Brother and sister are in finals on national television show by BETH ALTENA A Rockford brother and sister have made it to the end of a life-changing process that has taken place in the public on NBC’s Biggest Loser Club series. The two are back home now after the 18-week show where they accomplished more than they ever imagined after starting the show weighing 389 pounds (Jeremy) and 294 pounds (Conda). Their journey even took them to the White House, where they spent a day with First Lady Michelle Obama, and currently have the chance to win $30,000 to bring a gym locally if they are first in online voting. Jeremy Britt, 22, employed at Fifth Third Bank, and lived a sedentary life—the only sport he ever played was golf, where the exercise was minimal as he always used a golf cart. He knew he had to make a change in his life when a friend asked him to go to the beach and he declined because he didn’t want anyone to see him without a shirt. Conda Britt, 24, is a single mother and college student with a full-time job. As a nutrition technician for Spectrum Health, she is responsible for helping patients maintain diets created for them by doctors or dieticians. She felt she had to make a change in her life not only for herself but for her two-year-old daughter. Both Rockford High School graduates say they come from a family where being heavy is the norm and family gatherings feature delicious but not very healthy food. “Being overweight was easy and acceptable,” Jeremy said. The brother and sister duo went to a Detroit open casting call for the show and were accepted. The first airing of their season of the Biggest Loser Club took place on January 3 of this year. The final episode will air May 1. Over the next 18 weeks each contestant, always a team of pairs, are challenged to lose weight, learn healthy lifestyle habits, and face challenges with eliminations throughout the season. Through each elimination, the cast has been narrowed—both in the number of contestants and physically as each sheds pounds. Now the participants are all home, and know what only the NBC staff of the […]
April 12 2012
Roadwork expected to last through May by BETH ALTENA Fill from grade work on the future site of an Olympic style archery complex is being used to raise the grade of Ten Mile Road east of Wolven Avenue by as much as six feet. Kent County Road Commission (KCRC) Director of Engineering Wayne Harroll said contractor Dean’s Excavating was probably able to give a very competitive bid for the two projects as the soil had to travel just a short distance from the complex site to the road just to the north of the complex site. “This is the second phase of the project and it will be similar to what we did west of Wolven last year,” Harroll said. The widening of Ten Mile to five lanes from the Rockford Meijer store to Wolven Avenue took place last summer and fall and required no road closure. This spring’s project includes widening the road from Wolven to Childsdale Avenue, including extending culverts to accommodate Ten Mile’s new dimensions, curbs and a bike path on each side of the road. Harroll said the weather did allow crews to start early, but only by a span of three days or so. He noted that the early weather prompted the asphalt companies to open sooner, making that product available earlier than normal. Currently traffic is diverted into two lanes on the north side of Ten Mile Road, slowing travel time slightly. As work is finished on the south side of Ten Mile, drivers will be shifted to that side of the road throughout the remainder of the construction. Crews from KCRC were able to finish more of last year’s project than was expected due to the unseasonably mild fall. Harroll said organizers of the West Michigan Sports Commission (WMSC), who will be building a sports complex south of Ten Mile in Plainfield Township are working with his engineers on their project. Construction of roadways or parking and other site preparation are the responsibility of the WMSC, not that of the KCRC, Harroll said. Work on this second phase of widening Ten Mile began Wednesday, March 28.
