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Heritage Tower plans move forward in Battle Creek

Heritage Tower has been called one of the most important examples of Art Deco architecture in the Midwest.

It was built in 1930-31 to house the Old Merchants National Bank and Trust Company, then the largest financial institution between Detroit and Chicago, reports Heritage Battle Creek. When it opened for business in May 1931, the Old Merchants National Bank and Trust Company was 70 percent occupied.  The basement level housed the mechanical plant and parking garage.  Retail stores were located on the ground floor in an arcade which ran through from Michigan Avenue to Jackson Street.

Reportedly, plans are moving again to restore the building that stands vacant.

"We are looking forward to continuing the revitalization of downtown Battle Creek by bringing the Heritage Tower project to a reality," says Derek Coppess, founder of 616 Development. "This iconic building is the kind of project where our company can display our creativity and passion in working with aged structures."

Battle Creek Unlimited (BCU) and 616 Development announced Feb. 16  that final plans are nearing completion and expected to be revealed in the next 30 to 60 days for the proposed renovation of the 19-story Heritage Tower building at 25 W. Michigan in downtown Battle Creek.

When 616 Development originally announced in 2013 that it had taken on the project of renovating the Heritage Tower it proposed returning 150,000 square feet of space to use in the building, featuring  43 hotel rooms, 62 apartments, and 55 underground parking spaces. The project was then anticipated to be completed by Spring 2015.

Now, the plan calls for 90 hotel rooms and 58 market-rate apartments along with retail and office space.

The most recent announcement comes after BCU and 616 emerged from a meeting with some plan modifications following a recent planning session, says Jim Hettinger, interim CEO of BCU.

"We are excited that we have taken another major step toward making the long-awaited project a reality," Hettinger says. "The revised plan will really help fulfill a number of development needs and bring a renewed vitality to downtown Battle Creek."

Source: Battle Creek Unlimited

Lake Michigan College pairs with vintners to create Great Lakes Wine Institute

Southwest Michigan has become one of the most prolific wine-producing regions in the country, an industry that brings in $300 million annually to the state's economy.

That's why Lake Michigan College has launched the Great Lake Wine Institute, the first commercial teaching winery in the Midwest.

Beginning in the fall of 2015, students can enroll to earn an Associate of Applied Science in  Enology and Viticulture -- the science of winemaking and the production and study of grapes. The school plans to recruit 15 students for its first class. (More information can be found here.)

Lake Michigan College has constructed a small, commercially viable teaching winery in the Mendel Center for Arts and Technology. A new facility that will have a larger production capacity and include an on-site vineyard and tasting room is in the planning stages.

Students will study chemistry and microbiology in existing science labs on campus. They also will experience hands-on winemaking experience at both the college’s winery and through participation in a second fall harvest with one of the area’s local wineries.

Students will learn about vineyard establishment, soils, plant physiology, canopy management, and vineyard diseases and insects in vineyards owned by Michigan State University, a partner in the program.

The college created the program in response to a rapidly-growing regional wine industry and a demand for skilled professionals to support it. The Round Barn is one of eight area wineries advising in the development of the college’s program.

"With over 35 years in the local wine industry we were honored to be involved with the development of the new teaching winery at Lake Michigan College," says Christian Moersch, owner and partner of Round Barn Winery, Distillery and Brewery.

"With an annual growth rate of 10 to 15 percent and the addition of several wineries over the last decade, it has become harder to find qualified candidates to fill the positions required to make great wine," Moersch continues. "The best thing about this program is that we can hire people who are familiar with the challenges our industry faces locally rather than hiring someone from out of state who is not familiar with our climate, varieties, and terroir."

Michigan has doubled its vineyard area over the past 10 years, and is now the fourth largest grape-growing state in the nation. With 107 commercial wineries, Michigan ranks 13th in wine production, using primarily Michigan-grown grapes, and the industry draws more than 2 million tourism visitors annually.

Great Lakes Wine Institute’s new Director Michael Moyer decided to move from his home in Walla Walla, Wash. to work in the new program.

Moyer previously worked with Figgins Family Wine Estates in Washington where he crafted a variety of wines for the Leonetti label as well as Doubleback, Figgins, and Toil Oregon. He also worked with the California brands, Etude and Peter Michael Winery.

