December 29 2011

Local leaders report on state of community

December 29, 2011 // 0 Comments

Providing more with less, looking to the future a common thread by BETH ALTENA  Representatives from the Rockford Chamber of Commerce, schools, City of Rockford, Kent County, the State House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate spoke Monday, Dec. 12, at Rockford High School, presenting a variety of opinions about the state of our community. A common theme of looking ahead to face challenges of our state and country as well as accomplishments achieved seemed to run through the discussions. Rockford’s Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael Shibler spoke first, describing the district’s work on long- and short-term goals. He explained that in his early years with Rockford, he helped establish a Ram Action Model for Success (RAMS), now in its eighth cycle of three-year comprehensive plans. He said each RAMS plan takes into account the opinions of residents across the demographic spectrum—from empty-nesters, business people, seniors, parents of school-age children, etc.—who took surveys, including answering questions and providing narratives. Shibler said the district began the process in 1989 because the school leadership felt it was important for the community to decide what is important to the district. He said despite increasing financial challenges, the RAMS has helped the district complete 96 to 97 percent of the identified goals. He pointed out that Rockford Public Schools is a base-foundation district—among those schools in Michigan who receive the lowest level of funding per student. Today, he said, Rockford receives $7,046 per student, compared to $7,300 per student the district annually received in 2008. He said in 2012, cuts may bring the per-student funding for the district to $6,846. Despite continued lower finances, Shibler reported that Rockford is fortunate to have “a performance school district.” Rockford and East Grand Rapids are the only two districts in Kent County to have all schools receive As in state evaluation, and the only large district in the state of Michigan to receive the all-A recognition. In 1994 Rockford became the only school in the state to offer a guaranteed diploma—students who fail to be successful in jobs that require high-school level skills can return to receive additional education at no charge. This year, 50 juniors received a 30 or higher on their ACT tests, and the Rockford marching band earned the […]

Fred Meijer New Year’s Day Resolution Walk this Sunday

December 29, 2011 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL Seeking to honor a man whose very name is synonymous with the linear trail systems of West Michigan, the Board of Directors of the Friends of the White Pine Trail (FWPT) have decided to change the name of the annual New Year’s Day Walk to the Fred Meijer New Year’s Day Resolution Walk. “Yes,” said Dave Heyboer, chairman of the FWPT, “Fred was a great man who loved the out-of-doors. His face would glow when he talked about the trail system that he so very much loved and generously supported. Changing the name of the annual White Pine Trail Resolution Walk was the very least we could do to honor the memory of a generous benefactor. Thank-you Fred.” With that in mind, plan on attending and celebrating the arrival of new year 2012 with a brisk four-mile walk during the 11th annual, newly renamed, Fred Meijer New Year’s Day Resolution Walk. Yes, it’s Sunday morning and it may conflict with one’s church services but consider, what better a way to commune with God than in a prayerful, meditative and reflective walk with the Lord. Last year’s event saw a record turnout of upwards of 400 people on hand for lively fellowship and a little exercise with friends and family, along with other fellow trail walkers many with leashed dogs on the beautiful Fred Meijer White Pine Trail. As usual, the walk will kick-off promptly at 10:00 a.m. from the Rockford Rotary Pavilion in downtown Rockford and proceed north to 12-Mile Road, and then return to the cozy and warm confines of the Pavilion where light refreshments will be served along with water and hot beverages. In keeping with a desire to play a role in community events, Store Director Char Bouwkamp of Rockford’s D&W Fresh Market said, “Spartan Foods is glad to generously provide a portion of the refreshments offered this New Years Day morning.” This non-competitive free annual event is open to everyone, not just “Friends” members. It is not necessary to walk the entire four miles, the actual distance you choose is totally up to you. It’s all about togetherness and celebrating the arrival of a new year and possibly putting your New Year’s Resolution plans into effect. […]

Chiara’s Quiet Grace Gazebo, ‘Where trouble melts like lemon drops’

