South County News publishes its 100th edition

By Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe, Editor

This newspaper marks the 100th issue of the South County News, a point of pride for the many individuals involved in the grass-roots effort to publish a local newspaper.

When it was first published in 2013, the communities of Schoolcraft and Vicksburg had been without a hometown newspaper for nearly a year.

The Kalamazoo Gazette had published a predecessor, the Commercial-Express, from 2007 to 2012.

Vicksburg’s village president at the time, Bill Adams, sensed the communities’ desire to revive a paper. He contacted Sue Moore, a lifelong Vicksburg resident who had newspaper experience, energy and contacts: Moore’s parents, Bernice and Meredith Clark, had owned The Commercial-Express for 40 years before selling it in 1972. Moore had been involved with the paper in the 1960s and 70s.

Starting in November, 2012, a group including Moore, Wes Schmitt, Steve Ellis, Norm Hinga, Bob Smith and Kim Marston began meeting and planning. The first issue was published in June, 2013. It wasn’t easy.

The team gathered enough advertising to pay the cost of printing that June edition: $2,500. Then the group and more volunteers hand-delivered 11,000 copies to homes in south Kalamazoo County. The experience was challenging, prompting inclusion of a donation envelope in the next edition to pay for postal delivery.

Since that time, advertising revenue and community donations have enabled the sustainability of the paper. The IRS also approved nonprofit status. That reduced mailing costs by a third. In addition, staff now earn a modest amount for time and effort.

The paper’s focus is south county local news: village and township government and happenings, school board meetings, student achievements, sports, human interest stories and obituaries. Throughout the years, many writers and individuals have contributed to the paper’s success. Of the original group, Schmitt and Ellis continue their involvement and share their expertise.

Today, more than 11,000 papers are printed and delivered to homes and businesses in the area. Sue Moore wrote many of the features, but after her death in 2020, regular columnists, reporters and community members are writing and contributing to the monthly publication.

The South County News’ success continues to depend on the contributions from readers and loyal advertisers’ dollars. The future is bright for continuing to showcase the good news in south county.

Current Members of The South County News Board

Rob Ball

Sue Moore snagged Rob for copy-reading when he moved to Vicksburg to marry Rachel Freeman in 2014. He had spent 30 years reporting and copy reading on a daily newspaper in Royal Oak between 1963 and retirement in 1998, wrote editorials for the newspaper for 20 years before and after retirement and reported for a daily paper in Hillsdale in the 2000’s. He considers himself fortunate; the career has rewarded him for everything he ever learned. Rob sings with an a cappella Christmas gig group back in Ferndale, sings and serves on committees at Vicksburg United Methodist, holds an amateur radio license and does some occasional woodworking.

Wes Schmitt

Wes, along with Sue Moore, Steve Ellis, and a few other volunteers founded the South County News in 2013. Wes has been the secretary/treasurer since the paper began. Wes is retired from accounting at Pharmacia and Upjohn.  He has outside interests including golf, gardening, reading, and prior to the pandemic, dining out with his wife, Sharon. He has been active in Schoolcraft politics including the Schoolcraft Village Council, serving as village president, member of Schoolcraft’s Planning Commission, Zoning Board of Appeals and Well Head Protection Committee. He has also been active with South County Community Services Board, serving as treasurer, and the South County EMS Board as president. He looks forward to continuing his involvement with paper, health permitting.

Sheri Freeland

Sue Moore and Bob Smith reeled Sheri into helping the South County News in advertising towards the end of 2013. Bob’s famous line: He didn’t know the difference between a perm and a pedicure and needed her help. Sheri has lived on the outskirts of Vicksburg all her life, growing up on the north side of Indian Lake, and still resides nearby. She volunteered many years in the Vicksburg school system while her children attended. She worked as a hair stylist and in sales for many years, and at the Air Zoo. She enjoys the lake in all seasons, downhill skiing, bonfires, family and friends. Sheri appreciates everyone’s support and wants to do all she can for local businesses.

Kathy Oswalt-Forsythe

Kathy began writing a column for the South County News in 2019 and assumed the role of editor and publisher after Sue Moore’s death in 2020. She is a full-time English teacher at Vicksburg High School and a lifelong area resident who enjoys gardening, reading, and entertaining friends and family. She writes and blogs about growing up on a family farm and living in a small town. She appreciates the community’s support and believes in the importance of a community newspaper.

