Monthly Archives: January 2017

‘Wind and James’ Business Comes to Schoolcraft

By Sue Moore

“Our event center called Wind and James will truly be an impact project for Schoolcraft,” said Jamie Clark as he looked over building renovations his company is making to what used to be the Arco property at 555 E. Eliza Street.

Clark and his wife, Windy, envision a 299-seat venue for wedding receptions, art fairs, baby showers and special events in a facility being renovated literally from the ground up. The former brownfield site was purchased by Clark Logic in 2015 to function more as a warehouse for the family business that is headquartered in Three Rivers.

The building is over 100,000 square feet, so it will actually serve as a multi-functional operation. The event center opens to the east on Lee Street off Eliza Street with parking for 135 cars. There will be an outdoor fenced-in courtyard patio and seating area on the southeast side of the main entry. Inside there will be huge glass windows for great lighting opportunities, radiant-heated floors, a warming kitchen for catered events, new bathroom facilities and lots of art work as part of the décor.

Windy Clark is an artist who has been specializing in event planning out of the family home in Vicksburg. She has baked many kinds of cakes for parties, baby showers and other gatherings for up to 100 people in her home, promoted by advertising on social media. The Clarks have three young children, ages seven, six, and three; Windy said she wants them to grow up to see that mommy can be something other than a mommy. “I love children and especially getting them involved in art. We have enrolled our three in summer camp at the Saugatuck Art Center for several years which has been awe-inspiring for them.

Recently, the couple purchased Art on a Whim, an art studio headquartered in the Park Trades Center in Kalamazoo, and plan to move it to the Schoolcraft facility. They will offer art classes, work spaces for artists and a gallery and retail space to display the artists’ work. The instructor will be the former owner of Art on a Whim, Gretchen Leguizamon. Her students can learn to paint anything they want including furniture, floor cloths and wooden items. She will teach any style and help with color selections.

“We are creating the opportunity for a high-end entertainment venue at a good location in Schoolcraft,” said Jamie Clark. His company, Clark Logic owns 27 other facilities with a total of more than 2.3 million square feet of space in Kalamazoo and St. Joseph counties, mostly devoted to warehousing, manufacturing, recycling and transportation specialties. They just purchased the former Eimo building in the Leja Park in Vicksburg that was vacated when Eimo moved into its new facility next door. Clark Logic has 75 employees.

This company is a good citizen in Three Rivers, sponsoring events and donating to several local charities. Clark himself is heavily into bike racing, sponsoring a bike racing team. He personally just won a Cat 4 state time trial championship, while racing in Detroit last summer. When their two oldest children were in the Heart n Hands nursery school in Vicksburg, he donated helmets to all the children and brought in several of his racing buddies to teach the youngsters about bicycle safety. Clark says he has 30 projects in the works right now. In order to keep all these deals in motion, his wife points out that he gets up at 4 a.m. each day. “We’ve both worked hard all of our lives, often undertaking more than one job at a time. There’s a lot of creative energy happening in our household.”

Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center Unveils Plans for 2017

With the success of the Arts & Moore Auction behind it, the staff at the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center is busy developing programming for 2017. You can count on a return of the Art Stroll, the Auction, Art Exhibits, demonstrations and collaborations with various art guilds throughout the year, as it did in 2016. New programming for 2017 includes the Coffeehouse Concert Series, Arts Center Membership Program, Summer Concerts in the Park, Focus on Young Artists (a month long series of programs in May), workshops and classes, and pop-up events.

The Coffeehouse Concert Series begins in January and will be held every third Friday at 7 p.m., except in May when the concert moves to May 26 to accommodate the Vicksburg High School Art Exhibit May 19. The series will feature seasoned musicians from the area and will always be held in the cozy atmosphere of the Gallery at 200 S. Main Street in downtown Vicksburg. Tickets will be $5 per person and specialty coffees will be available for purchase. Seating will be limited to 45. They have booked their first two concerts in this series with the talented Dani Jamerson Band, country, rock and blues leading off on January 20 and The Pnuckleheads, a delightful American Roots acoustic band playing February 19.

