Monthly Archives: September 2018

Vicksburg Tailgate Celebrates Back to School

By Sue Moore

This year’s seniors at Vicksburg High School were starting third grade when the annual Community Tailgate was first organized. The administration wanted to get athletes, parents and students in the mood to come back to school in the fall. The Community Education department had received so many requests from local businesses to show their wares to this same group that they decided it could best be accomplished by bringing all of these groups together for one rousing start to the year.

From that 2008 start, the event has grown to include over 30 booths and 1,200 attendees in 2017 and major sponsorships by Frederick Construction, the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation, Denney Veterinary and this year, DeNooyer Ford and Paper City Development LLC/The Mill.

The Tailgate runs from 4:30-6:30 on Thursday, Aug. 30 between the Middle School and the High School walkway, preceding the football game between Vicksburg and Allegan at 7 p.m. with the Big Red Machine band kicking off the on-field excitement at 6:45. At the Tailgate, there will be free hot dogs, chips and water for all attendees along with trinkets and ice cream passed out by vendors in attendance.

The tradition has taken hold with parents, grandparents, teachers and students taking an opportunity to reacquaint, while learning what organizations and businesses in the community have to offer. It will also be a good chance to view the courtyard and high school parking lot improvements connecting the stadium and the school building. “It’s truly a community celebration,” said Alyssa Thompson, head of the district’s community education department.

Back to School Night in Schoolcraft

By Sue Moore

Schoolcraft has celebrated its Back to School night in August each year with food, a dunk tank, information about school activities and a lot of school cheer.

This year brought a new twist with the special “walk-ride-bike” challenge by Superintendent Rusty Stitt in an effort to raise scholarship money for the Community School Foundation. Stitt wanted to put an emphasis on scholarships as he himself benefitted greatly from those he received as a college student. This was his effort to “pass it on,” he said.

He spent the day walking and riding his bike while broadcasting his progress via Facebook, hoping to receive pledges as he gained momentum. He walked the victorious final lap into the Eagles Stadium.

He was excited to announce that the effort was within $1,000 dollars of reaching the goal of $10,000 at press time. for the $50 for 50-mile scholarship fundraiser. The donations will go to honor Schoolcraft students as they pursue post-secondary opportunities.

The new school year is emphasizing a program led by Matt McCullough, director of innovation, to involve students with the community. Students have worked successfully with Walther Farms, the Schoolcraft Historical Society and local businesses and will begin a seven-month stint with the South County News in October. The English Language Arts (ELA) classes in the high school and middle school will each take a month to prepare a news article to appear in the newspaper. It will be written by the students and submitted to the editor of the South County News along with a by line for the class and the student who ends up with the best story along with pictures they take.

The story assignments will come from ideas created by each class, researched and written by the students themselves. It may involve a survey of the community, school topics or even a subject appearing in the national news, McCullough said. Teachers helping with this effort include Kim Klocke, freshman English and life sciences; Mary Visser, 8th grad English language arts (ELA) and leadership; Kathy Taylor, 6th grade ELA; Doug Martin, 11th and 12th grade English; Tracey Branch, 10th grade and 12th grade English, Karin Lynch, 7th grade ELA.

Township Trustees Ask Voters for Roads Tax on Nov. 6

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Wakeshma Township Supervisor Jason Gatlin holds up a chart showing the quality of roads rated in Kalamazoo County. Wakeshma Township is in red and shows the poorest roads in the county.

The township’s Road Committee has looked at the quality of the local road network within the township for over a year and a half. The Road Committee is represented by Jason Gatlin, Randy Bartholomew, Deb Brockway, Ben Fritz and Mike Finley. A public informational meeting was held Aug. 6 to discuss the matter and hear questions and concerns from residents. At the meeting, the Road Committee noted, “We cannot even afford to turn our local roads back to gravel based on the township’s budget. There are so many poor-quality roads now.” The Road Committee presented the option of a dedicated local road millage which proposes 3 mills, $3 per $1,000 taxable valuation, for 10 years, 2018 through 2027, for local road repairs, upgrades, construction, improvement and maintenance purposes only.

