Michigan Democratic Rural Caucus Speaker April 3
Jessie Iliff-List, Vice Chair Region 10 of the Michigan Democratic Party Rural Caucus, will be guest speaker at the Newaygo County Democratic Party monthly meeting on Monday April 3. The meeting will take place in-person at the White Cloud Library, beginning with a social time at 6pm. The meeting will begin at 6:30. It can also be attended via Zoom.
“I became involved with the Rural Caucus because I believe in how it encourages, promotes and supports our local rural community concerns. As the Vice Chair of Region 10 I represent community members in Newaygo, Mecosta and Isabella Counties,” states Ms. Iliff-List.
The Michigan Democratic Rural Caucus develops positions that address the needs of rural communities in the areas of infrastructure, education, health care, economy and social justice.
Interested community members are invited to attend the monthly meetings of the Newaygo County Democratic Party. They are held the first Monday of each month, unless it falls on a holiday when it will then meet on the second Monday. Meetings are in-person as well as via Zoom. For meeting location and Zoom link each month, visit the website www.NewagyCoDems.org and sign up for E-news; or go to Facebook @Newaygo County Democratic Party.
Something For The Families
Patriot Farm serves up family friendly fun
The last time we caught up with Scott Swinehart was when he had found a wallet in a dry bag while fishing near his place on the river. He was able to contact the owner who had lost it a year earlier and was mildly stunned when he heard from Scott.
“I told him there was good news and bad news about the wallet.. The good was I’ve got 49 bucks for you. The bad news is your driver's license is expired.”
That’s the kind of person Scott is. From his days in the military to the 10 years he spent teaching to his role as a financial advisor Scott has always made service to others a priority.
And nothing’s changed.
His newest venture is Patriot Farm a nonprofit organization with a goal of helping the families of veterans through providing outdoor events and we asked about it.
“There are a lot of programs out there for veterans but you just don’t see much for the families and they are in need just as much.”
On March 4th the activity was making maple syrup and Scott invited me to come and take in the proceedings.
After a hike through a pine forest I came upon a clearing. It was one of those magnificent sites overlooking the river valley. All around, families were gathering buckets of sap when not exploring some of the trails or sitting by a campfire stocked with the marshmallows, graham crackers and chocolate necessary to create that outdoor delight known as S’mores.
Meanwhile Scott was manning the enclosed area where the sap was being processed into and answering questions from a bevy of kids who were drawn to the syrup-making shed.
“The families of veterans and service people go through a lot. It’s tough on families. So this is really geared toward them. It’s a great time for the families to do something together, outside in nature. I’m making maple syrup from the buckets they’re gathering and the kids are learning about the process but mostly people are just hanging out and enjoying the time together.”
As their informational pamphlet reads, Patriot Farm was created to provide respite and retreat to our nation’s warriors and their families regardless of where or when they served. We want to create an environment to relax and connect with your family. A quiet place to relax quietly in nature.
And on this day from what one can observe, they have done just that.
Patriot Farm has a board consisting of a mixture of men and women, both officers and enlisted and from each branch of service. Chris Priest is a member of the board.
“I was in Desert Storm with Scott in the Marine Corps and I work at the VA myself in Muskegon. I always wanted to work with veterans when I retired from the military after 27 years. I also wanted to do things outside the VA. Scott talked to me and asked if I’d sit on the board. It sounded like a good deal getting veterans out in nature.
“You know, veterans sometimes like to be away from the hustle and bustle of places where there’s lots of people and getting them out in nature is peaceful and tranquil.”
As he pointed out the stellar scene at the river below he added, “Kind of hard to beat that. Being out here on a bluff to me looks like being out in the mountains in northern Georgia or Tennessee. Beautiful and serene.”
As we spoke more families began to show up and were greeted with a warm welcome. Kids were playing while their parents chatted in small groups and Scott? He was busy making syrup all the while fielding questions from a nosy reporter and enjoying the scene around him. “This is what it’s all about,” he said as he surveyed the many goings on around him.
If the goal of Patriot Farm was to provide a fun and fulfilling day, they had certainly succeeded. This was the first of 2 weekends making maple syrup and the successive Saturdays drew nearly 100 folks to the sugarbush site. But it doesn’t stop with syrup.
The planned upcoming family activities include fishing, biking, hiking, wine tasting, hayrides and more.
Patriot Farm provides all this for families to thank them for the sacrifices they have made and with a goal of bringing them emotionally closer.