You can also now become a member of the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center. The new membership program was developed to offer useful benefits for members as well as a way for members to support the Arts Center. Individual memberships are $50 for the year and include a 10 percent discount on purchases in the gallery and a discounts on Arts Center selected events. A Household membership is $85 and covers two adults and children 17 and under residing in the same household. The Household membership also offers a member discount on one workshop. Additional member levels are available. Details can be found on line at http://www.vicksburgarts.com, at the Gallery, 200 S. Main Street or by calling Syd Bastos at (269) 501-1347.

Details for Summer Concerts, Focus on Young Artists and workshops and more are under way now. You can follow details of Arts Center programming as it develops on line at http://www.vicksburgarts.com, on Facebook at facebook.com/vicksburgculturalartscenter/ or email the staff at events@vicksburgarts.com to be added to a monthly newsletter.

Bob Smith Honored with Row the Boat Memorabilia

By Sue Moore

Bob Smith, an avid Western Michigan University football fan from Vicksburg who has had some serious medical problems recently, received a P.J. Fleck autographed football and a signed boat oar in appreciation of his years of owning season tickets through thick and thin.

Robin Hook, the voice of WMU football and assistant athletic director, presented Smith with the memorabilia at a pizza party in Smith’s honor at Jaspare’s in late December. The surprise gathering brought over 60 of Smith’s friends and neighbors to honor him and join in the occasion.

Stella Shearer, the president of the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market, arranged to surprise Bob by scheduling a board meeting at Jaspare’s. “Bob’s first reaction was the realization that he was not at Jaspare’s to attend a VFM board meeting asking, ‘What’s going on?’ as he saw all the people inside and the party atmosphere.

Shearer explained to Smith that when people found out he was ill many began to ask, “What can we do for Bob?” Knowing he was a huge Bronco fan, Shearer contacted Kathy Beauregard and P.J. Fleck to ask if there was anything they could do. Kathy responded immediately and set the wheels in motion. Bob’s reaction to this was a quiet whisper of “Wow. No way!”

The football displayed the Bronco logo and “Row the Boat” and was signed by P.J. Fleck. The 30-inch wood oar also had the “RTB” reference and PJ’s signature. Before the gift presentation, Hook gave a summary of this year’s very special season. Hook noted the huge impact the season has had not only on the university, but the larger community and beyond. Robin thanked the Vicksburg community, knowing there is a big Bronco fan base here. Robin wished Bob well and extended sincere thanks and appreciation for his strong loyalty to the Bronco program over the past 15 years. Just before Robin and his wife, Ruth left, Rudy Callen led the room in a loud cheer of “Row the Boat.”

Smith, originally from Comstock, is a Marine Corps veteran of 20 years. Upon a medical retirement from Color Craft in Kalamazoo, he settled in Vicksburg and planted a pumpkin patch at his home on East V Avenue. He also started making maple syrup and sold the products at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market since its inception eight years ago. He serves on the market board. Four years ago he volunteered to sell advertising when the South County News was just a startup newspaper. He and his wife, Kathy, and son, Brandon, have been volunteers at Indian Lake Elementary for many years. The principal, Ruth Hook, praised the Smiths for their work at the school even as Brandon moved on to the Vicksburg Middle School.

Vicksburg Foundation Leadership Changes

vix-foundation-2
Bill Oswalt turns over the reins of chair of the Vicksburg Foundation board to Rudy Callen.

By Sue Moore

After 29 years as chairman of the Vicksburg Foundation’s Board of Directors, Bill Oswalt is passing the mantle. Oswalt has presided over a steady growth in foundation revenue and grants, and along the way, he’s personally repaired the folding chairs at the Community Center whenever they fail.

Taking Oswalt’s place as chair is Rudy Callen, a retired banker with roots in the area’s financial community and the Vicksburg school district – if not yet known for his folding-chair repairing skills.

Oswalt, a retired dairy farmer from just outside the village limits, has been a member of the foundation’s board since 1978. He replaced Max Bardeen as chairman in 1988 and ever since has been the go-to guy for grants that have funded a wide array of projects in the greater Vicksburg area.

“The Foundation has provided needed financial assistance to ‘our family of nonprofit organizations’ predominantly of South Kalamazoo County,” Oswalt said.

He is humble about what he and the foundation board have accomplished, as those accomplishments include more than $5 million in grants since 1980, when the Foundation began to keep detailed records.