Wakeshma Township had not proposed a local road funding initiative in the past and has the lowest rating of local roads among the 15 townships in Kalamazoo County. The millage would be a huge step toward a self‐sufficient local road fund. At the August 6th Board meeting, the Board voted unanimously to put the millage on the Nov. 6 ballot. Additional public informational meetings will be held at the Wakeshma Township Hall. Wakeshma Township invites residents to attend these meetings and learn more about this important investment in the local road network.

Medical Marijuana Growing in Wakeshma Township

cannibisBy Sue Moore

“We grow things here,” quipped Wakeshma Township Supervisor Jason Gatlin. “Corn, soy beans, pumpkins – and now medical marijuana.”

The township approved an ordinance last December to allow growing and processing marijuana, a possible testing facility and a transportation facility license within the township boundaries. It does not permit marijuana planting in fields. It can only be grown in indoor facilities, Gatlin said.

Nobody has broken ground yet. Gatlin said the township has received approximately $30,000 in application fees from outside entities. “I’ve received calls from interested parties from as far away as Texas, New York, California, Colorado and Washington state. We have the right space and the right place.”

The state will come in to do inspections of each facility licensed for levels of 500, 1,000 or 1500 plants. Licenses may be stacked, so there are opportunities for growers to expand their business in the future. Stacking is at the township’s discretion. The application fee is $5,000 per year per license for a grower, paid to the township. No dispensaries will be allowed. “There is a lot to the whole thing. Farming is what we do out here, so we feel this an appropriate area for growing” Gatlin said.

“Our plan is to use the marijuana licensing fees for township betterment.” To this end, the approximate $30,000 has been spent on taking down some dilapidated buildings in the township that are dangerous, having been condemned many years ago. There have been objections to this from the owners,” Gatlin pointed out.

“The land here is vast and our population is small; the 2010 census showed 1,414 residents. Investors may come in and buy or lease. Those who are quicker to get into this new market will likely make more money. That’s what is bringing the interest in so fast,” Supervisor Gatlin said.

A resident voiced some concerns about the passage of the medical marijuana ordinance in the township. Facilities are regulated and controlled by the state, she was told. The state has special software for the facilities and cameras will see everything from sales to measuring to growing. The number of licenses was uncapped to allow license stacking in order for growers to have the opportunity to develop a long-term relationship with the township and the community.

Dispensaries were brought up during a recent presentation at one of the township Board meetings. The Board voted to uphold the decision for no dispensary licenses to be issued within the township. Even though they are not permitted in the township currently, the Board could always change that in the future if they feel it is beneficial for the residents, Gatlin pointed out.

Harvest Festival Shows Vicksburg’s Agricultural Heritage

By Sue Moore

Something for everyone will be on tap for visitors to the 10th annual Harvest Festival, sponsored by the Vicksburg Historical Society on Sunday, Sept. 30 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Historic Village on N. Richardson Street. It is free.

Richard Barnes will be there with his sawmill demonstration. The West Michigan Wood Turners will be turning wood into beautiful objects. Rich Salvaggio will be making apple cider and providing samples to drink made from apples donated by Vicksburg Farmers’ Market vendor Nick Fox. Dale Sult and his group of merry men will have antique tractors on display.

A pie baking competition, a pumpkin decorating contest and a pumpkin weight guessing game will take place. A secret word and secret picture search will go on all day for the little people. A 50/50 drawing will be part of the Harvest Festival as a fundraiser for the Historical Society.

There will be animals to gawk at or pet. A free hayride wagon pulled by a team of horses will take families around the town. The Depot Museum’s Ford Model A car will be available for short rides to experience what riding in one of these early cars was like.

These activities and more have been organized by a team headed by Charlie Church as chair and assisted by past chairmen John Polasek and Don Wiertella. Together they have a strong band of community volunteers who have been helping with the festival since its inception. The initial idea for a Harvest Festival came from Pat Oswalt, whose family had had a large dairy farm on the outskirts of Vicksburg. She had been giving tours to school children for many years and recognized that the Historical Society could best feature this community’s agricultural roots in a celebration of the harvest.

