In The News

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Sturgis Journal: Infant simulator is eye-opening

At Mendon High School lessons under the parenting unit of the life skills class leave some students convinced having a child is something they're not ready for, reports the Sturgis Journal. 
An "infant simulator," produced by a Wisconsin company called Realityworks, gives high school students a chance to experience life with a baby. The doll is weighted proportionate to its height. Its temperament is set at medium through a computer program controlled by Walbeck. Lower settings result in a docile child, while a higher setting reflects the personality of a baby who demonstrates severe distress.
Excerpt: Billie Stewart, a junior, learned a lot in the 48 hours she was in the care of the lifelike doll. The biggest lesson she learned, however, pleased her teacher, Gayle Walbeck. "This is why I’m not going to have a kid until I’m, like, 35," Stewart said.
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Source: Sturgis Journal

Cassopolis Vigilant: Robo Rangers climb pyramid

The Robo Rangers from Cassopolis are hard at work on their second robot. And they've come a long way in the past year considering some team members originally didn't even know how to use some of the tools, reports the Cassopolis Vigilant. 
Excerpt: Things have changed in the past 12 months, according to Project Manager Molly Moroz. "Those kids are now leading the build team," Moroz said.
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Source: Cassopolis Vigilant

Niles Daily Star: Trail project fundraising to begin soon

Private commitments totalling nearly $41,000 have been raised for the Niles Charter Township portion of the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail, reports the Niles Daily Star. The township has committed $141,000 toward the project. When finished, the trail will connect Niles to Mishawaka with 34 miles of multi-use trail. The township’s portion covers 3.5 miles from the state line to the City of Niles.
Two separate grants totalling more than $700,000 for the project have been recommended for approval according to Harry Thibault, township park commission chairman said the grant monies are not guaranteed. 
Excerpt: "The Niles Charter Township Park Commission and our cooperating, regional trail planners see this project not only as a recreational trail, but as a means of economic development, alternative transportation, health promotion, pollution mitigation and esthetic growth," Thibault said.
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Source: Niles Daily Star

Paw Paw Courier Leader: Visions for downtown Lawton

New decorative sidewalks and crosswalks, trees and planters, new lighting fixtures and signage, could be part of a new look for the Village of Lawton all designed to entice those driving through the village to slow down and take a look around. The Paw Paw Courier Leader reports village officials hope such measures would bring more business to the village and help strengthen Lawton’s identity along with slowing down traffic on Main Street and offering safe pedestrian crossing on the road also known as M-40.
Excerpt: "All this does come at a cost," Matt Davis, of Wightman & Associates, the village’s engineering firm, told council members Tuesday night during their regular monthly meeting. The total estimated cost is $810,000 to spruce up a slightly more than three-quarter-mile stretch of Main Street between White Oak Road and Fourth Street. The village’s estimated portion of the cost is $408,780.
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Source: Paw Paw Courier Leader 

Chicago Magazine: Time for a brew in Kalamazoo

Chicago Magazine encouraged readers to visit Kalamazoo for the third annual Kalamazoo Beer Week, Jan. 11 through Jan. 18. The magazine says: Over the week, local restaurants and breweries will host more than 100 beer-related events, including tastings, home brewing and bottling demonstrations, brewery tours, seminars in beer cocktails, and a "Sunday beer brunch."
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Source: Chicago Magazine 

MLive: Bedding plant industry faces challenges

Lisa Ambrosio, who took over the reins of her family's Wenke Greenhouses Jan.1, comes in at a time when her job will be to wrestle with an industry that is undergoing huge changes, reports MLive. 
Across the industry, sales have remained flat and profit margins continue to shrink. In Kalamazoo County, there has been little, if any, new greenhouse construction in the past five years -- in contrast to the previous five years, which saw 5 to 10 percent growth annually, said Lorence Wenke, Ambrosio's father. Shrinking profit margins have prompted some growers to retire, others to sell out, and there are fewer, larger operations now.
Excerpt: Ambrosio's biggest challenge in leading what Wenke said is the 29th largest greenhouse business in the nation will be learning to adapt to changing consumer demand in a very competitive environment where there is little room for mistakes.
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Source: MLive

Detroit Free Press: Food Safety in Battle Creek

Battle Creek is attracting increased federal attention -- and funding -- for one of the hottest and most important issues on the planet these days: food safety, reports the Detroit Free Press. The International Food Protection Training Institute (IFPTI), now part of the Global Food Protection Institute (GFPI) in Battle Creek, has helped train thousands of inspectors and worked with officials from China, Turkey and elsewhere to improve food safety. A staff of three has grown to 18 regular and contract employees, plus a nationwide network of nearly 100 instructors.
Excerpt:  "The institute has become more than they ever envisioned," said President and CEO Julia Bradsher, referring to the people at the civic group Battle Creek Unlimited and the Kellogg Foundation, which helped fund the institute's creation as a way to generate economic activity in the city and capitalize on the food industry expertise nearby.
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Source: Detroit Free Press

