2018 Vicksburg Athletics Hall of Fame Recipients Named

By Sue Moore

The highest honor for a Vicksburg former athlete is induction into the sports Hall of Fame. It has honored 83 athletes since its founding in 1987.

It’s not just the highest achieving athletes that receive this honor, according to Coach Jon Kachniewicz. “Another part of the consideration is what they have done for their community once they have graduated from Vicksburg High School. This year’s nominees reflect that thinking as both Robert (Bob) Critz and Dave Maneikis have given back many times over to their respective communities.”

Critz earned four varsity letters, two in football and two in tennis, then went on to a 48-year career in coaching football in Allegan, Mendon, Colon and Centreville. He played first singles his senior year in 1960 and second singles as a junior.

His greatest team was the 1972 Mendon football contingent that went undefeated and was named state champion in class D by the Associated Press; there were no playoffs in those early years. He had Rock Klinger as his quarterback and Tim Baker as a receiver. “I just stayed out of their way and let them play,” Critz said. He was head coach in Mendon from 1969 to 1974, then went to Colon for four years to become part-time athletic director, history teacher and head coach. He moved to Centreville in 1979 but still worked the sidelines in Mendon as assistant coach, retiring from teaching in 2003.

He was high school track coach for 21 years at his various schools and golf and basketball coach at Mendon at various times. He was selected as the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) class D track coach of the year in 1998. Critz was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1994.

He and his wife, Barb, have three children. All have gone into the teaching field.

Maneikis claims he wasn’t an all-star athlete while at Vicksburg High School as he was lettering in football, basketball and baseball. He graduated in 1970 and went on to get his associates degree from Michigan State University in electrical technology. He came back to Vicksburg to go into business with his father, Ed. He began his career of umpiring as an Michigan High School Athletic Association official in baseball, basketball and softball from 1974 to 1986.

Umpiring four or five days a week, Maneikis also volunteered as announcer for Vicksburg’s athletic programs in football, basketball and wrestling. With bad knees, he spent more time in recent years keeping score books and operating scoreboards for Vicksburg’s teams.

He was a charter member of the Vicksburg Athletic Boosters in 1983 and has logged 45 years of continuous service to the Vicksburg athletic program. “I volunteer because it gives me a way to give back to the school and community,” Maneikis said.

He and his wife, Sue, have twin daughters. They helped him with his scorekeeping duties as they were growing up.

Church Agency Celebrates its First Year in Vicksburg

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Dawn Couey, Charlie Church and Laura Brandt on the sidewalk in front of the Church Agency in Vicksburg.

By Sue Moore

The Church Allstate Insurance Agency celebrated its first year of business in Vicksburg on March 1. In this period of time they have been able to grow the business from zero clients to 468 by their anniversary date. The business is located at 125 E. Prairie Street.

Charlie Church and his father-in-law, Brian Johnson, were looking around for an area to expand in and chose the Vicksburg location. Johnson began his insurance business in 2010 in Kalamazoo on Stadium Drive where he purchased a book of already existing business from an Allstate agent. Johnson expanded to Paw Paw and recruited Church to run that office in 2012. Johnson still has the Paw Paw office, as well as one in Portage.

Johnson and his family lived in Vicksburg school district on East T Avenue, so he was familiar with the area. His daughter, Ashley, is a 2003 graduate of Vicksburg High School and met Bloomingdale native Charlie Church after he moved to the Vine neighborhood of Kalamazoo. “My parents were very involved in the community, so it felt natural for me in coming to Vicksburg to join the Rotary Club and the Chamber of Commerce during my first year here,” Church said.

“Insurance is a fascinating business since we operate 24/7. We represent Allstate exclusively, which specializes in personal lines insurance like home, auto and life,” Church said. “Allstate strives to be number one in claims satisfaction. If an auto customer isn’t completely satisfied with their claim, we offer six months of premium free service.”

“I am an Allstate customer and have had a few claims so I know they go above and beyond. What separates us as an agency is providing the best service possible from a local person you know and can trust. This is especially true during the claims process as we like to file all the claims for our customers from our office right here in Vicksburg.”

