Local leaders and residents participated in Discover Your Community Day on October 20 for a behind-the-scenes look at healthcare and the arts in Newaygo County.
The event was the fourth in a series of Discover Your Community Days presented by Fremont Area Community Foundation in partnership with the Fremont Area and River Country chambers of commerce. The series was designed to give emerging local leaders a broader base of knowledge of Newaygo County and its resources.
The day began at the Dogwood Center for Performing Arts in Fremont. Brendan Gray from Stage Door Players gave the group a brief introduction to the White Cloud-based community theater.
“We’re a small theater, but we have a lot going on,” said Gray, who noted that Stage Door presents five or six shows each year, improv nights, director’s workshops, and a children’s show.
Dogwood staff members then gave attendees tours of the Black Box, main theater, and backstage areas. They showed off some of the lighting and technical capabilities in the theaters and talked about the versatility of the space.
After the tour, the group boarded a bus to Newaygo County Council for the Arts-Artsplace. NCCA Executive Director Marianne Boerigter and Lindsay Isenhart, program coordinator, spoke about their extensive programming and led a tour of the space, which includes a gallery, local artist market, and classrooms.
“We have a very vibrant and supportive community for the arts here,” said Isenhart. “We want to make the arts accessible to everyone.”
Local artists were on hand to demonstrate different class offerings and to speak about their own experiences at the Artsplace.
Transitioning to local healthcare, the group toured Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial (SHGM) and then enjoyed lunch and a tour at Tamarac. Randy Stasik, SHGM president and CEO, spoke about the organization’s award-winning reputation for quality and safety as well as its growth. Spectrum Gerber employs 800 people and now sees 550 births and more than 20,000 visits each year.
Traveling next to Grant, attendees toured Family Health Care, which operates five health centers, including Grant and White Cloud, and three school-based Child and Adolescent Health Centers. They see 33,000 patients a year and offer medical, dental, and behavioral health services as well as pharmacies, radiology, and a vision clinic in White Cloud.
“Once the patient gets here, we do as much for them as possible,” said Sandy Siegel, director of external and internal relations. “We’re here for everyone.”
The day concluded at the Grant Fine Arts Center on the campus of Grant High School. Director Lukas Sweers led a tour of the 793-seat facility which opened in 2003.
“This is a space for students and the community,” said Sweers, who directs three student productions each year and uses the space daily as a classroom. It also hosts community events and concerts and can accommodate whole-school assemblies.
Currently celebrating its 20th anniversary, LionHeart Productions was also in the building preparing for its fall show, The Addams Family. Board President Mike Gesler spoke about the challenges and joys of community theater.
“I’m always amazed by the talent we find in the community,” he said.
Discover Your Community Days were developed in partnership with local chambers of commerce and alumni of the Leadership in Newaygo County (LINC) program. The series also included days focused on business and agriculture, education, local government, human service organizations, and Newaygo County history and natural resources.