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Upcoming Dining Out for Life helps CARES in fight against AIDS

For 10 years Kalamazoo and Southwest Michigan has committed to support for the local agency working to prevent the spread of HIV and offering support services to those living with HIV/AIDS.

The tenth annual Dining Out For Life fundraiser will be Thursday, April 26. And this year 36 establishments will donate at least 25 percent of their proceeds to CARES (Community AIDS Resource and Education Services). 

CARES serves 11 counties in Southwest Michigan, and its mission is to maximize the quality of life for those affected by HIV and to minimize the transmission of the disease. It provides HIV case management services to people living with HIV, as well as emergency housing and financial assistance. The CARES prevention team also is constantly educating the community and testing for HIV through outreach and programs.

Today, 1.2 million people live with HIV in the United States. Of those, 15,629 live in Michigan, and 362 live in Kalamazoo County.

Dining Out For Life provides a fun and easy way to support those living with HIV and to help prevent the disease, says Kelly Doyle, CARES Executive Director. "This is our 10-year anniversary of the event and we so appreciate the community for dining out to fight AIDS," she says.

The event helps bring new customers into local restaurants and gives diners an opportunity to make a contribution when they have breakfast, lunch, or dinner with friends. 

In 2018, CARES hopes to raise $90,000 from restaurant donations and diner donations, as well as cash and in kind sponsorships. 

The number of participating establishments has risen from 2017 and some are giving more generously. For example, Full City Cafe will donate 50 percent of all sales, the highest percentage donated locally. Confections with Convictions, will donate 35 percent of all sales, and Victorian Bakery will donate 35 percent of all pre-orders before noon on Wednesday, April 25, and 25 percent the day of the event. 

Participation includes various meal times at establishments in five cities; Kalamazoo, Portage, Battle Creek/Springfield, Paw Paw, and Plainwell. Nine of the 36 participating establishments are managed by Millennium Restaurant Group.
"We look forward to this CARES fundraiser every year," says Linda Rouleau, General Manager of Fieldstone Grill. "We are proud to be one of the nine Millennium Group Restaurants that support this cause and give back to the community." This will be Fieldstone Grill's tenth year participating in the Dining Out For Life event.
With the exception of a small licensing fee, all money raised will be used locally. The local event is one of 60 Dining Out For Life fundraisers planned internationally. Dining Out For Life began in 1991, and CARES became part of the annual event in 2009.

Reservations are strongly encouraged at most Dining Out For Life participating restaurants. Diners should let a participating restaurant know that they are dining with them because of their support for HIV/AIDS services locally.

"Now more than ever, we appreciate the community coming together to support CARES and our mission of ending HIV in our lifetime," says Doyle, CARES Executive Director. "In our current political climate, we have seen reductions in funding for the prevention of HIV and other STDs, the removal of the Office of National AIDS Policy and the continued attack on Ryan White funding. We have come a long way to ending HIV and we can't go backward."

For a list of participating restaurants in the Kalamazoo area, visit here. For more information about CARES, visit its website.

Source: CARES

Celebration set to take place April 17 for conservation of Schoneboom Property in Barry County

The 16,000-acre Barry State Game Area has grown by 355 acres with the acquisition of the Schoneboom property on the southeast edge of the State Game Area.

Acquisition of the land comes after nearly eight years of discussions. It increases wildlife-related recreation and habitat management opportunities for the area, says the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.
The Schoneboom property is the largest-ever addition to the Barry State Game Area, and features a mix of farmland, forest and wetlands, as well as a headwaters segment of the Glass Creek, recognized as the highest quality stream in the Thornapple River Watershed.

In 2009, working with a broad base of partners, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy created the Barry State Game Area Conservation Plan. In that plan, the Schoneboom property was identified as the No. 1 priority parcel to protect. 

In the summer of 2010, SWMLC Conservation and Projects Manager Emily Wilke began conservation efforts and discussions with the landowners about protecting their land that lasted over seven years. Ultimately, Wilke and the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy partnered with the Michigan DNR, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund and Tyden Ventures to fund the purchase of the Schoneboom property.

