Category Archives: Kalamazoo

Cody Dekker, Kalamazoo County Commission (Democrat)

dekkerWhat would you recommend the county do to solve the Homeless situation?

First and foremost, we must believe we can solve the problem and we have to prioritize its solution. We live in a world of abundance not scarcity. The reason these problems are not solved is not because of lack of resources it’s a lack of moral and value driven priorities. Specifically, I’m interested in exploring multiple solutions including but not limited to: Tiny houses, Fair Chance and Fair Housing, stopping “source of income” discrimination and working with service organizations, stakeholders, and property owners to continue to protect our most vulnerable residents.

PFAS – what is the Health Department’s responsibility?

We all want to have access to safe and clean drinking water. The recent response in Parchment was a good example of government officials coming together in a crisis for the good of the people. I believe the health department has an ongoing responsibility to continue monitoring and testing municipalities in Michigan and dealing with the subsequent results.

Is the Hazardous Waste program effective?

Out environment must be a top priority. If we don’t have a planet we don’t have anything. The hazardous waste program may be working but it’s still imperative that we innovate and improve all our programs to take care of our environment the best that we can the way it cares for us.

What would you do to support an increased recycling effort in the county?

Talk about it. I think government can help in ways with public advocacy because we have access to communicate with the public at large. I think the County can encourage recycling. We can provide information on how and where to recycle. We can make it easier to recycle by improving our currently existing programs.

Do you support the resurrection of the Arena project for downtown Kalamazoo?

I am inclined to think that we do not need a new arena downtown. I am not fully decided and look forward to a robust debate with all parties involved and interested as well as further personal research on my part.

Vicksburg Photographer Has Exhibit at Bronson Hospital

By Sue Moore

A new “then and now” photo exhibit at Bronson Children’s Hospital is designed to bring hope to families with babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. The Pictures of Hope display features photos of former Neonatal Intensive Care Unit patients who spent days, weeks or months in the NICU. The pictures show that the former patients have now grown into healthy toddlers, teens and adults. Some of the babies were so small their parents were able to fit a wedding band around their tiny arms.

Photographer Linda Hoard from Vicksburg, donated her time and services to capture the beautiful images. The exhibit is funded through the Bronson Health Foundation. An online photo album along with each patient story was also created. Hoard was recruited by Ruth Ritzema, a staff member of Parent to Parent, who coordinated the project for the 18 families who came to Hoard’s home to be photographed. “It was an honor to work with all the families. We started in April 2016 and the grand opening of the display was in September. Each of the families brought a photo taken when their child was in the NICU. My job was to pose the family or individual holding their very own baby picture. The goal is to give hope to future parents of premature babies while in the NICU care,” Hoard said.

Patients and families pictured in the photos each had the opportunity to unveil their own pictures during a reception in Bronson’s North Pavilion. George Kudwa, just three pounds when he was born, is now 26 years old. “I’m very lucky and blessed to be here today,” Kudwa said. “That’s what these photos remind me of.”

Julia Cretsinger, who had three babies who each spent time in the neonatal intensive care unit, became teary-eyed when she saw the photos. “It makes me feel good to be part of it, so there is hope for other families,” Cretsinger said. Wendy Finsterwald-Watts, manager of nursing in the NICU, said the photos are installed in the halls of the NICU. “It will be very meaningful to families of current and future patients. We hope it will be encouraging for them to see these former patients smiling and having fun,” she said.

Kalamazoo County Election Candidates

tim-snowTim Snow, Kalamazoo County Clerk and Register of Deeds, Republican Incumbent

Tim Snow is proud to serve as your Kalamazoo County Clerk and Register of Deeds. I am a life-long resident of Kalamazoo County; 57 years old; married to Renee Beck and we currently live in the City of Kalamazoo. We have 2 daughters who are both students at Wayne State University.

I am a graduate of Comstock High School and Central Michigan University. I served as Comstock Township Clerk for 12 years prior to being elected County Clerk and Register of Deeds in 1996. A Certified Municipal Clerk, I am also a Master Certified County Official and Certified Elections Administrator. Leadership is also important to me, as I have served as President of the Michigan Association of County Clerks and am currently serving as President of the United County Officers Association of Michigan. In 2011, I was selected as County Clerk of the Year. Locally, I am a member and past Congregational President of Trinity Lutheran Church in Kalamazoo and have served on a number of governmental boards.

