Circles Newaygo County facilitates dialogue
The community is invited to join the discussion about affordable childcare at Circles Newaygo County’s next Big View meeting on November 30 at 6 p.m.
Circles Newaygo County is a community-wide approach to help low-income families make the journey to middle class. The program works intensively with a small cohort of participants in a 12-week training and then matches them with community volunteers called “Allies” who provide mentoring and encouragement.
The general community is invited to get involved by participating in Big View meetings held on the fourth Thursday every other month. Big View meetings focus on barriers faced by Circles participants and other local residents and attendees discuss ways to address those barriers.
The November 30 meeting will focus on affordable childcare. Along with affordable housing and reliable transportation, access to childcare is one of the top barriers for residents looking for work as well as employers seeking to recruit and retain workers.
“With an unemployment rate under five percent, it may seem that we are doing well in Newaygo County,” said Michelle Marciniak, Circles coordinator at TrueNorth Community Services. “However, the labor force participation rate here—adults who are employed or looking for work—was only 54 percent in 2015. And nearly 41 percent of families are still struggling to make ends meet.” For a family of four with an infant and a pre-K child, childcare expenses can reach more than $1,000 a month and be the single largest item in the household budget. Childcare alone is almost equal to housing and food combined.
“People have told us that the cost of childcare makes it almost not worth working,” said Marciniak. “They struggle to find reliable, quality care that fits with their work schedule and budget. Childcare matters, and not just for those who have children. It’s important for employers and anyone who cares about a vibrant business sector.”
At the November 30 Big View meeting, Circles participants will share their experiences and the real-life barriers they have encountered. There will also be dialogue about what is available in Newaygo County and how the community can get involved in creating solutions.
The meeting will be held from 6-8 p.m. at Fremont United Methodist Church (351 Butterfield Street). A meal will be served at 6 p.m. and the program will begin around 6:30.
For more information and to RSVP, contact Michelle Marciniak at 231.924.0641 ext. 220 or by email at email@example.com.
On Discover Your Community Day, Gerber Memorial shines spotlight on community health
By Randy Stasik, President and CEO, Gerber Memorial
Last week, Spectrum Health Gerber Memorial was fortunate to host more than 25 visitors during Discover Your Community Day, a recurring event by the Fremont Area Community Foundation to introduce people to Newaygo County. These visitors range from new leaders to ordinary residents who recently moved. It’s a great way for them to learn about the resources and people in our community.
When our visitors stopped by Gerber Memorial and Tamarac for a tour, I shared with them our milestones and metrics. Every year, Gerber Memorial’s Birth Center delivers more than 550 babies into the world. We perform more than 2,500 surgical procedures. We treat more than 28,000 patients in our emergency department.
And though we’re a small hospital, we offer state-of-the-art treatment: MRIs, 3D mammography and cancer care, as well as behavioral medicine, sleep studies, pulmonology and other specialist services through our high-tech MedNow telehealth service. By using MedNow, patients don’t have to travel, they save money, and they get care near home.
Our efforts have rightfully earned Gerber Memorial recognition, including being named a national Top 25 Rural Hospital. (When the United States has about 1,900 rural hospitals, being in the Top 25 is an achievement we and our community can be proud of).
During Discover Your Community Day, however, I wanted to share one additional aspect of Gerber Memorial with our visitors. I wanted them to know that Gerber Memorial is constantly looking to help improve the health of our whole community.
One example is our effort to improve patient access to healthcare. Like many rural communities in the United States, Newaygo County faces the challenge of having enough healthcare providers to meet patient needs. To address this, we opened two Convenient Care Walk-In Clinics, in Fremont and Newaygo, that have extended hours. The Fremont clinic is open on Saturdays. Patients can see a health provider quicker now, without having to wait to get an illness or injury treated and without having to go to the emergency department.
