By Kathy Morrison
5000 kilometers and some 50 plus days after leaving Darwin, in the Northwest Territory, Max Morrison of Fremont, pulled his bicycle to a stop in Perth, Western Australia. He embarked on this solo bike ride back in mid August to raise money for three environmental groups: West Michigan Environmental Action Council, The Ecology Center of Ann Arbor, and the WWF of Australia. In previous editions of this publication, earlier parts of the journey were chronicled. The Australians or “Strayans” as they say, seem to have a relentless tradition of shortening words and peppering their speech with all sorts of marvelous slang and colloquialisms in their version of English called “Strine” (shortened form (of course) for Australian, which is of course, English). I thought it would be fun to add a few “Strine” terms in this article to give a taste of some of the words and phrases Max might have heard as he traversed the “Land Down Under” or the “Lucky Country” as they call their vast, diverse land.
When the last Near North Now article was published, Max had just made it to the far northwest point of the country and turning south, began his way down toward “the big smoke” - the city of Perth. From the dry, dusty red earth of the Kimberley and Pilbara areas, to the fresh new landscape, biking through the wheat-belt of Western Australia, his road was now never far from the Indian Ocean. As he traveled further and further South, he came to more populated areas than in the remote outback or the “GAFA” as they might say (I’ll let you look that one up!). Cycling through numerous small coastal towns with their inns, pastry shops, and restaurants, all signs pointed to greater population density and that he was out of “the bush”. This was both a welcome sight and a sad reminder that the trip was nearing its end and he would no longer be in some of those hauntingly remote and isolated areas he had come to love. Max does love good “tucker” though and in these sprinkling of towns was able to satisfy his appetite for a few delectables that were hard to come by when camping along the outback route - a “choccy biccy” or two and a slice of coconut covered “Lamington” cake, no doubt, washed down with a couple of ice cold “stubbies”
He made several forays away from the main road to visit some of the stunning, pristine beach areas of the Indian Ocean. One particularly fascinating place not far from the ocean is The Pinnacles Desert in Nambung National Park. The Pinnacles are the remains of an ancient limestone bed made up of coral and mollusks, now weathered and eroded, the limestone columns being all that are left. Max caught a few red kangaroos browsing on the local floral in Nambung. Fairly unbothered by humans, “roos” in many areas of Australia graze undaunted in the wild, but tourists are warned not to get too near as they can become defensive, especially a mother with a “joey” in her pouch or a mighty male “Boomer”. If provoked, they can use their powerful arms and legs to throw wholloping punches and one look at their claw-like nails leave no doubt that they were made for defense. Unfortunately, like the white tail deer in Michigan, these wild creatures have run ins with vehicles, causing the death of the animal and damage to many cars. With the frequent sight of dead kangaroos along the roads, is understandable why you see “roo bars” on the front of many vehicles for added protection.
On his 44th day hitting the road, Max dedicated his day’s cycling to our dear friend, Rocky Puska, of Newaygo, who died in a tragic wood cutting accident in September 2017. Rocky was a wonderful family man, area school teacher, and friend to many. Max pushed hard, feeling the encouragement of Rocky, as he pedaled 240 kilometers in a day (a touch over 149 miles). Rocky and Max shared a special bond with their quick wit and dry humor. Rocky would have loved to hear Max’s stories of adventure on the road and would have, no doubt, found just the right funny tee-shirt from his extensive collection or a favorite online site to bestow upon Max. In his Day 44 blog, Max said poignantly, “I thought about Rocky all throughout the ride today: I have no doubt the world would be a better place if we all had a bit more Rocky in us. And, all who knew Rocky do have a bit of his kind, caring, and comical spark alive within them.” For those of us whose who love and miss Rocky, truer words couldn’t have been spoken as the best of him does lives on within each of us.
