Category Archives: Community

J. Rettenmaier USA Increases Donation to Friday Pack

friday pack 2018
Shown with the food items that were donated by employees of J. Rettenmaier USA are in front on the left side: Kristina Loney from Edward Jones, Mollie Brown Hartleib from On Purpose Branding, Alicia Abfall from Schoolcraft Friday Pack and Dia Panzer-Biddle from Rettenmaier.  In back on the left are Dan Hartleib and Jason Brandel. On the right side of the photo are Ashley Lanning from Rettenmaier, Jill Strake and Megan Walsh of Schoolcraft Friday Pack and Eric Pfeiffer from Rettenmaier. Edward Jones and On Purpose Branding joined with Rettenmaier and Dave Rice Group in the project.

Every fall, J. Rettenmaier USA on US 131 in Schoolcraft, gathers non-perishable food items and monetary donations for the Schoolcraft Friday Pack Program. For the second consecutive year, the company invited other local Schoolcraft businesses, On Purpose Branding, Edward Jones and Dave Rice Group, to join it.

The goal is to donate more than the previous year, and the goal was met. The JRS USA team donated $3,450 and along with the other three groups donated box after box of food items.

For 10 years the Schoolcraft Friday Pack program has been providing students in need with food items placed in their lockers before school starts on Friday mornings, ensuring that they have food to eat over the weekend. Currently the program fills 45 packs, but previous years have seen as many as 70-80 packs. If you are interested in learning more about this program, call the Schoolcraft Eagle’s Nest at 269-488-5847 or email All monetary and non-perishable food donations are welcome.

Wednesday Winners Go Shopping

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Wednesday Winners gather in the aisle at the Dollar General store in Vicksburg as they do their Christmas shopping.

By Sue Moore

Some of the blessings of Christmas can last all year long, according to Vicksburg’s Virginia Shaw. She leads a group of volunteers who mentor 18 developmentally disabled people. Each year they take their charges, the Wednesday Winners, to shop for presents at the Dollar General in Vicksburg. In addition ladies from the Fulton Christian Church each contribute $30 to buy a present for the Winners who come from local families and group homes in the south county area.

They can select any items in the store that adds up to $10 total in their shopping basket. The outing is highly anticipated by the group which usually meets once a week at the Vicksburg United Methodist Church. The 10 volunteers make and serve lunch, take the Winners on field trips, have programs from local people, plan exercises for every meeting, dance, play games, do adult coloring and socialize. “It doesn’t take much work because we all contribute and work with members. A very enjoyable time is usually had by all,” said Shaw.

Area Resident Honored by Beekeepers Association

By Sue Moore

“Charlotte Hubbard of Schoolcraft is a treasure and a gift to the beekeepers in our state,” said Meghan Milbrath, head of communications for the Michigan Bee Keepers Association.

The association selected Hubbard as beekeeper of the year for 2018.

“She has absolutely earned the recognition for her hard work supporting Michigan bees and beekeepers,” Vicksburg beekeeper Greg Willis said. “Charlotte has been a great ambassador for beekeeping and is one of the speakers who can reach new bees and old bees alike. Her talks bring back the wonder and joy of being a beekeeper, and her enthusiasm when she presents brings beekeeping on a joyful trip with her. From her keynote presentation at the Upper Peninsula Beekeepers meeting to her rousing game of Bee-ingo, beekeepers benefit when Charlotte presents.”

Charlotte is the author or multiple bee books, which can be found on her website. All of the proceeds from her books go to charities. She helps push out more beekeeping education by acting as a strict and efficient editor for other authors. She once even wrote a weekly column for the Vicksburg Commercial-Express. She headed a business in Schoolcraft that published manuals for Pfizer and other pharmaceutical companies.

She served as the editor of the Kelley Bee Newsletter and is now the editor of the MBA Newsletter. “We didn’t have a great newsletter until Charlotte stepped in and put in the time to compile great news and info, and more importantly, nag the district reps to contact the beekeepers in their region, and let us know what is going on around the state,” Willis elaborated. He is the southwest regional board member for the association and a vendor at the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market.

The award document cited how generous she is with her time and knowledge mentoring new beekeepers. She has mentored many, whatever their level of beekeeping knowledge (or anxiety). She has provided much support to young beekeepers, helping them get to meetings and travel for education. Charlotte is a gracious host to travelling beekeepers and speakers, opening her home – and pontoon boat. She is the coordinator of the Kalamazoo bee school, is active in her local bee club, and helps teach beekeeping and maintains the apiaries at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

Farmers Keep Busy During the Winter Months

farmers keep busy 4 by samuel woodhams (pictured_ ricardo meneses & enrique martinez)
Walther Farms mechanics clean their potato harvesting equipment.

