Event to represent all of West Michigan by BETH ALTENA “It’s going to be a big project and really exciting,” said Sawn Swensen, program director for the Healing Fields of Colonial Flag Foundation, who is working with Rockford Area Community Endowment (RACE) to bring Healing Fields to Rockford. The memorial event in honor of those who lost their lives in the September 11 attacks one decade ago will take place at Cannonsburg Ski Lodge. It will feature an American Flag in the names of each individual who died in the terrorist attacks. The displays, which have been held annually around the country since 2002—the first anniversary of the terrorist attack that killed over 3,000—are stunning and very moving exhibits. The board members of RACE—who represent participating communities in the endowment—the City of Rockford, and the townships of Cannon, Courtland, Algoma and Plainfield met Tuesday, April 12 at Rockford City Hall to discuss the project and other business. Mary Ann Anderson, the Courtland Township RACE representative, said interest has been high in the project, and an introductory meeting was well attended with people from many organizations expressing interest in participating. With sponsorship, both corporate and small business, RACE plans to cover the costs of the Healing Fields and have additional revenue be shared by nonprofit groups from across West Michigan. RACE members settled on $75 as the cost of each of the 3,200 flags. Organizations who are planning a 9/11 memorial are asked to consider having them at the Healing Fields, including area American Legion groups. The Healing Fields has a Facebook page with videos and photos. RACE supports the Rockford community in the form of grants to area groups and nonprofits. It was founded years ago as a requirement for funding the building of the Towers and the North Rockford Middle School pool. The late Clarence Blakeslee was one of the organization’s founding members. Dormant for a long time, the foundation was revitalized within the past years and has built up its endowment to nearly $100,000. Anderson said during the meeting, “It is worth noting that briefly we were over $100,000.” Life membership in RACE is just $25, and among RACE fundraisers are the sale of bricks in Recognition Plaza at the dam in downtown […]
April 21 2011
Jody’s has been first in fast since 1981 by BETH ALTENA Owner Don Mendham can’t begin to guess how many informal meetings have taken place in his restaurant since he opened the doors 30 at 503 E. Division when he was “just a kid” in 1981 and hasn’t stopped serving up good food fast since. Mendham already had years in the restaurant industry when he tired of telling families they had to relocate and he worried about being transferred himself. He decided to make the leap and open his own restaurant. He chose Rockford because it has first class schools and he loves the sense of community he felt here. He chose the location—then a sandy lot—and has welcomed diners of all types ever since. “I haven’t gotten rich, but I feel we’ve enriched the lives of others,” he said. “We’ve enriched the lives of those who have worked here over the years.” Mendham said his management style is to be a mentor to others. “Sometimes you encourage them, sometimes you suggest changes in behavior.” Mendham said his faith is a big part of how he runs his restaurant and he holds Bible studies in the building when business is slow. They consider the good book guidelines on how you should treat others. In 30 years, there has only been one Jody among his staff, which always number more than 30. Many have been with the restaurant for many years, including Cheryl Goldner, who many will recognize as the smiling face at the drive-thru. Goldner has been serving customers at Jody’s for 23 years, and jokes, “I guess I forgot to leave.” She said she started when her kids were little and now they are all grown up. “I just like it here.” Mendham said when he started, his children were young as well and one of the daughters said to her little sister, “Daddy’s making a job for himself.” If it is a job that keeps Mendham from getting away on vacation for any length of time, it has also been a labor of love. The motto of “great food fast” has been his goal and, ironically, now many fast-food chains are trying to do what he has always worked toward: premium food served […]
Candle Shop, Burlap-n-Rags, Bow-Dacious among town’s long-term businesses by BETH ALTENA “If we won’t support our economy, who will?” said Meg Frantz, owner of Bow-Dacious, The Candle Shop and Burlaps-n-Rags in downtown Rockford. Frantz, following in the footsteps of her parents, appreciates the subtleties of running a successful business—or two. Frantz took over her mother’s store of 35 years and picked up another five years ago. Among the important issues in keeping a small store going, even in rough times, is trying to support others in business. It’s a philosophy seen throughout downtown, where merchants support each other in a variety of ways and believe continued success for each depends on the success of downtown as a whole. Frantz believes this philosophy is also true of Michigan and our country and that, despite the Internet and global competition, it still is a small world where each of us can make a difference. Between both stores, shoppers can find over 20 lines of products made right here in our home state and 21 more made in the United States. In addition, Frantz tries to support sisters in need overseas, and like the WAR Chest Boutique, offers products made by women around the world trying to escape poverty or worse. Many artisans are also making use of reused items and recycled material as well as handmade products. She showed off the products of a local woman who Frantz met when the woman was an artist in Art in the Park. Another vendor uses handmade beads to create stunning, one-of-a-kind servingware. A shopper in the store testified to the product’s quality. “I bought one like that here two years ago and use it all the time. It gets thrown in the dishwasher along with every thing else and it’s held up wonderfully,” said Nancy Peitz of Dearborn, who describes herself as a frequent Rockford shopper. The story of how Frantz came to be among the shop owners of downtown Rockford is curious. She started out as an aspiring pre-law student, schooled at Michigan State University and Western Michigan University in pre-law. Her first job was in specialty child abuse and neglect at a sexual abuse center. “I went home crying every day,” Frantz said. She left that job. […]
Across the country, Boy Scouts and Cub Scouts recently joined together for the annual Scouting for Food campaign. In the Rockford area, Boy Scout Troop 282 chartered to North Kent Presbyterian Church, Troop 228 chartered to Bostwick Lake Congregational Church, and Cub Scout Pack 3285 from Crestwood Elementary School collected food items to benefit North Kent Community Services. “The generosity of the Rockford community really shows each year during the Scout food drive,” according to parent Guy McLellan of Troop 282. Two large food collection containers were filled by the local Scouts just in time to meet the increased need for food items during the local schools’ spring break. Scouting for Food began in 1988 as part of the Good Turn for America initiative. Each year collection bags are distributed throughout neighborhoods for families to place items in the bag and leave on their front porch. Scouts then return at a designated time to pick up the donations. These are then redistributed to local food banks to help stock their shelves. Each year over 100,000 items are collected and redistributed throughout the Gerald R. Ford Council area, which services 12 counties in West Michigan. Members of Boy Scout Troops 282 and 228 and Cub Scout Pack 3285 would like to thank everyone who donated items to make this year’s drive another success to help fight hunger in our community.
Bishop Hills has hosted a local art show for many years in April. The winners from every elementary school in the Rockford area are on display. The residents are always impressed with the extraordinary talent of these young art students. Thursday, April 14, a reception was held. The residents, teachers, parents and friends were able to meet the students behind each piece of art. There are photos on Bishop Hills’ Facebook page or you can stop by Bishop Hills throughout April, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Residents of Bishop Hills gave each artist a special certificate.