Laura Brandt who was with Church in the Paw Paw office followed him to Vicksburg. “I love my customers,” Brandt said. “It’s all about the personal insurance business.” They have expanded enough that Church has added a second assistant, Dawn Couey. “We’re actually looking to grow further, and are searching for great local talent to join the team,” Church said.

Gilmore Young Artist Recipient Plays Concert in Vicksburg

Elliot Wuu.

The 2018 Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival returns to Vicksburg every two years. The Gilmore has announced Elliot Wuu will be one of the young artists of exceptional talent who will play in Vicksburg. Wuu was presented with the Gilmore Young Artist Award (GYA) for 2018. The award comes after an extended period of critique by a six-member panel. The artists in question have no clue they’re being judged.

Wuu will take the stage on Sunday, May 6 at 3 p.m. in the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center as part of his concert tour in southwest Michigan.

The New York Times recently called The Gilmore’s selection process “the music world’s version of the MacArthur Foundation’s ‘genius’ grants: a prestigious prize that cannot be applied for or sought.”

Above and beyond the recognition of becoming a Gilmore Young Artist, alongside George Li, Yuja Wang, Jonathan Biss, Kirill Gerstein and 26 other established pianists, each winner receives a $15,000 stipend to further musical and educational endeavors as well as the commission of a new piano composition, to which the artist will have exclusive performance rights for one year.

Born in Fremont, California in 1999, Elliot Wuu began studying piano at age six. He was a pre-college student at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and attended Valley Christian High School and Conservatory of the Arts in San Jose, Calif. Most recently, he has accepted a full scholarship to attend the Juilliard School.

In 2017, Wuu was named the winner of the National YoungArts Competition and was a U.S. Presidential Scholar in the Arts semifinalist. He is a Young Scholar of the Lang Lang International Music Foundation and a 2016-2021 MTAC Young Artist Guild member, the highest honor bestowed to a California music student. In 2013, he was selected as one of the 12 pianists to participate in the inaugural Lang Lang Junior Music Camp in Munich, Germany.

Tickets for this event are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors, $5 for students 18 and under, and $25 for families of five or more. Reservations can be made by visiting vicksburgcommunityschools.org/pac or by calling the Vicksburg Performing Arts Center ticket office at 321-1193.

Schoolcraft’s Farm Depot Recognized with Five Star Rating

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Left to right: Mark Laethem, Blake Laethem and Mike Laethem in front of their Ionia store.

A Schoolcraft farm equipment dealer, Farm Depot, was recently recognized by AGCO Corporation for achieving a Five Star rating in its 2017 Dealer Excellence Program, in an annual dealer evaluation review. Farm Depot was one of only 40 dealers across North America to achieve a Five Star rating in 2017. AGCO manufactures such brand names as Massey Ferguson, Fendt, Challenger and RoGator.

Neal Young of AGCO Corporation presented Farm Depot with a plaque and an award as recognition for its excellence in the Dealer Excellence Program.

“We are excited to receive this high honor and designation from AGCO,” Mark Laethem with Farm Depot said. “I am proud of our entire team, from sales to parts to service and accounting. We all worked very hard to provide outstanding customer service and be an equipment and service partner for all our customers. We are proud to stand among an elite group of dealers across the U.S. and Canada as well.”

The AGCO Dealer Excellence Program evaluates dealers’ performance in all areas of the business including sales, parts, service, marketing, training, financial management and facilities with the ultimate goal of improving customer satisfaction. “Achieving a Five Star rating is difficult and a very small number of achieve this high level of recognition each year,” says Bill Hurley, vice president aftersales, customer support and distribution development, North America for AGCO Corporation. “Farm Depot is among a select group of AGCO dealers. We are proud of the commitment Farm Depot has made to their customers and to AGCO. We congratulate them for their accomplishment.”