By Hannah Thompson, Allie Walther, Mackenzie Miller, Madison Ingle, and Samuel Woodhams, members of the 9th grade English Language Arts Class in Schoolcraft

A multiple-choice quiz: How much work do farmers do during the winter months?

A) No work.
B) A little work.
C) A lot of work.

One hundred and three people of different age groups were surveyed; 78, three-fourths, chose C): Farmers do a lot of work in the winter.

What exactly keeps farmers busy during the winter months? Jennifer Gottschalk from J & J Acres grows corn and soybeans in Schoolcraft. She stated, “I am a full-time farmer, and winter can be busier than spring planting sometimes.”

Other area farmers were interviewed, and they all had similar responses. During the winter months, farmers work on all of the machinery and equipment, on finances, and they take business trips that will help for the next farming season.

Taking care of the machinery and equipment is a big part of what farmers do in the winter. They work hard to fix, repair, and touch up the paint to make the equipment to not only look new but to also ensure it is ready for the next planting season. As Cole Lehman from Walther Farms, stated, “My winter focus is making sure the equipment gets through and gets serviced for the planting season.” Overall, the process of taking care of the machinery and equipment is an important part of the winter season for farmers.

During the summer, fall and spring, it might be hard for farmers to work on their farming finances because they are so busy working outside in the tractors with crops, so the winter is a great time to work on a lot of the finances. Josh Reeves, CFO of Walther Farms, stated, “The winter is our busy season. We get everything ready for taxes, and put things on the calendar for next year.”

Farmers do not just stay in their barns or houses all winter. Many of them spend time taking business trips. It is important for them to go to other states and see what other good ideas different farmers have. They also might get some new equipment during those trips and gather and learn new techniques. Gottschalk stated, “We are constantly going to precision farming classes and learning more and more.” Farmers succeed in growing their businesses because they can keep up on all of the new industry ideas.

It may come as a surprise to many people, but it is proven that area farmers stay just as busy during the winter months as they do during their growing seasons.

Showcase – The Show Formerly Known as Showboat

show 2By Sue Moore

Change is a-comin’ to the 66th staging of Vicksburg Rotary Club’s annual fundraiser. The past presentation featured great male choral music, corny jokes and slam-bang skits that have been part of the Showboat since its inception in 1953.

The new name is Showcase. It will still have some corny jokes, great chorus songs and a plot line according to the show’s script writers. The big difference will be the solo acts that are usually salted throughout the performance, according to Larry Forsyth, the show’s director.

All soloists are being asked to audition, said Syd Bastos, who heads the recruitment committee. “We want to showcase (thus the new name) the best talent in the area,” she said. “For most of the 65 years of its existence, the solo performers have come from within the chorus. We are reaching out to the greater community with an invitation to take a bigger part in the show. This should provide more diversity in the acts and different kinds of singers performing.”

The boat itself will also be history, said Mike Tichvon, general chairman for the last four years. “We have always incorporated a boat whether it was in a stage set or a backdrop. The theme is different, so we won’t need the boat as our primary mode of travel. We are going to the moon instead.”

The genesis of the Showboat was a minstrel show; Rotarians did song and dance routines and even performed in blackface in 1953. It was conceived as a fundraiser with over $650,000 now raised for Rotary to put back into the greater Vicksburg community. Some things did change. The blackface went out in 1984 and green men took the stage. Soon the all-male chorus and headliners grew more comfortable with being themselves on stage for the gags and songs.

With many talented choral directors, the singing parts became the headliner even when the boiler exploded almost on cue every year. It wasn’t just Rotarians who sang in the show. Anyone who could sing was invited to attend rehearsals. The four-part harmony of strictly men’s voices was stirring to the audience, Forsyth said. “We aren’t eliminating this from the show, we are just adding to it.”

“As new people moved into Vicksburg it became harder to communicate what a Showboat was,” Tichvon said. “Not as many folks were familiar with the minstrel show concept and the show gradually changed to reflect a different type of script. We kept the Showboat theme all these years. We knew we needed to change to attract a wider audience. The concept of Showcase became the motivation to upgrade all aspects of the performance.”

The new show will take the stage at the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, March 1 and 2. A matinee will be held on Sunday, March 3 at 2 p.m. One thing that hasn’t changed is the price of general admission tickets: $10 each. They will be available at Church’s Insurance Agency, 125 E. Prairie Street, Vicksburg from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. each weekday. They will be sold at the high school box office on the days of the three performances. All the money raised from ticket sales and the Showcase program will again be allocated to community charities.

