Monthly Archives: September 2019

Turning Leaf to Open Residences in Remodeled Hospital

By Sue Moore

“We want to make our residents feel special,” said Sami Al Jallad, executive director of Turning Leaf Behavioral Health Services, as his company opens its newest programs in Vicksburg. “This [will be] their home. Some will be here a short time but most will be here a while longer. These are people with amazing stories and something to offer. Our vision is to provide the highest quality health care possible for this population.”

Al Jallad and his wife, Destiny, who is director of operations, toured the Bronson Vicksburg Hospital in November 2017. Bronson had not yet closed the hospital at 13326 N. Boulevard Street; but had been hoping to sell the facility. “It had the right feeling,” Destiny Al Jallad said. “It had a safe feeling with a soundness to it.”

That safe feeling is important in their business, headquartered in Lansing. Turning Leaf serves adults diagnosed with mental illness and intellectual/developmental disabilities aged 18 and over in their Lansing, Muskegon, Holland, Caledonia, Otsego, Pentwater and Scottville locations. In Vicksburg, Turning Leaf expects to serve an older population, aged 50 and older, as they age out of their current residences and need a different level of care. This focus will extend the continuum of care Turning Leaf currently offers. In Vicksburg, residents will be treated for psychiatric, behavioral and medical complexities. “There are not many options around the state for this population similar to what we have planned for Vicksburg,” Sami said.

Currently, Turning Leaf serves approximately 100 residents across the state of Michigan. The Vicksburg programs will add 40 more residents when Birch I and Birch II units open ther in the fall of 2019. The two Adult Foster Care Homes, licensed by the state of Michigan, will be entirely separate facilities with separate staff and a different kind of feel to the living arrangement said Kathy Sparrow-Dinzik, program director and administrator who is a Vicksburg native. By the time both programs are fully staffed, Turning Leaf hopes to employ 80 people at the Vicksburg locations.

“This building is full of personality,” Sparrow-Dinzik quipped. “We are learning all of its quirks as we retrofit each area. The walls have been painted in soothing colors. There is new carpeting and furnishings in the public areas and in the living, dining and gathering rooms. This is a unique setting. There are not a lot of others like it. There is a big need. I’m passionate about helping people build their skills to get them in the least restrictive environment possible. This is their home and we want them to feel like it is their community.”

Amenities in each 20-bed unit include half baths in each room with a larger detached shower room, a living room space with TVs, games and reading areas, wellness room, laundry room, nursing station, kitchen area with dining room attached, serenity room for low stimulation for those who seek quiet and a bit more solitude and a secured courtyard. Many of the old hospital rooms have been converted to two bed living units. Some have been designed as one person rooms for those who need around the clock care. Future plans call for a beauty shop and resident store.

“I know this is my calling,” Sparrow-Dinzik said. She had been working most recently at Heritage in Kalamazoo as assisted living director. She received her training in radiology, having worked in the Vicksburg hospital radiology department after graduating from Kellogg Community College and Vicksburg High School in 1984.

“Kathy found us; she is a godsend.” Destiny declared. “She knows this village, its people and how special the Vicksburg community is. She is as passionate as we are about helping people. You can’t teach someone to have this kind of passion.”

Turning Leaf sprouted from a family business started by Al Jallad’s mother and father who were from Flint. Sami’s mother, Rachel, is a registered nurse with years of inpatient psychiatric experience who saw the need for a holistic style of care. Sami’s father, M. Sami, was employed by General Motors for a number of years and simultaneously launched a real estate investment and management company which ultimately morphed into the healthcare management organization that is now Turning Leaf. Since 2003, when the founders retired, their eldest son, Sami, has assumed the leadership role within the organization and sought to build on its reputation by seeking out program accreditations and to develop new locations throughout Michigan.

“I have a profound respect for what my parents in law started and what my husband Sami has been doing for the entirety of his professional life,” Destiny said. “The behavioral health field is a challenging and fast-moving field. When I joined the company in 2011, it had two locations; we have learned a lot and worked hard to get to the point of opening these Vicksburg programs. We are extremely proud of the programs and offering it to our community mental health stakeholders across the region,” Destiny said. “It’s all about normalizing and destigmatizing the life of these unique individuals. That’s why we go above and beyond. That’s why stakeholders seek us out.”

Open Houses for the community are scheduled on September 5 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., September 11 and 12 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. and 3-6 p.m.

Harvest Festival Opens the Last Sunday in September

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Glen Blinn holds the harness to the rocking horse he built. It will be raffled off at the Harvest Festival to raise money for renovations of the Historical Society’s Model A.

By Sue Moore

A beautiful handmade rocking horse will be featured in a raffle at the Vicksburg Historical Society’s annual Harvest Festival. It takes place on Sunday, September 29 from 11 a.m.-4 p.m. on the grounds of the Historic Village.