“Conserving this property was so important because it helps prevent forest fragmentation, and creates one, large contiguous protected natural area that includes the headwaters of the Glass Creek Watershed,” says Wilke. “This region also protects extremely ecologically sensitive lands and provides essential habitat for rare and endangered species like the Cerulean Warbler.”
On Tuesday, April 17, the Michigan DNR is inviting the public to a celebration event and dedication in honor of the conservation of the Schoneboom property. The event will take place across the street from McCallum Church at 5505 Otis Lake Road, and will begin at 1:30 p.m. 

The dedication will kick off with a few words by DNR Deputy Director Bill O’Neill, DNR Wildlife Chief Russ Mason, Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy Executive Director Pete Ter Louw, and Tom Groos of Tyden Ventures. The dedication ceremony will be followed by light refreshments at 2 p.m., and a guided hike at 2:30 p.m. The public is welcome to come and explore this new part of the Barry State Game Area.

Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Kalamazoo's commitment to education topic of panel at WMU

How the commitment to educational equity has evolved from the past to current day in the Kalamazoo region will be the focus of a panel discussion Monday, April 2, on the campus of Western Michigan University.

"Educational Equity: From the 'Kalamazoo Case' to the Kalamazoo Promise and Beyond" will be discussed at 6 p.m. in Room 204 of the Bernhard Center. 

The free event is part of the Center for the Study of Ethics in Society's lecture series and is open to the public. It is co-sponsored by the WMU Cooley Law School and the College of Education and Human Development.

WMU co-moderators Dr. Kathy Purnell, instructor of political science, and Dr. Ashley Atkins, assistant professor of philosophy, will facilitate the panelists' discussion.

Panelists will include:
•   James D. Robb, general counsel and associate dean of external affairs, WMU Cooley Law School;
•   Cyekeia Lee, director of community collaboration, Kalamazoo Promise;
•   Michael Evans, executive director, Kalamazoo Literacy Council; and
•   Sandra Standish, executive director, KC Ready 4s.

The "Kalamazoo Case" authored by Thomas M. Cooley in 1874 in his role as Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court will be part of the discussion of the past. This legal case was based on the principle that communities can opt to use their tax dollars for investments in secondary education. The Kalamazoo Promise scholarship program and its commitment to postsecondary education will be part of the discussion of the present.

The panel will also talk about potential future paths, asking what it means to embrace a "right to literacy" and exploring an expanded commitment to prekindergarten youth that can ensure educational equity and access. 

Panelists are expected "share their thoughts on what a commitment to educational equity means and engage in dialogue on how to map a common future to expand equity and access," according to a release from WMU.

Light refreshments will be provided. For more information, visit here.

Source: Western Michigan University

Cyekeia Lee photo by Brian Powers used with permission on Encore Magazine. 

Kalamazoo Nature Center to open new maple sugar shack

The annual Maple Sugar Festival at the Kalamazoo Nature Center has a sweet new celebration this year -- the grand opening of KNC’s new Alice Batts Apkarian and Ara Apkarian Maple Sugar Shack.

Alice Batts Apkarian is the daughter of KNC founder Dr. H. Lewis Batts, Jr. She will attend this special event to share her fond memories of maple sugaring at KNC.  “My favorite activity at the KNC was maple sugaring…  The smells and tastes elicit some of my strongest memories,” she says.

Alice’s life journey has taken her to California where she is involved with, among other things, her local nature center.  However, her ties to the Kalamazoo Nature Center have remained strong over the years. 

She and her husband, Ara, recently contributed to the Kalamazoo Nature Center’s “Two Leaders, One Legacy” capital campaign and asked to have their gift designated for the Maple Sugar Shack’s construction costs. 

Rayline Manni, the Kalamazoo Nature Center’s Vice President of Development, offered great appreciation to the couple for their very fitting contribution to the campaign. “We at KNC are touched by the Apkarians’ ongoing support and special interest in our most recent capital fundraising efforts.  Dr. Batts’ legacy continues on through the very special relationship we are privileged to enjoy with Alice and Ara.”