And the efforts by Scott in spearheading this initiative are indeed a continuation of what he has always done.
For more information on Patriot Farm and how you can be involved call 253. 985.7145.
And you likely won’t have to ask for Scott.
Chances are pretty good it will be him answering the phone.
“We should be saying, ‘Thank you AND your family for your service.’ They make tremendous sacrifices so those veterans can serve.”- Neil Leckman
Bye Bye Bill’s
An Outpouring of Angst Over the Loss of an Icon
By Ken DeLaat
Ok, for the 4 or 5 people in the county who didn’t read, comment, share, critique, and/or emoji (like, sad, wow ,mad, care etc.) regarding the article we ran on the departure of Family Fare (aka Not Bill’s)…
The store is closing.
We ran a headline with the question ‘One Too Many?’ referencing the oft discussed debate as to whether the area could support the four grocery stores on the west end of Fremont. But other than the timing, the addition of Aldi’s had little to do with the decision to end the 50 year run of the store. As many have opined in reference to our article for whatever reasons the doors were destined to be closed long before Aldi’s brought their bring-a-quarter brand to town.
We have appreciated the number of comments that can be found at the end of our story and hope folks will take time to read them.
Those and the many found on local social media make one thing clear.
Bill’s, as it once was, is missed.
There are many reasons of course. Many have been longtime customers who found the store to be user friendly in an uber-local way. Its size and layout promoted an inclusionary culture that reflected in the friendly relationships between staff and customers.
Bill’s wasn’t just a store, Bill’s was a neighbor.
And it isn’t just Bill's.
As Gary Deuling said in the comment section following our story “Just another part of hometown service gone forever.”
He mentioned other icons of Fremont’s past that have long since departed and echoed a chorus heard throughout many small towns across the country of how everything seems to be changing.
Change is tough. Most people resist it. Change can be scary and sad to be sure but it also can bring new opportunities and add to the quality of life for a community.
As our friend and occasional N3 contributor Lola Harmon-Ramsey commented on our fb post after also lamenting the loss of what Bill’s once was, “Our town is growing and we can celebrate that. The hospital and other amenities Fremont offers brings people from neighboring communities and will continue to do so. I know we will all be interested in seeing what this very busy and very important corner turns into!”
Few will celebrate the loss of the many amenities Bill’s brought to their cadre of committed consumers and to feel sadness over the expiration of their unique brand of customer service is certainly warranted.
But as the Greek Philosopher Heraclitus is quoted as saying, “Change is the only constant in life.”
Even in small towns.
“You can't stop the future
You can't rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
...is to press play.”
-Jay Asher, Thirteen Reasons Why
“I was in the House of Representatives when Right to Work passed, and on that day, we sent a message to Michigan workers and Michigan businesses that we were focused on growth and economic prosperity, and that they had our support,” said Outman, R-Six Lakes. “The passage of Right to Work put an ‘open for business’ sign in the window of this state and the Democrats are now turning that sign around to read ‘closed’ and shutting the lights off.
“It is not a coincidence that our state’s economy has flourished since Right to Work was signed into law. Median household income is up, employee benefits have outpaced inflation, and manufacturing in Michigan has grown well beyond states without Right to Work protections. Today, the Democratic majority voted in favor of their union supporters and told the rest of the state’s workers they are a secondary priority.
“In addition to voting to repeal Right to Work, Senate Democrats also voted to reinstate the state’s previous prevailing wage law, which has been shown to inflate construction costs on government projects.
“One of our most important obligations as lawmakers is the responsible use of taxpayer dollars. The cost of a construction project being increased by 10 to 15% based solely on the fact that public employees work in the building is both senseless and wasteful. Prevailing wage unnecessarily inflates costs and takes funding away from schools and higher education institutions, and most importantly: Michigan taxpayers.
“I think time will show the efforts passed by the Senate today as the mistakes that they are.”
-Rick Outman, State Senator, 33rd District
By Ken DeLaat
A decade ago a partnership between the Newaygo County Juvenile Court and the NCCA Artsplace created a new program. With funding from the Fremont Area Community Foundation the initiative paired youth who were involved in the juvenile justice system with creative, hands-on art activities guided by an artist with a bit of a personal investment in the initiative. It was called PITA or Positive Impact Through the Arts.
