Category Archives: Community

Farmers’ Market Sets Tentative Opening for Friday, June 5

By Sue Moore

Locally grown fresh fruit and vegetables should be just around the corner for opening day of farmers’ markets. But because of the coronavirus shutdown, exactly when customers will be able to purchase food in the Vicksburg Farmers’ Market is still unknown. In any case, the opening day in May has been postponed to at least the first Friday of June.

“We are waiting anxiously on the Governor’s decision as to when to set the opening day,” said Cassie Shimp, new market manager for Vicksburg. “A survey of our vendors showed that over 80 percent of them did not want to open prematurely, saying they would rather wait and not risk it. A few other markets have opened around the state but we will wait until the all-clear signal is given, tentatively by Friday, June 5 if all goes well.”

No matter when the opening takes place, much will look different for customers who may feel more comfortable wearing masks, even in June. “For sure, the vendors will be wearing masks and gloves,” said Stella Shearer, the Vicksburg market’s board president. “We have been given guidelines and protocols to follow from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and our own market association when we do open. We don’t want to encourage a crowd to come and stand in one location. There will be no Kids Plate this year, no live music, no picnic tables or benches to sit on, no food demos and our vendors cannot offer food samples. Additional hand wash stations and hand sanitizers will be available,” Shearer said.

Markets have been deemed essential services during the latest Governor’s executive order, so some have opened across the state, with Kalamazoo and Portage markets slated for Saturday and Sunday June 6 and 7. The question in everyone’s mind is whether customers will be willing to shop even if the vendors are spaced out, Shimp noted.

“Customers will be asked to point to the item they want to purchase and the vendor will bag their choice and accept the payment. The market will only be allowed to sell food and personal hygiene products,” Shearer said.

Markets have been deemed essential services during the latest Governor’s executive order, so some have opened across the state, with Kalamazoo and Portage markets slated for Saturday and Sunday, June 6 and 7. The question in everyone’s mind is whether customers will be willing to shop even if the vendors are spaced out, Shimp noted.

Vicksburg has relied upon volunteers to staff the market. Shimp is the third person to be hired to run the market since its inception in 2010. The market also continues to partner with volunteers to assist with its everyday operations. Shearer recently announced that the Vicksburg market was granted 501c3 status by the IRS. This tax status will allow donors to make tax deductible donations as well as qualify the market to apply for grants.

Good Deeds Happen Most Everywhere

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Ruth Hiskes.

By Sue Moore

On a Monday night, March 16, Ruth Hiskes and her husband, Don, who is 87, decided to go to Jaspare’s Restaurant in Vicksburg for a late pizza supper. “We were unaware that the main room was hosting a private party,” she said. “We walked in and sat down at an empty table, suddenly feeling as though we had crashed a party.”

On one empty table was a beautiful sheet cake – what was left of it – frosted with icing of red and white stripes. Several little boys were having a great time chasing each other back and forth. One adorable little guy thought her husband’s shiny cane looked like a great toy, but Don grabbed it before anyone could get hurt, Hiskes said.

A waitress assured them that they could order and that the party was winding down. Meanwhile, they were being entertained by the antics of the adorable little boys and wondering if this was a birthday party for one of them.

Before their pizza arrived, their waitress came to their table and informed them that a young mother from the group felt bad that they had been exposed to “all the chaos and noise,” as she put it, and that she had paid for their meal. “We were flabbergasted,” Hiskes said.

“I went over to the young woman and told her how sorry we were to have crashed their party, unaware that it was going on. ‘Oh no,’ she said quietly, ‘you didn’t crash in on us. I’m sorry for all the mayhem you were subjected to.’”

The young woman explained that the party was a gathering to say farewell to her brother, who was being deployed in the coming week. It was the second deployment for the father of four young children. “I told her how great I thought it was that they had been together to support his family and wished him well and that I would be sure to pray for this safety. She hugged me tightly,” Hiskes said.