The grand opening will be Saturday, March 10 at 10 a.m.

There will be activities throughout the two days festival including pancakes smothered in real maple syrup; an opportunity to stroll along a wooded trail with a KNC Naturalist for a fun maple sugaring tour. Maple Midway with games inspired by nature for kids of all ages.  And adults can browse the Maple Market with maple-themed vendors and products. Festival-goers will have a chance to see the Kalamazoo Nature Center’s  Birds of Prey and other ambassador animals up close at special Creature Features throughout the day.

Other Maple Sugar Festival highlights will include visits to the DeLano Homestead for horse-drawn wagon rides (weather permitting), tours of the 1858 farmhouse, ice cream topped with maple syrup, and visits to a pioneer maple sugaring site. 

Source: Kalamazoo Nature Center

Lakeside for Children names Sandra “Sam” Lealofi as new CEO

Sandra "Sam" Lealofi has been chosen to be the next CEO of the residential treatment facility and school Lakeside for Children. Lealofi will take over from Don Nitz who is retiring as CEO after 12 years. 

The 111-year old Lakeside helps vulnerable boys and girls in Kalamazoo ages 12 through 17. Its mission is to prepare children to lead responsible and fulfilling lives by providing mentoring, education, living skills, and support within a safe, structured, dynamic environment. Up to 124 youths live and attend school year-round on Lakeside’s 48-acre campus, supervised and cared for by 145 teachers, counselors, and administrators.

“We picked a winner,” says Joe Brogger, longtime Lakeside board member who led the search process for the new CEO. “Sam is a natural leader with a deep commitment to helping vulnerable kids succeed. Her experience in teaching, working with diverse populations, and building partnerships, will combine well with her background in organizational, board, and fund development. She’s just the right person to lead Lakeside forward.” 

Since 2011, Lealofi has served as executive director of Eastside Youth Strong, a nonprofit organization serving marginalized youth in the Eastside and Eastwood neighborhoods of Kalamazoo. She previously served as executive director of Eastside Neighborhood Association, as child and family advocate program manager for a community initiative serving the Eastside neighborhood, as both director of vocational education for the Work First Program and supervisor of Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative with Goodwill Industries of Southwest Michigan, and as a program officer with Kalamazoo Community Foundation.

She also spent 12 years in the U.S. Air Force as an academic instructor and law enforcement specialist. 

She earned a B.S. degree in occupational therapy from Western Michigan University (WMU) and has completed master’s degree coursework in development administration, also at WMU.

In 2016, she received a Woman of Achievement award from the YWCA of Kalamazoo for outstanding leadership and community involvement. In 2017, she was named an Outstanding Alumnae by the WMU College of Health and Human Services for significant contributions to the youth and families of Southwest Michigan.

Lealofi will work alongside Don Nitz until his April 1 retirement.

“I’m honored to help carry forward the legacy and mission of Lakeside,” said Lealofi. “There is such enthusiasm and energy on campus. I want to spread the word about this vital community asset and invite the community here to see it for themselves. Lakeside is changing lives. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?”

Source: Lakeside for Children

Collective dream for Battle Creek goal of upcoming convenings

A movement to face the issues of privilege, race, and bias in Battle Creek is forming in the city. 

The Battle Creek Coalition for Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation is working to address the historic and current effects of racism and bring about transformational and sustainable change as part of the work the W.K. Kellogg Foundation's efforts in Michigan and other cities across the country.

The Coalition is organizing multiple events to which the public is invited. The convenings will be in two unique community spaces and will be co-facilitated by different community leaders. An objective of these convenings is that they will be a way for community members to grow a deeper sense of connection and relationship with one another to collectively engage in a unique process for truth, racial healing, and transformation in Battle Creek. Community members will gain a basic understanding of the Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation framework and local activities and begin to collaboratively define a collective dream for promoting racial equity and eliminating racism in Battle Creek; and take action by joining the TRHT Action Teams.

