Category Archives: Schoolcraft

Gathering of the Greens at Schoolcraft Library

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Trees to the left and right of the photo of Kelly Bergland and Deb Christiansen are entrants in this year’s Gathering of the Greens contest. Photo by Linda Lane.

By Linda Lane

The Schoolcraft Library is looking like Christmas as entrants begin to fill the library with trees and wreaths decorated with various themes as part of its annual fundraiser.

The Gathering of the Greens is a contest where visitors can “vote” for their favorite greens for 25 cents per vote by dropping coins or cash into cans stationed at each contest entry. There is no limit on casting votes; they may be cast through December 15. The winners will be announced on December 18; prizes will be awarded at the Library from 6:30-7:30 p.m. and punch and cookies will be served.

It costs $10 for each Christmas tree entry. Entries may be only artificial greens, and if lighted, may only use battery-operated lights. Trees are limited to no more than 3 feet tall, and wreaths no more than 24 inches in diameter, but may include a stand. Businesses, organizations, schools, churches, and residents are encouraged to enter the contest as well as vote for their favorite greens.

Proceeds from the Gathering of the Greens will support the Schoolcraft Friends of the Library children’s programs.

Schoolcraft Community Christmas Caroling December 19

caroling two.jpgLooking for a way to awaken the Christmas Spirit? Join in for Community Christmas Caroling on Tuesday, December 19 from 6:30-8 p.m. Carolers will meet at the Schoolcraft Community Library. Weather permitting, they’ll carol through Centre, Cass Street and other nearby streets west of 131. If the weather is not favorable, they’ll sing at the Burch Park gazebo or in the Library, as they did last year.

Everyone is invited, even if you’re not a resident of Schoolcraft. Feel free to bring your entire family. Please dress for the weather and bring a flashlight to read the provided printed carols. Kirk Bergland will be leading the singing. To bring the gift of the season full circle, a donation to Schoolcraft’s Food Pantry of an unexpired canned good or non-perishable item can be dropped off at the collection box in the Library’s entrance.

After singing, everyone is invited for complimentary hot chocolate, hot cider and cookies until 8 p.m. at the Schoolcraft Community Library. A big thank you to the organizing committee which includes library Director Faye VanRavenswaay and community enthusiast Kirk Bergland. If you have questions, please call Darby Fetzer at 269-569-5557.

40 Years of Luminarias Lighting Up Schoolcraft

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Members of the Schoolcraft Presbyterian Church who have volunteered to help distribute and light the luminarias gathered on the steps of Westminster Hall after church services. The church will also be selling crafts in the DeVries law office on S. Grand Street on Friday evening and on Saturday in the Hall. Photo by Linda Lane.

By Linda Lane

Sidewalks running from Lyons Street south to the railroad tracks on Grand Street, US 131, will be aglow on Christmas Eve with candlelight from luminarias thanks to the dedicated members of the First Presbyterian Church of Schoolcraft. Both sides of Grand Street will be lighted with 600 luminarias set out along the street.

“We’re hoping to expand the luminarias this year to a wider reach including additional streets in Schoolcraft and hopefully even into Vicksburg,” John Barnett said. He’s coordinating the luminaria project with the Presbyterian Church. “We’d really like to see all of south Kalamazoo County light up!”

To facilitate residents participating, the Presbyterian Church will offer kits for the public to purchase. Two nicely packaged kits including 10-hour burning candles, the bags, and candle burn cup will be available: a kit of eight candles for $10 and a kit of 16 for $20. Residents will need to provide their own sand, kitty litter or dirt for the luminarias.

Initiated in 1978 in Schoolcraft, this longstanding community project is a large endeavor, requiring three days of volunteers to coordinate the project. The Presbyterian Church calls upon families, kids and adults, to help fill jugs with sand and candles on December 23, load them onto a truck to light and distribute the luminarias on Christmas Eve, and return on Christmas morning to pick them up again. The public is welcome to lend a hand with the project; volunteers will gather at noon on Christmas eve at the Church, 224 E. Cass Street, to set up. The candles will be lit at dusk.

Luminarias are intended to light the path and sidewalks to invite the Christ child into their homes on Christmas Eve.

Residents may contact the Church office between 9 a.m. and noon at 269-679-4062. Kits will be available for pick up at the Church’s Westminster Hall on Saturday December 9 or 16 from 10 a.m. until noon.

Proceeds from the luminarias sale and support of area merchants go into the luminary fund to continue this community tradition. The Presbyterian Church continues this tradition with the following philosophy: “It is our gift to those passing through Schoolcraft on Christmas Eve.”