The Aussies Max encountered along the last third of this trip continued to be “fair dinkum”, very friendly, helpful and down to Earth. In times of trouble, I am sure Max knew with those folks around, he could relax and whisper, “She’ll be apples!” After a posting about his journey on a Facebook message board for the small town of Carnarvon, which fell along his route, an incredibly affable woman named Tammy responded, literally within minutes, inviting him to stay with her family if he was planning on a night in the area. I wonder how many of us would do the same - inviting a perfect stranger in for dinner and a place to sleep? From that same Facebook posting, a Western Australian radio show host made contact to interview him for a piece to promote his fundraiser. Many kind people continued to reach out with well wishes, donations of money and food, random acts of kindness, and companionship along the way. As the locals would say, “Good onya, mates!”
So with a world of Down Under stories and memories from the West of Australia, Max has made his way back to the Eastern side of the continent to find work for a while and then return home to the US before the end of 2018 when his one year work/travel visa expires. Never a huge biking enthusiast before this adventure, he is now sad at the thought of leaving his wheels behind in Sydney. My guess is, that the Christmas/Birthday fund, the car floor change, and the stray fiver here and there will be put to good use when he returns. Makes me wonder where he’ll cycle next. Thanks “heaps” Max, for all your “hard yakka” and the armchair traveling you allowed us on your trip! It was a “corker” of a ride, “you little ripper!”
To date, Max has raised just a hair over $4000 of the $5000 he set his sights on. Some donations are not shown on GoFundMe and have been sent directly to his Fremont address (6128 S Maple Island Rd). The Go Fund Me page is still up and he will continue to have it up for donating for another week or so. Then the money will be distributed accordingly. More about the chosen environmental organizations can be found on the following pages.
The Go Fund Me page can be found here:
and his blog here:
Volley Against Violence returns to Hesperia courts
For the 7th year running the Hesperia Volleyballers will be hosting the Volley Against Violence Tournament this Saturday.
We caught up with Panther Coach Monica Grimard to get a little info on this worthy event.
Tell us a little about VAV.
Coach G.-This event was started in 2012 by myself and then Varsity Coach Joan David. We started this because we knew there were many young girls that were in unhealthy relationships and many families that were affected from Domestic Violence situation.
We have continued this campaign each year because of the response from the community, in addition to the continuing need for awareness and education on this topics
What impact has it had?
Coach G.-I feel the education and awareness of early warning signs of unhealthy relationships has been helpful for teens in our local community. Our campaign has spread throughout Newaygo County since the first awareness game in 2012 to Fremont, Grant, White Cloud, and Newaygo. Each of these teams have been given information about dating rights, early signs of unhealthy relationships, and how to talk to a friend facing these issues.
Beginning last year, we moved the event from a weekday event to a Saturday tournament. This way more teams could take part and more time could be given for the bake sales and raffles. Over the past 6 years, this area-wide campaign has spread from a small idea from a couple coaches to over 3 counties, with fundraising events taking place in Fremont, Newaygo, and Hesperia.
What organizations are served?
Coach G.-We have raised over $30, 000 in donations for WISE of Newaygo, Osceola, and Mecosta counties. We have received a match grant from the Fremont Area Community Foundation each year since 2013.
(Ed.Note: Women’s Information Service, Inc. (WISE) provides crisis intervention and support services to survivors of domestic and sexual violence) Their website:
What does this event mean to you as a coach? To your team?
Coach G.-The VAV event is closest to my heart and my teams past and present have always been very involved in this campaign. I am a survivor of domestic violence myself and the girls know how strongly I believe in this cause. I believe that no one should go through some of the things that I did. Early warning signs and education are the keys to ending the violence and stopping the silence.
In 2016, a former player of mine, lost her mother to a brutal murder from her fiancee and the girls were shown directly how this can happen to anyone. It was a shock, it was heartbreaking, and since then we have change the name of the tournament to the "Lori Vargas: Volley Against Violence Tournament". Each year at the last home football game before the VAV game we send off purple lanterns in honor of Lori and all the other victims of Domestic and Dating Violence.
The action begins at 9am Saturday at the Hesperia High School gym.
Good cause, good people, and some really good volleyball.
Gerber Memorial gets state grant to pilot extensive quit nicotine program
FREMONT– Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial has received a state grant to strengthen community and healthcare-related programs designed to help people quit tobacco and nicotine. The $52,000 Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Tobacco Control Program grant is effective Oct. 1 and allows Gerber Memorial to expand on its existing and acclaimed tobacco cessation efforts.
“Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial is grateful to the State of Michigan for providing resources that can help Newaygo County make even greater strides in our efforts to reduce tobacco and nicotine use in our community,” said Josh Gustafson, Gerber Memorial’s director of community health and wellness. “Thanks to this grant, our tobacco cessation program can expand and further strengthen valuable community partnerships that have been instrumental in our success. By September 2019, Newaygo County will be a leader in Spectrum Health’s efforts to help make Michigan tobacco and nicotine-free.”
Gerber Memorial’s community health team, with technical assistance from the MDHHS Tobacco Control Program staff, will use the grant funds to leverage current and proposed partnerships across the county in an effort to increase the number of adults and youth in the community who quit using commercial tobacco. They will do so by adopting and implementing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Clinical Practice Guideline for Treating Tobacco Use and Dependence. For Gerber Memorial, this means tobacco cessation interventions will be embedded into all avenues of routine clinical care. Through these changes, healthcare providers will consistently screen patients for tobacco use and intervene with patients who use tobacco, providing them with the support and resources they need to quit.
Gerber Memorial’s goals for the grant project include implementing a tobacco user screening to identify all tobacco users at every clinical visit, develop a process to ensure that tobacco treatment is fully integrated into care at the hospital and outpatient clinics, and decrease tobacco-related health conditions, diseases and deaths. Currently, 25.5 percent of Newaygo County adults use tobacco and nicotine products; the rate for youth is 8.3 percent. Gerber Memorial is aiming to reduce those rates to 23 percent and 7 percent respectively.
“In addition to the health systems focus, by September 2019 Gerber Memorial aims to increase the number of smoke-free parks in Newaygo County, certify additional staff as Tobacco Treatment Specialists, and offer five monthly tobacco education and cessation sessions throughout Newaygo County, with drop-in sessions included at Insight Pregnancy Services to target low-income pregnant women”, Gustafson said.
“The rural nature of Newaygo County and high rates of poverty create transportation barriers for a lot of people, so these funds will also allow us to bring tobacco cessation services to people where they live,” Gustafson said. “By increasing the availability of information and resources, more people can get access to the things they need to quit the use of tobacco and nicotine. And by offering these services in our clinics, at our hospital and out in the community, we hope to empower more people to begin their journey toward improved health and wellness.”
Gerber Memorial will monitor success through a range of activities, such as community surveys, the number of additional smoke-free policies implemented in Newaygo County, the frequency of health care providers asking about and assisting patients with quitting tobacco use, the proportion of people who’ve successfully quit tobacco with support from a healthcare provider, and the number of referrals to a local Tobacco Treatment Specialist or calls to the MI Tobacco Quit Line.
In one of the coolest gestures of kindness, compassion and generosity we have ever seen emerge from any provider of dentistry the Drs Nelson of Newaygo Family Dental Care announced they will be offering free services to veterans on Friday November 16th beginning at 8am.
From cleaning, exams and x-rays to extractions and fillings veterans will be able to avail themselves of these services without charge because…..well…. because the practice decided it was the right thing to do.
We caught up with Dr. Ross Nelson, the younger partner of this dynamic duo of humanitarian benefactors to pose a few questions.
N3: How did this come about?
RN: "It was something that a team member thought of, proposed it to me, and we instantly decided it was a great idea and something we need to do."
N3 Why are you doing this?
RN-"We know there a lot of veterans in need and it’s a way for us to help them and show our appreciation. Many of my team have loved ones who have served and it’s time for us to serve them."
N3: Who is involved?
RN: "My entire team including my partner and father Dr Dennis Nelson (who is also a veteran), some of our colleagues who substitute with us, our dental supply company Patterson Dental, and a few now-retired NFDC team members.”
N3 Have you made any contact with local veteran groups?
RN: "We are working to promote this event with local VFWs, religious institutions, community centers, community businesses and social media. You may have seen our post on Facebook about this event that had over 500 shares within 2 days."
N3 What else do folks need to know?