There will be a number of sessions convened in coming this spring. They are:   

• Saturday, March 10, from 3-5 p.m. at the Kool Family Center Valentine Room, 200 West Michigan Ave, Battle Creek. It will be co-facilitated by Rev. Alvin Herring, Director of Racial Equity and Community Engagement with the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Jorge Zeballos, Executive Director of the Center for Diversity & Innovation, and Rosemary Linares, Coordinator for the Battle Creek Coalition for TRHT.

• Saturday, April 21, from 3-5 pm at the Burma Center, 765 Upton Ave, Springfield, MI and co-facilitated by Jorge Zeballos and Rosemary Linares.

• Saturday, May 19, 2018 from 3-5 pm, pm at the Burma Center, 765 Upton Ave, Springfield, MI and co-facilitated by Kris Miller, Executive Director of the Fair Housing Center for Southwest Michigan, and Rosemary Linares.

Childcare will be provided at the community convenings. Please RSVP for childcare, request to join the mailing list or ask questions by emailing To find out more information and RSVP for events, visit 

The Battle Creek Coalition for Truth, Racial Healing, and Transformation (TRHT) is one of 13 other communities across the U.S. working on healing the nation's racial divide as part of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation’s TRHT effort.

Source: Battle Creek Coalition for Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation 

Barrier-free, universal access will soon be available at Bow in the Clouds Preserve

Creating universal, barrier-free access to Bow in the Clouds Preserve in Kalamazoo will be possible this spring now that $40,000 has been raised for the project.

Donations from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, a number of funding partners, many Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy, and others, the goal for creating access was not only reached but exceeded. 

Phase One of the access will be constructed this spring and a grand opening is anticipated this fall.  Phase 1 of the plan will include: 

• a barrier-free loop trail that will be smooth and level in the upland area of the preserve that people with wheelchairs or walkers, or those with visual challenges can navigate

• a new trailhead that will be oriented so that it can be experienced from a standing or sitting position; 

• a platform with a ramp at the wetland overlook which will accommodate wheelchairs and classroom lessons; and

• several new benches where people can sit down to rest or just enjoy the preserve.

Bow in the Clouds was donated to the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy by the Sisters of St. Joseph in 2007. The 60-acre preserve includes one-mile of moderate trails and boardwalk from the parking area through a wetland and forest. The land behind the Nazareth Center off Gull Road is open to the public. 

Plans to make the preserve barrier-free were developed in cooperation with the Disability Network Southwest Michigan and the Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy.

“As a person with vision loss, being able to listen to the nature that surrounds us, touching and smelling the various flowers, feeling the fallen logs, and just sitting and feeling the breezes made visiting Bow in the Clouds so enjoyable,” says Denise S. Davies, a participant in a Disability Network field trip to Bow in the Clouds led by SWMLC’s Conservation Stewardship Director Nate Fuller.

According to the Disability Network Southwest Michigan, more than 50,000 or 20 percent of Kalamazoo County’s residents have a disability. “Too often, barriers in the physical environment create segregated communities and feelings of isolation," says the Disability Network's CEO and President Joel Cooper. "Having access to recreational activities and the means of being able to share that experience with others aids in creating a healthy and inclusive community.”

The barrier-free, universal access improvements at Bow in the Clouds will not only create a natural haven for people who are mobility-challenged, they will also provide the foundation for nature-based education programs serving children in Kalamazoo’s Eastside Neighborhood, says Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy's Fuller.

The SWMLC will continue the Eastside Arts and Sciences Experiential Learning (EASEL) program with Eastside Youth Strong at Bow in the Clouds, and has been working with the  Spring Valley Center for Exploration to learn how Bow in the Clouds can be integrated into their K-5 Communities in Schools curriculum.

SWMLC is planning further universal barrier-free access improvements in a second phase of the project which could begin as early as 2019 if fundraising is successful.

Source: Southwest Michigan Land Conservancy

Kalamazoo real estate investor to show America how he takes houses from 'Gritty to Pretty'

A television pilot featuring Kalamazoo real estate investor Jeremy Cole and local production company IMEEDIA will air Saturday, Feb. 10 on the DIY Network. 

"From Gritty to Pretty" highlights  Cole’s real estate investment projects, where he works to find the worst houses on the market to transform them.