As they headed toward the door to leave, they found her standing there waiting for them. She offered her arm to Don, opened the door and asked if they would mind if she walked them to their car, which was several stores down the street. “She took both of us by an arm and, coatless on a cold night, escorted us to our car,” Hiskes remembered.

Hiskes got in the car and immediately teared up, promising to pray for the brother and their family. “I remembered many, many years ago that we had a farewell family party for my father before he was sent overseas during WWII. I was five years old at the time,” Hiskes said.

“I am so sorry I did not get the name of that very sweet young lady. I feel a connection to her but I do know that her brother’s name is “Alex” and that he had wanted to do what he could for his country. This young sister and brother must have awesome parents. Perhaps we could all say a prayer for Alex and his family. That’s what I am doing,” Hiskes said.

Don and Ruth Hiskes came to Vicksburg from Oaklawn, Ill. when their daughter, Heidi Dykstra, and her husband, Ken, moved here for work in 2001. Heidi was employed by Family Doctors of Vicksburg and now has a job at Bronson in registration, with work hours shortened due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Local Visual Artists Rise to the C-19 Challenge

By Syd Bastos

“Shelter in place is not compatible with procrastination!” says Veronica Levin, co-owner of Hot Flash Pottery. This writer spoke with Veronica, Cindy Krill, Lisa Beams, Karla Piper and Helen Kleczynski to find out how these artists are adapting to COVID-19 related restrictions.

Veronica Levin designs and produces jewelry, paintings and ceramics in her studio. She sells both online and at her studio location, temporarily shuttered. Extra time has allowed Veronica to be more mindful of the environment around her. She’s tackling old projects, both at home and in the studio, with a surprising fearlessness. She feels more fulfilled and is grateful for this reflective time.

Cindy Krill produces ceramics in her studio located in the Prudential Nursery in Vicksburg and paints watercolors in her home. She sells her works at Prudential Nursery, also temporarily shuttered. Too cold to work on ceramics in the studio, Cindy has found time for painting, just finishing a striking piece of her granddaughter, Ella, now three years old, who is sheltering with her family in the Detroit area. The piece will join paintings of other family members adorning the walls in the Krill’s home, awaiting the next family gathering when shelter-in-place orders are lifted.

Lisa Beams participates with South County Fiber Arts (SCFA) and Knit & Stitch 2gether. The first group meets monthly at Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center to work on fiber projects and learn from each other. Knit & Stitch 2gether meets weekly at Windfall Coffee Shop, bringing yarn and stitching projects to work on and share. SCFA also does demonstrations using spinning wheels and other tools to convert animal and plant fibers into yarn. The demonstrations, held in conjunction with local history day events, have been cancelled or postponed. Sadly, there is no easy replacement option for them. But with all gatherings on hold, the two groups have begun to use Zoom, an on-line conferencing tool, for their meetings. It has been a fun way to stay connected.

Karla Piper, owner of Siesta Jewelry, designs and produces silver jewelry. She was selling to retailers and at Quilt and Expo shows around the country as well as on-line. All these sales channels are either shuttered, cancelled or postponed. Her Fordite jewelry was going to be featured in the exhibit Detroit Style: Car Design in the Motor City, 1950-2020 organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts, scheduled to open during the Detroit Auto Show in June. Both have been rescheduled to November. As she waits it out, she has found more time to connect remotely with her customers and take webinars to improve her business. And, despite having money tied up in inventory, Piper muses, “At least it doesn’t have an expiration date!”

Helen Kleczynski provides instruction in pastels and watercolor and cultivated a sharing culture in her classroom, The Art House in Vicksburg. Instruction at the studio is now suspended, but she says, “Art is too joyful to set aside.” Helen established a private Facebook group for current students and provides live demonstrations on Facebook. Students can post their works in the Facebook group and get and give feedback and encouragement for each other. Helen also has more time to experiment with techniques learned in workshops over the last few years on her own works.