Whenever a need is identified, Oswalt is usually the first to be contacted. He counsels the applicant on whether the project would be eligible for a hearing by the board, gives the applicant guidance on how to apply and best of all, makes the congratulatory call if the grant is approved. He’s not like Mr. Millionaire on TV, but to the recipients it sometimes feels that way.

Oswalt plans to continue as a trustee on the board and will be available to assist Callen as needed with the transition. His work with the foundation isn’t Oswalt’s only contribution to Vicksburg. He helped assure that the High School had an agribusiness studies program and a functioning Future Farmers of America chapter. He won letters in track at Michigan State University as a pole vaulter and then coached Vicksburg high school students upon his return to his home town after graduation from MSU.

He and his family developed an award-winning registered Holstein herd of dairy cows. In later years, Bill and Pat established Ozland Enterprises Corp., for the purpose of developing and marketing a number of management tools they identified as needed in the dairy industry. Their first product was a breeding management scheduling system designed to keep track of any cow’s gestation and production cycle. Their son, Mike, has been running the business since 1995.

The Vicksburg Foundation was established by Lee Paper Company in 1943 with an initial gift of $19,500.

Over the years, the investment assets of multiple funds have evolved and currently generate an annual “grant making distribution pool” averaging approximately $250,000. It also provides flexibility in providing assistance for larger and smaller projects in the community.

Perhaps the largest one time grant ever awarded was $165,000 to help build the community pavilion on the grounds of the Historic Village. Most recently the Foundation funded the Sunset Lake Elementary school’s “Leader in Me” effort with a three-year pledge to purchase books for students and training for the staff.

Callen is in his second term on the Vicksburg Community Schools Board of Education, past chairman of the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation and a current trustee. He also serves on the Kalsee Credit Union Board after 10 years as president of the bank. He contributes his talents to the Michigan Credit Union League board and plays rhythm guitar in an Irish band called Belfast Gin. He joined the Vicksburg Foundation board in 2012. Other members of the board are Warren Lawrence, Lloyd Appell, Danna Downing, Jim Shaw, Didik Soekarmoen and David Schriemer.

The Foundation has shifted somewhat from brick-and-mortar grants to include strategic funding throughout the community, Oswalt said. Among the organizations which received funding in 2016 totaling $411,000: Village of Vicksburg’s Cultural Arts Center, Vicksburg Historical Society for new programs and staff, Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation for scholarships, Schoolcraft Community Library for automatic door openers, Hospital Hospitality House of Southwest Michigan for capital campaign, Vicksburg Community Schools for tennis court repairs, Village of Vicksburg for school resource officer salary, Vicksburg United Way and Village of Vicksburg for community leadership training, Lending Hands of Michigan for shelving, Vicksburg DDA for 2017 façade grant program, South County Emergency Medical Services and Vicksburg Vision Capital Campaign for community matching grants over a period of three years.

It has been a banner year for the Vicksburg Foundation’s commitment to “partnership” with the Greater Vicksburg Community, Oswalt and Callen agreed.

Michigander Retrievers Sports a New Facility

By Linda Lane

A state-of-the-art boarding kennel and training center for dogs has opened its doors on East S Avenue in Vicksburg. Owned and operated by Ken and Kristin Youngs, the 45-acre facility with four acres of training ponds boasts 25 individual large-dog runs, five small-dog runs, and three separate exercise/airing yards as ranges for dogs’ socialization. Youngs will offer all-breed obedience classes in the spring, specialized training of water-fowl hunting retrievers, UKC and AKC-registered stud services for Labradors, and pedigree puppies from his award-winning black labs.

Every detail of the facility has been carefully designed for the needs of the dogs. The energy-efficient radiant in-floor heating system ensures the concrete flooring isn’t too cold for dogs’ paws, a comfortable temperature in the facility and easy to keep clean. Mason-brand kennels are a roomy 4’ x 8’ with privacy panels to screen the dogs in the adjoining runs. The three exercise and airing yards are pea-stone-based with children’s plastic climbing structures that the dogs can play on and climb.