That’s why vendors from the Farmers’ Market will be plying their wares as will makers of things, who will be on site to sell their work at the community pavilion.

The pumpkin decorating contest for children 5 to 12 years old requires entries to be delivered to the Depot Museum on Saturday, Sept. 29 between 1 and 6 p.m. The winners will be announced at 12:30 p.m. on Sunday. The pie baking contest will take place on Sunday at 10:30 a.m., so entries must be there in the morning before that time. Winners will be announced at noon. Then the pies will be sliced and offered for sale at $2 each.

Applications for the pumpkin and pie baking contests will be available at the Church Insurance Agency at 125 E. Prairie St. and at the Depot Museum on Saturday and Sunday from 1-5 p.m. in September.

The buildings in the Historic Village will be open for tours with docents available to explain the history and contents of the print shop, general store, Doris Lee Sweet shop, school house, township hall, garage and farm house. The Historic Village continues to grow as part of the work of the Vicksburg Historical Society which is open during the fall on the weekends from 1-5 p.m. each day for researching and viewing the collection of artifacts at the Depot Museum and on the grounds of the Historic Village.

Wind + James Put on Boss Babe Expo in Schoolcraft

By Sue Moore

Hundreds of people are expected to descend upon Schoolcraft for the largest Wind + James event the business has sponsored since starting in business. It is called Boss Babe Expo and will take place on Saturday, September 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the new facility at 555 E. Eliza Street.

“We want to connect women entrepreneurs, so they can build and grow their businesses. Over 45 vendors have registered for this event that is all about women supporting women by working together,” said Windy Clark, the owner of Wind + James. “We will have crafters, bakers, beauty art, wellness, fitness, fashion and more.”

The Boss Babe Expo will feature favorite women-led brands and businesses, DIY workshops, fitness classes, influencers, craft cocktails, jams and bites. Clark said she was looking for and curating the best selection of boutiques, jewelers, artist, calligraphers, beauticians, crafters, designers, photographers, florist, bakers, caterers, baristas and more to be vendors at the event. Clark plans to make Boss Babe Expo the ultimate girls day out. “The goal is to bring customers the brightest and most ‘of the moment’” experiences for one epic event!”

It’s a free event for those who come to see what the vendors have to offer, according to Clark. There will be entertainment and an Organic Gypsy food truck. The Millennium Group is doing a mini taco station. Skylar Yoo is selling a T-shirt designed especially for the Boss Babe Expo that says, “Girls to the Front.” The whole thing will take place in the courtyard of the Wind + James facility, Clark said.

A fundraiser within the event is a Pointe Shoe Paint Party. The cost is $25 per shoe plus paint for people to unleash their creativity, said Clark. Proceeds benefit the Traveling Tutus, a nonprofit dedicated to bringing the joy of dance to children worldwide. They are also collecting gently used dancewear and recital costumes.

Evensens Celebrate Their 60th Anniversary

Mom and Dad Evensen
Ken and Lee Evensen display their wedding picture taken 60 years ago.

The former Letha (Lee) Marie Emmons married Kenneth (Ken) Edward Evensen on August 16, 1958 in an outdoor ceremony in Portage.

Ken and Lee are both retired but are still very active. They love to travel in their vintage motor home and participate in Tin Can Tourist events. Both were long-time volunteers for the Vicksburg Historical Society and both still work at part-time jobs to keep busy. Ken headed the crew at the Historic Village called the Thursday Guys for many years. They did most of the maintenance and building work on the grounds of the fast-growing village complex. Lee spent many hours assisting in the office with data entry and hosting visitors to the Depot Museum.

They were residents of Long Lake in Scotts for 32 years and have resided on a farm in Vicksburg for the last 28 years. They have three children, Laura (William) Sandahl, Peggy (Todd) LaPorte and Patsy (Jerry) VanSchoick.  They’ve also been blessed with six grandchildren, Taylor VanSchoick, Tyler Sandahl, Alex LaPorte, Kelsey Sandahl, Aaron LaPorte and Mitchell VanSchoick.

