Monthly Archives: December 2016

Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center Pulls Off the Impossible

Lori Moore, TV personality, was the auctioneer. Behind her is a 133 Club calendar for patrons to select a day to sponsor the activities of the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center.

By Sue Moore

New life was breathed into the future of the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) with a highly successful Arts and Moore live auction in November, according to Syd Bastos, the Center’s lively manager.

Keeping the Arts Center open has been a year-long financial struggle for Bastos, Lisa Beams, the Gallery manager and their coterie of artists and volunteers. With a net income of $8,919 from the auction and the launching of the 133 Club, Bastos predicts that she can finally engage in some long-range planning to keep the doors open indefinitely.

“One of the Arts Center’s most critical objectives is to contribute to the sense of community in Vicksburg,” Bastos said. “We formed the 133 Club because that’s the amount that it costs to operate the Center for one day during the year. The total operations cost is $48,600 including salaries, rent and utilities.”

“When someone becomes a member, that person links the future of the VCAC to an event that is significant to the member. They can choose a day of the year they want to sponsor. If it is in honor of a loved one, a favorite artist or a special day that they wish to commemorate, it will be acknowledged on Face Book and in the Gallery with all the details included. We are also planning an exciting event that is exclusively for 133 Club members in 2017,” she said. So far, 17 members have joined the Club.

The Gallery’s purpose is to support and serve artists by offering juried exhibitions, education, the promotion and sale of art, as well as presenting special programs, events and performances, Bastos elaborated. To be successful, she wants to engage the community in the artistic process and foster a relationship between artists and the community.

The auction event, held at the Angels Crossing Golf Clubhouse, received art, services and other enticing items from over 60 donors for 92 guests to bid on. The highest single bid received was $1,200 for a golf package with a retail value of $1,650. The package included an annual golf membership at Angels Crossing donated by an anonymous individual, a golf bag trash container, Angels Crossing golf towel, a private golf lesson and sleeve of premium golf balls.

Creekside Grille’s Chef Joe Tsui offered his culinary talents at the VCAC auction.

The next highest bid was for $600 for Chef Joe Tsui donating his skills to prepare a four course dinner for four in the successful bidder’s home. The chef got even more generous and offered to do the very same package for another bidder that also sold for $600.

Regular Gallery hours of operation are Tuesday, Thursday, Friday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. On Wednesday it’s 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Sunday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. plus the many times its open for special events. Bastos and her staff accepted the responsibility for being the visitors’ center all year long for out of town guests and also keeping an up-to-date listing of the many activities taking place in the surrounding area. She can be reached at 269-501-1347.

Reroute Schoolcraft Workshop

Jorden Parker (seated on the village council dais) of Wightman & Associates led the visioning session for Schoolcraft residents.

By Sue Moore

Contrary to some expectations, the Reroute Schoolcraft public meeting in November was not about changing the location of U.S. 131. It was a public meeting at the Village Hall to discuss ways to bring more businesses to Schoolcraft and help it grow.

More than 50 people who turned out to listen to a presentation by Jordan Parker of Wightman & Associates. That’s the consulting firm engaged by the Village of Schoolcraft to envision what is needed in its planning for the future with a goal of keeping residents here and bringing new ones to the village.

Wes Schmitt, former village president and member of the Planning Commission, explained to the group that the workshop was organized to listen and obtain valuable feedback on how residents view their village and how they might want it to grow and change.

By gathering views on how people feel about attracting businesses, new residents, tourists, millennials, boomers, food establishments, offices and other types of businesses, the Village could incorporate the findings in its land use plan and village zoning ordinances, Schmitt told the group.

Small groups were formed to come up with ideas. What village officials heard from each was that lack of sewers in the business district is the main deterrent to growth. They also agreed on several other key issues and opportunities that need to be considered in the planning process. These included:

• U.S. 131 is both good and bad for the village. Over 27,000 cars travel Grand Street each day, helping with visibility for the village. It also means that traffic speeds can be excessive and crossing the street is often dangerous.

• Schoolcraft is a small, tight-knit community with a great quality of life for its residents who often represent three generations or more of family residing in the village. The small-town, family feel is important to those who choose to stay in Schoolcraft.