RN: “This is our inaugural event to serve Veterans. We hope there is a strong turnout that allows us to serve many of our local veterans so that it has a bright future as an annual event” “My Dad (Dr. Dennis Nelson) in particular is really looking forward to this event, as he served with the Army and knows that many area Vets need our care and is excited to provide it to them in a cost-free manner”
Huge kudos go out to all involved in this project. It is heartening to see professionals such as the Nelsons and their colleagues step up to help those who have served and we are truly fortunate to have them be a part of our community.
I recently read a quote on Instagram about dreams being big enough to scare you. I’ve been thinking about it ever since.
Training for this marathon has been the scariest step outside my comfort zone I can remember for a really long time. I had a good idea of what I was getting into when I decided to do it...which was why it was so scary. I had so many questions.
Would my body hold up?
Could I make the training schedule work with my already busy schedule?
Would I enjoy it or hate it?
Would quitting cross my mind?
Could I even run more than 15.5 miles (my previous farthest distance) in one go?
Just how nuts am I to want to do this?
The last time I remember feeling trepidation about stepping outside my comfort zone was when Ken asked me to start contributing to Near North Now.
It was at a Newaygo soccer game. I was there taking pictures for yearbook. He came in with his camera and notepad, as you all generally see him. We chatted for a few minutes.
Ken: “You taking pictures?”
Me: “I am!”
Ken: “Want to send those my way and maybe also write something up?”
Me: “I will………(I didn’t say I do WANT to….but how does anyone say no to Ken?)………….”
We started meeting after that once a week. He visited my classroom to mentor some of my yearbook students occasionally. The first few months I remember thinking to myself “do I really want to add this into my already hectic schedule?”
My husband just shook his head at me. Another thing you’re doing?
But as time went on, I started to enjoy the way I was being challenged and mentally stretched. Ken encouraged me to write things that I wasn’t comfortable writing.
Will people really want to read this?
How many errors will I make in my writing?
Why would I open myself up to criticism by the public?
Don’t I have enough to do?
How many times will my pictures be blurry or mediocre or flat out bad?
Those questions started to fade away. I can’t say still to this day I am 100% comfortable putting myself out there in columns like this. It still surprises me when I have people talk to me about my articles and I think how fun it is that people enjoy them.
It’s the stretching and the growing and the changing that have made it all worth it. I am enjoying myself immensely in this venture. It’s still scary. But worth the fear.
Two weeks remain until Marathon Morning. I am in the tapering phase of training now. In checking the schedule, I realized that my slow run this Thursday is only 5 miles. Wait? What? Not 10 or 12? What will I do with all that energy afterwards?
I won’t jinx myself, because sometimes the last two weeks injuries do happen. But I have made it through the hardest of the training. I’m almost there.
I can undoubtedly say that training for this marathon has changed me to my core. I’m a different person than when I started.
Without question, taking the plunge to train for this marathon was the scariest thing I have done in a few years, if not in my adult life. It has been exhausting and completely rejuvenating all at the same time. I am so thankful I stepped off the cliff.
My final Marathon Miles will be in another few weeks once I cross the finish line. My hope is to explain the ways the race, and all the miles of training, have changed me.
Until then, I’ll be tapering. Hydrating. Trying to figure out the seesaw that is mother nature in Michigan right now. Eating. So much eating. And contemplating how thankful I am for having taken the leap into this terrifying journey.
Newaygo Fire Department to an hold open house to educate residents on fire prevention
NEWAYGO– Today’s home fires burn faster than ever. In a typical home fire, you may have as little as one to two minutes to escape safely from the time the smoke alarm sounds. Knowing how to use that time wisely takes planning and practice.
The Newaygo Fire Department is teaming up with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)—the official sponsor of Fire Prevention Week™ for more than 90 years—to promote this year’s Fire Prevention Week campaign, “Look. Listen. Learn. Be aware. Fire can happen anywhere™,” which works to educate the public about basic but essential ways to quickly and safely escape a home fire.
NFPA statistics show that the number of U.S. home fires has been steadily declining over the past few decades. However, the death rate per 1000 home fires that are reported to fire departments was 10 percent higher in 2016 than in 1980.