Another example is our commitment to the overall health of our community: Every three years, Gerber Memorial does a community health needs assessment to identify what chronic diseases and conditions need our attention. The most recent assessment told us that smoking, obesity and diabetes are three top challenges in our community.
As a response, we are aggressively steering people to our quit tobacco programs, which specifically target youth as well as pregnant women who smoke.
To tackle obesity and diabetes, we are reaching out to one source that could influence generational change: our children. Through a nationally recognized program that Gerber Memorial is spearheading called the Coordinated Approach to Child Health (CATCH), we are helping schools incorporate education about good nutrition and physical activity into the daily curriculum. After a pilot year involving two school districts, we expanded to all five districts in Newaygo County this school year. And we are already seeing results, with anecdotes of parents and staff saying how kids’ new awareness about good eating habits is carrying over into their homes. Families that once stayed away from Brussels sprouts and broccoli are now adding these and other nutritious foods into their diets.
Community engagement is a two-way street, and Gerber Memorial will always remain grateful for the support we’ve received from our community over nearly 100 years. The fact is, we are blessed by a community that believes in giving back.
Paul Bedient, the director of our foundation, told our visitors that the community’s generosity has helped in so many concrete ways, from the construction of our state-of-the-art emergency department to the many upgrades in our cancer center, thanks to our annual golf outings in spring. The two-way relationship between Gerber Memorial and our community is helping make Newaygo County healthier.
Josh Gustafson, director of our community health team, summed it up best when he said that the mission of our hospital isn’t just healthcare for individuals, but the overall health and wellbeing of the entire community.
In 2015, Newaygo County was one of the least healthy counties in Michigan, ranked 64th out of 83 counties. In 2016, Newaygo County climbed to 47.
We are making progress. We are confident we can achieve our stated goal of being Michigan’s healthiest county in the near future. And Gerber Memorial is honored to be part of a community that truly cares.
By Ken DeLaat
I’ve covered the Newaygo County Board of Commissioners for many years.
During that time some who have served on that board have fallen short of the (admittedly high) expectations personally held for elected officials, some have just appeared to be over their heads and some have done very well at what is no easy task (when done very well, that is).
There are no delusions on my part about these folks possessing an utmost dedication to public service, nor am I a believer that all who take a seat on the board are motivated by altruism.
But these are decent human beings trying to do a good job and voting the way they vote because they believe it’s best for the county.
A recent ad in a local shopping guide that states it was paid for by Commissione Lavern Willett takes a bit of a U turn on the path of polite discourse and denigrates into name calling when he refers to his fellow commissioners as “weasels”.
Of course there is no way of knowing if Mr. Willett’s reference to the long and slender member of the Mustela family that includes ferrets, and minks was meant to be derogatory. I’ve never really known any weasels personally though my daughter once had a ferret who I encountered a time or two. The only time I’ve seen a mink (or ex-mink perhaps) was as part of a coat or wrap.
My hunch is it wasn’t meant as a compliment and if so I am truly disappointed because there is no long game here. The action, regardless of his motivation for this behavior, seems to have no genuine purpose other than being a rather anemic attempt at ridiculing his colleagues on the board. Even the always shaky ‘ends justify the means’ argument doesn’t come into play because the ends are so nebulous.
What I want from my elected officials is the ability to engage in productive dialogue. This is not a pie in the sky expectation thing like ‘statesmanship’ or ‘leadership’. Those qualities rarely appear at any level of politics. It’s just the bare minimum of dialogue that is desired.
And name calling does one thing effectively and that is to shut down dialogue.
And when you shut down dialogue within the realm of government you forfeit any opportunity to impact decision making, become isolated from the process and are no longer effective. Your position as an elected official is compromised.
Years ago a woman in a therapy group I co-facilitated shared a revelation she had in her relationship after a recent conflict.
“When you’re in an argument and they call you a bitch? That’s because you’re winning. No one resorts to name calling when they’re ahead, it’s only when they’re losing big time.”