The County Clerk and Register of Deeds is continually placing more information online to aid in transparency. The public can access deed information and print documents at home for a small fee. Vital records information is available online as are campaign finance records for Kalamazoo County candidates. It is important to continue adding more information online and we plan to do so in the next several years. In addition, new election equipment will be selected in early 2017. It is important that someone experienced in elections, who has programmed elections and has served on state committees researching the new equipment lead the process to determine the election equipment vendor for Kalamazoo County. Public information and training regarding the new system will be a priority in 2017.

john-taylorJohn Taylor, Kalamazoo County Clerk/Register of Deeds, Democrat, Challenger

My name is John Taylor and I am running to be your next Kalamazoo County Clerk/Register of Deeds. I live with my wife, Meredith Place, in Kalamazoo’s Knollwood neighborhood.

Kalamazoo is a community that means a great deal to me. I first ran for office as a Western student in 2002, and have dedicated my life to public service ever since. For the past two years, I have had the pleasure of serving as Chair of the Kalamazoo County Board of Commissioners. During this time, I have guided a politically divided board to create real change. Kalamazoo County is now one of the most fiscally stable public entities in the state of Michigan, with a AA+ credit rating and a 115% funded pension account. We have navigated over $50 million dollars in local county construction projects, all without raising taxes. All of this has been accomplished through long-term planning, steady fiscal oversight, and most importantly, bi-partisan cooperation.

As a County Commissioner for the past fourteen years, I know firsthand how our future depends on elections. The right to self-governance is a vital part of what keeps our country great. The ability for every citizen to vote, the right we all have to shape our future and decide the direction of our government and community is the very reason we have endured as a free society. I am running for office because we need a strong leader who will defend and protect our right to vote as Kalamazoo’s County Clerk. My top priorities include providing equitable access to voting, creating uniformity in the training and reporting process during elections, and improving the efficiency for requesting and obtaining documents. I hope I can count on your support this November.

Incumbent Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting, a Democrat, faces opposition from Republican Don Smith. The four-year post will pay $123,635.20 if Getting is re-elected, $113,339.20 if Smith wins.

jeff-gettingJeffrey Getting, Kalamazoo County Prosecutor, Democrat Incumbent
Name: Jeffrey S. Getting. Age: 52. Family information: Married to Kris Getting, three children. Qualifications: Kalamazoo County Prosecutor, 2013-present, Getting Law Offices, 1998-2012, Kalamazoo County Assistant Prosecutor, 1990-1998.

Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM), Board of Directors, 2014-present; PAAM Legislative Committee; PAAM Best Practices Initiative; Prevention Works, Board of Directors; Kalamazoo County Elder Abuse Prevention Coalition Member; Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program (KPEP) Board of Directors.

Why I’m running for reelection: I am running for reelection to continue serving the people of Kalamazoo County as the Prosecuting Attorney. Kalamazoo County is a great place to live and we can make it even better for every person. We need a Prosecutor who is both tough and smart on crime. We need a Prosecutor who recognizes that dangerous criminals must be held accountable, while offering access to problem-solving courts for nonviolent offenders to reduce recidivism rates.

Under my leadership, Kalamazoo County has improved the prosecution of dangerous criminals and expanded the reach of problem-solving courts to reduce recidivism rates. We’ve enhanced the prosecution of dangerous criminals through a program of High Impact Prosecutions (HIP), a partnership with local law enforcement and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for West Michigan that is identifying, prosecuting and incarcerating Kalamazoo County’s most dangerous criminals.

We’ve also expanded problem-solving courts for veterans and young people through the Juvenile Mental Health Treatment and Recovery Court and our new Veterans Court, which will come online in the coming months. The Swift and Sure Sanctions Program is making sure that probationers are held accountable, while giving them opportunities to be rehabilitated.

We must continue the work we’ve started and keep making Kalamazoo County safer and stronger for everyone.

don-smithDon Smith, Kalamazoo County Prosecutor, Republican Challenger

My name is Don Smith. I am 45 years old. I am currently a partner at Willis Law, a full service law firm. I am married to Mindie Smith, the Director of Substance Abuse Services for southwest Michigan. I have two children, ages 14 and 11.