• The schools are excellent and a draw for families who want the best education for their children.

• There are nearby amenities such as Busch Park and the central location in SW Michigan, colleges and universities, Lake Michigan, and outdoor activities available.

• There is safety and security because of the caring nature of the residents.
Besides sewers, some of the more frequent needs mentioned included:

• More restaurants, including a craft brewery.

• More volunteering in the community, although there is great volunteering in the schools.

• That the railroad and highway could be capitalized upon. Give the 27,000 cars going by each day, more reasons to stop should be developed.

• The 35-mph speed limit needs to be enforced.

• New businesses and more variety are needed to further the growth in the downtown.

• Incentives for businesses and industry to locate in Schoolcraft are needed.

• More community activities to engage residents are needed.

• Biking and walking trails need to be developed, possibly to connect to outlying communities that already have trails.

• Need to capitalize on Schoolcraft as a farming community.
Each small group was asked to come up with a slogan for Schoolcraft. These offered included:

• “Growth without losing the community.”

• “Schoolcraft is a growing community with strong historic pride.”

• “Schoolcraft is a vibrant community where people want to come to visit and live.”

• “Schoolcraft, a small town with big potential.”

Residents of Schoolcraft are encouraged to get involved with more public meetings scheduled in early March and the middle of June by contacting Cheri Lutz, village manager, at 269-679-4304.

Research Your Ancestry

The Schoolcraft Library recently received a subscription to AncestryLibrary, the library edition of Patrons can now do genealogical research in the library. Dale Miller from Harding’s arranged a donation to cover this database. He deserves a lot of credit for helping the library add this service, Director Faye VanRavenswaay said.

The Schoolcraft Lions Club also made a donation to the library to be applied to acquisition of large print and audio books. The donation will also cover the costs of a digital sign that burned out in a lightning strike last August. It’s great to have community support, VanRavenswaay exclaimed.

Chris Wise Earns Doctorate in Physical Therapy

Dr. Chris Wise at graduation from GVSU with his parents Barbara and John Wise.

By Sue Moore

Christopher Wise, a 2008 Schoolcraft High School graduate can now put the word “Doctor” in front of his name, having completed graduate studies in physical therapy at Grand Valley State University last spring.

“He came to this profession because he truly likes to help people,” said his father, John Wise. “He volunteered at a camp for disabled kids in the Upper Peninsula some years ago and found his life work. He knew right away that helping people improve their health was his calling.”

Dr. Wise did his undergraduate work at the University of Utah in health sciences then was accepted into the masters and doctoral degree programs at GVSU. He was selected for the Graduate Dean’s Citation for Academic Excellence for Service to the Community or Profession in the Winter 2016 semester. This is an honor given by Grand Valley State University to graduate students who have been nominated by the faculty for outstanding academic performance.

He has stuck to his studies although he loves to mountain bike, is a member of the ski patrol and ran a marathon while in Venice, Italy, his grandmother, Madeline Watkins of Schoolcraft, proudly proclaimed. Wise participated in varsity baseball and cross country during his high school years at Schoolcraft. He now lives in Grand Rapids and accepted a job right after graduation at Mary Free Bed Hospital as a physical therapist.

Ken Franklin Honored by Area Rotary Clubs

Franklin accepts the Golden Trowel Award.

By Sue Moore

The 56 Rotary Clubs that comprise District 6360, stretching from Lansing to St. Joe and Stevensville-Lakeshore have selected the Vicksburg club’s nomination of Ken Franklin to receive the Golden Trowel Award. This is the highest award given to a non-Rotarian who has had a large impact on the success of a club project or event.

The Vicksburg club’s primary fundraiser for 63 years has been the Rotary Club Showboat. When Dr. Franklin came to practice at Vicksburg Family Doctors in 2002, he was promptly recruited the next year to sign on to the stage presentation. He soon participated in skits and joined the script committee. He took over directing the on-stage portion of the show in 2007. The fast-paced presentations have become a trademark of his directing talent, the nomination pointed out.