The Vicksburg Cultural Arts Center (VCAC) is also adapting. The Tournament of Writers, a local writing competition, opened as planned on April 1, but on-site writing clinics had to be scrubbed and the option to drop off submissions at Vicksburg and Schoolcraft libraries is no longer possible. Submissions can be sent online or by mail. Fees will be waived this year and the deadline for submissions has been extended to May 30. Also, the VCAC just launched an online gallery, Art2Share and periodically is offering free art kits for no-contact pickup at the VCAC at 105 S Main Street in Vicksburg. Readers can find more information about these programs on their website,, and on their Facebook page or by calling (269) 501-1347.

Everyone agrees that things will be different post C-19. “New paths for entrepreneurship will emerge as people re-imagine their workspaces.” says Levin. Karla Piper expects lower attendance at large shows and expos, at least initially. But she also feels that small business owners who supported each other and their suppliers and found ways to stay connected to their customers will emerge stronger. Keeping our minds and hearts open to creative solutions will help us weather this pandemic!

Big Celebration for Bill Hunt’s 82nd Birthday

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Bill Hunt with the well wishes he received on his 82nd birthday.

By Sue Moore

Birthdays are hard to celebrate during the governor’s COVID-19 stay-at-home order, especially for youngsters who have a deep desire to have their buddies over to play with them.

Bill Hunt, a humble and healthy octogenarian in Vicksburg, did have his buddies over to observe his big number: 82. They just couldn’t get out of their cars and trucks to play with him. They all paraded by his home on Kathryn Street with fire trucks blaring, police sirens sounding, ambulance lights blinking, horns honking and signs fluttering, all in Hunt’s honor – 52 cars in all, he figured.

“I’ve never seen my husband at such a loss for words,” said Sue Hunt. “He can’t stop talking about it. He was completely surprised. We aren’t allowed to even get out of the house to go anywhere because our kids are too worried about us. We do sneak out once in a while but don’t dare tell the kids or they will get on us about it. We even had to cancel our 60th wedding anniversary party on March 18 due to the quarantine.”

The parade was the brainchild of granddaughter Sarah Howell and Chad Schippers of the village Department of Public Works. Hunt has helped out many times at Vicksburg Hardware; his daughter, Brenda, is part owner with her husband, Steve Schimp. Sarah also works there and together the family has been keeping the back doors open for orders so people can at least do fixup work around the house. Hunt also serves on the village Planning Commission. He and Sue are regulars each month at village council meetings.

Hunt wanted to say thank you to everyone who organized his birthday celebration, but he is still at a loss for words, which is very unusual for him, his wife indicated.

Hearty Hustle is Going Virtual this Year

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The Hearty Hustle as it existed before quarantine.

By Sue Moore

Due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus shutdown, the Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation (VCSF) will be converting its 33rd Annual Hearty Hustle into a free virtual race.

“In these unprecedented times, the VCSF feels the best cure for fear and unknown is the hope that comes with being in a great community that values good health,” said Lucas Hillard, chair of the Foundation. “The race continuing in a virtual fashion will allow our Vicksburg Community Schools families, as well as the many participants that join the race each year, a chance to connect with others in a powerful way.”

Hillard noted that the goal is to create an event for many runners, students and families that historically look forward to the Hearty Hustle every year, while adhering to the CDC recommendation for social distancing. VCSF encourages participants to run or walk as an individual or get an entire household moving. Contestants can choose their own starting line. This could be a treadmill, the neighborhood, a track, wherever folks are comfortable. Then participants can upload and share their results, photos and other useful tools to make the race a success for everyone.

Always the “Second Saturday in May”, the Hearty Hustle has been synonymous with May and Mother’s Day for 33 years. It was started by Danna Downing and Bronson Hospital to encourage running for the health of it. The race has become a family affair over the years by including all ages with prizes for several different age-related categories.

The virtual event will run from May 9th to May 16 and is free for everyone. To receive information on how to run a virtual race or register, send an email to Beth O’Roark at

Generous Hands and SCCS are Open for Business

By Sue Moore

Sheri Louis of Generous Hands and Drew Johnson at South County Community Services want the public to know that they have plenty of food to distribute. Each organization’s hours are from 10 a.m. to noon on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the back door of their building at 606 N. Spruce Street in Vicksburg.