I graduated from Kalamazoo Christian High School and received my Bachelor of Arts in Psychology/Sociology from Hope College. I later graduated Magna Cum Laude from Michigan State University School of Law.

I worked for 12 years with Child Protective Services in Kalamazoo. For 6 years after that, I was an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Kalamazoo. For the last 4+ years, I have practiced criminal defense and juvenile law throughout southwestern Michigan. I have also been appointed Special Prosecutor in several cases.

I believe that Kalamazoo needs a Prosecutor that will do everything possible to keep this county safe. This means aggressively prosecuting all criminal laws and local ordinances and developing a reputation for doing so. In the last 4 years, crime has increased and we are now the 39th most dangerous place in the country! Meanwhile our recently expanded jail sits half-full. This is unacceptable.

As a Prosecuting Attorney taking action on behalf of you and all other citizens, it is important to make sure my efforts in each and every case are truly consistent with society’s best interests. Our Prosecutor must use every tool in the arsenal to not only hold offenders responsible, also to deter crime. The statistics clearly show that this has not been happening. I am also particularly concerned with our seniors and the financial crimes that they suffer from. Every effort will be made to not only prosecute those who exploit our senior citizens, but also to get any property stolen from them actually returned or repaid.

Incumbent Kalamazoo County Sheriff Richard Fuller, a Democrat, faces opposition from Republican Jeff Heppler. Heppler did not provide a biography or statement. The four-year post would pay an annual salary of $133,952 to the incumbent, $113,339.20 if the challenger wins.

Richard C. Fuller III, Kalamazoo County Sheriff, Democrat Incumbent

Age: 52. Married to Lisa, daughter Tamila (Sam), son Scott (Rachel). Bachelors of Science in Organizational Management, Spring Arbor University, Associates in Law Enforcement, Kellogg CC, Marshall High School.

Sheriff of 7 years, veteran of 30 years in law enforcement, graduate of National Sheriff’s Institute and MCOLES certified police officer that has held position of Dispatcher, Deputy, Sergeant and Detective. Also creator/leader of the County Meth Team, Project Lifesaver and Field Training Program. Trained by U.S. Dept. of Justice in Jail Administration.

My passion for this community grows every day. I share that passion as your Sheriff. One of my focuses has been shifting law enforcement from “patrol and incarcerate” to “serve and rehabilitate.” Inside the jail, I’ve established services focused on helping inmates in their pursuit of a better life. I provide Life-Skills, Mental Health and Addiction services. Outside the jail I am focusing on newer threats to our community such as elder abuse, human trafficking and scams that target all citizens. I am running for re-election so that I can continue to focus on these programs and address these threats as your leading law enforcement official.

Republican County Treasurer Mary Balkema is being challenged by Sunny Saura Sahu, Democrat. He did not provide biographical or information about his positions. The four-year post pays an annual salary of $111,030.20 to the incumbent if she wins re-election, $90,438.40 to the challenger if he wins.

mary-balkemaMary Balkema, Kalamazoo County treasurer, Republican Incumbent

Age: 49. Family James R. Balkema, husband; Aaron Balkema, son; Sarah Balkema, daughter; James C. Balkema, son. High school: Kalamazoo Christian High School (1985). Undergraduate education: WMU, B.S. Major: Accounting (1989). Other education: Harvard Kennedy School – Executive Series for Women in Power 2001 Certified Public funds Investment Manager 2012 Housing Finance Development Finance Professional 2012.

Employment: Kalamazoo County Treasurer Kalamazoo County Government May 2007 to Present.

Previous employment Kalamazoo City Commissioner 2001-2007 Old Kent/Fifth Third Securities 2000 – 2003 First of America Securities 1985-1999.

Corporate, civic, community memberships Kalamazoo County Land Bank Authority Chair LISC Local Advisory Committee Board Chair, KNHS board member, County Plat Board, County Apportionment Commission, Election Commission, OPEB Board, Legislative Co-Chair for the Michigan Association of County Treasurers, President – Michigan Association of Land Banks, Greater Kalamazoo United Way Executive Board.

My priorities include: 1. Maintain a strong bond rating, an audit with no material comments and strong investment portfolio. 2. Decrease the number of tax foreclosures 3. Continue the investment in the built environment through blight elimination and tax base growth. As the owner of the Vicksburg Paper Mill, I understand complex projects and the partnerships needed to place tax delinquent parcels back on the tax roll.