Jeremy Cole bought his first property at 19 years old and has been actively purchasing and renovating properties for more than a decade. He currently owns 16 rental properties around Kalamazoo County, taking the homes that no one would want and making them into something the community can be proud of. 

Jeremy began filming some of his projects with IMEEDIA, and IMEEDIA posted them on their YouTube channel for their viewers. The videos and Cole’s endeavors caught the eye of Arcadius Productions, a Detroit-based company. It approached Cole and IMEEDIA for a television show development deal in February 2017. 

Their work was featured by Southwest Michigan's Second Wave here and here

In a press release, IMEEDIA and Rebuilt Incorporated say they are excited for “Gritty to Pretty” to showcase the best of what Kalamazoo has to offer – a great community and great opportunities for entrepreneurs. 

IMEEDIA founder and CEO, Stanley Steppes, says that his production company “strives to give a lens on what’s possible, to move people forward.”  

Rebuilt Incorporated and IMEEDIA are two companies based in Kalamazoo. Both led by Kalamazoo natives and African American entrepreneurs, this collaboration highlights the best of underrepresented communities working together to create dynamic, economic development opportunities, the collaborators say.

Jeremy Cole of Rebuilt Incorporated, and Stanley Steppes of IMEEDIA, both independently left their careers in finance to create new career and business opportunities for themselves and others. Both companies strive to employ and network individuals from underrepresented communities, as well as youth, to create a new narrative on what is possible for those that have a dream.


Sweetwater Donut Mill gets into the franchise business with Plainwell shop

2017 was a very good year for Sweetwater's Donut Mill. It was named one of the 10 Best Donut Shops in America by Business Insider, won Best Bakery in Michigan by Yelp voters, and Best Donut Shop in Michigan by Best Things Michigan. 
Now, the donut shop with the glowing accolades has expansion plans for 2018. Sweetwater’s Donut Mill was founded by the Garner family -- Kathy, Greg & Trish -- in 1983 with its first location on Stadium Drive. The second store opened three years later in Battle Creek and a third opened in 1989. 

In February, Sweetwater’s Donut Mill will open its first franchise store in Plainwell. The store at  554 Allegan Street is expected to open in mid-February. It will have 4,200 square feet and serve as a full retail outlet and training center for future franchisees. Because it will be used for training the site is larger than the typical stores that will range from 1,800 – 2,500 square feet. 

The Plainwell location is now under construction. Chris Olsen, president of Ridgeview Franchising, says it will be the template franchising store and retail location. "The store design, and decoration is representative of what future franchise stores will look and feel like. New additions include a fully integrated Point Of Sale system, modernized drive-thru, and refreshed look and feel. 

"Donuts are made onsite, and that will continue with all stores," Olsen says.  "We believe this is essential to our formula of success." Sweetwater's Donut Mill offers more than 50 donut flavors and 14 muffin flavors. It makes more than 100,000 donuts a week.

The company says that over the past 35 years many entrepreneurs have inquired about franchising Sweetwater’s Donut Mill across the United States due to the brand’s popularity and financial success in West Michigan. In 2015, Sweetwater’s Donut Mill approached Ridgeview Franchise Ltd. to learn about franchising. From there, SW’s Donut Mill was born. 

"Part of the process intent was to go slower, to ensure that we did not lose any of the Sweetwater’s attributes that make up the culture and the customer experience," Olsen says. "We also began looking for new site development for the franchise template store that also serves as a retail outlet. Site selection can take a while because we look for a specific set of metrics for store location--20,000 plus cars per day, morning-side drive, within one-half mile of major highway entrance, major commuter throughway, and drive-thru.  

"The City of Plainwell was great to work with and the community has been overwhelming with support."

The original stores will retain the Sweetwater's Donut Mill name and the franchise shops will be called SW's Donut Mill. 

Source: Sweetwater's Donut Mill

Career Life Expo: More than a job fair

For many, there are more obstacles to finding a job than drafting a resume. Lack of transportation, lack of affordable childcare, lack of stable housing, lack of experience in interviewing  -- any one of these hurdles can undermine a person’s ability to get hired and keep working.
The Career Life Expo, created through a partnership with United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region and Michigan Works! Southwest was designed to assist those who need help over the hurdles.