To keep this type of entertainment going in an era of Snapchat, Twitter, and Facebook, Rotary stages a show that isn’t on any of these types of social media. Instead it is plain old-fashioned good fun, according to Jim Bird, the club president. “Franklin’s ideas for script and staging have made the show more professional and not just a comedy routine by some Rotarians taking speaking parts. He has involved the community in offering new ideas while keeping with the tried and true. He has worked with the same music director, Chris Garrett for 10 years, as part of a great team,” Bird said.

He loves to perform, so if a part is missing he can step in and never miss a line. He sings with gusto and has a great rendition of Teddy Roosevelt. He continually says he is blessed that the club wants him to be the director, according to the inscription on the Golden Trowel award. He is also a lay minister at the Vicksburg United Methodist Church and has been an actor with the South County Players.

Dr. Franklin’s medical training followed graduation from Michigan State University and Army ROTC. He attended the Uniformed Services University School of Medicine from 1977-1981, followed by specialty training in Family Medicine. He then practiced at various army posts before retiring as a colonel and joining Family Doctors. He will again be retired from medical practice at the end of 2016 to become a “full-time disciple,” as he puts it. “I intend to remain in Vicksburg – the home town I had to move 36 times to find. I also hope to contribute to the Showboat for years to come.”

Family Affair Restaurant in Mendon is All About Family

Waitress Dianna Cardosa, left, is shown with guests Jody Schuler, Emmitt Burd, Ethan Todd, and Melinda Todd. Owner Roxanne Underwood is at the far right with her son, Steve Noel.

By Sheryl Oswalt

Family Affair Restaurant at 148 W. Main Street in Mendon is celebrating a first anniversary this month.

But the location is anything but new to Roxanne Underwood, who operates the business with her son, Steve Noel.

Roxanne graduated from Vicksburg High in 1981. From 1982 to 1996, she waited tables at Family Affair in the Main Street location while her mother, Val Cook, operated the restaurant. After Steve was born, the restaurant sometimes doubled as his daycare. You might say he was born into the business.

After the restaurant closed, Roxanne moved on to other employment, including working at Main Street Pub. It was there that she met Dianna Cardosa, who would become a waitress at the reincarnated Family Affair from opening day.

The site on Main Street had been vacant for years when Mendon offered $10,000 for façade improvements. This was the push that Roxanne and Steve needed to take on the challenge. What they expected would be a six-month project turned into three years, leading to an opening December 10 last year.

restaurant-foodWhile Roxanne handles the business end, son Steve keeps the kitchen running smoothly. Roxanne was proud to say that her son Steve has always been a worker, starting with a paper route in 7th grade.

It was a job at Fink’s Butcher Shop & Deli in Vicksburg that got him interested in cooking and food preparation. While at Main Street Pub, Roxanne was able to get him a job in the kitchen, working his way into the position of kitchen manager for 10 years.

Also helping since his graduation from college is another son, Nolan Underwood, working as a server and dishwasher until he finds something in his field of study.

As we did our interview, the lunch crowd ran a little later than usual; Roxanne had to jump in to help. I overheard her conversations with patrons, all wondering about her health and asking how soon was her surgery. I had noticed her penciled eyebrows and black scarf but hadn’t wanted to pry.

I pried. Her response was heart-warming. She was recently diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer. At first she kept her situation a secret, until her loss of hair was no longer something she could hide.

Having been so worried about what people would think if she didn’t have hair, she soon learned she had nothing to fear. She had built a family of patrons in Mendon that cared for her and didn’t care if she had hair or not.

The love and support of her clients has been so overwhelming, she said, that she hasn’t missed her hair or a day of work. Her positive attitude is very evident. She added that her friend and co-worker, Dianna, has been a great source of support; Cardosa will be celebrating 10 years cancer-free on January 10. Having a friend that has gone through the same thing has been very helpful and comforting for Roxanne.

You are sure to find the patrons and staff at Family Affair very friendly. Family Affair is open Monday through Saturday from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Breakfast is served all day and is a big draw. Round-table regulars and other guests can choose from set daily specials along with burgers, soup, salads, sandwiches, wraps and baskets. Something more unique is its flatbread offerings. Steve’s white chicken chili is something that people often take home. The restaurant has a strong carry-out business.