NCCA Artsplace Program Coordinator Lindsay Isenhart:
“PITA was a wonderful idea that jingled around in our heads for a while. Then finally the right grant opportunity came up that fit it. When I was a young teenager I grew up in kind of a rough family life and I could have gone two directions with my angst and insecurities and all that teenage stress and change that goes on. I could have gotten in a whole lot of trouble. I could have poured that into running around, drinking and hanging with friends that were less than desirable and instead, I met the Jansmas.”
Ray Jansma was a local artist whose works can be found throughout the area and beyondnand Phyliis, his wife, was a musician who taught many young people in the Fremont area. Years ago they held art sessions at the studio on their Ramshorn Drive property.
“I was asked to come over and model for a drawing group and I fell in love with all these people around me doing art. They weren’t judgy, they were just people making amazing art. Some of them were good, some were kind of meh but they were all getting together on Tuesdays and making art.
“I started going there on Tuesdays. First I was modeling, then I was making art, then I started spending time in the studio. I was surrounded by these generous people who gave of their time and talent and got me plugged into a positive outlet for my energy. I found people who were accepting in a safe and creative environment and art was my outlet.
“Anyway, I thought ‘you know what? It worked for me so let’s throw it out there to other kids’.
"We were talking about where to find the kids and kicked around getting referrals from the high schools or running an after school program and Marianne said ‘I know where to find the kids,’ "
Turns out Executive Director Marianne Boerigter had already spoken to Newaygo County Juvenile Services Director Laura Watkins and the program was put together working with young people who were involved with Juvenile Court.
I recently had the opportunity to visit one of the sessions where 7 of the art students were embarking on their latest project. One young lady spoke with a broad smile describing a ceramic piece she had created. I asked another student how he felt about attending the class.
“ I like it. I find it pretty fun. When I was first told I had to do this class I wasn’t really looking forward to it because I just wanted to go home but I find it interesting to be doing all sorts of different projects.”
Soon the group began in earnest and Lindsay explained the latest endeavor allowing for the inevitable questions. She touched base with each student, talking about the current project and occasionally hearing about something that might have happened in school or at home since their last meeting. Director Watkins sat outside of the room in the hallway having provided rides for some of the kids.
“This is the type of program where our kids can come away having had a positive experience,” she stated. “We’ve had no problems with them while they’re here. They really enjoy the art work and often they show their parents with pride what they’ve done. A couple have brought their work to court to show (Probate) Judge Dykman during their hearing and one even gave her the project they created.
“Lindsay does a great job. Once they begin they feel real comfortable here and it’s such a positive place for them. We have kids who have had a lot of personal trauma and we’ve seen so much isolation and depression, especially since COVID. She is good at making them feel comfortable and providing a safe and positive outlet to help rebuild self esteem.”
The creative collaboration that gave birth to PITA is a prime example of what can happen when a need is combined with an intervention which receives an assist from a funding source. The result is the type of initiative that not only provides a positive immediate outcome but also plants positive seeds that can come to fruition down the road.
Director Marianne Boerigter: “The program not only provides the kids with great art experiences...it is more than that. It is a chance to be themselves and express themselves in a constructive way. It is positive socialization with kids their own age as well as with the adult instructors and the court staff. It is a place for them to be engaged with others in a safe and inclusive way. The NCCA-Artsplace is pleased to be able to provide positive experiences as the kids work through changing their personal actions and decisions for the better.
“A lot of the kids had been through the system before,” added Isenhart.” Some of them have been through the system again and again but I didn’t care how they got there or what their circumstances were. I cared that when they came to class with me it was a safe space and that they’re going to learn something cool in a positive way to express themselves. Whether it was their jam or not, whether they liked what we learned that day didn’t matter. They gave it a try. Some of these kids have connected to community theater, some have connected to graphic design jobs, some have gone on in other successful roles and some broke my heart but they had a positive experience. They’ve come back and said ‘I remember being in the group and I remember what we made and how amazing it was,’”
From the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
For at-risk and justice-involved youths, the arts can provide an outlet for addressing emotional and/or problem behaviors through opportunities to learn new skills, develop new talents, and express thoughts and ideas in creative and therapeutic ways. Similarly, for youths dealing with trauma or victimization (including exposure to violence), the arts can help them to cope with painful experiences by fostering resiliency . Creating art can strengthen a youth’s problem-solving skills, autonomy, sense of purpose, and social competence. Moreover, art can help encourage positive emotions and strength, allowing youths to view themselves as survivors and not as victims.
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