He brings academic experience from Walla Walla, where he was instrumental in designing and developing its community college’s wine science program. He also holds a Master of Science in Viticulture and Enology from the University of California, Davis, a globally-influential program with a 130-year history.

"What attracted me to this region is that it has all the ingredients for serious winemaking," says Moyer. "It has a great climate, well-drained soils, a huge population base, and wineries that are already creating some fabulous wines. People in the wine industry who are living in other parts of the country don’t think about Michigan wines. But the wines made here can have the balance of fruit, structure, and alcohol much more common to the old world."

Source: Candice Elders, Lake Michigan College

United Federal Credit Union opens flagship branch

United Federal Credit Union has opened its new flagship branch in St. Joseph as planned.

The branch opened for business Feb. 16 at 2819 S. State Street. A grand opening celebration for the new branch is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.  March 25, The public is invited.

The 9,600-hundred-square-foot building was designed with credit union members in mide. It has an expanded drive-thru and new technology.

Teller services, auto and mortgage lending, business services and investment planning all are provided at the new branch.

The new branch was built on the site a previous branch and was built to house 25 employees at a cost of about $3 million.

UFCU’s corporate office building, which previously housed the St. Joseph branch, will be renovated to add administrative space to accommodate the credit union’s expanding

“We are excited to open the doors and hear what our Members have to say,” says Branch Manager Emily Szymkiewicz. “We think this building will not only meet their needs, but it will allow us to exceed their expectations for financial service providers.”

United Federal Credit Union consists of more than 130,000 members worldwide, and manages assets in excess of $1.83 billion. Its corporate offices and main branch are located in St. Joseph, Mich., with additional branches in Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, North Carolina, Nevada, and Ohio. It formed in 1949.

Source: United Federal Credit Union

Couple creates novel way to dry kids' (and grownups') gloves

The smell of winter gloves and boots that never quite get dry. That smell. The GreenGloveDryer was created to eliminate that and related problems that come with snow in Michigan.

About two years ago Karen Smoots decided to tackle an ongoing winter problem--how to dry all the way to the fingertips soaked winter gloves. Fed up with the ineffective way her electric dryer worked when it came to winter gear, Smoots and her husband put their heads together to invent a solution. 

She knew she wanted it to be something that did not plug in. When she was in highschool she lived down the street from a house that went up in flames when a portable heater was left on. She also had a room in the basement. Her mother refused her constant requests for a space heater to warm up her living space because of the danger of leaving it plugged in, so she grew up with that concern.

"We're in and out a lot and I didn't want to worry about unplugging it. I didn't want to be halfway to someplace and wonder, 'Did I unplug the glove dryer'?" Smoot says.

She sent her husband, Ryan, an engineer, to the hardware store to look for pieces they could put together that would send warm air up into the fingers of a glove. He put it together in the garage of their Portage home.

The end product is GreenGloveDryer. It has a 4-inch by 12-inch plastic base that sits over a floor register or leans against a baseboard register. It has six nozzles that are each 5.5-inches long and that have 16 holes for venting warm air into anything placed on top of them. 

It has no cords and does not use any electricity of its own. Instead, it uses the warm air from the furnace coming through the register. GreenGloveDryer takes its name from the fact that it does not need added electricity. The Smoots also have created a traveling bag for the device that is made of recycled plastic. And they are exploring types of recycled plastic for future generations of their patent pending product.

The dryers, manufactured by W-L Molding Co. in Portage, were ready for sale in Nov. 20, 2014. Just two days after the big snowstorm of fall. Then weeks went by without snow.

"My father, bless his heart, told me that in December we set the record for the least snowfall in December since 1912," Smoot says. Not the best time to be bringing out their product. 

The weather took a turn toward true winter and big snow in January, and Smoots says business has been going gangbusters since then. They have already sold 1,200 of the dyers. 

The GreenGloveDryer is now available in more than 40 stores across Michigan, Indiana, and Wisconsin, is for sale on Amazon, and their own website. The company also has recently hired Waypoint Sales to help it get into more retail locations. 

Smoots has been on something of a media blitz, travelling to Detroit and its suburbs for TV appearances and interviews with reporters to talk about the benefits of the GreenGloveDryer. 