December 29, 2011 // 0 Comments

by MATT MARN What began in tragedy for a Rockford family soon grew into a life-affirming memorial. Now the city can remember young Chiara Howard’s selfless nature and warm smile for generations to come. Chiara’s Quiet Grace Gazebo was built to honor the life and memory of Chiara, who drowned in Lake Michigan in July 2008. The gazebo, which sits on the campus of Roguewood Elementary School, was dedicated with a ceremony held last month. “It’s not time to be licking wounds, but time to celebrate her life, and be inspired,” said Carrie Wysong, Chiara’s mother. The gazebo has eight windows, each representing one of Chiara’s strongest virtues: humbleness, sincerity, joyful, compassionate, considerate, loving, creativity and kindness. Wysong said the landscape around the gazebo was planned by a professor and a student at Calvin College. She said all plants and flowers in the surrounding area are native to Michigan, and there will also be a garden for butterflies—a sign of new life. “Classes in Roguewood and other schools can learn about plants and wildlife, and all of it is specifically designed towards Chiara and her love of learning,” Wysong said. “I feel what really matters in life are the simple things. The gazebo has no bells and whistles, no neon lights. It’s just simple. That’s Chiara.” Wayne Visbeen of Visbeen Associates was the designer and architect of the gazebo. Visbeen said, while he didn’t know Chiara, Wysong came to him and told him the story of her daughter’s passing. “She knew we create a lot of things based on people’s emotions,” Visbeen said. “We just started sketching and drawing. There were a lot of ideas with windows and stained glass that really harkened back to her daughter. I sat down with her and came up with some original sketches, and created the vision that everybody could draw onto.” Wysong said as people enjoy this gazebo, she hopes they are encouraged to remember and be thankful for who and what they have. “I hope more people can come here and meet. When I see kids in the gazebo, playing or reading to each other… words cannot express the relief and gratitude I felt,” said Wysong. “Chiara’s third out of four kids. Right from birth, she loved […]

Rockford columnist gratified, humbled

December 29, 2011 // 0 Comments

by CLIFF AND NANCY HILL For Rockford’s Tom Rademacher, last week was a whirlwind week of selling and signing copies of his newest book, “Knocking At Your Door.” The book is an encore of his debut book “Splitting Wood” that was released in 2010. The award-winning columnist’s newest book contains 80+ new columns gleaned from the more than 3,000 columns penned by the author over a thirty-year career. The book-signing tour wrapped up during the late afternoon and early evening of the day before Christmas Eve day, last Friday. Scheduled to make two appearances, one each at two of downtown Rockford’s anchor businesses – Kimberly’s Boutique and Great Northern Trading Company, we caught up with Tom at Kimberly’s. “I’m gratified and very humbled by the traffic here and the response to my latest book,” said Tom, adding, “It’s also a plus for Kimberly’s that many people seeking my book found themselves in the boutique for the very first time and ended up leaving the store, not only with copies of the book, but laden with Christmas gifts from the boutique’s eclectic offerings. It’s a win-win for both.” Your reporters chuckled when Tom, exhibiting the wry sense of humor oftentimes found in his writings told us he had, not so subtly, been instructed by wife Holly that he’d better be looking for her Christmas gift when he was not signing books! Book sales had been brisk at every stop along the way in West Michigan, during the book-signing tour and Tom, again, used the word, “humbled” when describing the large turnouts at every venue. One buyer purchased 40 copies, because the book contained a story about her sister who had been in a coma for 52 years, and she wanted to give a book to everyone in her life who had mattered. “How can you not be humbled,” said Tom. “Knocking At Your Door” buyers were seeking the second anthology of the collected works of a storyteller who is, first and foremost, a listener who oftentimes is moved to tears by capturing the lives and times of the subjects in his stories. Tom has an innate and genuine ability to listen. It’s a quality that one would hope to find in their own doctor and that’s […]

RAM artifact #7

December 29, 2011 // 0 Comments

A typical one-room school house from Rockford’s early days was painted by Adah Stone McBride, a member of Rockford Area Historical Society. Noted in this framed photo: “First school house in Rockford area, 1840s.” There definitely is a “Grandma Moses” feel to this historic rendering of an important early facet of Rockford life that continues to be important to this day: education. This school house building is still standing behind the Krause Memorial Library on Monroe Street.

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