Family Affair will be celebrating its first anniversary on December 10. With surgery for Roxanne scheduled for December 7, how they will celebrate is still up in the air. But she wants to make sure it’s something that will give back to a community that has been so supportive of the restaurant and her family.

Connections Community Church Opens New Facility

Connections Community Church in Schoolcraft will host a grand opening of its new 9,200-square-foot building on Sunday, December 18 during its 9:30 and 11:15 a.m. services at the corner of U.S. 131 and U Avenue.

The grand opening services, as well as Christmas services on Friday, December 23 at 7 p.m. and Saturday, December 24 at 5 p.m. have a theme of “Come and See – God’s Invitation to You This Christmas”. The services will explore ways to experience God’s grace, redemption and peace.

For every attender at the grand opening, Connections will make a donation to provide a week’s worth of meals to one child in southwestern Michigan and one child in the Rakai District in southern Uganda. For southwestern Michigan, they will be making a donation to the Food Bank of South-Central Michigan, which serves almost 200,000 hungry people throughout eight counties in this area. For Uganda, they will be making a donation to Grace Ministries. Grace runs two schools serving almost 1,000 students, many orphans.

The church was established in 1997 as The Prairie Chapel, meeting in the multi-purpose room of the Upper Elementary School in Schoolcraft, then at Schoolcraft High in 2005. The name was changed in 2008. The church has grown to over 350 people.

For more information about the Grand Opening or any of the other Connections Community Church programs, connect in one of the following ways: 269-679-2015,, on Facebook, and Instagram under communitycc.

Riveting Performance of “The Miracle Worker” at VHS

Emily Towns and Austin Pryor watch as Lindsay Fleck is helped by Marisa Miller in the stage play “The Miracle Worker.” Photo by Cheyenne Lehmkuhl.

By Sally Mayne

In 1887 Tuscumbia, Alabama, while our country was still recovering from the tragedies of the Civil war, the Keller family was coming to grips with its own private family tragedy. This backdrop set the stage for a memorable and riveting performance by VHS student actors in mid-November.

The inspiring story of blind and deaf Helen Keller and her incredible teacher, young Anne (Annie) Sullivan, portrayed the volatile relationship early on between the determined and strong-willed teacher and Helen, trapped for years in a secret, silent world, unable to communicate.

The production’s director, Melissa Sparks, stated, “I really appreciated the opportunity to present this inspiring true story of two women: one who overcame extraordinary adversity to achieve remarkable accomplishments during her life and the other a special teacher who had the spirit and dedication to find a way to unlock the intelligence and passion trapped deep inside her student’s world.”

The story also described the impact of Helen’s disability on her whole family and how it highlighted their desperate efforts to help her. Their desperation ultimately led them to put their trust into Annie’s nontraditional teaching methods, as Annie convinced them there was a bright mind and spirit just waiting to be rescued from the dark, tortured silence.

Playing Helen was VHS freshman Lindsay Fleck. When asked what challenges she faced in portraying Helen, Fleck replied that “it was important for me to train myself NOT to react to any of the sounds or sights happening on stage and imagine what it would be like to have been both deaf and blind.” Fleck also noted, “this was a much more serious role than others I’ve had and so I had to tap into my emotions more, but I feel honored to have had the opportunity to take on the role of Helen.”

Marisa Miller, who is a junior at VHS, played the character of Annie Sullivan so flawlessly, one watching the show may have felt as though the real Annie was on the stage in front of them. She displayed the same spirited passion this amazing teacher shared with the world. Miller is a member of the International Thespian Society and explained that, “by truly immersing myself in the character, I found I could experience the emotions the real Annie must have felt and I think it helped me really bring her character to life on the stage.”

“Mandate for Murder” to be Staged at Schoolcraft

By Sally Mayne

Schoolcraft Community Schools’ Drama Program invites the community to attend its intriguing and interactive performance of “Mandate for a Murder,” where politics can be fatal!

Audiences will find clues and suspects abound in this wild political satire that will leave people wondering just who they can trust, according to Director Christine Sargeant.

