Pontiac Senior Apartment Complex Destroyed In Fire; Community Coming Together To Provide Support For Residents

In Pontiac, an apartment complex for senior citizens caught fire, causing the need for emergency displacement, ClickOnDetroit reports.

The fire occurred at the West Manor apartments, which are located east of Woodward Avenue on Paddox Street.

Worldwide, over 1.5 billion people suffer from chronic pain, many of them senior citizens. Considering that the apartments were primarily occupied by senior citizens and retirees, many faced difficulties evacuating the complex in time. Luckily, two bystanders, Frank Benion and his brother, jumped into action to assist residents with evacuation, so everyone was able to escape and no serious injuries were reported.

“I was going down the hall, and this gentleman came and helped me out,” said Diane Ellsworth, who relies on a wheelchair for mobility.

She says a stranger appeared from the smoke, but before she could thank him, he “just took off and went to help someone else.”

As thankful as the residents are, Benion sees his actions as nothing more than a simple act of kindness.

“We ran on over there and started knocking on windows and doors…Not realizing the danger, just going in there and doing what a fellow citizen would do,” he said.

Benion also noted that even though the fire alarm was blaring, many of the residents were shocked into immobility.

“The people were in shock,” he said. “They didn’t believe what was going on.”

Even though everybody was able to escape safely, more than 50 seniors are now in need of emergency housing, and the community is quickly coming together to provide assistance, according to The Oakland Press.

Social Security makes up at least half of all income for 65% of retirees, which means that many of the residents affected by the fire may have trouble finding permanent housing. The apartment complex sustained serious structural damage from the fire and water used to extinguish it.

July 3, Patrice Waterman, council president, called an emergency crisis meeting at Pontiac City Hall to discuss displacement options. While around half were able to reside with friends and family, some were taken to New Birth International Church on Columbia Avenue and eventually transported to the Auburn Hills Marriott.

For a long term solution, the management of West Manor Apartments is discussing options with the city to find nearby vacancies. The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services has also been called on for assistance, as well as Meals on Wheels.

Ultimately, many community entities are quickly stepping up to show their support and help these senior citizens recover after losing everything.

“It was devastating to stand there and watch their lives go up in flames, but I have to commend the community,” said Waterman. “They came out and said what can I do, they were there with us, coming together to help those who have lost absolutely everything.”

Those interested in helping to provide assistance can call 248-758-3133 for more information.

Tires and Rims Stolen from Car Dealerships Across Michigan

Car dealerships in Cheboygan and Galesburg, MI were the victims of major thefts last week. Thieves took the tires and rims off of several vehicles in each dealership. But these are just the latest in a string of thefts that have taken place over the past several months.

According to Cheboygan County, Inverness Township-Sheriff Clarmont, several dealerships from Southern and Mid-Michigan all the way up to Cheboygan have been victims of a theft ring. The thieves reportedly used jacks to lift the vehicles, and patio blocks to keep them elevated after the wheels were removed.

In total, approximately 36 tires and rims were taken. The total loss rings up in the thousands for the Cheboygan car dealership.

“At this time we believe we are the farthest north this ring has traveled. We are working with law enforcement agencies across the state. At this time we know the target vehicles are special edition or upgraded rims on Fords, Chryslers and Lincolns. In many of the larcenies across the state the GPS systems are also targeted,” Clarmont said in a public statement.

Clarmont added that he believes the same ring may be responsible for other thefts across the state. It’s been reported that the ring utilizes radio communication and vehicle lookouts to organize their crimes. More than 67% of burglaries can typically be prevented with the use of security technology, but that hasn’t stopped the tire thieves. Scoping out the situation beforehand has given them an organized approach that may already take security into account.

Security equipment certainly didn’t stop this theft ring from stealing tires and wheels from new Ford Explorers, Expeditions and F-150 pickup trucks parked and for sale at the Galesburg Ford dealership.

According to office manager Karen Bowdish, a total of seven Explorers and two Expeditions on the lot were left without wheels. Five other vehicles were missing lugnuts and one E-150 van was even left without its seats.

Police report that the theft occurred the evening of Wednesday, June 21 or the morning of Thursday, June 22 around midnight. The sheriff’s office is currently investigating the theft, but as of right now there aren’t many leads. If caught, the individuals responsible for these thefts will likely join the 1% of civil cases that go to trial.

As such, anyone with pertinent information about any of the car dealership thefts is strongly encouraged to contact the Kalamazoo sheriff’s office as soon as possible.