Steve Ellis

Steve grew up in Pontiac, reading the Pontiac Press. After graduating from WMU, he sold computers and shopper ads before spending 23 years at the Kalamazoo Gazette in advertising. In 2012, he started Southwest Michigan Spark, a publication targeting baby boomers. At that same time, he joined a handful of local residents in looking into the idea of starting a newspaper targeting the greater Vicksburg and Schoolcraft areas. They felt there was a need, and were able to pull it off. Steve loves local history, sports and just about everything else small towns have to offer.

Justin Gibson

Our graphic designer, Justin Gibson, was brought onto the team by Sue Moore in June 2014 and has done the layout for each issue since. Gibson studied art and creative writing in college and earned an Master of Fine Arts degree in playwriting from WMU. Before he joined the crew of this paper, he worked as a cartoonist for his high school and college newspapers.

Abby Chapin awarded global health fellowship

Abby Chapin on graduation day.

On May 1, 2020 Abby Chapin graduated from the University of Michigan with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering magna cum laude, earning a place on the Dean’s List every semester it was compiled. Abby graduated from the Kalamazoo Area Math and Science Center and Schoolcraft High School in 2015. During her college years she created and implemented the original Science Friday summer reading program at the Schoolcraft Library; worked at the Air Zoo for a summer; was a STEM camp counselor at a University of Michigan camp for young girls interested in science; spent four years on a student sub-team promoting wind energy including a year as president; spent parts of two summers in Malawi, Africa, teaching math, science and English to secondary students preparing for university entrance exams, volunteered on a coffee plantation in Guatemala learning sustainable farming practices there. She spent her spring breaks volunteering with a group that did hurricane clean up in Texas and North Carolina; worked as a tutor in the U-M honors office and as a private tutor in thermodynamics and completed an internship at Whirlpool Corp. On May 1, 2021, Abby graduated with a master of science degree with distinction in design science. This 2020-2021 school year she worked as a graduate student instructor teaching freshmen engineering students while doing her own coursework on a screen from her small apartment. Both of her in-person graduations were cancelled so she had a “front yard” graduation with family attending a private, personalized graduation for the first graduation and a family walk through the U of M campus for the second graduation. She is one of five scholars awarded a global health fellowship at Rice University in Houston, where she will work with a team on global health solutions for low-income countries that have low health resource solutions. She left Schoolcraft the morning of August 12th with her parents, John and Cyndie Chapin, to begin a new adventure.

Vicksburg Quilt Trail is a hidden gem

Area folks who have driven or biked along country roads and spotted a beautiful barn with a brightly painted quilt block on it have discovered part of the Vicksburg Quilt Trail.

Barn quilt trails around the country are often organized by a historical society, art council or quilt group to attract tourists to the area. This phenomenon began in 2001 in southern Ohio with one painted quilt block on a family barn to honor a quilting mother. Many of the patterns are symbolic with deeper historic and personal meaning. Thousands of barns later, in every state and Canada, the trend continues.

Hugh and Kitch Rinehart began creating a barn quilt trail in 2012 for the Vicksburg Historical Society. The trail has grown to 24 barns and historic buildings on a 45-mile loop. From 1-2 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 18, the Rineharts will explain the process of creating a barn quilt, then show photos of the barns at the Vicksburg District Library, 215 S. Michigan Ave.

Walk-ins are welcome; there is no admission fee. The presentation will be simultaneously broadcast as a Zoom meeting. Preregistration is required; see www.fallbikecelebration.org/schedule for details.

A senior moment

By Danna Downing

Among many other gifts, retirement offers opportunities to move away from risky, unhealthy or stressful work and move toward a more relaxed and healthier lifestyle. However, this is an earned benefit requiring planning, goal setting, decision making, and a good transition from the weighty work of full employment and raising a family to the next phase of life. It must be said that the challenge is even bigger for persons undergoing forced retirement or taking on the responsibilities of those who are raising young relatives late in life.