"I talked with a reporter the other day and you could tell she almost wanted to come through the phone to get her own dryer," Smoots says. Some moms are that desperate for a solution to sopping wet gloves. 

A mommy blogger in the Detroit area -- Metro Detroit Mommy -- tried the GreenGloveDryer to see if it lived up to its claims and reported back that gloves she put on it were dry in 18 minutes. 

Smoots also runs two other businesses, including Lakeside Parlor, an ice cream store she and her sister share. With the newest business taking off, Smoots hopes GreenGloveDryer will become her sole business focus. 

Within two years, she says she hopes to be employing others in the business. Stay-at-home moms who want to get out of the house for a short time are likely to be the first she hires. 

"It has been a great family adventure," she says. Her boys, Collin, 11, and Nolan, 8, love it and have been involved, showing up in a promotional video for the glove dryer. They also are learning organization from having the invention in the house, Smoots says. "They know exactly where their wet things go to dry."

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media
Source: Karen Smoots, GreenGloveDryer

Allegan County students can now earn free associate's degree

It's called Early College and it's a new way that students who attend school in Allegan County can get an associate's degree without paying tuition.

Through a partnership between the Allegan Area Educational Service Agency and Lake Michigan College students will have an opportunity to graduate high school with an Associate's Degree.

The program is scheduled to start in the fall of 2015 with approximately 50 students.

Classes for Early College of Allegan County, or ECAC, will be offered at the Tech Center in Allegan.

To get a degree, students take a mix of high school courses and college courses over three years--in 11th grade, 12th grade and in the following year, or "13th" grade.

There is no fee for classes, books, or transportation to the Tech Center for college courses.

Further, Early College students can participate in high school sports and extra-curricular activities during their junior and senior years as their schedules permit. During the 13th year, they are eligible for college intramural sports teams and clubs.

To be accepted in the ECAC program, students must apply. Selection is based on GPA, test scores and recommendations. Applicants and their families will be interviewed by the ECAC advisory team.

The 50 students who are enrolled in the program will come from across Allegan's seven school districts--Allegan, Fennville, Hopkins, Martin, Otsego, Plainwell, and Wayland.

Students can obtain more information at their high school guidance offices. For more information about ECAC, go here for more information about Early College Services at Lake Michigan College, please click here.

Lake Michigan College currently provides early college services in 52 area school districts. “We’ve had a lot of success so far," says LMC President Dr. Robert Harrison, "and we’re expanding and improving the program each year. We’re excited to extend this exceptional opportunity to students and families in Allegan County."

Candice Elders, Lake Michigan College

Perrigo hires tax analyst and business analyst

Karin Li has been hired as Senior International Tax Analyst and Jay Elder as SAP Business Analyst by Perrigo Co. Both will work in Allegan.

In her new role, Li will assist with the U.S. international tax aspects of financial reporting, transfer pricing documentation and return preparation. She will also help with non-U.S. tax-related audits, special projects and process improvements.

Li has five years of experience as a senior tax analyst at a Fortune 500 medical device manufacturing company. Her responsibilities previously  included preparing and reviewing U.S and international tax returns, quarterly tax provision and transfer pricing adjustments, and assisting with various tax audits globally.

Li earned an MBA in finance from Western Michigan University. She is from China and currently resides in Kalamazoo.

Elder will work with the Information Technology and Systems team. Elder will support SAP applications.

Over the past five years, Elder gained SAP software implementation experience at a global chemical company and at a joint venture based in Saudi Arabia, specifically with the Plant Maintenance module of SAP.

Elder received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 1993, and is currently working toward earning his MBA from Grand Valley State University. He is from Manhattan, Ill., and lives in Grandville.  

Source: Perrigo Co.

Eagle Technologies adds 30 new employees

Eagle Technologies Group in Bridgman realized company record-breaking revenues in 2014, which in turn meant the addition of 30 employees.

The company that provides businesses with the level of automation they need for their work has invested in new, high-tech CNC machining centers with automated multi-tool changers to keep up with its fast growing pace. It provides factory automation for medical, automotive, alternative energy, consumer products, food and military businesses.