The creator is Glen Blinn, who serves as a docent for the garage in the Historic Village. He is a crafty guy who delights visitors with his stories about gasoline engines as they tour the building. He has grown fond of the Model A that is a big feature of the garage display, which takes people from the horse and buggy days of transportation to the 1920s-era gas station.

He conceived and built the rocking horse and donated it to the Historical Society to raffle because he wanted to donate money to refinish the interior of the Model A. “The inside has greatly deteriorated over the years. I love to tell people who ask if I can drive it, that I could but I don’t have a key. It needs to get out on the road with a nice new updated interior because the outside is in perfect shape,” he explained.

The rocking horse fits right in with the agricultural theme of the Harvest Festival, said Charlie Church, this year’s chairman of the event. “We will have lots of activities for children, food to eat on the grounds, a pie baking contest, a pumpkin decorating contest, a sawmill demonstration and lots of vendors displaying their fall wares,” he said.

Blinn, in his fourth year as a volunteer at the Historic Village, spent his career as a science teacher in the Harper Creek schools, retiring in 1990. The first day he volunteered he was assigned to the garage to meet people. “What do you say to them?” he asked April Bryan about his duties. “I didn’t get much of an answer so that night I researched the subject online and had a spiel ready to go. Ted Vliek, former president of the Society, came in to listen and right away I was assigned to talk at the Harvest Festival.“

Because Blinn loves to fix and make things, he has been a frequent contributor to the displays in the Historic Village. He and his wife, Carla, a member of the Stafinski family in Vicksburg, had been living in Battle Creek for many years. They moved to her home town, where she opened a quilt and craft shop next to the Munn Agency called the Loose Goose.

“I had a pattern for the rocking horse but modified it a lot. The mane is made of macramé to resemble horse hair. I had to undo it and brush it out with a wire brush, which took hours. That’s the reason I would never make another rocking horse,” Blinn exclaimed.

“I actually made two rocking horses, one for my two grandsons in Arizona and this one to raise money for the raffle. They love to ride it and their parents send pictures of them to me.” Tickets will be for sale at the Harvest Festival for $5 each or $20 for six, at the Church Agency and the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market on Fridays.

Blinn also volunteers his time in the winter with the Salvation Army. He starts to assemble gift baskets in October. “It’s a humbling experience. I often think my life isn’t that bad no matter what I’ve experienced after seeing the children’s reaction upon receiving the baskets at Christmas time,” he said.

OLLI Class on Vicksburg History Offered in September

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Kristina Powers Aubry on the left will lead the classes about Vicksburg history for WMU’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the Depot Museum. She is shown here with Maggie Snyder the curator of the history collection for the Vicksburg Historical Society.

By Sue Moore

The village of Vicksburg began with a grist mill and whiskey still. Now developers are planning an entertainment venue and the Village Council is making major improvements to infrastructure in 2020. In between is a story of shifted buildings, self-supported hospitals, fires, trains, lotus lilies, ice harvesting, pickles and a little scandal.

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Western Michigan University is again coming to Vicksburg with a deep immersion into the village’s interesting story. The class is titled “Vicksburg Then and Now – From Whiskey to Lilies to Beer.” Kristina Powers Aubry will be teaching the three-session class beginning September 10, with subsequent classes on September 17 and 24, from 1-3:30 p.m. at various sites. Even long-time Vicksburg area residents will find new and interesting stories from the treasure trove that Powers Aubry has been digging into.

Each class will begin with informative stories followed by a walking tour. The first class will look at early years of the Village with a tour of the Vicksburg Historic Village. The second will look at middle years, with a tour of the central business district and important residences. The last class will look at years leading to the present with a tour of The Mill at Vicksburg as it is under development. Enrollees are cautioned to wear comfortable walking attire appropriate for the weather.

“So many history classes are a litany of dates and events, without considering the personality or character of the people and locations,” said Powers Aubry. “Things are so much easier to remember and appreciate when they are presented as stories with humor and personality. That’s what this class is planned to do. – make the Vicksburg history we are familiar with come alive with stories rather than data.” She has been delving into the nooks and crannies of the Historical Society to plan the class presentations. She has served as president of the Historical Society and the Historic Village Committee.

Powers Aubry worked as an educational media specialist at Kalamazoo Valley Intermediate District. A 30-year member of the Vicksburg Historical Society and several other historical associations, she has spent years studying and researching many historical periods, specializing in eighteenth-century American history. She has given many presentations on varying topics across the state. She and her husband, David, taught a Revolutionary War class for OLLI in 2016 at the Vicksburg District Library.

The class numbers were capped at 30 with 19 already signed up. To register for the class, contact the OLLI Institute at 269-387-4200. Cost is $38 for members; $76 for non-members.

Traditional Cream Tea at Schoolcraft Ladies Library

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A Cream Tea table setting from past years at the Schoolcraft Ladies Library.