Barbara Jane Ackerman, passed away peacefully Feb. 24, surrounded by family. Barbara was born in Grandville on March 9, 1935 to John and Freda Imanse. When Barb’s father started a business delivering home heating oil in 1945, the family moved to Vicksburg. Barb married her childhood sweetheart, Chuck (Charles), on October 7, 1952. Married for 65 years, and together for more, they shared a love of family and of sports, as spectators, but even more as participants. Barb and Chuck raised four sons who survive, Greg (Vicki), Rod (Sandy), Brian (Joyce), and Dave (Liz). They have 10 grandchildren, Kelly (John) Christiansen, Matt (Asmita) Ackerman, Jacob Ackerman, Amy (Doug) Collins, Adam (Kristen) Ackerman, Anna (Andy) Rosko, Allison (Josh White, fiancé) Ackerman, Audrey (Wesley) Cimmarrusti, Carley Ackerman and Cameron Ackerman. The family continues to grow with seven great grandchildren and one soon to join them in March. Barb is also survived by her sister and brother-in-law Virginia and David Sargeant of Australia; brothers and sisters-in-law, Evelyn Charles, John (Sally) Ackerman, Denise (Doug) Parker, Bonnie (Tom) Ivens, DeWayne Bowen, Pat Imanse, Ron Boelman and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents, brother Bruce Imanse, sister June Boelman, brothers-in-law Walt Ackerman and Gus Charles and sisters-in-law Culia Ackerman and Mary Bowen. Along with her parents, Barb and Chuck were founding members of Lakeland Reformed Church where her funeral service was held. Donations may go to the church and the National Alzheimer’s Association. The family is being assisted by the McCowen & Secord Life Story Family Funeral Homes, Vicksburg.

Leroy A. Bross, 91, passed away Feb. 11. He was preceded in death by his wife of 65 years, Shirley A. Bross (Ackerman), brothers Charles Bross, Richard Bross and his parents, August and Rose Bross. He was born in Porter, Ind. on Feb. 24, 1926. Surviving are his children, Richard Bross (Sue), Swartz Creek, Mich., Allen Bross (Nora) Nashville, Mich., and Pamela DeCuypere (Jeff), Vicksburg. He is also survived by six grandchildren and 13 great grandchildren, several nieces and nephews, many friends, and special caregiver Patty DeCuypere. He quit school to join the navy, serving from 1943-1946, and the army, serving from 1948-1954. He was promoted to sergeant while serving in France. He was a mechanic with the zone’s 7805th Area Command in Orleans. He holds the American Theater Campaign medal, Asiatic Pacific Theater ribbon, Philippine Liberation medal, Good Conduct medal and Army of Occupation medal for service in Japan. After leaving the military, he went back to school to get his GED. From 1954 to 1960, he worked at Bilbia Marathon Station in Battle Creek. In May 1961, he went to work for the Department of Natural Resources, where he worked for 25 years. After the passing of his wife, he moved to Vicksburg to live with Pam and Jeff. He built a small cottage where he was able to watch wildlife at its glory. He was a founder of the Circle D Wildlife Refuge, responsible for a large part of the progress of the Refuge. Donations may go to Circle D Wildlife Refuge. He will be buried next to the love of his life at Fort Custer National Cemetery in Augusta. Services will be held later in the spring, followed by a celebration of his life at Fort Custer Recreation Area.

Anna Marie (Matz) Linton, 107, Vicksburg, died Feb. 24. She was born February 14, 1911, to Pietro Mazza “Pete Matz” and Marietta “Mary Caterina,” who were children when they travelled to the United States from southern Italy. Ann grew up in an immigrant neighborhood south of Chicago known as “Hungry Hill.” The family moved to Vicksburg in 1923, where Pete and Mary started Matz’s Confectionery. As she grew up, Ann always helped her parents in the store. She graduated from Vicksburg High School and later from Western State Teachers College, the first in her family to complete both high school and college. Ann’s first job was teaching fourth grade in Vicksburg. Clayton Linton, a star athlete with James Dean looks, joined the staff as a teacher and coach. On June 15, 1940, they were married. Clayton joined the Navy and was stationed in the Aleutian Islands for the rest of WWII. After the war, Clayton became a principal at Vicksburg High School. Policy dictated that a husband and wife couldn’t teach in the same school system. Later on, Ann returned to teaching and taught first grade at Milham School in Portage. She also joined the teachers’ bowling and golf leagues, earning a few trophies. Ann and Clayton loved dining and dancing at the Elks Club and dining at the Beacon Club. She also volunteered at church, Borgess Hospital, and was an aide teaching reading at Sunset Elementary, where she received the Star Award. She went on a trip to Italy and Sicily when she was 96, visiting the towns where her parents and grandparents were born. Ann golfed until she was 93, and bowled until she was 100. At the age of 100, she left her home and spent the next seven years at Bickford Cottage of Portage. Ann was preceded in death by her parents, Pete and Mary Matz, her husband, Clayton Linton, and her brother, Joseph Matz, and his wife, Veronica. She is survived by her daughter, MaryAnn (Robert) Hayward; grandchildren Darcy (Stephen) Staley and Trent (Cindy) Hayward; and great-grandchildren Darby (Andy) Disselkoen, Emma Walhout, Alex Walhout, Megan Hayward, Macy Hayward, Samuel Staley, and Isaac Staley. A Celebration of Life service will be held at Lakeland Reformed Church in May. Donations may go to Lakeland Reformed Church, Vicksburg Community Schools Foundation (please designate student scholarships or teacher grants), or a charity of your choice.

