Daniels kicked open the door, removed a dog, then helped the people out of the burning building, taking them to his patrol car until an ambulance arrived. “Officer Daniels, I commend you for your lifesaving efforts. You made a difference in the lives of people you did not know and set an example for all of us to follow,” McMillan said.