The company also is planning improvements to its Bridgman campus that include new servers and computers. Landscaping and lighting improvements also are in the works. The company has three buildings on its campus, for 110,000 square feet. The buildings were specifically built for the type of work Eagle Technology does.

Eagle Technologies Executive Vice President and owner Jay Craig says that the company's customers are expecting deliveries in shorter and shorter time frames. "We are growing our in-house capabilities to meet their expectations," Craig says. "We are doing what it takes to hit delivery dates and provide world class equipment."

The company has been deploying new software to streamline its engineering and workflow provide its customers with the latest technology in 3-D designs and concepts in less time, says Brandon Fuller, vice president of sales and marketing. The goal is to provide customers with ways to automate their processes and provide them with automation that makes them more profitable.

Eagle Technologies says it also looking to attract, hire, and retain 30 more highly-skilled employees in 2015. 

Mike Koziel, President of Eagle Technologies Group, says the growth can be attributed to the trust the company's customers have in Eagle Technology's work. He also says the company's high level of teamwork helps create satisfied customers.

“We have implemented an attitude of communication and accountability throughout our company by talking to our teammates as people and not just employees and by making sure everyone knows our goals and the commitments we’ve made to our customers," Koziel says. "To that end, accountability doesn’t mean management has to continually look over the shoulders of our teammates, instead, our teammates look out for each other and make sure everyone is working toward the common goals of our company."

Eagle Technologies grew from a company with its roots in the tool and die industry when it started in 1953. Now it is one-fourth of a group that covers a wide range of economic segments, as protection from economic swings. 

Source: Eagle Technologies Group

Even the cleaning is green at Western Michigan University

From energy efficient buildings to a fund that supports energy saving projects, sustainability is a big deal at Western Michigan University. That goes for the way the school cleans its buildings, too.

WMU has a green cleaning policy that has led it to be one of only four universities in the nation to be recognized for custodial practices in its buildings. 

After a yearlong effort, WMU has become Green Seal Certified for its commercial and institutional cleaning services. To obtain certification the university went through extensive documentation and an on-site visit by Green Seal. The nonprofit helps organizations be greener by offering specific standards they are to meet.

WMU had to formulate a green cleaning policy, get standard operating procedures in order, perfect a training plan for new hires and on-going training for team members. It also identified ways to reduce waste and the use of chemicals. 

The department also uses cleaning products, equipment and processes that reduce the exposure of building occupants and facility management personnel to potentially hazardous chemicals.

Two major changes that occurred in WMU's processes were the switch to a water-based, cleaning system which allowed the university to basically eliminate daily chemical cleaners, with the exception of disinfectant, and a change in floor care procedures that allowed WMU to eliminate the use of floor stripper and finish.

"A lot of people were engaged with policy and product changes, and they educated 167 custodians who clean 54 primary buildings every day," says Peter Strazdas, associate vice president of Facilities Management. "This certification validates the cultural shift to a more sustainable campus environment with our cleaning practices and products."

Source: Deanne Puca, Western Michigan University

Heath Road Tract will link two natural areas in Barry County

A local family that supports land conservation in Barry County has made its fourth donation of land that it has purchased with the intent of preserving it forever.

Tyden Ventures has given 160 acres of land to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy. The property links two other large pieces of land that are being kept in their natural states: the Edger Waterfowl Production Area and the Barry State Game Area. The waterfowl production area is maintained by the United States Fish & Wildlife Services (USFWS).

Features of the new preserve, currently called the Heath Road Tract, are rolling beech-maple and oak-hickory forests, buttonbush and yellow birch swamps, a marsh, prairie planting, and pine plantation.

Emily E. Wilke, Conservation Projects Manager for SWMLC, says that the newly acquired property has many important ecological features, and what is most exciting about the donation is that it links the other pieces of property.

"Large blocks of conserved land are very important," Wilke says, " and with this piece of the puzzle included the 20,000 acres conserved by the DNR is now connected to a 40 acre parcel we have already conserved and a 160-acre parcel conserved by the USFWS. This piece of the puzzle connects all three together."

Tyden Ventures originally acquired the property in 2008 with the intent of donating it at a later date. It officially was given to the Land Conservancy Dec. 30, 2014. Over the past six years the family has worked with the SWMLC to restore the property. The Groos family, who grew up in Barry county and loves the area, will continue to be involved as restoration plans for the property proceed.