Louise Claire Marks-Russell-Waldron, passed away March 7 at Fairview Nursing Home after several years of health issues. Louise was born on March 23, 1939 to Clair and Marion (McNett) Marks in Kalamazoo. When she was three years old, her mother married Maurice Russell, a military man. This gave Louise the opportunity to live in several states growing up. They moved back to Vicksburg to raise their family. Louise had eight brothers; Dan (Wendy) Russell, of Indiana, Tom and Judith Russell, of New Mexico, Joel Russell, Rick Russell, of Centreville, David (Kathy) Russell, of Portage, Ben Russell of California, Duane Marks, Clair “Bucky”, and a sister, Diane Marks. Louise had a fun-filled childhood with such a large family and lots of cousins to play with. She always had a fun filled spirit! In 1954 at the age of 15, Louise married Wayne Waldron of Vicksburg. They started a family right away. By the time she was 21 she had been blessed with four children; Michael Waldron, of Vicksburg; Steven (Kathy) Waldron, of Vicksburg; Diana (Alan) VanOrnam, of Vicksburg; and Christine (Randy) Mohney, of Schoolcraft. In 1979 she married Bruce Jones of Kalamazoo. They had several variety shops in Leonidas, Mendon and Centreville, which she loved. Louise loved being with people and loved being in retail. Louise was blessed with 15 grandchildren; Michael Waldron, of Saginaw, Amanda Waldron, of Vicksburg, Jesse (Susan) VanOrnam of Scotts, Nick VanOrnam, of Vicksburg, Shanna (Shawn) Herington, of Delton, Ben (Rebecca) Walters, of Vicksburg, Christina Markus, of Kalamazoo, Steven (Mary) Waldron, of Vicksburg, Sarah Waldron (Don Knowles), of Kalamazoo, and Callie Mohney, of Delton. Louise also had great grandchildren Logan, Keegan, Lilly, Zoey, Chloe, Charliegh, Isabelle, George, and Brinley. Louise was also a great great grandmother to Rieonta and Isabelle. Louise was preceded in death by her parents, Clair Marks, Maurice and Marion Russell and her brothers, Joel Russell, Clair “Bucky” Marks and her sister, Diane Marks. There was a graveside memorial to celebrate Louise’s life on March 24, at Factoryville Cemetery in Leonidas. The family is being assisted by the McCowen & Secord Life Story Family Funeral Homes, Rupert-Durham Chapel, Vicksburg.

Larry Dale Parker, 81, a former resident of Schoolcraft and Crossville, Tenn. for the last five years, died on his birthday, March 28. Larry grew up on a farm in Winterset, IA. He would tell fantastic and funny stories about farm life. His childhood pastimes involved fishing, hunting, and playing pranks. Later in life, you could catch Larry almost every weekend at States Golf Course. One of the highlights of his life was getting a hole in one. Larry was the biggest fan of all six of his children, all athletes. He loved fishing with his kids, would take them camping, and enjoyed spending time playing cards or board games. He served in the Marine Corps. He worked for General Motors for over 40 years, first in a plant near Chicago and later in Kalamazoo. He was known for being a very talented tool and die maker and even was rewarded for inventing a new manufacturing process at GM. Larry will be especially missed by his wife, Joyce, and his children, Kirk (wife Silke), Tom (wife Cathy), Rich (wife Yuki), Scott (wife Katsuyo), and Mandy (husband Huw). Larry is also survived by 14 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Larry was preceded in death by his parents, Glenn and Mabel, a brother, Loren, and son, Mark.