B. C. Enquirer: It's a SNAP in Calhoun County

Four participating farmers markets in Calhoun County redeemed nearly $14,000 in SNAP benefits during the 2011 fiscal year the most recent year for which numbers are available, according to the Department of Agriculture’s Food and Nutrition Service stats published by the Battle Creek Enquirer. 
Excerpt: "We know that in the last few years, the total amount SNAP benefits has leveled off," said Rachel Chadderdon Bair, program director of the Double Up Food Bucks (DUFB) program. "The fact that more SNAP benefits are being spent at farmers markets indicate there’s more interest in local food and healthy food."
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Source: Battle Creek Enquirer

Kalamazoo Gazette: A Speak It Forward Celebration

The Kinetic Affect duo, Kirk Latimer and Gabriel Giron, have been showing youth at Lakeside Academy how to take charge of their problems with words, reports the Kalamazoo Gazette. They'll be showcasing what they've done at Chenery Auditorium Jan. 12. Kinetic Affect and local musicians will perform, the Mt. Zion Baptist Church choir will sing and Kalamazoo Mayor Bobby Hopewell will emcee, but the stars of the show will be current and former students of Lakeside Academy, the juvenile rehabilitation facility on Oakland Drive.
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Source: Kalamazoo Gazette

WWMT: The Fresh Food Fairy Of West Michigan

College students, businesses and programs in Kalamazoo came together to highlight healthy eating in the new year through a 2013 calendar that features the vibrant food community in West Michigan, with proceeds benefiting healthy eating programs for kids. One of those programs is the Fresh Food Fairy. Frayer’s goal is to go to every kindergarten class in Kalamazoo Public Schools, teaching kids healthy habits.  
Excerpt: "My basic presentation is about why fresh food is so fun and there's five reasons: it's very colorful, with fun shapes, interesting textures, delicious flavors and it helps our bodies grow strong and smart!" says Hether Frayer, the Fresh Food Fairy. 
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Source: WWMT 

Fourth Economy Index: Kalamazoo in top 10 of current rankings

The latest release of the "Fourth Economy Community (FEC) Index" was announced recently, listing the nation’s top 10 large-sized Fourth Economy Communities. These communities are those ideally positioned to attract modern investment and managed economic growth and Kalamazoo County is on the list. 
Excerpt: The "fourth economy" characterizes the most recent phase of our nation’s economy, reflecting a combination of the previous three to include agrarian, industrial, and technological. This new index is intended to serve as a dashboard for community stakeholders to gauge their capacity to attract and retain modern investment. 
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Source: Fourth Economy Index

WKZO: County parks to get big improvements

Two Kalamazoo area parks have just won the jackpot, reports WKZO 96.5 FM. River Oaks Park near Galesburg and Flesher Field in Oshtemo have both been chosen by the state’s Natural Resource Trust fund to receive $300,000 for improvements, upgrades and repairs. 
At Flesher Field the parking lot will be moved, a running track installed and other improvements made. Rivers Oaks Park will get a new picnic area with a more accessible playground and paths, a splash pad, and parking lot improvements.
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Source: WKZO 

MLive: Kalamazoo Community Foundation awards $719,000 in grants

The Kalamazoo Community Foundation announced grants recently totaling more than $719,000 for nine area nonprofits, reports MLive. The grants, ranging from $22,500 to $180,000, represent the fourth round of grants approved by the Kalamazoo Community Foundation board of trustees in 2012.  
Excerpt: "The vision of our donors throughout 87 years, funding needs they could not have imagined, is realized in each round of grants," said Carrie Pickett-Erway, the foundation's president and CEO.
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Source: MLive

B.C. Enquirer: Kitchen serves 40,000th meal

In just 14 months, Battle Creek's first evening soup kitchen has served 40,058 hungry people. Recently, the kitchen marked the occasion of serving dinner guest number 40,000. The big moment came when John Cram, a homeless man, walked through the door. He was greeted and presented with a $25 Meijer gift card.
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Source: Battle Creek Enquirer

Kalamazoo Gazette: Run through the Lights 5K

Runners of all ages packed the Kalamazoo Mall by the hundreds recently, decked out in blinking lights, reindeer antlers, Santa hats and other festive gear for the annual Run Through the Lights, presented by Kalamazoo Area Runners and Gazelle Sports. Organizers announced an attendance of more than 1,000 registrants, who ran or walked the 5K course -- untimed -- that looped through the downtown area. The course was closed to vehicle traffic for the first time.  

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Source: Kalamazoo Gazette
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