West Michigan Towns Push For Beekeeping And Chicken Raising Law Reforms


In a country where nearly everything people consume is shipped from overseas and bought in a grocery store, farm and eco-friendly efforts are quickly growing in many states, and Michigan is no exception. Most recently, several cities are making legal strides toward allowing more residents to raise their own bees and chickens.
The Lansing State Journal reports that Delta Township Board of Trustees is considering reforming its zoning ordinances in residential neighborhoods, which currently restrict both bee and chicken raising.

Similarly, Grand Rapids is also working on loosening beekeeping restrictions. While the city legalized urban backyard chicken farming last year, it still has strict rules regarding beekeeping. The 13-year-old regulations only allow for beehives that are at least 100 feet from property lines and 150 feet from houses. For most city residents, those demands are simply impossible to meet.

One advocate of the loosening of beekeeping restrictions is Amy DeVrou, who voiced her concerns to the City Commission, according to MLive.

“The bees need our help,” she said. “Bees are important [for plant pollination and honey production] and they are dying off and we can do something about it…The main concern I hear is about people getting stung by bees. But modern bees are bred to be gentle and they don’t sting unless they’re threatened, stepped on or you’re going into their hive. When they’re out collecting pollen and nectar they have a job they’re trying to do.”

DeVrou’s argument seems more than sensible. While it’s true that honey bees can fly up to 15 miles per hour, the average person has a very low risk of being stung unless they’re intentionally aggravating the bees — they’re generally just trying to get their work done and stay out of the way.

The City of Holland, however, has allowed residents to raise both chickens and bees for years, according to Fox 17 News. Holland Charter Township officials are trying to do the same: improve self-sustainability by allowing residents to raise their own chickens and bees. A 12×12 inch box is all that is needed for a chicken to lay her eggs, and many residents would be grateful to have a bigger say in how they get their food.

“There’s a lot of people who would like to have chickens and bees,” said Holland Charter Township resident Tim Marr at a meeting Tuesday with the Planning Commission. “Like I said, the bee problem we’re having now they are so low they’re thinking about putting them on the endangered species list.”

“There’s really very little danger. With a little bit of education about the property, it really shouldn’t be a problem,” another resident chimed in. Fortunately, there didn’t seem to be much opposition to the proposal.

Hopefully, if these West Michigan towns continue to make strides toward eco-friendliness and self-sustainability, nearby towns will continue to follow suit.

Raise A Glass: Grand Rapids Ranks In Global Food And Drink Competition

Foodies rejoice: Grand Rapids has been recognized for its exceptional food and beverage tourism in a global competition. Michigan Live reports that Grand Rapids was just recognized by the FoodTrekking Awards, ranking second in the Best Food and Beverage Destination Experience category. Ontario, Canada took the top spot.

“We are looking for the world’s best destinations with exceptional food and drink experiences,” the category description reads. “Why is your destination the best? Do you offer an outstanding food and drink culture? Do you hold any gastronomic events or do you have simply the best farmers markets? All organizations that function in a “tourism promotion” function are eligible to apply.”

Grand Rapids, twice named “Beer City USA,” fits right into this category, according to the seven international food, drink, and tourism gurus who judged the competition. The judges select winners from applications submitted on the organization’s website. Kate Herron, the Director of Marketing with Experience Grand Rapids, said in a statement to Michigan Live that the ranking was well deserved.

“Beer City USA pairs perfectly with the emerging culinary scene in Grand Rapids,” she said. “We have a plethora of artesian culinary businesses popping up, and high quality restaurants as well which all contribute to this award in their own way.”

This recognition comes with the rise of digital “foodie” culture, with both Grand Rapids residents and tourists constantly posting photos of their culinary experiences. Breweries and similar businesses, for example, are hotspots for these social sharers, with over 11 million Instagram posts currently tagged #craftbeer. This has given local small businesses an entirely new way to find customers, as 51% of smartphone users discover new companies or products while searching on their mobile devices.

But social media users aren’t the only ones taking note of the growing Michigan restaurant scene. Grand Rapids foodie culture has been documented in national publications including Thrillist and Bon Appetit.

“Grand Rapids has tons of breweries and brewpubs and beer bars and beer-focused gastropubs, several of which we highlight here,” Nicole Rupersburg writes in Thrillist. “But that’s not all G-Rap is about! There is a huge focus on farm-to-table cuisine (easy for them, because the city is quite literally surrounded by a hundred miles of farmland in every direction), in-house butchery and charcuterie, and a pointed Michigan mindfulness.”

Michigan Live reports that applications for the 2018 FoodTrekker awards will open again in October of this year. Will Beer City USA rank again? Let your taste buds decide.