Phyllis Adele Roe, 95, Scotts, passed away March 25. She was born on March 7, 1923 in Redford. She was the daughter of George and Grace (Grady) Lobig. Phyllis graduated from Climax High School in 1941. On September 26, 1942 she married Tony Roe. She worked as a clerk at Sinclair Market in Climax. She liked to play golf and go fishing and was the best fish cooker around. She is survived by her three children, Danny (Robin) Roe, of Climax; Jack (Lynda) Roe, of South Carolina and Roger Roe, of Virginia; eight grandchildren; 14 great grandchildren; and three great great grandchildren and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband, Tony, sisters June Burgett and Josephine Wessel and brother Dale Lobig. A gathering will be held at American Legion Post 465 in Climax in April. Visit her page at mccowensecord.com. Donations may go to Southern Care Hospice and/or American Legion Post 465. Family is being assisted by the McCowen & Secord Family Funeral Homes, Rupert-Durham Chapel.

Morris ‘Ron’ Salisbury
, Scotts, passed away March 3 at Brookdale Assisted Living in Battle Creek. He was born on June 10, 1942 in Galesburg, the son of the late Morris and Alice (Scharping) Salisbury. Ron was employed by Kalamazoo County Road Commission for 37 years until his retirement in 1998. On October 27, 1962, he was married to Linda (Etter) Salisbury, who preceded him in death on March 10, 2013. Surviving are their daughters, Denise (David) Adams of Fulton, and Teri (Randy) Pack of Vicksburg; grandchildren David (Mary) Adams, Nina (Ian) Bostocky, Brittany (Randy) Pack, Angela (Markes) Prude, Lindsey (Kyle) Otis and Nicholas (Erica Dunham) Wolf; 10 great grandchildren; and a brother, James (Mary) Salisbury of Scotts. He was preceded in death by a toddler sister, Maureen Salisbury. Funeral services were held at Langeland Family Funeral Homes, Climax Chapel. Interment followed in Boughton Cemetery. Donations may go to Grace Hospice or Brookdale Assisted Living, Battle Creek.

Steven Carl Woloszyk, died unexpectedly Feb. 23. He was born to Carl and Kathleen (Provost) Woloszyk on December 13, 1970 in Rogers City. His family included his wife, Dianne; stepchildren Nathan Thompson (Kristin) of Galesburg, Brandon Thompson (Angie) of Menifee, Calif. and Alyssa Thompson of Vicksburg; a brother, Brian, of Grand Rapids; grandparent Maxine Provost of Florida; an aunt, Diane (Terrence) Sheldon of Avon Park, FL, and Darlene (Richard) Lewandowski of Posen, Mich; a nephew, Joseph, a step-grandchild, Charlie Mae Thompson, and numerous cousins, aunts, and uncles from the Woloszyk, Provost, and Dianne’s families. Steven was preceded in death by three of his grandparents, aunt Jeanette (Duane) Maxwell; cousin Matthew Lewandowski and numerous aunts and uncles. Steven was a mortgage broker for 15 years. He was most recently employed for Prime Lending in Portage. He grew up and graduated from Grand Ledge High School. He completed a degree in Business Administration and a Master’s degree in Finance from WMU. He enjoyed backpacking, running, traveling, deer hunting, reading, family and friends. Donations may go to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Kalamazoo or to the family.

New Owners Provide Name Change for 85-Year-Old Business in Vicksburg

mccowen & secordBy Sue Moore

“Funeral homes don’t have to be a scary place,” said Steve McCowen, new co-owner of the oldest surviving business in Vicksburg, the former Life Story Funeral Home. An open house for the community to meet and greet new owners under a new name is scheduled Thursday, April 12 from 4 to 7 p.m.

The name, McCowen & Secord Funeral Home, Rupert Durham Chapel, reflects the owners, but preserves the name of the funeral home’s original owner and founder.

McCowen has been the representative of the family-owned business for the past 15 years in Vicksburg. He and Tim Secord of Otsego/Plainwell have purchased the business from Jon Durham and Herb Ayres. They also transferred ownership of the Plainwell Marshall/Gren Funeral Home to the new McCowen-Secord ownership.