Restoration management plans for the site were developed in cooperation with the USF&WS, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR), Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Ducks Unlimited. Future collaborations with USF&WS and DNR are in the works, with additional wetland restoration and habitat improvements expected in coming years.

Writer: Kathy Jennings, Second Wave Media

Source: Emily Wilke, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Photos: Map created by Nate Fuller.  Photo by Peter Ter Louw of the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.

Kalamazoo's Communities in Schools gets national recognition

Work done by Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo at Arcadia Elementary School that helps students overcome obstacles to succeed in school and achieve in life has received nationwide recognition.

And Martha Serio, CIS Site Coordinator at Spring Valley Center for Exploration, has also been recognized.

Both are recipients of the 2015 Unsung Heroes Award by the Communities In Schools network. The awards were created in 2007 to give national recognition to local schools, communities and Communities In Schools’ site coordinators for changing the picture of education in America.

The 2015 honorees were recognized at the Communities In Schools’ Leadership Town Hall, in January in New Orleans, La.

"I am truly honored, humbled and grateful to be receiving this award," says Serio. "I love being a Site Coordinator for Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo. I am able to connect students with over 40 fabulous volunteers and community partners they need to succeed because of the support I receive from my Principal, Mr. William Hawkins and the Spring Valley teachers, staff, parents, and CIS staff. Here at Spring Valley, we are all a team."

Serio's CIS colleagues refer to her as the “energizer bunny.” She has boundless energy and works tirelessly to make sure that students gets the services she needs.

Pam Kingery executive director, CIS of Kalamazoo, says the award for CIS at Arcadia Elementary School reflects the cooperation that takes place where there are CIS programs.

“Arcadia Elementary School is a shining example of what can happen when we work together for kids,” says Pam Kingery executive director, CIS of Kalamazoo. "This award is shared by all of us--The Kalamazoo Public Schools, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, our volunteers, partners, and donors--all dedicated to meeting students’ needs."

Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo is one of almost 200 CIS affiliates working throughout the country. The organization overcomes the barriers that derail children, giving them hope and the belief that they can succeed in school, graduate and be prepared for life.

“At Communities In Schools, Unsung Hero is synonymous with dedication and commitment to serving students,” says Dan Cardinali, president, Communities In Schools. “All of our honorees are inspiring and are true examples of going the extra mile and being the difference to a student’s success and in their lives. We’re thrilled to recognize their exceptional work.”

A complete list of 2015 honorees, with links to videos and full profiles of each, can be found here.  Arcadia’s video may be seen by clicking here.

Source: Communities in Schools of Kalamazoo
Kalamazoo at 2015 Unsung Heroes Awards in New Orleans, LA. Also pictured, Bill Milliken, Founder and Vice Chairman of Communities InSchools, Inc. (left) and Dan Cardinali, President of Communities In Schools, Inc. (third from right at back).
From left: Gulnar Husain (CIS Site Coordinator at Arcadia), Greg Socha (KPS Principal, Arcadia), Pam Kingery (Executive Director, CIS of Kalamazoo), Carolyn H. Williams (CIS of Kalamazoo Board President), Dan Cardinali (President of Communities In Schools, Inc.)
CIS Site Coordinator Martha Serio, 2015 Unsung Heroes Award winner, with Dan Cardinali President of Communities In Schools, Inc. (left) and Bill Milliken, Founder and Vice Chairman of Communities In Schools, Inc. (right)

From left: CIS Site Coordinator Martha Serio, CIS Director of Elementary Sites Elyse Brey, Spring Valley Center for Exploration Principal William Hawkins, KPS School Board President Patti Scholler-Barber.

Forest River Manufacturing to bring nearly 400 jobs to White Pigeon

Manufacturing continues to be making a strong comeback in Southwest Michigan. This time it is recreational vehicle maker Forest River Manufacturing which will break ground this spring on what is expected to be a $7 million project in the Village of White Pigeon.

Forest River Manufacturing plans to launch new products and will put up three 100,000-square-foot buildings to house the three new lines of vehicles.