by BETH ALTENA The beauty of a used and rare book store is the unexpected items that can be found within, changing from week to week and with each buyer and seller of the unusual treasure. At Bay Leaf Used and Rare Books in Sand Lake, shoppers can explore to find a piece of the Congo in a collection of fossils and stones, the aching beauty of an Atlas moth mounted on parchment, or perhaps a used book that brings back forgotten childhood memories or triggers other emotions. The fun is in the finding, and sometimes never knowing how this book, that fossil, or piece of ephemera came to land there on the shelf. Each has a mystery and a story behind its continued journey—something never found in the shipped, prepackaged goods sold in our country’s millions of big box stores. In a sunny spot in the children’s room, a smallish jade tree sits unassumingly in its porcelain pot. Those browsing by may not realize their close brush with history. The jade is in the care of Margaret Carlson, but it began its leafy life far from Sand Lake. Typical of the eclectic items found in such places as used book stores and other shops where items find a new life, the jade has an interesting story behind it. Like the jade, Carlson herself is a transplant to West Michigan. She described, “I came from England with my family, starting off at University of Alberta, Calgary, then Grand Valley, then Ramapo College of New Jersey, then back to Grand Rapids as it is the best place of all.” Carlson said it was over 40 years ago when she was living in Mahwah, N.J. when she saw an ad in the New York Times about a sale at the cottage of former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. The cottage, Fal-Kill, near Hyde Park, N.Y., wasn’t far from Carlson’s own home. A great fan of Eleanor Roosevelt, Carlson said she couldn’t resist going to the sale to see the home of the woman for whom she had such admiration. Anna Eleanor Roosevelt was born on October 11, 1884 and died November 7, 1962. She was the First Lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945. She supported […]
by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Rockford native Kevin Groothuis (47) has recently opened his second Hex Shop Fly Fishing Outfitters. Both stores are named after the second largest mayfly (Hexagenia) in the United States. For the uninitiated, dramatic hatches of mayflies have become legendary over the last 30 years during the month long period from mid-June to mid-July in Michigan. During that period trout, especially Browns, gorge themselves as the mayflies hatch from river bottoms and rise to the surface. If you are a dry fly fisherman presenting Hex fly patterns, you are in hog heaven! Anglers who only fly fish once a year have been known to drive hundreds of miles to play their part in the drama of a Hex fly hatch. No one has a better handle on this than Kevin Groothuis who over the years has become a well-known fly tier and fisherman. After opening his first Hex Shop on East Paris near 28th St. in East Grand Rapids some three years ago, Kevin then began to pursue a dream of operating a fly-fishing outfitters shop in his childhood hometown, Rockford. The opportunity presented itself when Mrs. O’s Bait and Tackle closed up shop last October 2011. Kevin seized the moment and signed a lease for the space and has been renovating the interior of the shop for the past few months culminating with a soft opening some two weeks ago. Kevin’s love of fishing and fly tying began when he was a fifth grader. “When I was 10 years old, my mother took me to the Meijer on Plainfield so that I could spent the $20 I had saved up to buy a skateboard,” said Kevin. “While walking through the Sporting Goods Dept. I passed a display of fly tying kits and thought I’d love to learn the art of fly tying. Just like that the skateboard was put on the back burner. I asked Mom to loan me the extra six bucks the kit would cost and the rest was history.” (Kevin adds he did eventually buy a skateboard.) Kevin, a Hope College graduate with degrees in Biology and Natural Resources Mgt., tells us he is ever so proud to be the very first fly-fishing outfitter located within downtown […]
Nationally acclaimed West Michigan columnist Tom Rademacher has released a third collection of stories, “The Book of CAKE.” It’s a series he developed around what he describes as “invisible people who shouldn’t be.” Rademacher originally studied to be a special education teacher and was, in fact, working with special-needs children when he was offered the opportunity to write for The Grand Rapids Press. For 33 years, he endeared himself to Press readers with columns about, in his words, “everyday people both struggling and soaring.” But the “The Book of CAKE” brought Rademacher back to his first love. Developed, written and published in collaboration with West Michigan’s expansive, Christian mental health agency, Hope Network, this book is an anthology of remarkable profiles taking the people and stories of Hope Network out of the shadows and silence where they so often live. The book, rich in polished text and stirring photos—most shot by Rademacher when he’d gained his subjects’ trust—is the culmination of a year the writer spent in the offices, group homes, work sites, clinics, buses and families of Hope Network staff, volunteers, board members and, especially, clients. The idea for the stories was rooted in Rademacher’s history: “Apart from my wife and children,” he says, “these are the people who belong in my heart.” “Tom Rademacher came to us equipped with the gifts of a writer, the heart of a father and the desire to uncover and tell stories of hope,” Hope Network President and CEO Phil Weaver said. “He sat, he listened, he wrote, and he moved us all.” Added Dan Devos, chairman of Hope’s boards of directors, “This book is infused with Tom Rademacher’s power. He’s a gifted writer. Even more, he’s an explorer who uncovers what is unique in each of us, a trustworthy friend who opens us to public view without embarrassment. For a year Tom lived with the people of Hope Network. This book is his journal.” Among other stories, the book reports on a $600 mistake that nearly ruined a man, a message in a bottle, a janitor who can’t see, schoolkids on the rise, and inspirational sagas of men and women who have struggled valiantly against developmental disabilities, brain injuries, abuse, neglect and much more. “I’m as proud […]