Navigating Marketplace Open Enrollment
By Julie Burke, Family Health Care Outreach Specialist
In recent months, there has been a lot of discussion about repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act. These discussions at the national level have created some confusion with where the law currently stands. As of October XX, 2017, the most recent attempts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act have not been passed. What does this mean for those enrolled or who are eligible to enroll in the health insurance Marketplace?
The individual mandate that requires all citizens to have health insurance is still in effect. Those who do not have the minimum essential coverage will be fined. The fine for 2018 is 2.5% of household income, or $695 per adult and $347.50 for each child under the age of 18. The fines will be assessed at whichever of the two are higher, but cannot exceed $2,085. To see if you qualify for one of the exemptions available, visit www.healthcare.gov and search for “fee for not having health insurance”.
There are two subsidies are available to help keep premiums and out-of-pocket costs down. The first is the Premium Tax Credit (PTC). The amount of the PTC is based on your household size and income, and can help keep the monthly premium costs affordable. PTCs can be used in any plan. The second subsidy is called Cost Share Reduction. This is also based on household size and income, and provides cost savings for out-of-pocket expenses like deductibles and can reduce the maximum out-of-pocket costs. These savings are only available for “silver plans” offered in the Marketplace.
There are some changes to the Affordable Care Act for this year. The first is the reduction of the open enrollment period by six weeks. You must enroll, change your plan or update your Marketplace account between November 1, 2017 and December 15, 2017. It’s a good idea to update your account even if nothing in your household has changed because you may qualify for a higher premium tax credit that can help reduce your monthly premium.
After December 15, 2017, you will not be able to enroll in or change a Marketplace health care plan unless you qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Special Enrollment Periods become available if you lose qualifying health care coverage (like Medicaid, an employer health plan or COBRA), or have a change in the size of your taxable household (marriage, childbirth or adoption) or certain exceptional circumstances. To qualify for a Special Enrollment period, you must be able to prove that you meet the criteria, including having been enrolled in minimum essential coverage before your change occurred. You only have 60 days after your change occurs to take advantage of a Special Enrollment Period.
If you have considered allowing your plan premium to lapse and eventually become dis-enrolled, you may want to think again. By doing this, you will be required to pay the unpaid premiums in order to enroll in another plan from the same company. To avoid this; call your health care plan and cancel your insurance.
Lastly, in order to avoid unnecessary frustration with the enrollment process, Healthcare.gov will be down periodically for scheduled maintenance. Maintenance outages are regularly scheduled on Healthcare.gov every year during open enrollment. System downtime is planned for the lowest-traffic time periods and is necessary for the maintenance across federal agencies involved with open enrollment. These down times are generally scheduled for Wednesday, November 1, 2017 overnight, then on Sundays from 12:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., except on December 10, 2017.
There are many trained staff in our area to help you understand, enroll or update your Marketplace account. You can access local help by visiting healthcare.gov and searching for local assistance.
To The Editor:
I am disappointed in (Commissioner)Vern Willett's ad in the Hi-Lite Shopper where he calls other Commissioners "weasels." He states he is "The People's Representative." He doesn't represent this person.
Name calling is undignified behavior for a person in public office and poor role modeling for our children. There are appropriate ways to express differences of opinion despite the modeling our current President exhibits.
Newago Economic Development Organization (NEDO) kicks off Walkability initiative with international expert Jeff Speck.
NEDO is pleased to announce the arrival of international walkability expert Jeff Speck for a week of analysis, consultation, and presentation on what the city can do to improve mobility, which includes pedestrian walking and bicycling. "We want to become the model for rural, small town walkability." Stated Scott Faulkner, Board Chairman of NEDO. "Through our I Am Newaygo! Campaign, our stakeholders are telling us that slowing traffic down, improving safety, and increasing walkability and bicycling is one of their top priorities."