The foundation for all these tasks is rooted in obtaining reliable and appropriate information and resources to build a team of trusted advisors. If it sounds like work, it is. The paycheck for this unpaid effort is a higher quality of life in what many call the second adulthood.

Health and wealth are critical components of a rewarding retirement. Critical tasks for pre-retirement and early re-retirement include completion of advance medical directives and wills. Taking care of these tasks promotes peace of mind for older adults and their families. It can also protect assets and prevent misunderstandings and heartaches in later years.

There may come a time when a person cannot make their own health care decisions. Using some type of advance directive, it is possible to prepare for this possibility. Documents that tell medical providers and family members what you want to happen can be created. The healthcare power of attorney (also called a patient advocate designation), a living will and DO NOT RESUSCITATE form are three common types of advance directives tools. The main difference between the healthcare power of attorney and the living will approach is that the living will allows a person to specifically define their wishes in advance. These documents can overlap and be used together. It is best to find legal assistance to be sure your intentions are followed. The professionals and trusted friends/family members are key members of your advisor team as you age. The Michigan Health Information Network and the Five Wishes Organization offer universal documents for completing an advance directive that is valid in Michigan. Both organizations provide background information to assist in the choice of an advocate and offer conversation guidelines for individuals to work with their advisors and family members.

Once your document has been completed, it is important for you to keep the information updated and to share it with your healthcare providers, patient advocates, and anyone else involved with your health care. Go to https://mihin.org/advance-care-planning-resources/ to see one format that many area hospitals share with their patients. Go to agingwithdignity.org and click on Five Wishes to obtain a copy of The Five Wishes document. You may also call 888-5-WISHES (594-7437).

If you pre-plan and prepay for your funeral arrangements, this takes a load off your survivors, and adds other valuable members to your team of advisors. This is especially true if your designated team members live out of state. Consult your local funeral home director for further information.

The LESSON TO SHARE for this month: Prior planning for the end of life is a gift to your loved ones and yourself. The investment of time, energy, and nominal money required offers rewarding dividends and gives families a sense of peace and closure.

Fall Bike Celebration Weekend coming Sept. 17-19

The third annual Fall Bike Celebration Weekend, Sept. 17-19, will offer bicycling, an outdoor live concert, results of a public bike art competition, and fascinating live and online presentations. The weekend also highlights the many attractions in and around Vicksburg and southwest Michigan.

On Friday Sept. 17, the public is encouraged to ride bicycles to two expertly led disc golf clinics, the Vicksburg Historic Village and the Farmers Market. That afternoon a webinar will present lessons learned about “Increasing Safe Passing of Bicyclists,” gained through how-to research conducted in Michigan and Tennessee.

On the morning of Saturday Sept 18, the Ride For A Reason: Multi-Charity Bikeathon will give supporters of 16 charities a chance to ride and walk to raise funds for a variety of worthy programs important to southwest Michigan. This event aims at providing an outdoor social fundraising platform to help make up for donations lost during the pandemic, starting and ending at the timber-framed Vicksburg Pavilion.

On Saturday afternoon, live and virtual presentations will feature the Vicksburg Quilt Trail paintings and highlight progress on the huge Mill at Vicksburg entertainment and hotel complex. Saturday evening promises an event for live music lovers: An open-air benefit concert performed by the popular rock, blues, country, folk and bluegrass AMP band will take place under the big roof of the Vicksburg Pavilion, with gates opening at 6:15 p.m. Results of Bike Friendly Kalamazoo’s Public Bike Art Competition with $1,750 in cash awards will be announced at the concert.
On Sunday Sept. 18, the event’s namesake, the Fall Bike Celebration Bike Tour will offer routes with views of Vicksburg Quilt Trail paintings. Cyclists will ride to scenic destinations such as Scotts Mill Park, Climax, over the longest covered bridge in Michigan and as far as Shipshewana and back. The Bike Tour starts and ends at the restored Vicksburg Historic Village.

Bill Adams, former Vicksburg village president and honorary event co-chair said, “Vicksburg welcomes bicyclists and everyone to enjoy the Fall Bike Celebration. We are grateful for the support of the Vicksburg Foundation, generous sponsors and wonderful in-kind supporters who make this fantastic fall bicycle festival possible.”