They celebrated with a family dinner at Bravo! in Portage and a dessert reception at the home of Patsy and Jerry VanSchoick.

VCAC Destination Series Keeps On Traveling

By Sue Moore

Ukraine, Ireland, rural America and Italy have been hot spots on the travel calendar for the Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center. On Sept. 22 it plans to take an audience to Scandinavia for afternoon coffee at Main Street Pub Banquet room at from 3-5:30 p.m. The goal is to celebrate the region’s arts, culture and food.

The traditional coffee will feature a menu of Scandinavian favorites, savory and sweet. “We are having an entertaining afternoon planned, including national costumes, a make-and-take craft, art and Scandinavian humor,” said Syd Bastos, executive director of the Cultural Arts Center.

Ole and Lena are the names of the characters central to jokes by Scandinavian Americans, particularly in the Midwest. Kathleen Propp and Annette Hamel are professionals who imitate the fun stories of folks who immigrated from Denmark, Sweden and Norway. Holly Jensen will direct the craft activity, a woven heart. Costumes, art and artifacts will be from the collections of Jensen, members of the Vasa Order of America and Sons of Norway groups.

The Destination Scandinavia, “Traditions Frozen in Time” and all the other Destination Series locations are the brain child of Syd Bastos, executive director of the Cultural Arts Center and Lisa Beams, the gallery manager who assists in many ways to make these events popular. She recently returned from a trip to Sweden and wanted to bring that bit of culture to Vicksburg.

Tickets are $20, available online at VicksburgArts.com/events or by calling (269) 200-2223. The Center is asking people to please reserve by Monday, September 17 to plan food accordingly.

SCCS and GHI Band Together

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Danna Downing and Sheri Louis congratulate each other on their successful move and collaboration in their new offices that will house both South County Community Services and Generous Hands, Inc.

By Sue Moore

A shared vision and a doable mission spurred South County Community Services (SCCS) and Generous Hands, Inc. (GHI) to move into one location at 606 Spruce Street, just north of the Historical Village and the Farmers’ Market. The two nonprofit emergency assistance organizations will continue their respective core missions while looking for shared opportunities to increase economies of scale, maximize collaboration and improve access to families who need a little help. No matter what door a person enters, they have immediate access to additional services, if warranted.

The agencies’ executive directors, Sheri Louis of Generous Hands and Danna Downing at SCCS, agreed that 606 Spruce Street is a good place to start when trying to find solutions to life’s many challenges. “We care, we have devoted and capable staff and volunteers,” said Downing. “Together, we hope to build a stronger community, by not duplicating services and finding new ways of enriching family life” added Louis.

Generous Hands was formed in 2004 with its core organizing group coming from Lakeland Reformed Church, headed by Paula Schriemer. “She has been the backbone of this organization, moving us forward without any reservation about this combination,” Louis said.

South County Community Services has been in operation for over 40 years and serves families who struggle to meet basic needs such as food, shelter, utilities, transportation and medical care. The South County service area includes the townships of Brady, Climax, Pavilion, Prairie Ronde, Schoolcraft and Wakeshma. Approximately 33 percent of that population either live in poverty or have difficulty meeting basic needs on a predictable basis. SCCS is a United Way agency with 40-50 percent of its budget covered by United Way funding, with the balance coming from local funding sources. SCCS hosts a social services specialist from the Department of Health and Human Services, a veteran’s services navigator, staff from the Women, Infants and Children program, a foot clinic, and a free legal clinic. Drew Johnson is the current emergency assistance coordinator and Diane Durian serves as the senior outreach coordinator.

Founders of GHI recognized the need for hungry Vicksburg schoolchildren to receive weekend food. The Friday Pack program now provides packs for 400 Vicksburg students, as well as 100 students from surrounding communities, with weekend kid-friendly food. Their program serves students from the elementary schools, middle school, high school and the Pathways program. Students can choose to have the backpacks placed in their lockers at school or they can pick them up at the Generous Hands office.