“These numbers show that while we’ve made significant progress in teaching people how to prevent fires from happening, there’s still much more work to do in terms of educating the public about how to protect themselves in the event of one,” said Lorraine Carli, NFPA’s vice president of Outreach and Advocacy. “This is particularly critical given the increased speed at which today’s home fires grow and spread.”
Carli also notes that although people feel safest in their home, it is also the place people are at greatest risk to fire, with four out of five U.S. fire deaths occurring at home. That overconfidence contributes to a complacency toward home escape planning and practice.
“Working in the fire service for many years, we know that people often make choices in fire situations that jeopardize their safety or even cost them their lives,” said Jason Wolford, Chief of Newaygo Fire Department. “We need to do a better job of teaching people about the potentially life-saving difference escape planning and practice can make and motivate them to action.”
Chief Wolford says this year’s “Look. Listen. Learn.” campaign highlights three steps people can take to help quickly and safely escape a fire:
“Situational awareness is a skill people need to use wherever they go,” said Chief Wolford. “No matter where you are, look for available exits. If the alarm system sounds, take it seriously and exit the building immediately.”The Newaygo Fire Department is hosting a Fire Prevention Open House at 177 Cooperative Center Drive in Newaygo on Monday, October 15, from 6 to 8 p.m. in support of Fire Prevention Week. The event will include fire truck tours, car extrication demo, fire hose spray, obstacle course, fire education and free food.
For more information on fire prevention and the open house, visit newaygofire.com.
Photos by Sally Wagoner
Community members with a passion and concern for the local Newaygo County environment are urged to attend the meeting on Thursday, October 11. It will be held at 7 p.m. in Brooks Township Hall, 490 Quarterline Street, Newaygo.
“This will be the first meeting of the Citizens Environmental Watch and Action Coalition following the People’s Climate March held in Newaygo on September 8,” states Sally Kane, one of the coordinators of the March and a 3R Education Board Member. “People who attended the march were inspired by the speakers and many expressed a desire to carry that energy into action.”
“We live in a beautiful part of Michigan, and there are many dedicated individuals and organizations working hard to keep it that way,” adds Linda Ritz-White, Executive Director of 3R Education and a Coalition coordinator. “Some goals of this new coalition are to learn about and support the work already being done for our local environment, identify issues of concern, and partner with current organizations and our government entities to create effective solutions.”
Some issues that have been identified are the difficulties of maintaining a sustainable recycling program; the extensive use of pesticides by the private and public sectors that causes severe declines in bee and pollinator populations; contamination of food and waters from indiscriminate use of herbicides and toxic disposal practices; and loss of native habitats and species that are essential in supporting our area’s unique local web of life.
“Newaygo County residents love the natural beauty of our area and the bounty offered to those who hunt for the family table,” states Sally Wagoner, another Climate March and Coalition coordinator. “But it is painful to see how things have changed so much even in our lifetimes because of harmful practices. How is fishing compared to 30 years ago? Have you noticed how few butterflies and lightning bugs there are now from when you were a child? How many more communities will find PFAS in their wells?”
“We hope to create a robust coalition of citizens and organizations who can work together in positive ways to help improve the quality of our natural environment,” adds Wagoner. “It is our responsibility to care for our local piece of Earth not only for the benefit of our future generations, but also as good stewards for the inhabitants of our natural world who cannot speak for themselves.”
For more information everyone is invited to come to the meeting on October 11. You can also email NewaygoClimateMarch@gmail.com; call 231.519.9471; or visit the 3R Education website for a flyer about the event - www.3r-Education.org.
Safety, security take center stage at annual Gerber Memorial employee event
FREMONT – The Thursday routine took a small detour from the ordinary for some Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial employees, who sledded down two flights of stairs, learned how to prevent abductions and practiced putting out fires – literally.
Nearly a dozen safety activities were featured during the Gerber Memorial Employee Safety Fair, which is held each year to encourage staff members from every department to learn and practice safety habits and techniques. At Thursday’s fair, lab techs learned how to properly operate fire extinguishers. Front desk staff practiced evacuating patients down narrow stairwells using a med sled and an evacuation chair, which would be necessary in case a fire shut down the elevator. Gerber Memorial’s security team shared tips for de-escalating confrontations.