By Deb Christiansen

Once a year in September, the Schoolcraft Ladies Library building becomes The Red Brick Tea Room when members host a traditional Cream Tea. This year’s theme is the Ladies’ Library Association’s 140-year anniversary entitled, “Have a cup of tea and think of thee.” It will be celebrating members past and present from Ada Brown, L.L.A.’s first president, to current president Jackie Skinner, and Jozie Rafferty, who will follow Skinner.

The tea will take place on Saturday, September 21 at The Red Brick Tea Room, 163 Hayward Street, located next to the Schoolcraft post office. A three-course menu consisting of breads, savories and sweets (and cream, of course!) will be served with two seatings at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

A cream tea, which is also known as a Devon cream tea, Devonshire tea, or Cornish cream tea is a form of a light meal, consisting of tea served with a combination of scones, clotted cream, and jam. Traditionally, this is a specialty of Devon and Cornwall and is offered for sale in tea rooms in those two counties, as well as in other parts of England, elsewhere in the Commonwealth – and in Schoolcraft.

The cost is $15 per person with seating at tables of four. Attendees will receive their seating assignment at the door. Members of the Library invite people to bring their friends and family for a step back in time at The Red Brick Tea Room. It is worlds away, but right next door. Seating is limited, so reserve seats soon. Tickets are available at or on the Facebook page or contact Jackie Skinner at 269-679-5764.

It was 140 years ago on July 8 when 18 Schoolcraft women gathered at the Red River Hall to form a Ladies’ Library Association. Born out of a love of reading and enlightenment, the L.L.A. has been in continuous existence in Schoolcraft since 1879. The red brick building housing the L.L.A. was dedicated in 1896 and was Schoolcraft’s lending library until 1988, when once again the citizens of Schoolcraft with a love of reading and enlightenment built the modern community library on Centre Street. The L.L.A. building was placed on the Michigan State Historic Site listing in 1996. The Association itself is a thriving organization that meets throughout the year with enriching programs presented on the first and third Tuesday of the month between October and May. There is no programming in January. All programs are open to the public without charge. Citizenship in Schoolcraft is not a requirement to be a member of the L.L.A. and dues are only $10 per year. See the website for more information.

First Woman to Win Horseshoe Pitching Contest

By Sue Moore

She’s called the “Champ” by her friends since winning the Lions Club B & B horseshoe pitching contest on the last Saturday in July.

“Not many women throw around here, so I’m used to competing against men,” said Tiffany Bouvrette, better known now as the Champ. The contest lasted nine and a half hours before she and her partner, David Benedict, were declared the winners having crushed the competition winning six games out of seven for the day.

The horseshoe tournament also drew the largest group yet, according to Brett Grossman, chair of the contest. “Eighty-six pitchers threw in an epic battle but at the end Tiffany Bouvrette and Dave Benedict bested Scott ‘Stubby’ Haynes and Jim Curtis in the final. Tiffany is the first female winner of the tournament in its 13 years and it was the first time winning for both her and her partner,” Grossman said.

The team were paired in a random draw. Benedict told Bouvrette that he only played once a year at the B & B and apologized to her for drawing him as a partner. What he didn’t mention is that he had experience as a baseball pitcher and was known as a pretty good athlete growing up in Vicksburg. “He got better as the day went on,” Bouvrette said.

She herself has lots of experience pitching horseshoes, growing up in the Bruce and Diana (Kott) Sehy family. Her dad has been tutoring her since the age of 10, she pointed out. Together they pitch every Monday night as a doubles team on clay pits in Kalamazoo that most professionals use. She has been entering tournaments for the last four years as well.

In August, Bouvrette took first place in her class at the National Horseshoe League tournament in Jackson, competing with men and throwing from the 40-foot range. Women usually compete in the 30-foot distance which found her in third place at the same competition.

“I really get my competitiveness from my mom who is super competitive,” she said. Some of that might also come from her grandfather, Jerry Kott who was a well-known insurance agent in these parts, she acknowledged. Naturally, her work experience is in the insurance field having worked in employee benefits for 19 years. She has been staying home with her kids this summer who are 10 and 7. They attend Indian Lake Elementary school.

The Lions Club cornhole tournament had 110 participants, the largest field yet, for the 9th annual competition on Friday night. The tournament lasted nearly 6.5 hours with Steve Heath and John Ringler the new champions.

It’s a Fine Life – Welcome, Sweet September

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Kathy Forsythe sits in front of the old entrance of the Vicksburg Library building. Photo by Leeanne Seaver.

By Kathy Forsythe

Tonight, the sound of marching band practice floats and rises, the notes nearly visible in the late summer air. Again, and again, the melodies scatter and settle in waves across our village.

High school athletes strut and sprint on the practice fields, as coaches’ whistles trill, corralling their spirited colts into organized teams.