It will have local employers that are hiring and service agencies to help job seekers with other needs that get in the way of working. And it will also feature social service agencies to help job seekers with the challenges that get in the way of working. 

“Southwestern Michigan has companies that are hiring and qualified people eager to work,” says Eric Stewart, Administrator for Michigan Works! Southwest. “A run-of-the-mill job fair can connect those two groups. What makes the Career Life Expo different is its ability to help people address other issues that keep them from being able to work.”

Matt Lynn, Vice President of Community Impact for United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, says linking employment and support services is vital to helping people become financially stable.

“Nearly 39 percent of households in our region are what we call ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed),” said Lynn. “These are hard-working people who have jobs and yet struggle to make ends meet. Many are already in poverty. One car repair or one sick child can cause them to miss work, get behind on rent or utilities, maybe even cost their

“We want to help people resolve those problems. We also want to help local businesses fill job openings so they can be successful. That strengthens the local economy and benefits everyone,” Lynn added.

The Career Life Expo takes place Tuesday, Feb. 20, from noon to 4 p.m., at Wings Event Center in Kalamazoo. More than 80 area employers will be there to conduct interviews for hundreds of job openings. As jobseekers enter the building, they’ll be greeted by representatives from several area service agencies to help them with everything from building their resumes to finding affordable child care.

The first hour of the Expo will be a VIP session for anyone who has served in the armed forces and for anyone with a disability. All job seekers will be welcomed starting at 1 p.m. Sponsors of the Career Life Expo include United Way, Michigan Works! Southwest, Wings Event Center, AmeriFirst Home Mortgage, and Midwest Communications.

Free transportation is available from Michigan Works! service centers in Kalamazoo (1601 S. Burdick St., pick up 12:30 p.m., drop-off 3:15 p.m.) and Battle Creek (200 W. Van Buren St., pick up 11:30 a.m., drop-off 4:15 p.m.).

Questions about the Expo can be directed to Michigan Works! Southwest, (269) 383-2536 or Updates on the event are found at

Source: United Way of the Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Region, Rick Chambers & Assoc.

Kalamazoo Community Foundation names new marketing director

Sarah Lee is the new director of Marketing Communications at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation

She will lead the market communications team that includes communications officer Tom Vance.

Previously, as director of Marketing and Communications for Kalamazoo Wings at Wings Event Center, she led the marketing strategy for the minor league hockey team where she increased walk up ticket sales by 27 percent year over year in the 2016-2017 hockey season. 

Earlier she led and managed the marketing operations for 15 business outlets under Greenleaf Hospitality Group. 

She began her career in marketing communications with the Kalamazoo Regional Chamber of Commerce. Sarah earned a Bachelor's degree in Journalism and a Master's degree in Organizational Communications from Western Michigan University. 

She is the co-founder of Kalamazoo Social Media Week and TweetUp Kalamazoo, and a graduate of Leadership Kalamazoo.

Source: Kalamazoo Community Foundation

National Day of Racial Healing observances set in Battle Creek and Kalamazoo

Battle Creek and Kalamazoo will be among communities across the United States that will be part of the second annual National Day of Racial Healing on Jan. 16. The day offers an opportunity for people, organizations and communities nationwide to call for racial healing, bring people together in their common humanity and take collective action to create a more just and equitable world.

In Battle Creek, community members will gather at key intersections throughout the, holding heart-shaped signs (to be provided to participants) to remind people that love is the foundation for changing hearts and minds. The demonstration from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. will highlight the importance of love by engaging the heart of all people as a first step in working toward racial healing. (You can call (269) 979-2945 or send an email to to become involved.)

High school students from throughout the Battle Creek area will fill the W.K. Kellogg Auditorium for an interactive art and music experience from 12:30 to 2 p.m. intended to reinforce common humanity and celebrate the differences that make the community vibrant. 