Air Force Disregards New Michigan Water Law Due to Legal Loophole

Despite the fact that Public Act 545, an amendment to Michigan’s Safe Drinking Water Act, took effect in January to essentially force the U.S. military to supply area residents with safe drinking water, it doesn’t look like the Air Force has any interest in complying.

Signed by Governor Rick Snyder, the bill was meant to help inhabitants of Oscoda whose wells were polluted with toxic chemicals. These toxic fluorocarbons — known as perfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS) and perfluorinated chemicals (or PFCs) — have been leaching from the now-closed Wurtsmith Air Force Base for the last few decades. The chemicals are an unfortunate result of the use of firefighting foam during the 1970s, but no one knew about the seepage until the late 1990s.

Only 1% of the water on Earth is suitable for drinking as it is. Public Act 545, sponsored by Senator Jim Stamas (R-Midland), was enacted so that the state or federal government would have to provide an alternative water supply for impacted residents, so long as state health officials have issued a drinking water advisory and that the pollution’s source can be traced back to the government.

However, the U.S. Air Force says it doesn’t have to comply with the law because they say the law itself is unfair.

Mark Kinkade, spokesperson for the Air Force, cited the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), which states that the federal government doesn’t have to comply with a state law if it’s discriminatory. However, the Air Force may be taking some license with the term “discriminatory” in this case.

“The Michigan law does discriminate as it only applies to federal and state agencies, not to all entities and persons,” Kinkade explained. Therefore, he says, the “Air Force is not authorized to comply with the mandates of Act 545 to provide an alternative water supply or to reimburse the state of Michigan when it provides an alternative water supply.”

Senator Stamas actually decided to sponsor the bill after he was told by military officials that the Air Force would provide alternative sources of drinking water to those impacted if Michigan’s laws were amended to require it. Their complete 180 is a source of frustration for Stamas.

“I am extremely disappointed in the U.S. Air Force for not living up to its word and its responsibilities,” he said. “The federal government needs to be held accountable for what they did, and I will be asking Attorney General Bill Schuette to pursue action to enforce the law.”

At present, site enforcers still do not know the extent of the chemical plumes or their exact threat to human health. In animal testing, they’ve been tied to problems with the thyroid, kidney, liver, and reproductive organs, as well as other issues.

Amidst Threat of EPA Funding Cuts, Michigan Kids Prove Knowledge is Power

Last month, the Donald Trump administration announced that they plan to cut funding to the Environmental Protection Agency by up to 31% and to essentially eliminate the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative. Should the president make good on this proposal, both the economy and ecology of the state of Michigan could sustain serious damage.

Every year, around 16,000 chemical spills from trucks, trains, and storage tanks occur, often polluting valuable resources and potentially causing harm to countless animals. Back in 1965, chemical sludge being held by unlined wastewater lagoons spilled into a stream that empties into Muskegon Lake — a body of water very close to Lake Michigan. Millions of dollars in government funding were eventually used to clean up that lake and restore it, but not before fish were poisoned with chemicals and petroleum.

Now, the same funding that saved Muskegon Lake is threatened by Trump’s 2018 “skinny budget” proposal, which would completely slash the funds given to the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative from $300 million to nothing.

Kathy Evans has seen the good of the GLRI firsthand. Her father regularly caught fish in Muskegon Lake after the spill, but he would throw them back when the chemical stench was too much to bear. Now, as the environmental program manager for West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission, Evans knows how important it is to protect the planet’s most valuable resources.

“I am grateful that we have the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative,” said Evans to Crain’s Detroit Business. “We are finally able to remove the toxic mud from our lakes and streams and make the needed improvements to the quality of our water, fish and wildlife, communities and economy.”

Of course, it’s not just toxic spills that threaten the earth. It’s estimated that 1 million birds, 100,000 turtles, and countless other sea animals die every year by ingesting plastic and other waste. The average American will actually generate up to four pounds of trash every day, and inevitably some of that waste will end up in the environment.

In the Great Lakes region, it’s often the water, mud, and sediment that’s poisoned by such pollution, threatening lives both wild and human.

A failure to provide federal funding for these efforts could also present a financial crisis for the region.

“The issue isn’t just about the environmental benefits, it’s economic,” said Cameron Davis, vice president of environmental engineering firm GEI Consultants Inc. “[GLRI] is significant for coastal communities that endured a long legacy of pollution; making sure those areas are restored ecologically, but also to make them prime destination spots, increased tourism and a lot of other economic benefits.”

Davis went on to say, “The upper Midwest is so critical in so many ways; having these areas cleaned up is good policy. In this case, what’s good for the environment is good for the tax base. I’ve always told our legislators that [GLRI] is small-case environment and upper-case economy.”