Squirrels quicken their collecting, hummingbirds tighten their garden tours, and bullfrogs cease their courting calls.

September is here.

How is this possible? How did summer pass so quickly? How did we let it slip away?

Can you recall those endless days of your childhood?

Fifty years ago, a starchy Peter Pan collar, wool jumper, and new school shoes pinched as I left behind the freedom of June, July, and August. There were, of course, chores and expectations during those three months of bliss, but my brothers and I raced through our daily jobs, and soon the screen door slapped behind us. Our shady yard, fields and woods quietly waited. Those childhood weeks brimmed with adventures: We built forts, we raced our bikes, we picked wild strawberries. In the peace of the woods, we discovered secret deer paths and salamanders in the leaves. On rainy days, our mother took us to town, where Mrs. Green patiently helped us select our library books. Or we stayed home, working puzzles and playing board games around the old kitchen table. We spent the humid summer evenings peacefully protected from mosquitos on the old screen porch, reading or listening to Tiger Baseball while the annual cicada chorus intensified all around.

Our town pals enjoyed different things: summer recreation programs at the Old El, pick-up games at the school playground, swimming at the village beach. Some lucky friends traveled the interstates on family vacations, their fingers tracing the routes on road maps while billboards hawked the latest tourist attractions.

But gradually, the Michigan evenings became cooler. We perused the JC Penney Back-to-School Catalog and took the annual school shopping trip. We selected our first-day outfits and tried on our shoes. We found our book bags and sharpened our pencils.

Yes, eventually, the season of freedom must end, and all children everywhere must wave goodbye to beautiful summer.

Farewell to dancing fireflies and bath-free summer nights, to cousins and staying up late.

Adieu to bike races and skinned-up knees, to cottages and travel campers.

Adios to Dixie Cups of Kool-Aid – to roasting hot dogs and tenting under the Michigan stars.

As this summer ends, let’s look forward to sweatshirts and an extra blanket at night. To cutting back our gardens and planning next year’s plantings. To watching the corn fields dry and the harvesting begin.

Let’s celebrate small-town Friday Nights: the gathering of our communities at the athletic fields and the crowd’s occasional roars, breaking the quiet of a village night.

Let’s watch the maples display their fabulous fall frocks.

Let’s listen for the honks of the migrating geese.

And let’s welcome sweet September.

It’s a Fine Life.

Adult-Centered Programming at Vicksburg District Library

Head of Reference, Adrianne Schinkai, advertises for the new Tech Tutoring appointments at the Vicksburg District Library.

By Eric Hansen, Director Vicksburg District Library

While families are preparing to send children back to school, the Vicksburg District Library is ready for its own new adventure. The library will introduce new adult-centered programming this fall during three Wednesday nights every month. “We already had programs at the library for adults,” says Adrianne Schinkai, Head of Reference, who is heading these programs. “But we noticed that it was the same people at the same programs each time. While this is fine and we love our regulars, we wanted to reach out and ask our patrons what they wanted to see from us. What programs could we give them that we don’t already have?”

During May and June the library surveyed adult patrons in the library. The surveys collected information about age range, programs attended, program satisfaction, and new program endorsement. Schinkai says the results were not shocking. “We weren’t really surprised by our most prominent adult demographic, which is seniors. That being said, our hope with these new programs is to reach out and attract more patrons, especially in the range of younger adults and middle age.”

The Gaming Group is dedicated to those who love tabletop gaming, from card games to board games, and may extend into video games depending on adult patrons’ interests. The Yarn Arts Circle is for adults who love fiber crafts. Schinkai avidly crochets herself. “I’m hoping the Yarn Arts Circle will be a great opportunity for those well-versed in arts such as crocheting and knitting to pass on those skills to a new generation. I’m hoping to attempt cross-stitching myself in the next year.” Movie Night for All will feature a range of G to PG-13 rated movies where parents can bond with their older children, but might include themes that are more challenging than the library’s other programs for small children. Schinkai describes it as a program where “parents can share their favorite classics.” The first film to be shown will be Back to the Future – Part One on Wednesday, September 25 at 6 p.m.

Schinkai will also begin providing 20- to 30-minute appointments as a tech tutor. “Since technology is developing so rapidly anymore, it’s sometimes hard to keep up,” she points out. “Sometimes what patrons need is just someone to sit down with them and break down what they want, step by step. It’s able to be done, but it can be time consuming in a busy library.” Schinkai explains, “By scheduling an appointment and letting me know exactly what they are hoping to accomplish, I can make up an agenda for the patron to follow. I can lead them one-on-one in using the device or service. When we are done, they can take the agenda home to use as a reference.”

The Gaming Group will launch these new events on Wednesday, September 13 at 6 p.m., with a night of classic card games. More information about these events and services can be found at the Vicksburg District Library website at