It is anticipated the project will create 396 jobs, making the company eligible for a $350,000 Michigan Business Development Program performance-based grant. Michigan was chosen over competing sites in Indiana.

The company currently has manufacturing facilities across the Midwest and is headquartered in Elkhart, Ind. It builds travel trailers, fifth wheels, pop-up tent campers, park model trailers, destination trailers, commercial vehicles, buses, pontoons and other recreational vehicles.

White Pigeon Village President Daniel R. Czajowski says Forest River's decision to locate in White Pigeon came about as a result of a joint effort by the Village, Southwest Michigan First, St. Joseph County Economic Development Corp.and the State of Michigan.

Land available for development, complete with water and other utilities, plus tax incentives offered by the state and White Pigeon made the area attractive to the manufacturer.

Czajowski says there also is a pent up demand for jobs among Michigan workers that has not been met since the national economic downturn, and those workers are attractive to manufacturers.

The Michigan Strategic Fund awarded the Village of White Pigeon $1.6 million in Community Development Block Grant funds for the Forest River project. The funds will be used toward on-the-job training for 264 employees at the new facilities.

"In terms of the bigger picture," Czajowski says, "this is not just to the benefit of White Pigeon. All of the State of Michigan and St. Joseph County will benefit from by Forrest River locating here."

Sources: Daniel R. Czajowski, Village of White Pigeon; Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Gilden Woods Early Care and Preschool opens second Kalamazoo location

Then there were two.

To meet growing demand, a second Gilden Woods Early Care and Preschool opened Jan. 12 in the Kalamazoo area.

The new school employs 30 new teachers and caregivers, and two directors, allowing for an enrollment of up to 168 children.  

The newest Gilden Woods location, at 4620 Arboretum Parkway, part of a growing West Michigan-based family of owner-operated child care centers, hosted a ribbon-cutting ceremony and offered tours of the school on Jan. 22.

The open house featured  a tour the state-of-the-art facility, classrooms, and age-appropriate playgrounds, an opportunity to learn about unique features including the secure AppleCam Internet system that allows enrolled parents to “visit” their child anytime using their computer or smartphone, and a chance to meet Gilden Woods directors, teachers, and caregivers.

The school provides infant and toddler child care and full- and half-day preschool. Before- and after-school care and fun, educational spring break, winter holiday, and summer day camps, are offered for school-aged children. Transportation to and from several local schools is included in tuition fees.

Gilden Woods owners are regularly involved in school operations allowing them to evaluate and improve the curriculum and programs, build relationships with staff and families, and monitor the safety of the building and learning environment.   

“Our Kalamazoo school will provide high quality, educational child care, preschool, and before- and after-school care for children ages six weeks to 12 years old,’’ says Gilden Woods owner Julia Buckham.  

Source: Gilden Woods  Early Care and Preschool

100 Friends of Downtown Three Rivers will help boost downtown

Building relationships. Communication. Education and Awareness. Those three goals of the DDA/Mainstreet Program in Three Rivers will be the focus of the "100 Friends of Downtown Three Rivers" when it launches in February.

The campaign will raise funds that will go towards flowers and flower pots, holiday decorations, special events, and other various DDA/Main Street programs.

The fundraising effort also will help Three Rivers continue the work it has been doing to revitalize the downtown. In the past 12 months, downtown Three Rivers was officially designated as a "Select Level" Michigan Main Street community in February 2014 and has undertaken the work that comes with that designation. Three Rivers DDA/Main Street hired a full-time program director in June.

"We’re extremely thankful and very fortunate to have received the support that we have from our current group of partners," says Brian Persky, Three Rivers DDA/Main Street Executive Director. "Without these initial commitments, the Main Street program wouldn’t be where it is today. In order to sustain the momentum that we’ve been building, it’s crucial for us to build on that and continue to expand our reach into the community."

Board development work, adoption of a Vision and Mission Statement are among the steps taken so far. The program also has recorded nearly 1,000 volunteer service hours, adopted a new downtown image, expanded holiday and winter decorations, coordinated Christmas Around Town, created an internship program, and has grown its presence on social media by more than 300 percent.

All new members of the "100 Friends of Downtown Three Rivers" campaign will receive an inside look to the Main Street program, recognition on the DDA’s website, and a complimentary T-shirt. Donation levels range from $15 for Friends, $25 for Bronze donors, $50 for Silver donors, an $100 for Gold donors.