“We are experiencing a slow-down in families coming to pick up food at Generous Hands and the food pantry at South County Community Services, just when people might need it most,” said Louis.

“People may be confused about the food being available from us,” Louis commented. “Some of our families that get meals through the school may not think it’s available from Generous Hands too. We have ample supplies which normally go in Friday Packs that are distributed to students at their schools. We have doubled the amount of the vouchers we are handing out. Two vouchers per family are available and worth $80 to $100 at Family Fare. Before the shutdown, the value of the vouchers was $40 or $50 depending on the size of the family.

“One person we heard from thought she was getting the Friday Packs through the school, so she didn’t come to pick up here. Our food distribution is in addition to what the school does,” Louis said.

“Generous Hands has been really blessed,” Louis said. “There is so much support from the community with financial donations and the folks who have dropped off food on our doorstep. We really appreciate getting boxes of cereal donated. Lori Fry went out and purchased 100 boxes and brought them in along with masks that she made for our volunteers. We have had so much support like this from the community in this time of hardship. We have even had to turn volunteers away while trying to limit exposure to the virus.”

South County Community Services is also still operating even though the building isn’t open. “We are giving out boxes of food by appointment and making some deliveries,” Johnson said. He and Austin Wiggins are taking turns coming in to answer phones and facilitate the pantry distribution to people by popping it into the trunk of cars as people drive up to the back door. “We have had a couple of emergency assistance requests that Wiggins oversees through a $16,000 fund that United Way of Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region has made available to our clients. That was a big help,” Johnson said. “We believe that many people who have received the government’s stimulus checks do not want to utilize our assistance in case someone else really needs the help. We expect this to change as unemployment gets more difficult to access through the state’s web site.

The Metro van is just for essential trips now. “We are doing all the same services, but most are done over the phone such as utility assistance. We had food boxes coming from Loaves and Fishes that are just for seniors at 26 pounds per person. They too have had a slight decrease in demand. We know the need isn’t changing for seniors that much. We just want people to know to call as we are open for business,” Johnson said.

Raising a Grandchild in Quarantine

By Rob Peterson

For Vicksburg resident Nancy MacKenzie, quarantine has been a unique challenge: She is 69 years old and is raising her eight-year-old “joyful” grandson, David.

To accomplish this feat, MacKenzie includes an “adventure a day” in their regular routine, which consists of packing a picnic lunch and getting away from the house. “We’ve walked the beaches, visited the Bird Sanctuary, and we often use the Vicksburg trail,” she said.

Before quarantine, David would have friends over after school to play in their large yard. It has surprised MacKenzie how well he has adapted to being alone. “He spends time with Legos, playing Minecraft, and watching nature shows,” she said. “He was getting reading assistance at school, but he’s catching up with all the books he’s been reading.”

They regularly go to the schoolyard to play soccer or kickball, but she is cautious with the play structures. MacKenzie, who worked much of her career in the healthcare field, is concerned about how little we know about the coronavirus and how it spreads.

David is also concerned about the virus; he has lived with MacKenzie since he was two years old and has seen more than his share of loss. “He wants to do lots of snuggling,” said MacKenzie.

Fortunately for MacKenzie, she is not alone. “My sister came up from Kentucky to help when I had cataract surgery in March, and afterward she stayed to help with David,” she said. “I can’t explain how grateful I am.” To take care of herself, MacKenzie makes sure to get outside whenever possible and video chats with friends and family.

Together, they are expanding their garden. David read the book “How a Seed Grows” and was inspired to start his own plants indoors. When they were large enough, they took the seedlings to Wiley Farms to finish their growing in the hoop houses there.

It has been a busy time for MacKenzie, but she is adapting in an inspiring way. “The days go by and I’m just so exhausted at the end of them.”