The positive economic impact of cleanup efforts is well-documented, too. Even the smaller portions of Muskegon Lake that were cleaned up before GLRI took effect brought benefits for the region. In 2009, a $10 million grant from the Troubled Asset Relief Program led to an ROI that was 6.6 times that amount. In removing toxic sediment from the shoreline, property values in the area increased by $12 million, which added $600,000 to the annual tax revenue. The efforts also brought 65,000 more tourists to the lake.

If budget cuts took effect, it would be up to state leaders and local residents to clean up the Great Lakes without any federal help. But, already, some local kids are doing their part to make a difference.

In Alpena, two members of a new group called Plastics FLOAT (an acronym for “For the Love of Alpena Today”) recently traveled to local restaurants to warn about the dangers of plastic waste.

Ten-year-old Sylvie Luther said, “We’re trying to inform people about Zero Waste Week. We’re asking the restaurants to not give people straws unless they ask for them.”

Why straws? They’re among the most harmful and most common types of marine debris, says Luther.

Zero Waste Week is intended to show the public how small changes can help improve the state of the planet. Sydney Silver added that she hopes her efforts will help change some minds, especially for the sake of kids in the future.

“I want to protect younger generations from what other people are putting out there for our generation to fix,” she told The Alpena News. “I don’t want my sister to deal with an ocean with a bunch of litter.”

While these small changes might not seem to be as effective as multi-million-dollar cleanup efforts, they are a reminder that it takes a village. Even Michigan residents who are decidedly pro-Trump are uneasy about the proposed cuts to the EPA.

Candace Miller, Macomb County Public Works commissioner and former Republican U.S. representative, said, “I am in support of many of the things Trump is trying to do, but this is a principal advocacy of mine. This is a really small amount of money, really, and it’s of great significance to the states that voted for him. These states can’t absorb [this cut]. This is a time where I hope the president will reconsider.”

Michigan Furniture Competitors Join Forces For Huge Holland Showroom

Typically, furniture is the third-most expensive thing people buy, after their homes and cars. But being able to find affordable furniture isn’t always an easy task. Fortunately for Michigan residents, two local furniture giants have come together to provide a wider range of options.

Klingman’s Furniture and Design and Hegg’s Gallery of Fine Furniture have joined forces to open a 50,000-square-foot showroom in Holland. While both businesses will maintain their other separate locations in Grand Rapids and Hart, they’re eager to serve the community with their combined location.

“We are thrilled about this new opportunity,” said Jason Israels, president of Klingman’s. “Hegg’s Furniture has served the lakeshore for decades by providing quality home furnishings and accents. We at Klingman’s Furniture and Design are excited to continue their practice while tying in our tradition of offering our customers a large selection of home furnishings at the very best value with superior service.”

Stacie Hegg, who owns Hegg’s Gallery of Fine Furniture, felt the companies had two choices: they could either continue to compete against each other, or they could merge on this venture and capitalize on a formerly inaccessible market.

While Hegg says her company currently caters to the mid-to-upper levels of the furniture market, Klingman’s specializes in higher-end pieces and clients. By working together, each company can reach customers they previously were unable to target.

Both businesses have a long history in the West Michigan area. Klingman’s has served local residents since 1896, and Hegg’s is now in its fourth generation of ownership since opening in 1946. At the new showroom, staff members from each company will work together, creating a new chapter for both brands.

West Michigan seems to be experiencing a bit of an interior decorating boom. Storage manufacturer California Closets recently announced that they’ll be building a manufacturing facility in Grand Rapids. Its construction will cost over $5.7 million and the facility is expected to create over 60 new jobs for area residents.

President of California Closets, Eric Wollf, said, “West Michigan is attractive to us due to many factors. The location offers proximity to our customers and supply base, but more importantly a strong talent base in manufacturing and design. The West Michigan area has been a leader in forward-thinking and furniture-related industries, which fits our direction and future.”

Michigan Study Finds Wooden Cutting Boards Are More Sanitary Than Plastic

In your home, hardwood and bamboo flooring options are popular due to their attractive appearance and overall durability. In fact, Strand bamboo floors are even stronger than traditional hardwoods, with a very high Janka rating of at least 3646 to 3780.

But while we love wooden floors in our living rooms and even in our kitchens, they weren’t always our first choice when cooking in those kitchens. For a long time, plastic cutting boards were thought to be more hygienic than traditional wooden cutting boards, but a study conducted by the University of Michigan suggests that we’re actually much better off with wood and bamboo cutting boards to match those gorgeous hardwood floors.