The weekend long event was organized by civic leaders, local charities and bike-related organizations. It’s expected to pack the weekend with dozens of reasons to ride, showcase local amenities, provide ways to support bicycling, emphasize the need for motorist and bicyclist safety as the hours of darkness increase and to have fun. Some activities are free, some require waivers and some may require children to be accompanied by an adult. The latest updates can be found at http://www.fallbikecelebration.org/schedule/.

“This year we will employ safety and public health measures that worked last year — and now, vaccines are working in our favor,” said Paul Selden, president of Bike Friendly Kalamazoo. “We welcome everyone to enjoy the Fall Bike Celebration at any level, bicycling or virtual.”

Bike Friendly Kalamazoo is a Michigan non-profit corporation with a network of volunteers drawn from greater Kalamazoo whose mission is to help make the community more bicycle friendly. Its programs include grants and scholarships to support bicycle/motorist safety, education and infrastructure, while promoting collaboration among local leaders and organizations. For more information and downloads of artist-designed posters, go to http://www.bikefriendlykalamazoo.org.

New projects increase Historic Village accessibility


By John Polasek, Vicksburg Historical Society

The Vicksburg Historical Society has been working hard to make the Historic Village a destination to display artifacts in a period setting for patrons. The majority of the artifacts have ties to Vicksburg and the South County Area.

There are 10 buildings and three railroad cars, all owned by the Village of Vicksburg, that need periodic upgrades and maintenance. Each year the VHS reviews maintenance needs and, through the Historic Village Committee, presents a repair and maintenance budget to the Village for review and approval. When approved, the Historic Village budget becomes part of the overall Village of Vicksburg budget.

After the approval process, the committee is responsible for having the work completed within the fiscal year. In 2020, maintenance work included cleaning the grounds and the inside of buildings, and placing ramps at the exits of several buildings to improve accessibility and create one-way traffic for COVID safety. The doors on the Township Hall were also replaced.

The HVC is currently working on finishing work from last year’s budget delayed due to COVID and unavailability of materials. This work includes placing railings for ramps at the Township Hall and Farmhouse and replacing the front porches and the back entrance ramp at the School. The work should be completed this summer.

The HVC’s budget for FY 2021-2022 emphasizes maintenance of buildings and began July 1. Major highlights of the new fiscal year work include washing and painting of the General Store, Sweet Shop and Gazebo. The Depot trim, doors and windows will also be repaired and painted.

The largest of the work items will be construction of aggregate pathways from the road to the School, Township Hall and General Store/Sweet Shop. This will make it much easier for everyone to visit these buildings. All work will be complete before the Harvest Festival September 26.

All are invited to attend.

The Village includes a 1904 restored railroad depot, boxcar and caboose containing railroad history exhibits; a one-room school restored to the 1930’s; a print shop and newspaper office containing a large display of letterpress equipment and a farmhouse and barn with furnishings and agricultural equipment circa 1870 to 1930. The mission of the Vicksburg Historical Society is to preserve, advance and disseminate knowledge of the history of the greater Vicksburg area. More information can be found at http://www.vicksburghistory.org.

Use up extra produce with zucchini puree

Submitted by Deborah Harsha

Years ago, when I had a bumper crop of zucchini and couldn’t conceive how to use the largesse, my mother forwarded me an interesting recipe/recommendation….

Use them to make a soup base for the winter!

To make a puree, warm 3 cloves of garlic with 1/2 cup olive oil over low heat, about 3 minutes.

Add:
10 quartered and seeded squash (think medium size) of almost any type (zucchini, yellow, pattypan, you get the idea)
One chopped onion
One pound of spinach leaves

Cover and cook, stirring often for an hour.

When cooled a bit, mix in a blender, cool fully then package and freeze.

In the winter when you are wishing it is summer, defrost a pint of puree, warm in saucepan and add coconut milk or cream or milk or liquid of your choice to thin. Then add items for additional flavor and texture….curry and garbanzo beans or rice and cheese…whatever you’d like.

150 years of Vicksburg at a glance

1831 – John Vickers builds mill on Portage Creek at the present-day site of Clark Park.

1835-36 – Tavern house and blacksmith shop built, marking beginning of a village.

1842 – First school built of logs, located on present-day Kalamazoo Avenue.