Jeff Speck, Author of Walkable City- How Downtown can Save America One Step at a Time, has done extensive walkability work around the world, across the country, and has had extensive experience in Grand Rapids and Ada Townships reinventing the pedestrian and bicycling experiences along the way. "I am very excited to come back to West Michigan, this time to Newaygo, to offer the best ideas that cities are implementing around the country to improve the overall citizen experience. People are created to walk- most cities aren't, and we like to change that!" Speck commented.
The public is welcome to attend a lecture and local findings and recommendations by Mr. Speck on Thursday, October 26 at 6:00 PM at Newaygo High School.
"We highly encourage our stakeholders and citizens to come to Mr. Speck's Thursday evening presentation. It is the highlight of his week in town, and the city is looking forward to his recommendations. We expect those to be included in our Master Planning process now underway in the city." said Faulkner.
By Megan Wirts
I sat in the middle of my kitchen with the entire contents of my pantry all over my countertops and floors and thought to myself, “I regret everything!”.
Have you ever started a project, then halfway through question every decision you have ever made and it makes you wonder who you are and how got to this point in your life? That’s what happened to me recently. I decided to clean and organize my kitchen and it turned out to be a bigger job than I had imagined.
My kitchen had turned into a messy, disorganized wasteland. It was filled with food storage containers without matching lids, half eaten bags of stale potato chips and every time I opened my baking cupboard, cookie sheets and pie tins would crash to the floor nearly killing me in the process. Don’t even get me started on the “junk” drawers. That’s right, plural, there is more than one. I have three of them. Why do I need three junk drawers? I DON’T KNOW, I JUST HAVE A LOT OF JUNK!!
Something needed to be done! Plus, we are just a few weeks away from the holiday baking season and I need to be ready!
I love being in my kitchen. My kitchen is literally the heart of our home. It’s the place where my family gathers and memories are made. It’s where some of the most deep and meaningful conversations about life happen. It’s the place where I find out about my kid’s days, where I listen to my husband tell me about his next big idea and where we connect as a family. It’s where our friends show up and we laugh until we cry or we cry until we laugh. It’s where I create the most delectably delicious cheesecakes any human has ever consumed. My kitchen is where we feed our bodies, hearts and souls. Magic happens in my kitchen.
It just was not feeling very magical lately.
This kitchen was something I dreamt of every night when our home was being built. I was able to pick out the appliances, cabinets, countertops and most importantly, I was going to have a glorious and beautiful walk-in pantry! I couldn’t wait to fill it with canned goods, dry goods and anything else I could fit in there. I had visions of cute baskets with labels and everything having a special place. I vowed to keep it clean and organized forever. Hahahahahaha…I was delusional. Mostly because I don’t think I have kept anything clean and organized in my entire life. Why did I think I was going to do it now?
For the first few weeks that we lived in our home everything was organized and perfect. It was like living in a dream land. There weren’t even any junk drawers yet! Then life happened, children happened and being a busy working mom happened. Keeping the kitchen in tip top shape went to the wayside. I was just happy if the dishes were done at the end of the night, or at least soaking in the sink. Who am I kidding, I was happy if it just didn’t smell weird in there.
Then the clutter came.
Piles of mail, papers from school and random rocks, pinecones or anything else my son dumped onto the counters when he emptied his pockets, and it never left.
Eventually I went from being a busy working mom to a disabled stay at home mom and suddenly I had all kinds of time to sit and stare at all the clutter. It was killing me. The only problem is that my disability makes doing everyday tasks a little extra difficult. Things take me twice as long as they used to and my body doesn’t always want to do the things my mind wants to. It can be incredibly frustrating, but I’m stubborn and if another cookie sheet smacked me in the face I was going to lose my mind. So, I began.