"Bringing students from area high schools together is a beginning for a youth community healing effort – youth have always had leadership roles in the nation’s transformative efforts,” says La June Montgomery Tabron, president and CEO of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. "As we celebrate the second annual National Day of Racial Healing, there is no other place I’d rather be than with our young people in Battle Creek."

The event's organizers say, "Youth are an important part of a community's efforts to bridge the divides and it is essential to elevate their voice in a community's collective efforts to transform its future."
This event will include a blessing by the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of the Potawatomi, a welcome from WKKF President and CEO La June Montgomery Tabron, and performances by national and local artists. This experience will equip and engage students in the process to heal and transform our community.

And the City of Battle Creek will issue a proclamation to recognize the National Day of Racial Healing and to support ongoing work in an effort to heal the wounds created by racial, ethnic and religious bias and build an equitable and just Battle Creek. 

Meanwhile, in Kalamazoo, the Kalamazoo TRHT partnership is getting input from people across the community who aren’t usually "at the table" to lift those voices and perspectives up to help inform our local TRHT vision – in partnership with Rootead, KYDnet, Douglass Community Association, Welcoming Michigan, and others. There will be more of these types of activates in the future.

The Kalamazoo Community Foundation also has a number of ideas for people who want to be part of the work being done Jan. 16 and beyond. One idea is to have a conversation. Anyone can have a conversation about racism with their family, friends, or in their workplace. Businesses, organizations, and individuals can hang a poster in a visible place to show support for the day. Posters can be picked up from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation on Thursday, Jan. 11 and Friday, Jan. 12 between 9 a.m.-5 p.m. at Kalamazoo Community Foundation, 402 E. Michigan Ave.

Those in Kalamazoo also can attend an event. There will be free public events hosted by the Arcus Center for Social Justice Leadership at Kalamazoo College (205 Monroe St., Kalamazoo) on Jan. 16. Details and updates can be found here.

• Reclaiming Native History and Culture film and discussion 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

• Workshop led by nationally-renowned organizer, educator, and curator Mariame Kaba 5– 8 p.m.

RSVP for either by emailing RSVP to

Sources: Kalamazoo Community Foundation; and Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation Battle Creek

Monroe-Brown internship opportunities announced for 2018

Eighteen Southwest Michigan companies will hire 23 interns this year with the support of the Monroe-Brown Foundation and Southwest Michigan First. 

Engineering, financial planning, human resources, marketing, architecture, construction, and product management are some of the fields which will be offering 2018 summer internships. 

Interns will work at their respective companies for a minimum of 400 hours between May and September. The internships are typically full-time for 10 weeks but can be customized to fit the needs of the individual companies and interns.

The Monroe-Brown Internship Program provides interns with $3,000 in scholarship funding for college, an hourly wage paid by the employer, and resume-building career experience. The internships often result in job placement upon graduation for the students who fill them. 

“We are grateful to the Monroe-Brown Foundation for its commitment to supporting internships, a key way for our community’s leaders to give the next generation hands-on experience working at great companies in our region,” says Ron Kitchens, chief executive officer and senior partner of Southwest Michigan First.

The program is open to incoming juniors, seniors and graduate students at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo College, Davenport University (Kalamazoo Campus only), Michigan State University, University of Michigan and second-year students at Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Students attending Michigan State University and the University of Michigan must have graduated from a high school in the greater Kalamazoo area.

"The Monroe-Brown Foundation is dedicated to helping higher education students thrive as they become permanent contributors to Southwest Michigan’s workforce," says Robert M. Brown, Jr., president of the Monroe-Brown Foundation. 

Source: Southwest Michigan First

Available internships, applications and further program details can be found here. Internship applications are due Wednesday, Feb, 28, 2018.

Participating companies
Companies participating in the Monroe-Brown Internship Program in 2018 are:
  • avb
  • Consumers Credit Union
  • CRB
  • CSM Group
  • Eckert Wordell
  • Edwards Garment
  • Fabri-Kal
  • Landscape Forms
  • LVM Capital Management
  • Miller-Davis Company
  • Mol-Son, LLC
  • SalesPage Technologies, LLC
  • Schupan & Sons
  • Southwest Michigan First
  • Tekna, Inc.
  • TowerPinkster
  • Treystar Holdings
  • Western Diversified Plastics

Bell’s Brewery and educational institutions to offer an opportunity for future brewers

Bell's Brewery is partnering with  Kalamazoo Valley Community College and Western Michigan University to give students experience in four of the brewery's key departments. 