1843 – Village platted for first time as Vicksburgh – with an “h”.

1845 – Post Office on Gourdneck Prairie moved to Vicksburgh.

1849 – Village re-platted under the name Brady.

1850 – Village consists of store, blacksmith, frame school, flour and lumber mills, lodging, tavern house and post office.

1869 – Brick school built on Maple Street.

1870 – Beginning of two decades of construction of retail buildings in village.

1870 – Vicksburg’s oldest church, present-day United Methodist Church, constructed.

1871 – 1872 – Two railroads reach the village.

1871, Oct. 18 – County Board of Supervisors petitioned to organize Village of Brady.

1871, Oct 19 – Petition amended and accepted to change name to Vicksburgh.

1872 – McElvain House Hotel built, southeast corner of present-day Main and Prairie.

1879 – Vicksburg Commercial begins publication.

1894 – Village’s first bank established.

1897 – Water and Power Plant provides first electricity and municipal water to residents.

1897 – Vicksburg Telephone Exchange established.

1897 – Fire Department established, Hook & Ladder Co. No. 1.

1899 – Frame train depot burns to the ground.

1902 – Fanny Wallace Bair builds Library on Maple Street. It’s later named for her.

1903 – Frakes and Citizens’ Additions added to village.

1903 – Carson Durkee builds an automobile, many people see their first car.

1904-1905 – Lee Paper Company built and first Polish workers hired.

1904 – Brick Union Depot constructed.

1904 – Housing boom in the village, with many homes constructed.

1905 – Hobard Addition added to village.

1906 – Bowie, Godshalk and Dell Additions added to village.

1909 – New brick two-story school built on Kalamazoo Avenue.

1913 – First automobile agency established, Tobey Bros. Ford Agency.

1916 – First hospital, located on northwest corner of Kalamazoo Ave and South Street.

1916 – Village’s first engine-propelled fire truck ordered.

1916 – Street signs erected; house numbering system set up.

1917 – House -to-house mail delivery begins.

1918 – First village casualty from World War I reported: Roy Canavan.

1922 – Golf course built between Vicksburg and Schoolcraft, Vixcraft Golf Course, now States.

1924 – Hospital on North Main St. opens in the former Peter Franklin home.

1931 – Vicksburg’s two banks merge, then soon close due to the Great Depression.

1933 – A money exchange opens to provide change and cash checks.

1936 – A branch of First National Bank established in Vicksburg.

1936 – Vicksburg to Kalamazoo bus service begins.

1941-1942 – World War II brings on rationing, sends many men off to war.

1946 – Vicksburg Foundation established.

1947 – 21 one-room school districts consolidate with the Vicksburg District.

1947 – One-room schools close, then a few re-open to lessen crowding.

1952 – New high school built on Highway Street.

1952 – Harding’s Market opens village’s first self-serve grocery at 112 South Main.

1953 – First Rotary Showboat presentation.

1956 – Southland Mall built in Portage, beginning retail decline in Vicksburg.

1956 – Vicksburg water treatment facility completed on Highway Street.

1958 – Sunset Elementary School opens.

1959 – Harding’s Market opens new modern store on West Prairie Street.

1960 – New post office opens on North Kalamazoo Avenue.

1960 – Middle School on East Prairie opens.

1968 – Vicksburg Ambulance Service formed.

1969 – New hospital opens on North Boulevard Street.

1970 – Commercial buildings on west side of North Main demolished, park established.

1971 -Vicksburg celebrates “One Hundred Years of Progress.”

1971 – Little League is established in Vicksburg.

1971 – Passenger train service to and from Vicksburg ends.

1975 – McElvain Hotel/Vicksburg Hotel refurbished, becoming Vicksburg Community Center.

1975 – Alley on west side of South Main Street transformed into Liberty Lane.

1980 – Village hires first full-time village manager.

1981 – First Old Car Festival is held.

1983 – Vicksburg Community School Foundation established.

1986 – Main Street receives a facelift, with wider sidewalks, new lights, and trees.

1987 – A large addition added to Fanny Bair Library along Michigan Avenue.

1990 – Ground broken for industrial park on West Prairie St.

1990 – Union Depot dedicated as a Historical Society Museum.