I have the experience, educational background in accounting and the technical skill to keep Kalamazoo County financially strong, economically viable and running smoothly.

Historical Society on Lincoln

lincoln in kazooThe Vicksburg Historical Society will present Abraham Lincoln Project review, headed by former State Senator Cameron Brown. He will explain the community based effort to celebrate Lincoln’s 1856 visit to Kalamazoo to speak in Bronson Park. It is a three part plan to bring Lincoln’s legacy alive in the greater Kalamazoo area. The meeting is at 7 p.m. and the public is urged to attend at the Community Center in downtown Vicksburg.

Is a Construction Career in Your Future?

career constructionBy Bob Crissman

Editor’s note: Bob Crissman taught the Building and Trades course in Schoolcraft schools for many years. It is his passion to encourage young people to get into the trades as a career. He wrote this article as a nudge to get students to consider these possibilities while in their early years of high school.

There is a growing need for skilled construction workers. Wages are raising at a rate faster than other jobs, and construction jobs cannot be out sourced.

The most important thing for students today is that they acquire a skill. The skill could be acquired in an apprentice program, a technical school, a community college or an advanced college degree. But it is imperative that students have a marketable skill to gain sound employment.

Students considering a career in construction should check school class offerings and enroll in any industrial education classes that are offered. Education for Employment (EFE) through Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency (KRESA) offers vocational courses in Kalamazoo County. In addition, students can arrange for a job shadow in any field that interests them.

Schools may allow days off for this. But students can also arrange to shadow a skilled tradesperson during non-school days. Knowing what actually occurs in a job may be a real eye opener.

To join an area plumber/pipefitter apprentice program, students can apply between Feb. 2 and Feb. 27 at the Local 357, Plumbers and Pipefitters Union at 11847 Shaver Rd., Schoolcraft. The program is open to those 17 and older. Bob Gulbranson at 679-2570 has more information.

Those wishing to join a union carpenters apprentice program must have worked for a union contractor for seven days and must pass a math test. For more information students can call the Carpenters Union Local 525 office at 345-8601.

Kalamazoo Valley Community College offers construction-related classes in heating/ventilation/cooling, electricity and welding.

These are options available in Kalamazoo County. Students should check with high school counselors about other technical schools that offer training in various trades and careers.

Vicksburg Players at Kalamazoo College

k college 2
Aaron McGuire, Dan Karn, and BJ Cagney in their new locker room at Kalamazoo College.

By Sue Moore

“Football is a physical game. It’s the only place where hitting is legal,” said Dan Karn, a Vicksburg High School player from the 2010 football team that earned a playoff berth. Karn is now a reserve linebacker at Kalamazoo College along with his Vicksburg teammates from 2010, Aaron McGuire and BJ Cagney.

McGuire was the quarterback on the VHS team that went 6-3; Cagney was the center and Karn a linebacker. McGuire and Cagney are now senior starters on the Kalamazoo College football team that is having some troubles getting on track this season. The three have been playing together for eight years, beginning with Rocket teams, freshmen, junior varsity and varsity in Vicksburg, under the tutelage of Tom Marchese Vicksburg’s head coach for six seasons.

“These kids have stuck together [all these years],” said Marchese. “They come back, lift weights with the younger guys, and are just great kids to have had in the program. McGuire is coachable, selfless, with a team first [mentality]. He set the tone five years ago for Vicksburg and has succeeded at the next level. He gives his full effort. BJ has that farm kid strength and is no nonsense guy. They all have great character.”

That shows at the next level with Karn and Cagney listed as academic All Americans at K, and McGuire sporting a high scholastic average. McGuire and Cagney spent a semester in Spain as their study abroad, living with families in Madrid who didn’t speak any English. Karn stayed home to major in organic chemistry and plans to graduate a semester early, hopefully to land a job in the plastics industry involving large production.

Cagney says he is straight off the farm. That had its advantages because he could recruit his teammates to help bale hay in the summer, giving them good paying jobs and providing the guys lots of conditioning work while hard at it. He intends to graduate from K with a degree in business and marketing, with an emphasis on finance. An internship with Imperial Beverage last year gave him a good start, he said.