In addition, each Vicksburg family receives a weekly voucher to purchase milk, bread, eggs, fruits and vegetables from the Family Fare store. Over the summer, coupons for fresh fruits and vegetables at the Vicksburg Farmer’s Market, across the street from GH’s new Spruce Street location, are also provided. Vicksburg students receive hygiene kits 2-3 times per year. GHI is funded primarily through local donations of money and food. “Community volunteers are at the heart of all these efforts. They stock the shelves. They pack and distribute the Friday Packs every week, under the efficient direction of Sheri Louis,“ said Paula Schriemer.

The two agencies have worked together on several annual projects, including the Backpack Bonanza, which provides Vicksburg children with new school backpacks and school supplies each August. For the past two years, they have worked with the Kalamazoo-based nonprofit First Day Shoe Fund to supply elementary-aged Backpack Bonanza students with a new pair of athletic shoes. They also partner for an annual family picnic and have just begun working to address holiday needs and opportunities.

The move to the new facility occurred over the summer, with GHI arriving in June and SCCS following in July. Again, community volunteers stepped up to facilitate this process: Gary Hallam and his crew from Eimo and SCCS board member Larry Forsyth were instrumental in accomplishing this task smoothly.

According to Downing, “Both boards were stretching to achieve this joint effort, but they hung in there through every little fork in the road with outstanding support from the Vicksburg Foundation. Our mission is to support and assist our families to take care of unmet needs in the most inclusive and cost-effective manner possible.” Louis said.

“It’s been a little scary at times, but we kept our focus on our goals and had dedicated support from our boards and strong leadership from our two presidents, Jan Modderman, (GHI) and Jackie Skinner (SCCS). “The group of planners brought significant wisdom and respect to the table so that the group could feel safe and yet creative,” added Downing.

Contact information for each agency remains the same and fundraising efforts are to be implemented independently for each agency. GHI will be offering its ever-popular Fall Extravaganza and SCCS will continue its membership program and Tree of Life fundraising activities for the holiday season.

Sue Moore Honored at Destination Rural America Event

By Linda Lane

Sue Moore, editor of the South County News and a decades-long area activist, was honored by community leaders at an Aug. 25 “farm-to-table” dining event hosted by three Vicksburg organizations – the Cultural Arts Center, Historical Society and Farmers Market.

The evening event featured small-plate appetizers from local farms prepared by Main St Pub, small-pour pairings of wine from Lawton Ridge Winery, beer from from the Distant Whistle Brewhouse in Vicksburg and bluegrass and folk music performed by Darcy Wilkin.

Many who have worked with Moore offered comments before the event, which occurred after this edition’s copy deadline.

“I am amazed at how much passion comes out of Sue when we’re working on a project – for the project, for the organizations involved, for the people making it happen and for the people who will benefit from the project,” said Syd Bastos, director of the Cultural Arts Center.

“There are many of us here who have worked with Sue, and we all know this about her: She loves south Kalamazoo County,” Bastos said. “What makes her stand out is her ability to get things done. Her magic power is in multiplying her passion for our communities through others. The power of one becomes the power of a thousand.”

If you Google “Sue Moore Vicksburg,” over a quarter million hits provide a glimpse of her involvement with South County’s organizations and community groups. That involvement includes:

• Co-founder and editor of the South County News since it was established in 2013;

• Member of the Vicksburg Community School’s Board of Education from 1977 to 1985;

• Inaugural member of the Vicksburg Community School’s Foundation in 1983-84;

• Co-founder and board member of the Vicksburg’s Farmers Market since 2010; and

• Publisher/editor/reporter for the Commercial Express, a precursor of the South County News and owned by family-owned paper, from 1961 to 1982.

And that’s just the start.

Moore’s leadership and ability to work with others kick-started the South County News. While many small community newspapers were reducing pages and frequency of publication or closing up, Moore and a small group of other brave volunteers began publishing the non-profit newspaper in 2013.

