Women Helped by Retail Sales Outreach in WAR International

by CHRISTINE BIGNEY

warjessica

You can walk into many of the stores in downtown Rockford, and there is a good chance that the business is owned by a woman.

In the United States and in West Michigan, women – and people in general – enjoy many opportunities to benefit from their own efforts, improve their lives and ‘live the American dream.’

In the media, today’s news is all of the sky is falling variety, forgetting or failing to note that our quality of life in the U.S., and in West Michigan, is not really so bad. In fact, we are in a position to help others who truly are in economic and personal disaster.

war1Jessica Gordon, a local business woman, runs WAR Chest Boutique located at 119 Courtland Street in downtown Rockford. She believes people will be willing to help improve the lives of others if they are given an opportunity.

Gordon tells how her organization helps women in Asia in regions that have become the newest source for traffickers of young destitute girls and women, some as young as nine years old. They are transported across borders and sold into sexual slavery throughout Asia.

Gordon tells of an African business woman who was tricked into selling her business and moved to Thailand where she expected to start a new business. Instead she was forced into prostitution.

war2Other horror stories include a newborn Thai baby sold for $200 to traffickers.

But there is hope for these women through a Christian organization called Women At Risk (WAR) International.

Partnering with several different programs in other countries like Thailand, Uganda, Nepal, India, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Jordan and the Philippines, Gordon’s boutique showcases jewelry these girls and women produce in safe houses which are sponsored by WAR. The jewelry are made from pearls and semi-precious stones.

“The jewelry is sent on consignment, with the safe houses setting the prices. The proceeds go to these women to help them get their GED, get them proper medical care, preventative medical care,” Gordon explained.

Gordon found herself running the Rockford store after some mutual friends asked her if she was interested. A grant from a private foundation made it possible. “It was kind of an experiment, “Gordon related, “to see if showcasing the women’s work in an environment such as Rockford would work.”

Gordon went to India in her senior year of high school. “I was always interested in going there. I have always been interested in different cultures. My mom used to call me ‘Justice Jessica’ because I always got mad at mean people.”

war4What she saw was a lot of poverty. “What I walked away with is that they would not question their lot in life. The women in the lower castes felt like they had no control over what is to become of them and many end up becoming prostitutes.”

war3Gordon stated that women in most cultures overseas are targeted for slavery and prostitution. That is why WAR sponsors programs that teaches these women skills so they can keep them out of the red light district. “You can keep throwing money at them all day, but if you don’t train them, it won’t solve the problem,” Gordon said.

WAR sponsors safe houses, where women are rescued from trafficking and provided job training.

Gordon said that the Rockford area has shown support and concerned for the programs WAR are involved in. “People like knowing that they are purchasing something that is supporting someone,” Gordon said.

For more information on WAR, visit their website at www.warinternational.org, or visit the boutique Tuesday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.. They are closed Sunday and Monday.

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Reds on the River Wins 2008 Top Dining Award

redsEvery industry has its “Super Bowl” of sorts. For those involved in the culinary arts in West Michigan, the ultimate stage is the annual Grand Rapids Magazine Dining Awards, held this year on Wednesday, February 18, at the Grand Rapids Community College Secchia Institute for Culinary Education.

This event honors the top restaurants in West Michigan, as well as acknowledges the accomplishments of the American Culinary Federation and the Greater Grand Rapids Chefs Association.

Grand Rapids Magazine, underwriter of the event, presented awards in the following categories: Fine Dining; Casual Dining; Ethnic Dining: European; Ethnic Dining: Mexican; Central/South American; Ethnic Dining: Asian; and Restaurant of the Year.

Reds on the River in Rockford, a relative newcomer, won its third award in three years. Honored as best new restaurant in 2006 and a 2007 Fine Dining Award winner, Reds again received honors with the fine dining award.

Reds’ Executive Chef and General Manager Glenn Forgie accepted the award for his talented staff, noting he was “extremely honored to represent Reds.”

Forgie credited the strength of his staff. “Our team takes a lot of pride in what they do, working hard every day to prepare and serve their best to Reds’ guests.”

He also thanked Grand Rapids Magazine for hosting the event and recognizing the industry and all the efforts of the nominees. “We are proud to be nominated in the fine dining category, and to win our third award.”

The fine dining category is defined by Grand Magazine as: “top quality ingredients, well presented, somewhat innovative – a complexity of flavors, using the highest quality product. Excellent service and knowledgeable staff.”

The 1913 Room won top restaurant of the year. Forgie noted his congratulations to the 1913 staff, as well as the other award winners and nominees. “There is an incredible group of talent represented at this event, and it is an honor to be acknowledged along with them.”

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Annual Mother, Son Dance this Saturday, February 28

Rockford Community Services is sponsoring their sixth annual Mother, Son Dance, Saturday, February 28 at East Rockford Middle School from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m. Extreme DJS will be playing age-appropriate music for dancing. Beginning at 6:00 pm, Douglas Photography will be available for a keepsake photo at an additional charge.

To register go to www.rpssignmeup.com or call Rockford Community Services at (616) 863-6322. Tickets are $8 per person.