McGuire hopes his days of quarterbacking will take him to a job in real estate investments once he gets his degree in business and marketing next spring. Meanwhile, he is playing well as the starting quarterback but injured his knee during the Olivet game last week.

“Our coach, Jamie Zorbo, has an infectious personality,” McGuire said. “He wants to win, is intense, and personable.” Cagney made his first recruiting visit to Kalamazoo College and then to Hope and Albion, but nobody beat the feeling he had from the K coaches.

They each received academic aid, but there are no athletic scholarships at Division III schools, of which K is one. A new athletic facility has been built and opened officially during the four years these guys have been in school. It includes soccer, baseball and softball fields, training room, and an elaborate locker room facility to help with recruiting.

“I’ve always wanted to play football and I will miss it,” McGuire said, noting that it’s time to move on. “No more body aches and pains perhaps. It does hurt a little more than it used to. It’s the miles of training and playing that means it takes a few more days each week to recover. I find I’m still limping around until Wednesday, when I used to be just walking around.”

They all agreed they need to get out in the work force first and start making some money to pay back their student loans before deciding upon graduate school.

Loaves and Fishes Helps Families with Food Insecurity

loaves & fish 3
Greta Faworski stands in front of the Loaves & Fishes sign next to its building in Kalamazoo.

By Sue Moore

More people may be seeking food assistance in 2015 because of federal cuts in food assistance programs, said Greta Faworski, resource development director for Loaves and Fishes, the largest provider of emergency food in Kalamazoo County. That may mean a 12 to 15 percent increase in the number of people served by the agency which currently helps between 13,000 and 15,000 people a month.

The mission of Loaves & Fishes is to provide supplemental food for those who need it, not to provide all of a family’s nutritional needs, said Faworski, noting that about 38,000 people in Kalamazoo County deal with food insecurity each day, with about 10,500 of them being children.

“There is a strong connection between hunger and poverty,” she said. “All it takes is one small thing to throw a family off and they may find they need our help. We would like to imagine what a hunger free community might look like but until then, we are hitting new levels of need every month.”

To meet the needs in the community, Loaves & Fishes has 24 satellite locations in the area, including one at South County Community Services in Vicksburg and the Schoolcraft food pantry located in the Eagle’s Nest. Other locations are in area churches or community centers.

“We don’t want to make it harder for recipients,” Faworski said. “We don’t have the hoops of other programs or the red tape. Recipients can receive a four day food order per month, with self- declaration of need, they can receive additional food orders if they have a referral from a case worker.”

Loaves & Fishes indirectly partners with the well-known national food assistance program Feeding America, the overarching authority for these types of service agencies, said Faworski. Feeding America is divided into direct distribution organizations (DDOs) or regional distribution organizations (RDOs) which is how Loaves & Fishes is structured.

The Food Bank of South Central Michigan is a DDO and provides low-cost food to nonprofit agencies in seven counties in this area, she said. They are able to buy at substantially lower prices and in bulk from manufacturers, and, in turn, sell to all the other nonprofits providing food to the public.

About one third of the food at Loaves & Fishes comes from the Food Bank, another from relationships with local grocery stores, and the rest from food drives, such as the USPS food drive locally and the Christmas drives sponsored by local churches and charities, she said.

Monetary donations gives Loaves & Fishes greater purchasing power because they can buy larger amounts at a lower price, she said.

About 20 staff members assisted by over 400 volunteers run the agency each week.

Training is provided for the volunteers who are often retirees or employees from local corporations. They drive food trucks, sort and tag food. One of those volunteers is Glenda Greanya Fouch, a former Vicksburg resident, who works once a week at the agency.

“This is an awesome agency that helps a lot of people,” she said. “No questions are asked of the many people getting help. They do have to go through our intake call center that logs their name, but they are not turned down.”

Galovan Makes Trash His Business

Tim Galovan, owner of Student Haulers.

By Sue Moore

The first day Tim Galovan’s classified ad ran in the Kalamazoo Gazette for his Student Haulers business 17 years ago, he made $300 before lunch break, and a career was born.

He only had $40 in his pocket to spend on the ad, which the salesperson said would cost $60. She shortened the ad to fit his budget, just calling it Student Haulers and the name of the trash-hauling business was born. Eventually, he trademarked the name.