“Sue has an incredible work ethic and dedication to her community involvement. She covers an enor-mous number of community meetings and events for the South County News. I’m amazed by her ability to keep up with the constantly changing technology, not to mention the constant pressure of deadlines, with the news business,” Steve Ellis said. Ellis is a founding and current board member of the South County News.

In Vicksburg, she’s worked with the Parks and Recreation Committee, the Fire Authority Board, and the Vicksburg Community Foundation.

“One of the reasons Sue’s accomplished so much in her lifetime is that she’s always looked at things in a positive manner, both through the lens of her camera and the writings in her newspaper,” said Vicksburg Village President Bill Adams. “She fails to look at the negative but focuses on the positive and what our village and community can be.”

“Sue Moore is the reason the Vicksburg Community Foundation exists,” said Rudy Callen, president of the foundation’s board and a school board member. “Sue does not passively participate in organizations. Sue’s vision and energy have contributed much to South County over the decades. Simply stated, Vicksburg and all of south County is a better place because of Sue Moore.”

Moore doesn’t settle for just getting something started; she looks to learn and improve it. After she worked with other community leaders to found the Vicksburg Farmers Market in 2010, she took the extra step to become a Certified Farmers Market Manager in 2012. Three fellow board members of the Vicksburg Farmers Market have much praise for Moore’s volunteer contributions:

“Sue exemplifies the ‘spirit of service’ by her commitment to improving her community. Sue’s hard work has touched nearly every aspect of community life in our Village,” Stella Shearer said.

“I admire Sue’s boundless energy and her constant desire to promote and advance Vicksburg. Sue is a leading example of what can happen if you start conversations with an attitude of positivity. Her approach seems to be one that says, ‘This seems to be a good idea. How might we make this happen?’” said John Kern.

“Sue IS Vicksburg volunteerism. She is a true visionary. Humble, devoted, passionate and driven. She sets the bar high,” Kimberly Klein said of Moore’s involvement.

Moore has never missed a year of attending the Vicksburg Rotary’s Showboat. She tackles producing the annual event’s program and coordinates its advertising.

“Sue is a community-minded person, a local who takes being a local to heart,” said another local, Dr. Lloyd Appell. “Sue does more than just report on the meetings. When she learns about something in the community, she gets interested in it and then gets active in it. For instance, she reported on many school board meetings, and then decided to run for the school board and served for two terms,” Dr. Appell said. He has worked with Moore on Showboat and served with her on the school board.

Charlie Glaes, recently retired Vicksburg school superintendent, worked with Moore “on Rotary, Showboat, the VCS Schools Foundation and other capacities. If Mercer Munn was right, that Vicksburg is the center of the universe, then Sue is the spark that initiates that sense of community and the glue that holds it together.”

Moore is a Master Gardener. She was a cheerleader at Michigan State University and boasts an impressive 66-year streak of attending 66 MSU-U of M games. She founded a chapter of Alpha Phi sorority at Western Michigan University. With earlier careers, Sue has lived in Seattle, Washington, and Springfield, Illinois.

“Having known Susie for more than 60 years, I have often marveled at how many interests one woman can have, and how deeply she delves into each of those interests. Somehow, she manages to keep all the balls in the air and do justice to them all. Sue makes good use of her time and talents, so those of us in her community are better off for having her in it,” said Nancy Fulton.

Moore has two sons, Scott and Christopher. Christopher is spearheading The Mill development in Vicksburg.

This article will likely be a surprise to Sue Moore when it is published the week of August 27. She’s not one to toot her own horn. She may not be happy about the praise aimed at her. When the redevelopment of the Mill was announced in the June 2017 edition of the South County News, Moore wrote, “It’s important to the veracity and independence of this newspaper that the public does not perceive that I personally am touting one of my own interests. What is important is that people know what is happening in efforts to improve the building and the acreage around it, hopefully to the benefit of the community.”

Sue Moore’s lifelong dedication to doing what is best for the South County communities is both undeniable and greatly admirable. She is a powerful force which benefits our communities.