Pride Care Becomes Sole Operator of Ambulance Service

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The South County EMS shown in the photo, ceased to exist on Jan. 1. It was replaced by Pride Care EMS ambulance service on that date. Shown from left are Wes Schmitt, former board president of South County EMS; Vicki White, administrator; Lea Bailey, paramedic; Chris Koeneke, emergency medical technician.

By Sue Moore

Pride Care Ambulance service made it official on New Years Day: It replaced South County Emergency Medical Service for the Vicksburg, Schoolcraft and Fulton areas, ending a decades-long tradition of local ambulance service in the area.

South Kalamazoo County residents were notified of the coming change in postcards sent in December.

The home-grown service had seen many ups and downs in its existence over the last 30-plus years. In the early years, volunteers were trained in first aid life-saving techniques.
The state tightened the licensing procedures for volunteers and eventually insisted that ambulance services must have licensed emergency medical technicians aboard. That made operations more costly. The South County EMS was formed in answer to the need to upgrade in the 1990s. It invested in staffing and equipment and operated as a nonprofit organization run by a volunteer board.

An issue has been the cost of operating within a population base that didn’t have enough demand for services to meet the overhead costs, according to Wes Schmitt the former board president. Also, Medicare and Medicaid gradually stopped reimbursing for services at their actual costs. Two entities were formed to meet the need: South County EMS contracted with the South Kalamazoo County Fire Authority for service and when it appeared the ambulance service might have to file for bankruptcy two years ago, the authority put out feelers to established, for-profit ambulance services in the area.

The Fire Authority had the task of choosing a helpmate to the local service. The authority received four bids and chose Pride Care in early 2017. Pride immediately used its purchasing power to help reduce costs and took other measures to get the service on a sounder financial basis.

Local ambulance service has now come full-circle, with Pride Care taking over completely and South County EMS ceasing operations. There are advantages to these changes, said Pride Care CEO Bill Mears. “We feel that response time can improve even further, especially on second calls when one vehicle is already out,” Mears said. “Staff will not change. We have plans to purchase the building that houses the vehicles in the near future. That is being worked out with the bank and our attorney. In the meantime, we are renting the building behind the hospital in Vicksburg.”

Reading Into the New Year

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Faye VanRavenswaay, Schoolcraft library director poses with Jenny Taylor, Vicksburg third grade teacher who oversees selection of books to be read by teams in the upcoming Battle of the Books.

By Hayden Long

Special speakers, language learning courses, and new insights to local and personal history are just a few examples of what the Schoolcraft Community Library holds in store for patrons entering into a new year of literary and intellectual discovery.

Annual Events

The first meeting of the year for the adult book club will be on Jan. 9, led by librarians Pam Ballet and Cindy Chapin. Later into winter, the Battle of the Books will be waged in the Schoolcraft High School Performing Arts Center on February 16 and 21. Along with the indecisive weather of early spring, will come the annual book and bake sale fundraiser for, and in, the library. Another constant that will be returning with the new year is the popular preschool Story Hour and Tot Time directed by Ballet and Roxanne Wilkins. Later in the year, various summer reading programs will be led by Ballet, Wilkins, and Library Director Faye VanRavenswaay.

New Courses and Resources

On this year’s calendar come new opportunities for personal growth and development for any library patron who wishes to learn just a little more about the outside world, and maybe something about past ones as well. Digitally, a language program, Mango, will enable users to become comfortable with a plethora of languages, including but not limited to French, German, and Spanish. A real-time human-led course in Japanese language and culture, while not yet a certainty, is under consideration by the library.

Aside from learning languages and discovering other cultures, library patrons will also have the chance to discover their own links to the past and long-deceased relatives through the Ancestry Library Edition. In fact, through this program, the director herself, VanRavenswaay, found an intriguing story about her childhood home’s former occupant. A Captain Donahue, a hardy civil war amputee famed for his legendary service to the town of South Haven and those braving the waters of Lake Michigan, originally lived in her home. The information even includes the date of the head librarian’s own birthday. For those interested in finding other such potentially interesting stories about their own pasts, or about the pasts of their community and homes, a class introducing users to the new program, taught by Allison Ring, will be held on January 29, from 6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Policy Goals for the New Year

Concerning the policies and rules in direct correlation to the running of the library, the majority of these decisions will be approved and cemented in the Library board’s strategic planning meeting this January. VanRavenswaay said that three prominent goals for this year’s administration are the updating of the library’s vision statement, its mission statement, and the updating of the library’s policy manual. The library wants to continue to work with local organizations, such as the Schoolcraft Ladies Library and the Schoolcraft Middle School. She also hopes to welcome future additional speakers into the library for interesting and educational talks.