The on-site four acres of ponds, to be completed by this fall, will provide ready access for training hunting and birding dogs. The indoor dog runs, with sprayed-in insulation to minimize noise and maintain a healthy temperature for the dogs, also reduces the possibility of disturbing nearby neighbors. And the rustic interior office area, with a dog bathing station, is constructed from two barns from the Athens area that Youngs helped tear down and repurpose the metal roofing and barn wood into walls. He and his parents, Ken and Debra Youngs, built the majority of the new facility.

Youngs’ six black labs hold some impressive titles and accomplishments. The wall of the front door holds a rainbow of ribbons his dogs have earned.

Ivy, the matriarch of the kennel, began Youngs’ journey with dog training in 2009. He quit his full-time job in 2014 to focus on his business. Blake, the “at stud” dog, passed AKC’s Master National Level in St. Louis, Mo. in October of this year. In addition to Ivy, Youngs has three other females: Margo (Ivy’s puppy), Laila and Ronda. The adorable puppy, Sharpie, is Youngs’ third-generation female from Margo. The purebred labs are registered with the AKC and UKC with clever formal names such as Sharpie’s, Michiganders Black Magic Marker.

“I wanted a well-bred, well-trained birding dog,” Youngs said, “the dog that everyone ‘oh-ed’ and ‘ah-ed’ over. One that could not only mark birds, run a blind, be a quiet hunting dog, but also be a great pet for my family.”

Youngs, a 1997 VHS graduate, researched the gun-dog industry, learned about “hunt tests” which test dogs’ abilities to work with game in a simulated hunting setting and read everything he could find on the subject. He’s traveled with Ivy to compete in weekend-long tests in five mid-west states. She scored very well, earning honors in the hunt tests. Youngs goes to two different venues for testing the dogs’ skills: the United Kennel Club’s Hunting Retriever Club; and the American Kennel Club’s Retriever Field Events and Retriever Hunting Tests. With a trailer large enough to accommodate up to 22 dogs, Youngs also takes a “spring training” trip down to Baton Rouge, La. He is typically training from 12-14 dogs at any given time, with formal training taking from three months to over a year.

Boarding fees in the kennel will run $19 a day for one dog, an additional $14 a day for a second dog if they share a kennel. The range for purchasing a puppy is $1,000-1,500 depending on the generational pedigree and whether the puppy is best suited going to a pet or hunting home. “Started dogs”, or a dog with three months to over a year of bird-training, can run from $3-7,000. More information on services and pricing is available on their website: http://www.miretrievers.com. Phone 269-823-8717.

Vicksburg Photographer Has Exhibit at Bronson Hospital

By Sue Moore

A new “then and now” photo exhibit at Bronson Children’s Hospital is designed to bring hope to families with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The Pictures of Hope display features photos of former Neonatal Intensive Care Unit patients who spent days, weeks or months in the NICU. The pictures show that the former patients have now grown into healthy toddlers, teens and adults. Some of the babies were so small their parents were able to fit a wedding band around their tiny arms.

Photographer Linda Hoard from Vicksburg, donated her time and services to capture the beautiful images. The exhibit is funded through the Bronson Health Foundation. An online photo album along with each patient story was also created. Hoard was recruited by Ruth Ritzema, a staff member of Parent to Parent, who coordinated the project for the 18 families who came to Hoard’s home to be photographed. “It was an honor to work with all the families. We started in April 2016 and the grand opening of the display was in September. Each of the families brought a photo taken when their child was in the NICU. My job was to pose the family or individual holding their very own baby picture. The goal is to give hope to future parents of premature babies while in the NICU care,” Hoard said.

Patients and families pictured in the photos each had the opportunity to unveil their own pictures during a reception in Bronson’s North Pavilion. George Kudwa, just three pounds when he was born, is now 26 years old. “I’m very lucky and blessed to be here today,” Kudwa said. “That’s what these photos remind me of.”

Julia Cretsinger, who had three babies who each spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit, became teary-eyed when she saw the photos. “It makes me feel good to be part of it, so there is hope for other families,” Cretsinger said. Wendy Finsterwald-Watts, manager of nursing in the NICU, said the photos are installed in the halls of the NICU. “It will be very meaningful to families of current and future patients. We hope it will be encouraging for them to see these former patients smiling and having fun,” she said.