Jones Publishes a Third Book, “Are You Ready?”

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Marilyn Jones. Photo by Linda Lane.

By Linda Lane

She’s soft-spoken, smart and witty, the kind of woman you’d be proud to call your grandmother. She’s Marilyn Jones, southwest Michigan’s Poet Laureate, because Schoolcraft, Vicksburg and Portage all vie to call her their own.

With two poetry books already published, Jones is just releasing her third book called “Are You Ready?” The girl who in fact is lucky enough to call her Grandma, Angel Martin, helped her compile and publish the book.

“This book is a little bit different. It’s not just poems, but includes short stories from my life as well,” Jones explained. “Every time I go to speak at one of the local libraries or clubs, people kept asking me when I was going to publish another book. So, I finally called my biggest cheerleader, my granddaughter Angel, and ask her to help me. She didn’t hesitate a minute and said, “Grandma, let’s do it! You know I’d do anything in the world for you!” And so they did.

Jones has lots of fans around these parts of Michigan. “Oh, she’s one of my favorite people!” Sue Moore exclaimed. “When I grow up, I want to be just like you,” Jan (Krum) McNally told Marilyn Jones at the conclusion of her talk at the Ladies Library meeting in Schoolcraft.

Over 100 people showed up for her 90th birthday party last year, including people she went to high school and college with and many friends and family from the area. Jones was married to her husband for 47 years before he passed away; they had five children, six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

In 2009 she fell and severed a knee cap, broke a wrist, and slit a sizable piece of her earlobe. She spent weeks in intensive care, her family warned by doctors that they didn’t think she would make it, and did three months in rehabilitation.

“It really changed my life,” Jones explained. “I had published one book at that time, called “One Lump or Two” because I loved drinking tea. When I had those life-threatening injuries, I asked Angel to publish a second book if I died.” Again Angel didn’t hesitate. “Get well, Grandma, and we’ll do it together!” And they did.

Jones recently fell again and it took another three months in rehabilitation to recuperate. But again, the fall resulted in another book being published.

“When Angel calls me, she often says to me, ‘Are you ready?’ Of course, I always say, ‘Yes! What am I ready for?’” Jones said. And hence the title of her third book. “I couldn’t have done it without her.”

The Schoolcraft Library has sponsored a Tournament of Writers contest for the past three years. Jones has placed in poetry, non-fiction and fiction categories for all three consecutive years, an impressive feat. “I’m in the teenage division,” she quipped. In fact, she won in the Senior category.

For only $10, people can pick up a copy of Jones’s new book and have her autograph it. She will have a book signing event during Schoolcraft’s Christmas Walk on Friday, December 2 from 6-9 p.m. and Saturday, December 3 from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. at the United Methodist Church in Schoolcraft.

Another book signing is planned for Jones and another local author, Barbara Vortman, who also just released her second and third books as well, called “Child of Mine” and “Don’t Be Cruel.” The Schoolcraft Library will host a book signing for the two local authors on December 9, from 10 a.m. to noon in their Community Room.

“Friends ask me where I get my ideas and I don’t really know. Something will trigger a memory. I might start out writing thinking it will be funny and when I’m done, it turns out seriously. Sometimes the stories just take on a life of their own and they kind of write themselves,” Jones explained of her craft.

“It took many years before I realized that I could do something like this. It’s humbling to know that others are interested and enjoy what I have to say.”

Mending for the Community of Schoolcraft

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Anita Balganorth at her sewing machine repairing some blue jeans that were brought in to the mending marathon at Schoolcraft United Methodist Church.

By Sue Moore

Who has time to mend clothes these days when they spring a rip or tear? The Schoolcraft United Methodist Women’s group gave a nod for working families in such situations and held its second annual Mending Marathon the end of October.

They were willing to work on clothes that needed repair, to be hemmed or patched or had buttons that needed replacing for no charge. There were plenty of takers and some challenges, said Judy Oliphant, who worked at the event in the church’s activity room. Linda Greenhoe was the chair person.

“We asked what we could do for the community and this is what we came up with,” said Sheila Nichols. “The seamstresses were all volunteers and organized along the lines of hand sewing, sewing machine operators, and intake coordinator,” she pointed out.
It was all free but they did receive some donations for the church that will be used in the future for their children’s camp scholarships. They expect to be back at this much-needed sewing exercise next spring, according to Oliphant.

Schoolcraft Planning Commission Debates Wind & James

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Jamie Clark was quizzed by the Schoolcraft Planning Commission about meeting deadlines for parking spaces to be constructed on the property at 555 W. Eliza Street.