This production is sure to be great fun for all, with campaigners canvassing the audience as to who they will vote for. Not only can the audience question the suspects, they can even vote for the candidate of their choice and be able to change the ending of each performance. The Performing Arts Center is located on the Schoolcraft High School campus at 551 East Lyons Street.

Tickets go on sale Monday, November 28th. To reserve seats, tickets may be purchased by emailing Christine Sargeant, at or may be purchased as general admission tickets directly from the Schoolcraft High School office during school hours. Reserved and main floor seating tickets are $10. General and bleacher seating costs $8.

Performances are scheduled on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays from Dec. 2-11.

Friday and Saturday shows start at 7 p.m. Sunday shows begin at 2 p.m.

Robotics Takes Over Vicksburg Middle School

The robotics team took first place in the qualifying tournament at Ferris State University in November. Back row, from left: Matt Bombich, Chad Wireman, Jason Caster, Andrew Devries, Eric Hackman, Andy Ackerman. Middle row from left: Owen Bishop, Sam Schnepp, Kyle Ackerman, Charles Rhyner, Elijah Bombich, Lydia O’Roark. Bottom row from left: Tyler Devries, Noah Caster, Carter Johnson, Kyler Dean, Ben Hackman, Chase Perry, Caleb Johnson.

By John Fulton

The Vicksburg Middle School has an exciting program this year for 6th graders – The Robotics Academy. Students will learn about programming, robot building, teamwork and problem solving. The robotics club sent a design for a chassis for a robot to their local sponsor, W. Soule and Company, which produced the chassis without charge.

The students participated in a field trip to Soule where they saw the process from CAD, computer-aided design, to laser cutter to the computer-operated brake. The company does custom metal fabrication, with two jobs alike. It builds large-scale factory systems and components. Factories can punch out millions of widgets, but they can’t do anything without the custom-built machines, elevators, conveyors, mills and other equipment made by fabricators such as Soule. The company has four shops in the Kalamazoo area. The class visited one in Comstock.

So far this year the students have received an introductory course in programming and assembled their robots. The program lasts about 13 weeks in the fall and winter.

There is a separate club for 7th and 8th graders who call themselves the “Control Freaks.” Combined, there are approximately 36 students. The focus for the 6th grade club is on learning programming, math principals, engineering and hands-on engineering tasks. There are 20 kids in this club; student pair up to form 10 teams. The 6th graders are building robots that cost about $300 to build.

The 7th and 8th graders will learn a great deal, but there is also a competitive component. Their competitions last 10-11 hours starting at 7 a.m. They have both local and traveling competitions. They form alliances with other teams for some events, then compete against them for others.

The VMS Robotics Club is funded by corporate sponsorships and donations. This year’s club fundraising goal is approximately $14,000. Best Buy recently provided a $5,000 grant. These funds will be used for , sensors, batteries and servo motors that lift and move objects. There are three sponsorship levels: $250 Bronze, $500 Silver and $1,000 Gold. The primary costs for the robotics club are for building materials and technology.

Matt Bombich became involved in the Vicksburg Robotics Club when his son, Elijah, joined the group. At first, Bombich was just watching and helping a little. Bombich now co-leads the group with Eric Hackman. They are assisted by several adult mentors in both clubs. The mentors and coaches are community volunteers.

Bombich, said, “This isn’t stuff I learned in school. I spend time researching every single day to lead the group. It is very different doings things for myself on my home computer compared to leading a group of 36 middle schoolers. Bombich said, “I didn’t realize how much I would like doing this kind of work. I have even made my own circuit board.”

Coming in the future for the robotics club is 3D printing and CAD experience for the kids. Bombich said, “A big piece of the robotics club is learning skills that can be used today and used in the future in the workforce.”

Bombich pointed out that these students are being exposed to things they just won’t see inside the classroom. And they are doing things that they never conceived or imagined they would do. It is opening the door of possibilities for them. They may discover that they like engineering, electronics, programming, or working in a fabrication shop. By working together with other students to solve complex problems using science, technology, engineering, and math—and having fun doing it—they may just gain enough confidence to believe that they could actually do this stuff for a living.