Over the course of a week I cleaned out every drawer, cupboard and basket in my kitchen. Every lid that didn’t fit any of my food storage containers got tossed in the trash. Every cup that had a crack in it and every water bottle that leaked but was shoved to the back of the cupboard because “maybe we will need it someday” was trashed. That bag of cream of broccoli soup that expired in 2013? Gone. I found two bags of marshmallows that were both half empty and hard as a rock in the back of my pantry that were being saved because we might want s’mores or rice crispy treats some time. Trashed. Also, why did I have 12, 000 plastic grocery bags inside more plastic bags, inside even more plastic bags?? WHY?!
It wasn’t until I was at the point where every single can of soup, kitchen appliance and lidless container was covering almost my entire home that I contemplated just walking out and never looking back. But I pushed on through, sorting and decluttering for days. Until finally I could see the surface of my countertops once again and when I opened my baking cupboard instead of a cascading avalanche of pie tins, I saw a beautifully organized baking heaven!
Finally, I was done! I sat on the floor in my neatly organized pantry and marveled at its beauty. I literally could have sat there all night, mostly because I was exhausted and I couldn’t get my legs to move anymore. Eventually I crawled out and I looked at my sweet family and said, “If any of you mess this up, I will destroy you!”.
We will see how long it lasts before I am once again drowning in clutter and disorganization. In the meantime though, I am going to open my baking cupboard up over and over again.
And smile every time a cookie sheet doesn’t try to murder me.
By Ken DeLaat
The good news from the baseball world?
Justin Verlander tossed a winner from the mound in the opening game of the playoffs and JD Martinez knocked a dinger as well.
The not-so-good news?
They did their deeds in the uniforms of the ‘Stros and the D-Backs.
The Tigers just missed the playoffs this year finishing a mere 21 games behind the Twins for the second wild card berth and came within just 38 games of first place Cleveland.
But let’s talk about teams who possess a brighter immediate future…
This Friday on the gridiron in Grant the Tigers and Lions will write the latest chapter in a lengthy interscholastic story.
Since 1950 this historic rivalry is dead even at 33-33.
I find this a bit surprising in a way since the classic community clash that takes place each fall (well, except for ‘13 and almost ‘12 if not for their matchup in the postseason) has been a rather streaky series.
For instance, the Tiger Class of ‘53 didn’t see a single victory during their high school years but then the southern half of the rivalry ripped off 13 consecutive wins during a stormy span for Lion fans who saw their teams get shut out 5 times and score just 46 points, or an average of about 3 ½ a game.
Ironically the following year Newaygo equalled their entire 13 year output by notching 46 points while breaking the futility streak.
That year (‘66) Newaygo was undefeated. The following year they failed to win a game and got outscored by opponents 200-21 while Grant ran the table.
The 1990 game was the only one the Tigers would win in that decade as the Lions claimed honors in the next 9 but since the turn of the century it’s been 8-8.
Having only lived in these parts for a mere couple of decades I didn’t grow up with this rivalry.
And I did not attend either educational institution since my ‘high school madness’ days extend a bit beyond those couple of decades.
Well, truth be told, quite a bit beyond.
But I certainly recall the importance of such games between well-acquainted and epically adversarial opponents.
Ours was Caledonia/Middleville another storied competition between small towns also separated by 5 miles along M-37.
Just a bit farther south.
It was THE game. We had no playoffs then (seriously dating myself) and both teams came in undefeated. The Trojans had dominated our Fighting Scots for a spell but this year on the Middleville home turf the boys of ‘Donie fought them to a tie (yup, no overtime either back then) and it was a monumental kind of tie that included a final seconds goal line stand against the Mudville crew as those of us who populated the stands screamed until hoarse.
We were ecstatic.
So while high school remains but a distant and increasingly fading memory
the atmosphere at games like this remains familiar.
And this one has even more drama attached since the winner gets a trip to the playoffs.
Grant is looking to return after last years post season play and Newaygo wants back in after a two year sabbatical.
And it’s Grant’s homecoming game as well.
Get ready for a good one folks.
Letter to the Editor Policy
Near North Now welcomes original letters from readers on current topics of general interest. Simply fill out the form below. Letters submissions are limited to 300 words.