Beth Altena

Couple turns challenge to charm in downtown home

May 17, 2012 // 0 Comments

‘We did run screaming at first, but we came back’ by BETH ALTENA When Bill Jr. and Sandy Jobse wanted to relocate closer to their work places, they knew they wanted to be in downtown Rockford. “We always came down here during the festivals and festivities. It’s like a perfect little bubble town, always decorated and beautiful,” Sandy said. They were looking for a home, and had previously owned two other houses that had needed a little work. This time it was going to be different. When asked why they didn’t run screaming when they first walked through the house at 20 Fremont, Sandy said they did. “We did run screaming. But then we came back.” The home had been that of an elderly man who had apparently become unable to keep the house up. On top of neglect and age, the home had been sitting empty for two years on the market. The other people who had made offers had stated that they planned to tear the building down and build new. There were holes in the walls inside and out, and stains in the ancient carpet. The garage was unusable because beams had been propped in to keep the roof from coming down. The ceiling stucco was peeling down in big strips. There was a cistern for water in the basement, an ancient water-holding structure from before indoor plumbing. The upstairs was completely closed off and apparently hadn’t been used in years. On the porch the rails were rotted out and the floor was caving in. There was no landscaping, just dirt and rocks. They first saw the home after they’d come to town for dinner. After the initial walk-through, they wanted nothing to do with the house. But for both of them, something about the house connected. “I like old things and appreciate the history of old houses,” Bill stated. He said they returned to the home and looked it over with a new attitude. The son of the owner of White Creek Lumber, who inherited his dad’s interest in woodworking and craftsmanship, Bill is more able than many to do the repairs the home needed. Sandy noted both of their previous two homes had needed some repairs. “They were nothing like […]

Spring Taste of Ric’s a homerun

May 10, 2012 // 0 Comments

Baseball-themed day of free samples draws crowds by BETH ALTENA Rockford Ric’s Food Center is a busy place these days four years into their location at 6969 Belding Road. The store was especially busy Saturday, May 5 with the Spring Taste of Ric’s, where vendors and store staff offer free samples of many food products. There were about 40 stations offering samples from wraps and sandwiches from the Ric’s deli to rootbeer floats in dairy. The meat and seafood department were especially busy as people lined up for samples of the store’s signature kielbasa and tasty crab cakes, sale priced at just a dollar each for the day. According to Store Director Dave Brickner, the events are greatly anticipated by both customers and staff, and this year’s included a drawing for a free grill valued at about $700. Brickner said the store is a busy one for the chain, and beer- and wine-tastings on Saturdays from 3 to 6 p.m. have been very popular. The store has been holding the tastings for the last seven months, and the selection of wine and beer is the best in West Michigan, Brickner believes. “Michigan has so many good breweries we have been able to focus on Michigan-made beers,” he stated. Michigan also has a great selection of locally made wine, but the store also features wines made worldwide. “We are so event-oriented,” Brickner said of his Ric’s. April was Michigan Wine Month, May includes the Taste of Ric’s and Mother’s Day, and the new one-day sales have been big successes. Brickner also expressed enthusiasm regarding the proposed development for the property surrounding the store, which was a Planned Unit Development for residential homes, townhouses and other businesses along the Belding Road frontage. The development went to the bank after sales failed to take place and the economy spiraled down, but now one of the town homes built on the site has sold—a happy sign of better times to come.

DNR trust fund grants delayed due to legislative disagreement

May 10, 2012 // 0 Comments

Call representatives to complain by BETH ALTENA John Short, Plainfield Township Parks and Recreation Department director, was one of many individuals involved in parks and recreation in Michigan receiving an e-mail from the Michigan Recreation and Parks Association (MRPA) alerting him to a new development in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) grant approval processed dished up by our leaders in Lansing. The e-mail calls for immediate action regarding legislative behavior in the timely approval of House Bill (HB) 5364, which is the legislation to authorize appropriations for the current round of grants recommended by the Trust Fund Board several months ago. The MRPA e-mail states, “The House passed HB 5364 and it was then sent to the Senate. The Senate approved HB 5364 but amended the original bill by removing the DNR’s four eco-regional land consolidation projects that were recommended for appropriation by the Trust Fund Board. Because the original HB 5364 was amended by the Senate, it must now return to the House floor for approval.” According to the Michigan DNR, the Michigan Natural Resources Trust Fund (MNRTF) has been in place since 1976. It provides financial assistance to local governments and the DNR to purchase land or rights in land for public recreation or protection of land because of its environmental importance or its scenic beauty. It also assists in the appropriate development of land for public outdoor recreation. The MNRTF is supported by annual revenues from the development of state-owned mineral resources, largely oil and gas. For eligibility, MNRTF and Land and Water Conservation Fund grants require approved five-year recreation plans. According to the MRPA, “The legislature has never removed a recommended project in the 35-year history of the program and it is a very dangerous precedent. If the House passes the Senate-amended version of HB 5364, we can expect the legislature to add and subtract projects in the future that have not been subject to the MNRTF review process. This is a big deal because it compromises the grant approval process and the integrity of the Trust Fund Grant program.” “Action is needed: Please call your state representative and ask them to vote No on the Senate-amended version of HB 5364 and to retain the bill as originally approved.” The […]