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Powers Outdoors Floats Their Boats on Devos Place ‘Huge Lagoon’

By Cliff and Nancy Hill

powersdougpowersWhatever floats your boat! Last Friday evening, seeking to affirm that spring is indeed on the way, your reporters attended the annual Grand Rapids Boat Show at Devos Place. Along with the recent Camper, Travel & RV Show and the Golf Show winter-weary West Michiganders welcomed these harbingers of Spring.

At the show, we found ourselves sitting in the stands adjacent to what was billed as the “Huge Lagoon”- the largest indoor body of water at any boat show in the nation. This new addition to the show is a 100,000-gallon behemoth of an indoor lake. It was capable of floating special boats on display along with providing a venue for scuba, kayaking, and wakeboard demonstrations. (It was huge!)

powersjakescanoeAs in past years, Rockford’s Powers Outdoors played a prominent role in the staging of the five-day show. At variously scheduled times throughout the show’s run Powers Outdoors presented Kayaking and Paddleboard Clinics & Demos to the delight of those in the stands.

Co-owner Jake Slominski of Powers Outdoors, who represented the Rockford location, hosted the demos. On the water, Doug Powers demonstrated the use of stand-up paddleboards and sit-in or sit-on styles of kayaks.

powersjakeslominskiThe audience was particularly interested in the stand-up paddleboard demonstration. This newest craze in flat-water fun involves the use of a handmade oversized fiberglass surfboard that is very buoyant and stable and allows the user to stand and propel the board with a long-handled paddle. You can also paddle while on your knees or on your belly with your hands. Slominski told the audience that the technique could be mastered in about 5 minutes and was great for exercise or just play.

Also demonstrated was a sit-on kayak that allowed easier on and off rather than the in and out of a traditional kayak. This particular kayak is fisherman friendly and is very stable and maneuverable.

Doug finished up the session by demonstrating the “Ultimate” Kayak. This model allows the user to either paddle, peddle, or the use of an electrical propulsion system. The peddle and electrical systems are built into the craft. It is super stable with comfortable seating and is the fastest kayak on the water. A user controlled stern-mounted tiller adds to maneuverability.

After the demo and back at the Powers Outdoors booth, Slominski told us that kayaks and canoes have been the largest segment of watercraft sales in the past few years. Interestingly, in this category, 52% of sales have been to women because the industry has become more accommodating to women’s physical needs (weight of craft and paddles, etc.).

“Powers Outdoors only sells affordable kayaks and canoes not big-ticket watercraft,” said Slominski, adding,  “We have carved a niche for ourselves in this segment of watercraft sales by being better at what we do than any of our competitors.”  He cites Powers Outdoors “try it before you buy it” philosophy where one can test drive (or paddle) the store’s watercraft before making a decision to buy. This special service, unique only to Powers Outdoors is available seven days a week at all their locations. Slominski feels the Rockford store location is blessed by its close proximity to the Rogue River that is fast becoming a kayaking and canoeing Mecca and destination.

Powers Outdoors is the largest Paddlesports dealer in Michigan and prides itself on getting people involved in boating and affordably allowing them to spend quality time with family and friends. Not only are kayaks and canoes affordable, they require little or no maintenance and last forever.

As for the economy, Slominski said, “At last year’s show we sold 120 canoes and kayaks and, from the enthusiasm of show attendees these past two days, I’m confident we will either match or exceed last year’s sales.”

We, here in Rockford, are also blessed not only by the Rouge River flowing through the heart of town but also by the proximity of numerous lakes in our local vicinity. Paddlesports makes it easy to take advantage of this healthy outdoor activity. This is especially so with kayaks and canoes, where the activity is available year-round on the Rogue River. It¹s all the more an economical value without the need to travel long distances to find water.

If you missed the boat (no pun intended) at the Boat Show you can still visit Powers Outdoors to schedule your own demonstration. The Rockford store can be found on the NW corner of 10 Mile Rd. and Main Street.

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Annual Conservation Banquet and Silent Auction Friday, March 6th at Centennial Club

Gather up your family and tell all your friends about this year’s Ike’s banquet, featuring many new and exciting silent auction items to bid on! Join us for a night of fantastic food with good friends and your chance to walk away with incredible deals on sports equipment, painting sand fine art work, fishing charters, lodging packages, raffle prizes, gift certificates for salons, fine dining, entertainment, and much more! Our members have been hard at work gathering wonderful donations from our generous and supportive community and you’ll be amazed at the great deals available!

This year we’re excited to have John Hesse as our featured guest speaker to discuss his 2008 trip with MSU students to the Arctic and how global warming is reducing the Arctic ice mass and impacting the flora and fauna. John is an Adjunct Professor at Michigan State University. This is our most important fundraiser of the year, so please come out to join in the fun and make the 2009 banquet our most successful auction ever!

Important Event Details:

Tickets: just $27.00 per person*

Call for Reservations: advance payment appreciated by 3-3-2009.

Call Fred Eyer 363.0253
Bob Stegmier 866.4769

Venue: Centennial Club, 5801 3361 Charlevoix Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49546
616.954.0444
28th St East of Kraft, South on Charlevoix (light by Walmart entrance)

When: Friday, March 6th

5:30 PM – Social Hour and Silent Auction Bidding

7:00 PM – Dinner and Program

*Note: this low price just covers our cost for the dinner, which is an outstanding value for a delicious dinner at the beautiful Centennial Country Club. Join Us for the Ike’s Biggest Event of the Year!

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