In related news, the Three Rivers DDA/Main Street Design Committee recently awarded two grants for signage improvements to both PinUp Salon and Northside Beverage.

The grants were made possible through the DDA’s rebate program. The program awards rebates to property owners and business owners who improve signage, awnings, and/or painting. The rebates cover up to 25 percent of costs, with maximum amounts of $200 per sign, $300 per awning, and $750 for painting – to the extent that funds are available.Northside Beverage was awarded a $200 grant.

PinUp Salon was awarded a grant of $259.16, which covered approximately 25 percent of signage and painting costs.

"It’s so great that there are programs out there to help small businesses like mine," said PinUp Salon owner Danielle Hinman. "We can’t wait to continue with building renovations in the future."

Source: Brian Persky, DDA/Main Street Three Rivers

Douglass Community Association to celebrate 95 years of service

Throughout its history, the Douglass Community Association has served individuals and families in Kalamazoo’s northside neighborhood--as well as the greater Kalamazoo community--as a center for social, recreational and community development activities.

It also has advocated for civil rights, racial equality, social justice, and support for at-risk and vulnerable populations.

It's origins date back to the end of World War I. More than 350,000 African Americans served on the Western Front during the war. When they returned home they met with discrimination. Fighting that discrimination was behind the founding of the Douglass Community Association.

The Douglass will celebrate its 95th anniversary from 5-7 p.m Feb. 8 at The Union, 125 South Kalamazoo Mall, in downtown Kalamazoo.  The event is open to the public.

Part of the 95th anniversary celebration will include a fundraising component. DCA will hold a silent auction of items such as paintings by local artists, autographed photos of football greats Greg Jennings and T.J. Duckett, a weekend package at the Radisson Hotel, and much more.

The Douglass offers critical community services, including:

• Frederick Douglass Recovery Center, providing behavioral health services including, outpatient treatment, case management, and peer support.

• Youth and Community Services, including substance abuse prevention through mentoring, education and recreation; after-school learning and team sports programs; and food and nutritional services, including a mobile food initiative, Educational Community Garden and the seasonal Douglass Farmers Market.

"We’re proud to celebrate this milestone and the positive impact the Douglass has had in the lives of thousands in our community," says Sherry Thomas-Cloud, DCA’s executive director.

Over the past two years, The Douglass has gone a long way toward resolving financial difficulties that threatened its existence. The Kalamazoo community stepped up to help it keeps its doors open.

"With the aid of many funders, organizations and community experts," Thomas-Cloud says, "we’ve developed a thoughtful and future-focused strategic plan; secured communication support; received consultation in fund development, organizational strategies and board leadership; received an infrastructure and facility assessment; partnered with skilled trades unions to perform needed repairs; and continued to receive generous contributions to support our services.

"At the same time, we’re not entirely out of the woods," Thomas-Cloud adds. "We’re building a sustainable model for the future, and we need support to get there."

Sources: Rick Chambers, Rick Chambers & Associates, Douglass Community Association


Historical images from the founding of the organization in 1919.

A recent youth craft activities at the Douglass Community Center on West Paterson Street.

WMed to begin next phase of renovation on campus

At Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine (WMed) the belief is that the teaching and education of research in medical school is fundamental to improving healthcare and advancing the knowledge of future practicing physicians.

The school has developed an extended research curriculum for medical students and teaches the practical development of research projects that could eventually be presented at an event organized each year to celebrate academics in research.

So it is no surprise that four months after it opened, work is already being done to develop the fourth and sixth floors of its W.E. Upjohn M.D. campus in downtown Kalamazoo for use in the expansion of its research efforts.

The WMU Board of Trustees voted Jan. 22 to allow the med school to begin the redevelopment project. Under terms of the lease before the board took action, the fourth and six floors were to remain vacant until either the University or medical school needed the space.

The cost of the renovations and equipment will be paid by the medical school.

The new medical school encourages the development and participation of faculty research mentors who will be educating and supporting medical students throughout their time dedicated to research when new or practical approaches to medicine are sought.

Western Michigan University Homer Stryker M.D. School of Medicine
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