Group turns scraps into hope, help for hundreds

May 10, 2012 // 0 Comments

‘This lets them know someone cares’ by BETH ALTENA  Estelle Fessenden doesn’t know exactly how many people have received quilts stitched by a group she set in place. Pieces of the Heart was an idea she had and a group she started in 2001, sewing a little love into quilts given to those in need. Organized from her home not far from Rockford Ambulance offices on Ten Mile and Shaner Avenue, last year alone the group gave out over 600 quilts. The 15 members of the quilting group were gathered together Wednesday, April 25 for a thank-you luncheon offered by Rockford Ambulance staff in appreciation for their donations. Since members of the group mostly work from their own homes, it was a special treat to get together all in once place. Ambulance staff, including Roger Morgan, were thrilled to praise the efforts of the members and thank them for their generosity. “It started out with the Women’s Resource Center and branched out,” Fessenden said. While working at a fabric store, which has since closed, Fessenden said she thought to put an excess of scrap fabric to good use. At the resource center, the small quilts went to kids who are at a tough time in their lives and who may have arrived at the shelter with nothing but the clothes on their backs. More than a decade later, the group has donated quilts to medical first responders such as Rockford Ambulance, to veterans, to the elderly, to neonatal units and to dialysis patients. Over the years they have provided comfort, caring and something to hang on to for thousands of men, women and children. Rockford Ambulance Paramedic Brent Jones was there to thank the volunteer group, and said following the luncheon he was going to take one of the quilts to an elderly woman who had suffered from a brain tumor. “We like to keep an eye on her and check in with her,” he said. He described how much such a simple gesture can mean to someone. “You should see the looks on the faces of the people we give them to,” he said. “We like to take them to people in nursing homes. Sometimes they are put in there and no one comes […]

Structures from Great Depression tell story of Rockford today, Part II

May 10, 2012 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA The Depression was marked by the “alphabet soup” of government-funded employment to keep people working. The CWA was just one—also keeping men at work was the Civilian Conservation Corp, the Works Project Administration (which was jokingly referred to as “Water, Piss and Air.” The projects were usually infrastructure ones to the benefit of the public. In Rockford, the projects were mostly city streets and water from 1935 to 1936 and the Michigan State Police Post in 1935 and 1936. A 200,000-gallon water storage tank was among the projects, a structure still in existence (although not currently used) up by the water tower on the hill behind North Rockford Middle School. The East Maple, Lincoln and Dayton streets were paved, and evacuated dirt filled in the swamp that used to exist where the Community Cabin is now located. DeMaagd noted that architecture of the State Police Post may have been influenced by the style of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “New School of the Middle West” as evidenced by structural earmarks of the style: tapestry brick, porch, patio base, stone around the door and the belt course above the floor level of the second floor. A glance at Rockford’s Michigan State Police Post clearly shows the influence of the famous architect. The style is here today for those who take a look and see what is here today. DeMaagd said the buildings erected during those times were not solely funded by the government works projects, which largely provided labor. Material for the Community Cabin was in part financed by Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts, who held fundraisers. “Raising money is not a new idea,” said DeMaagd. “They raised money for the Community Cabin in the middle of the Depression.” Two other Depression-era constructions were the Rockford Post Office, authorized by a special act of Congress, and the Rockford Library, a gift of GA Krause. In 1940, the mural inside the Post Office, which visitors to the building can still admire, was installed by Pierre Bourdelle, a New York artist. Rockford probably was selected to have a post office because at that time Wolverine was a major parcel post user. Artists vied for the honor of being chosen to have their work installed in the public […]

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