1995 – Performing Arts Center opens.

1996 – Professional Medical Building opens on North Boulevard.

1996 – Village Market Place opens.

2001 – Paper mill closes.

2003 – Angels Crossing Golf Course opens.

2006 – Bulldog Stadium and Sports Complex opens.

2013 – Vicksburg Quilt Trail completed.

2014 – Community Pavilion dedicated.

2015 – Cultural Arts Center opens.

2016 – Nature Trail project gets underway.

2016 – Local hospital closes.

2017- Hill’s Drug Store closes after 72 years in business with same name.

2018 – Paper City LLC acquires papermill buildings.

2018 – Last locally-owned car dealership sold.

2021 – Village-wide infrastructure improvement project.

Community corner

By Drew Johnson

Community” is an interesting word. It means different things to different people – it might mean your circle, your town, or even your group on Facebook or your fanbase (I’m a Wolverine for life). But at its core, community is about helping others. It’s about recognizing that humans are wired for connection and support, and that groups of people have survived for millennia by working together to solve problems and help each other.

The pandemic really made us think about community. Suddenly we were separated from people who we loved and worried about everyone else buying up all the toilet paper and peanut butter. We could have forgotten all about community. But a funny thing happened – we came together. All over the country, people had drive-by birthdays, put teddy bears in windows and sewed masks for healthcare workers.

As the director of South County Community Services, I saw people donate their stimulus checks and volunteer to deliver food to seniors. People were worried. The world was turned upside down, and nobody could do anything about it. The only thing we knew, through all the chaos, was that other people had it worse off than we did. So we helped them any way we knew how. THAT’s community.

We live in a time when it is easier than ever to feel isolated from the people around us. If I wanted to, I could pick up my groceries curbside, order my non-essentials on Amazon, and spend my days working from home, all without ever seeing a soul. In this new column, I hope to inspire you to reject that path and seek to actively be a part of your community.

I live in Kalamazoo and was worried that when I came down to work in Vicksburg I would always feel like an outsider.

But the opposite happened.

I found a Village that was welcoming and supportive, that cared about its neighbors and reached out to help those in need. So this is an encouragement to anyone else who is on the outside: Don’t just look in, GET in. Maybe to you that looks like talking to a neighbor or checking in on a friend. Maybe it means volunteering at or donating to a local nonprofit. Every month I’ll bring up a new idea – many of them will be things you have done before, or thought about doing before, but sometimes we just need a little push to actually get out there and do it. I’m looking forward to the journey and hoping to get to know some more of you along the way!

Drew Johnson lives in Kalamazoo and is the Director at South County Community Services. He has a small quarter acre homestead with chickens, bees, and hops (and more!), a wonderful wife, and three energetic children. He can be reached at 649-2901 or ajohnson@southcountycs.com.

For more information on South County Community Services, please check out our Facebook at
facebook.com/southcountycs or visit our website.

Backpack Bonanza a success in 2021

A sampling of backpacks donated for this year’s bonanza.

The start of school is here – it’s back-to-school routines, friends, and homework. Sheri Louis, executive director of Generous Hands, Inc. prepares for months securing donations for the back-to-school bonanza event. This year may have looked different during a pandemic, although the needs remain constant. The Backpack Bonanza, held on August 7 proved to be popular – 55 families attended; 146 backpacks were given out. This year Meijer generously donated over 200 backpacks, face shields, and two generous gift cards. The event was held outside at the Generous Hands/South County Community Services office.

“Generous Hands, Inc. truly appreciate the support of the community. This event could not happen without the many donations and all of the caring volunteers,” Louis said. What does it take to staff an event like this? Generous Hands welcomed 19 volunteers. Preparing volunteers with their work schedules, Louis scribes the word bonanza: the Random House College Dictionary definition is “a source of great and sudden wealth or luck”. She goes on to say, “I am not sure a backpack full of school supplies would seem to be a source of great or sudden wealth to most of us; I do believe that for many of the children, it is. The smiles on the kids’ faces will bring a source of great and sudden wealth to all of us working at the Bonanza.”

For more information about Generous Hands and how it supports our community, please visit generoushands.org or contact Sheri Louis at (269) 370-7965.