By Sue Moore

Schoolcraft’s Planning Commission asked Jamie Clark for more information about a fire suppression system in his proposed Wind & James event center at 555 W. Eliza Street and gave him another 30 days before he can secure an occupancy permit for the building.

But planning commissioners were equally interested in his plans for the early elementary building he and his wife, Windy, have purchased on nearby Cass Street.

Clark asked to postpone that update, saying his wife was unable to attend; the project is near and dear to her heart. But he indicated the building would be converted into a multiple-family and that the building’s south wing could become an auxiliary to the Wind & James project.

Clark was asking the commission for an occupancy permit for that project although not all of the required spaces are complete. The parking will be needed because the couple is expecting to enlarge the developed space from 13,000 square feet with 10,000 more for local businesses to occupy. To accomplish this, the building inspector is requiring a sprinkler system for the entire building, an added cost but one which will enable the building to be fully leased. “We have replaced the electrical system, put LED lighting throughout along with the sprinkling plans. It was painful, requiring a six-figure investment, but over the long-term it is the right thing to do,” Clark told the commission.

Trustee Mae Pfost congratulated Clark on the gorgeous building and the art center and event space. However, the parking lot on the south side of the building has not been completed as required by the board and it was the major reason members were reticent to issue the occupancy permit. Wet weather has been a hindrance to pouring concrete, Clark said. Still, he added, the couple had been successful in getting the parking areas on the north and east finished by the deadline the commission had imposed in the spring. There are currently 122 parking slots prepared, 13 less than the desired number.

Cheri Lutz, village manager recommended the 30-day extension for obtaining the occupancy permit so Clark could return to the body in December with more information on the fire suppression system. Tim Brown, chair of the board, settled on waiting until next spring for the parking lot, acknowledging that concrete can’t be poured during the winter.

In other business, the commission reviewed the “Reroute” long-range planning for US-131 through the village over the last year with Wightman & Associate’s Jordan Parker. The next step is to re-visit the comprehensive land-use plan, the parks and recreation plan and prepare new zoning documents to accompany the master plan. This will enable the serious work to commence on the vision plan, according to Natalie Dean, the Wightman planner who will be consulting on the hard work ahead for the Planning Commission.

Brown alerted the board to the proposal to locate a Casey’s General Store on the corner of Eliza and Grand Street. That will be on the agenda for the December meeting. He cautioned that gas stations and convenience stores are not allowed in the central business district. The proposal would need a text amendment to locate on that corner, he said.

Schoolcraft School Board OKs Facilities Assessment Team

By Travis Smola

The Schoolcraft school board approved the hiring of Kalamazoo architectural firm C2AE and Christman Construction to conduct a facilities assessment of the district’s grounds and buildings at a cost of $25,000.

“Looking at the proposal, what stood apart from others was this collaborative process,” Superintendent Rusty Sitt said. “They feel as if we need to involve the community right away.”

Community involvement will mean establishing a facilities assessment committee with community members, school staff, district administration and school board members. They also plan to have informative meetings for the public to learn more about the assessment and to give feedback. The first is scheduled November 30.

Stitt said the district is not currently planning a bond or project, but is gathering information at this point. The assessment itself will take 4-5 days and will happen in December. A report will be presented to the committee and community in January 2018.

Recommendations for repairs or improvements from the report won’t be presented to the school board until April 2018. Even though Stitt said nothing is planned at this moment, C2AE and Christman’s plan includes finding potential funding sources and potential bond planning, something that was noted by the trustees.

“I appreciated that it was very comprehensive,” Trustee Jill Hunt said.

Secretary Jennifer Gottschalk also said she appreciated how C2AE and Christman’s proposal walked them through every step of the process. “It’s a brand-new, fresh set of eyes on our buildings,” Gottschalk said. “We need a fresh perspective.”

The board also highlighted parts of the Michigan Association of School Board’s annual leadership conference. President Darby Fetzer gave a presentation on leadership at the conference. She said she took at least 10 pages of notes on other presentations she attended on topics from technology to fostering critical thinking skills in students.
Stitt and trustee Michael Rochholz were also at the conference where they gave a presentation on school growth and development in a rural district like Schoolcraft.

In the meeting’s closing comments, Rochholz brought up his concerns with Senate Bills 584-586, which were recently approved by the Senate and will move on the House. If approved, people with additional firearms training and a concealed carry permit could carry a concealed firearm into Michigan schools.

He urged everyone to contact State Sen. Margaret O’Brien, who voted in favor of the bills, to express their concerns.