“Our safety fair is a great opportunity for staff at Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial to stay ahead of the curve when it comes to the safety and security of our patients, visitors and fellow staff,” said Amanda Lutz, Gerber Memorial emergency preparedness specialist. “We host these safety fairs in a fun setting as we share useful information about everything from putting out small fires to reducing the spread of infection to emergency readiness. Our goal is to help us be at our best as we serve our patients and our community.”
Other areas featured included reviewing emergency preparedness response plans and flu prevention methods. The fair even included an exercise for staff to learn how to save money by disposing waste correctly and appropriately. A ton of recycling costs only $62, yet regulated medical waste costs $470 per ton and confidential paper shredding, $1,520 per ton.
Family Health Care Welcomes James Davis, NP
Baldwin-Being able to provide quality and affordable health care services that are accessible to all is the mission of Family Health Care (FHC). That’s why FHC is pleased to announce the addition of James Davis, NP, to its White Cloud office.
James has over five years of experience as a nurse practitioner; working with adult patients in rural areas throughout Michigan. He has also been an adjunct nursing faculty member at Illinois Central College since 2010.
“I take great pride in listening to my patients' concerns to address their medical needs," said James. “I look forward to helping improve the health of this wonderful community.”
James completed his Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Illinois Central College in East Peoria, IL, and his Masters of Science in Nursing at Saint Francis Medical College of Nursing in Peoria, IL.
FHC continually focuses on meeting the needs of its communities by growing and expanding services to provide rural residents and visitors to the area with quality, affordable access to behavioral health, medical, dental, vision, pharmacy, laboratory and radiology services close to where they live, work and play.
James will provide primary adult medical care services at FHC’s White Cloud office located at 1035 E. Wilcox, White Cloud. To schedule an appointment with James or another provider call (231) 689-5943.
Gerber Memorial celebrates National Midwifery week
FREMONT – Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial is recognizing national midwifery week this week.
Certified nurse midwives (CNM) specialize in pregnancy and childbirth, natural birth, postpartum care and support, breastfeeding support, routine gynecologic care, birth control and more.
“We provide care for women from adolescence through menopause and focus on empowering women through pregnancy and childbirth,” said Sara Stevens, CNM, RN, a certified nurse midwife at Gerber Memorial.
Midwifery care doesn’t necessarily mean an all-natural birth. Stevens said that midwives’ philosophy is to support women in whatever decisions they choose.
“Midwifery care means more one-on-one and hands-on care which decreases rate of pain medications and epidurals during labor,” Stevens said. “However, we are very supportive of women who choose to get epidurals and pain medications in labor. We also take care of women who are planning a C-section and would like more personalized care during their pregnancy.”
Stevens joined Gerber Memorial at the beginning of 2018, bringing extensive experience including assessing and caring for women in triage; providing care to mothers during labor and delivery, recovery, and postpartum; and gynecological care to women across the lifespan, including family planning/birth control services.
“Some of the benefits of midwifery care include more individualized maternity and gynecological care, decreased cesarean section rates, decreased induction of labor and augmentation rates, and generally more time with your provider during appointments,” Stevens said.
Certified nurse midwives are highly-qualified providers with graduate degrees in advanced practice nursing, licensed with the State of Michigan and certified through the American Midwifery Certification Board.
“I chose to become a midwife when I witnessed the birth of my oldest niece. I was 17 at the time and was so amazed by the birth process as well as how important good quality care is to women in labor. I am so happy that I made the choice to further my education and career by becoming a Certified Nurse Midwife. My favorite part about being a nurse midwife is providing care to women throughout their pregnancy and providing labor support. I also love to involve their partner and support people throughout the whole process,” said Stevens.
Parents who choose to partner with a certified nurse midwife for prenatal care will receive evidence-based care that optimizes the health of mother and child. Parents will also have a strong advocate for the kind of birth experience they want. Stevens said Spectrum Health’s certified nurse midwives also work in collaboration with providers should the need arise for additional medical or surgical care.
For further information, contact the Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial Obstetrics and Gynecology Clinic at 231.924.1212.