Through the new Bell's Brewery Development Award the Comstock-based brewer has created a position that will give the award winner hands-on experience in all aspects of production.

Over the course of one year, students will rotate through and learn about Bell’s Quality, Brewing, Packaging and Brewing Innovation departments at its main brewery in Comstock.

“Talent continues to be in high demand within the brewing industry and by partnering with these two educational institutions, we are able to inspire candidates who not only have a shared passion for Brewing Science but also roots here in Michigan,” says Carrie M. Yunker, Bell’s Director of Human Resources.

The WMU and KVCC brewing program was developed in 2015 by the two schools working in close coordination with the industry. The resulting program in sustainable craft brewing offers students the opportunity to earn a certificate or associate degree at KVCC, then move on to a Bachelor of Science degree at WMU.
John Mallett, Bell’s Director of Production, Stephanie Blodgett, Bell’s Talent Acquisition Coordinator, and Yunker,  developed this new program with Mike Babb, KVCC Sustainable Brewing Instructor, and Steve Bertman, WMU Department of Chemistry Professor.

“Bell’s has put together a thoughtful and generous position for someone to get hands-on experience in all aspects of production at a thriving and world-renowned craft brewery. That they are reserving this position for someone from our program is a recognition of the care and rigor that we have incorporated from the very beginning,” says Bertman.

“Partnering the strengths of the two largest institutions of higher education in Kalamazoo with the incredibly experienced and diverse breweries in the area provides a great structure for students who are interested in enhancing the efficiency and sustainability of the industry.”

WMU and KVCC will start accepting submissions in January for the position. The final day to apply will be March 1 and the internship will begin on April 30.
Those selected must have a completed a KVCC Sustainable Brewing Certificate. The program is available exclusively to KVCC and WMU students.

Source: Bell's Brewery

WMU neighborhood along Stadium Drive to be redeveloped

Changing demographics on Western Michigan University's campus such as a strong international enrollment and an increasing number of students from other states is driving the university to build new student housing. 

Students' housing preferences also are changing, which makes this the time to consider and carefully plan for future housing needs, says Dr. Diane Anderson, vice president for student affairs.

In what is known as the South Neighborhood there will be a newly constructed student center, housing, and a new campus gateway. The South Neighborhood is highly visible from the adjacent Stadium Drive. 

WMU says this visibility gives the university an opportunity to create a campus gateway that offers a "wow" factor along what WMU President Edward Montgomery recently noted is "the longest contiguous face of the campus."

"This is all about transforming the student experience on campus--making sure the student center and residential neighborhoods are set up to offer our students a truly transformational environment," says  Anderson. "It's more important than ever that we provide a rich student experience on campus--one that is cutting edge, enriching and engaging.”

The first new student housing in the area is expected to be ready for occupancy in 2020, and a new student center is targeted to be available in 2021. Intense long-range planning for the entire South Neighborhood is expected to begin soon and be completed by October 2018. That neighborhood master plan will guide development through 2023.

City planners and the Michigan Department of Transportation also are proposing development near the Stadium Drive and Howard Street intersection.  "The chance to develop for our students' needs at the same time we coordinate with community needs and planning is a very appealing prospect," Anderson says. 

That potential is a prime reason Montgomery and other senior leaders are convinced the South Neighborhood needs to be next in line for development, she says.

The first new housing in South Neighborhood will replace Elmwood Apartments, a tract of 16 low-rise student apartment buildings that house about 220 students.

Students now living in Elmwood were informed in early November that once the academic year is over and their leases end, the apartments will be demolished in late May to prepare the site for new student housing construction in 2019. 

The South Neighborhood development is in keeping with a campuswide housing and dining master plan adopted in 2013.

Source: Western Michigan University 

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