Vicksburg’s Life Story Funeral Home has gone through three generations of the Rupert family while located at 409 S. Main Street. It has operated under the names of Rupert, Rupert-Durham, and Life Story Funeral Home. All were owned by members of the Rupert family tree.

McCowen and Secord are partners. “We just clicked together while Tim was working as a manager of the Plainwell office,” McCowen said. He and his family are well connected in their community, with Secord’s wife a teacher in the Otsego school system. The two also purchased the Portage Chapel that Durham and Ayres opened in the 1990s at the corner of Lovers Lane and Milham Road.

“I enjoy what I do in this business. It is very rewarding to help people in their time of need,” McCowen said. He has worked in the funeral home business since the age of 16, beginning in Jackson, where he would go on calls while in high school. He likes the people part of the business and knew he wanted to go to mortuary school. He chose Xavier University in Cincinnati. He came to Vicksburg in 2003 when Todd Angood had an opening in the Plainwell business and then interviewed with Jon Durham to work in Vicksburg.

“This is home now and I treasure it. I worked for Sheldon and Marilyn Durham, Jon’s parents. Marilyn taught me so much. She was such a sweet soul. Her dad was Duane Rupert who started the business in 1933. Jon started Life Story in Kalamazoo which provides funeral homes all around this area with media services including funeral folders, video of a person’s life and web sites. He also is a developer located on the north side of Kalamazoo,” McCowen pointed out.

“I’m starting to bury people I know so well. It’s hard. Sometimes I get choked up just walking through the Vicksburg cemetery and seeing the names and remembering the faces of the people there. There is a tradition of family service in your own hometown that we intend to follow. That’s what it’s all about for me and the people who work here,” McCowen related.

Since calling Vicksburg home, McCowen has become deeply involved with the Chamber of Commerce and the Community Schools Foundation board. “Now I will be able to re-invest in the community as part of the business practice. This is a traditional place and the only thing that’s changing is the name on the door,” McCowen said.

The McCowen children have grown up in Vicksburg, with MacKenzie graduating from high school in 2017, Joey playing football as a junior in 2017 and a member of the baseball team in 2018. Son Steve is a freshman at VHS. A second marriage for both McCowen and Jenny Mckillop is scheduled for August 4 with Secord taking over for him, should a family be in need on that momentous day.

Vicksburg Ministerial Alliance Works for the Community

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Pastor Dave Downs leads the Vicksburg Ministerial Alliance in 2018.

By John Fulton

The Vicksburg Ministerial Alliance (VMA) is currently comprised of seven churches in the greater Vicksburg Area. Pastor Ed Courtney stated, “The VMA is about building bridges and putting platforms down in the spirit of cooperation, reaching out to encourage and help each other and our churches.”

The current member churches are Chapman Memorial Nazarene Church, Grace Community Church, St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, Vicksburg United Methodist Church, Country Christian Evangelical Free Church, Lakeland Reformed Church and Vicksburg Bible Church.

The pastors meet monthly and discuss issues that have come to them and plan the various activities that they co-sponsor throughout the year. Pastor Dave Downs of Chapman Memorial Nazarene Church is the leader of the collective group this year.

Downs said, “Membership is open to local churches and we would like participation to grow. We discuss big plans in our churches, so we know what each other are doing.” Downs stated, “The point of the group is to be a benefit to the community. That is the focus. How can we help the South County Community? The VMA also offers an opportunity to build each other up, bounce ideas around and be a support group.”

The group does occasionally engage each other in theological issues. “Though there are ecumenical differences we all respect each other and nobody is pushy. We gather in the spirit of cooperation and are genuinely friends with each other,” Downs noted.

Some of the events that the VMA collaborates on include a Good Friday service, Lenten luncheons, Community Thanksgiving service, and Baccalaureate service for high school graduates. “The Baccalaureate service is planned by the students and is intended to encourage them to keep Christ first and foremost in their lives,” Courtney said.

“A love offering is collected during the Community Thanksgiving service. These donations are used to fund the activities of the VMA, assist the community through South County Community Services, pay a utility bill for a needy community member and support Generous Hands,” according to Downs.