The popular belief is that porous wooden surfaces allow for more bacterial absorption, making them more hazardous to our health than plastic options. But what this theory doesn’t consider is the fact that when we use plastic cutting boards, our sharp knives will create cuts and grooves in the material where bacteria like to hang out.

It is true that bacteria will be absorbed into wooden surfaces, but they will not multiply and will eventually die off. In addition, manual cleaning tends to be quite effective for wooden cutting boards. However, the study found that “more bacteria are recovered from a used plastic surface than from a used wood surface.”

Another study out of the University of Wisconsin showed that wooden cutting boards outperformed plastic ones when they came into contact with dangerous bacteria like Salmonella, E.coli, and Listeria.

And while a brand new plastic cutting board can easily be disinfected, one that’s covered in knife cuts is practically impossible to disinfect completely, either by hand or with help from a dishwasher. That means that many home cooks are unknowingly using contaminated surfaces over and over again.

The good news is that with an increased focus on sustainability and natural materials, wooden cutting boards are making a comeback. They last longer, keep knives sharper, and are often produced by small, craft-oriented businesses. If you’ve been loyal to the plastic kind, it might be a good time to invest in some high-quality wooden cutting boards to ensure the health of your family.

Lead #LikeAGirl Program Receives Award at Grand Rapids Trade Show

Back in 2015, Canton Leisure Services launched a new program inspired by a popular Super Bowl ad. The ad, produced by Always, was created to turn an old-fashioned gendered insult on its head, making viewers rethink what it really means to do things #LikeAGirl. The phrase “You throw like a girl!” has historically been used to shame both girls and boys, and it’s especially damaging to pubescent young women. The commercial shows how pivotal it is to change the connotation of the phrase “like a girl” and highlights just how strong and amazing girls are.

Encouraged by the cultural importance of the advertisement, the Lead #LikeAGirl program was born. Directed towards at-risk, diverse women between the ages of 11 and 15, Lead #LikeAGirl is meant to change the way both the community and the program participants think about female leadership, relationships, self-confidence, and struggles.

Now, the program has been recognized for its impact with an award. In February 2017, Lead #LikeAGirl received an “Innovative Recreation Programming Award” at the mParks Michigan Recreation and Park Association’s annual Conference and Trade Show.

The expo, which is held in Grand Rapids, covers all kinds of topics, from sustainability and overall health to gender identity and tech. And while the top three goals for trade show exhibitors are brand awareness, lead generation, and relationship building, the Lead #LikeAGirl program was recognized for other achievements: namely, their dedication to informing and inspiring young women throughout their monthly workshops.

The Canton Leisure Services staff worked tirelessly to form collaborations with other local organizations, including the Canton Public Library, Canton Public Safety, Plymouth-Canton Community Schools, and even Michigan State Representative Kristy Pagan.

During its first year, 15 young women had graduated from the program as of June 2016. Not only do those ladies now understand what it means to Lead #LikeAGirl, but so do their friends, family, and community members.

Popular Ann Arbor Restaurant Opening New Location in Grand Rapids

palioPalio Ristorante — a longtime Ann Arbor favorite — has announced that it will be expanding to Grand Rapids. The new location is set to open on Medical Mile sometime in the spring.

Mainstreet Ventures owns Palio Ristorante in addition to the Chop House in Ann Arbor and in downtown Grand Rapids. Other restaurants owned by the company include Gratzi, Carson’s, Real Seafood Company, La Dolce Vita, and several others in 12 cities across five different states.

The new Palio location will be where El Barrio Mexican Grill on Michigan Street NE was operating previously. Before opening their new location, Mainstreet will completely renovate the old space.

The company has put forth a budget of $400,000 for a complete floor-to-ceiling remodel of the building’s interior. Some of the new additions will include a pizza oven in full view of the restaurant and a brand new bar. Mainstreet prides itself on creating venues in which patrons can watch their food being made, and that’s their goal in the new location as well.

The menu will be filled with Tuscan-inspired dishes such as fettuccine, carbonara, pizza, and lasagna. For the 10% of U.S. adults who largely follow a vegetarian-inclined diet, this might not be a go-to dining establishment. But in addition to all of those dishes, the menu will offer craft beer, cocktails, and an extensive wine list.

The original Palio location in Ann Arbor opened in 1991 and was named for the famous horse race that occurs in Italy twice annually. The original location actually features a wall covered in pictures of the race’s victors over the years.

The new Grand Rapids location will be open for lunch and dinner, seating approximately 150 people indoors and another 50 on an outdoor patio during warmer months. The new location will begin accepting applications on March 19.

The new restaurant is certainly a welcome change for many residents in Grand Rapids, as well as something to look forward to in the coming spring.