Student Haulers does, in fact, employ WMU students but Galovan never found time to go to college, once his business took off. His partner at the time, did finish at WMU but only helped on a few jobs. When they started, they had his partner’s truck and Galovan’s car to pick up trash.

Next, he rented a U-Haul and then bought his own truck. Now, he drives a custom-made, 25 cubic yard dump truck.

In the early days, Galovan charged $100 a load as he was trying to figure out his costs for recycling and disposing of the materials. They make every effort to find a proper home for the trash they pick up, as opposed to taking it to the landfill, he says.

The result is that many of his college student employees who start out the year with a bare apartment, end up constantly upgrading their possessions, Galovan says.

“I’ve got to watch them or they will keep everything,” he says. “We take most everything, even construction materials, as long as they are not hazardous or liquid.”

Even Galovan has found some things to keep.

“One treasure I found and kept was a Cub Cadet lawnmower,” he says. “I put it on ebay and a man from Iowa called to buy it. Turns out he was the proud curator of the Dumont Tractor Museum and was really excited to find this particular model to add to his collection.”

Galovan loves his job because he knows getting rid of trash makes people feel better.

“Folks are happy to be rid of it and I have a sense of accomplishment just by helping them get the junk out,” he says.

His employees also love their work because it’s not tedious, it’s outdoors, it’s physical and as long as the trash is out of the house, they can break anything, he says. Of the hundreds of students he has hired over the years, only one has quit and just three have called in sick.

Reflecting on his 17 years as owner of Student Haulers, he says, “I want to say I’ve seen it all but I’m continually amazed that people are so embarrassed about the trash lying around their house. My house is sometimes like that too, and I own the business!”

Ten years ago, Galovan and his wife, Alice, moved to south Portage, near Austin Lake. They have a five year old son who attends Tobey Elementary where Alice is active in the PTO. Both Galovans have joined the Vicksburg Lions Club as a part of their joint promise to give back to the community.

Their business serves families in the whole of Kalamazoo County and all of their employees are college students.

Village Trash Pickup Day

The Village of Vicksburg sponsors a free trash pick-up day, this year on May 24, using pretty much the same restrictions on what can be picked up. They don’t take plants and yard debris.

Heritage Company Donates Treasures to Vicksburg Historical Society

By Sue Moore

Rodger Parzyck, owner of the Heritage Company, an architectural salvage and supply company in downtown Kalamazoo, has been one of the many benefactors for Vicksburg’s Historic Village. His donations include doors, windows and advice to the “Thursday” guys as they browse through his treasure trove of salvage materials.

“I believe in what they are doing in the Historic Village,” Parzyck says. “I get more satisfaction out of Ken Evensen and Ernie Cox’s glee when they spot something I have salvaged and they could use, than anything else. They appreciate what I have in my store and I love that. I can experience what they do, at least vicariously.”

His donations have included the doors and windows in the township hall that was gutted by the Thursday Guys who volunteer their time working at the Historic Village, and rebuilt entirely on the inside. He has given door hinges, door lock sets, three screen doors for the farmhouse, canopy lights for the Village Garage, new globes and sockets, a gas soldering torch, storm windows for the Township Hall, and all the windows and doors for the General Store and Sweet Shop.

Rodger Parzyck of the Heritage Company specializes in refitting period light fixtures and old doors.

Now, he is saving old tools and other items that would ideally fit into displays in the General Store that the Thursday Guys expect to start building in the spring. A good deal of the lumber for this building has been salvaged from old houses being torn down in Kalamazoo and offered to nonprofits by the Edison Neighborhood coalition.

Having never visited the Historic Village before, Parzyck and his wife stopped in at the Christmas bake sale at the Depot Museum in December. They were quickly given a guided tour by Cox. Parzyck said it nearly brought his wife, Lia Gaggino, to tears because she was so impressed with the Historic Village and its use of recycled materials.

As president of the Kalamazoo county Preservation Alliance, Parzyck has been instrumental in saving some of the old buildings in the area. He played a big role in convincing the Kalamazoo County Board to save the Masonic Temple which has turned out to be a catalyst for growth on N. Rose Street.

He spent many frustrating hours trying to get Western Michigan University to reverse its decision on tearing down buildings on the old East Campus, to no avail. He’s not giving up, just girding for the next historic building saving campaign. That’s why he supports the Vicksburg effort which showcases the important work of our ancestors.

Become Engaged and Volunteer

By Danna Downing, Director South County Community Services

SCCSA life has many seasons and serving as a volunteer makes a difference in everyone’s life, no matter when the choice is made.  For young mothers, it’s a great way to stay connected to the outside world and make new friends.  For an unemployed person it can lead to future employment.  For someone undecided about a career path, volunteering is helpful for clarifying occupational choices.  For a youth struggling to recover from bad choices or a lack of direction, volunteering adds new meaning and definition in his or her development.  For empty nesters and the retired, volunteering affords them a way to re-shape their lives, share their wisdom and give back to the community.

Faithful volunteers are a true gift for non-profit agencies and the families they serve.   The human touch and skills they bring to the table are essential to the mission.  They are the face of the group or agency they serve.  In return they are gifted with knowing that what they offer truly makes a difference for all concerned.  That’s not only rewarding, it can be downright FUN!

Volunteer Kalamazoo publishes a wonderful Guide to Volunteering.   Although they are based in Kalamazoo they serve the entire Kalamazoo region.  Their mission is to build capacity for effective local volunteering, connect people with opportunities to volunteer, and promote volunteerism in the Greater Kalamazoo Community.

In the Guide to Volunteering there is a step-by-step process outlined for getting started.  Many of us are motivated to help others but find it difficult to know where to start helps a potential volunteer find opportunities that best fit a volunteer’s situation.  The authors suggest that volunteers should ask themselves the following questions:  Who do I want to help?  What can I contribute?  Where do I want to help?  Do I want to volunteer alone or with a group?  Do I want to volunteer for a project or a position?

Many volunteers prefer to look for jobs that fall within a subject or interest area.  The published guide and the Volunteer Kalamazoo website ( provide an index that sorts opportunities into key categories and also provides symbols that quickly inform whether or not the volunteer site is barrier free, on a public transportation route, a group activity or meets requirements for court ordered service.  A volunteer is likely to be surprised at the huge array of opportunities.

At South County Community Services (SCCS) the power of volunteerism is clearly demonstrated.   The front office is staffed by volunteers every day of the week.  The Metro Community Service Van is driven, literally and figuratively by trained volunteers.  Volunteers make the Wednesday Winners, a unique program for adults with disabilities, a grand success.  They help by offering maximum personal attention to the participants and generous donations of time and money to support the program.  The SCCS holiday assistance teams enhanced the 2013 holidays for over 500 area residents.

South County residents are invited to consider SCCS as a place to volunteer if you are looking for a close-to-home site that serves in a variety of ways for people of all ages, the phone number is 649-2901.

Volunteer Gale Stephens; former volunteer and now an employee Lisa Hull, Donna Simonton, volunteer; Bill Morton in back, a former volunteer at SCCS and now an employee in charge of maintenance.
Volunteer Gale Stephens; former volunteer and now an employee Lisa Hull, Donna Simonton, volunteer; Bill Morton in back, a former volunteer at SCCS and now an employee in charge of maintenance.

SCCS is currently looking for volunteers in the following areas:

  • Food and Personals Pantry:  Involves a team of two persons to assist pantry clients in shopping in a newly developing area that provides clients with the opportunity to choose food products and get help with menu planning and finding additional food and nutrition resources.  The pantry services are provided on Monday, Wednesday and Fridays afternoons.
  • Additional office staff is needed for Thursdays and Fridays or for special projects.
  • During the month of March, the agency is re-designing space in the lower level to house staff from the Kalamazoo Department of Human Services (DHS), the fine folks who are the gatekeepers for access to medical care assistance, food assistance, financial assistance and many other programs via MI Bridges enrollment for state aid.  Volunteers with electrical, plumbing and carpentry skills would help the agency reduce the costs involved in housing this critical agency which will serve about 800 residents who currently have a DHS caseworker.
  • SCCS is also seeking individuals with computer savvy to assist clients with the online registration required by DHS.  Volunteers would be trained and work with applicants by appointment at a mutually acceptable time in a space provided by SCCS.
  • Wednesday Winners is currently recruiting individuals with a hobby or interest they are willing to share with their group.  The group meets in the early afternoon most Wednesdays.