July 14 2011

Rockford family leads 300-mile biking expedition in support of Haiti earthquake relief

July 14, 2011 // 0 Comments

The Second Annual H.I.S. Home 300 Bike Ride, Michigan Route, a six-day noncompetitive bike ride to support Haitian orphans, was started by Rockford resident Geoff VanBerkel and his wife Judy, whose now adopted daughters lived through the 2010 earthquake in Port Au Prince. The fundraising and awareness ride began on June 20, 2011 from Rockford and ended in Harrod, Ohio on June 25. The passion to host and participate in the bike ride came from the VanBerkels’ decision to adopt from Haiti before the earthquake had even struck. Once it did, their adoption process was sped up immediately and within a few weeks, the VanBerkels were picking up their new Haitian daughters who had just survived the disaster. Since they couldn’t adopt all the kids at the orphanage from which their daughters lived—H.I.S. Home For Children—their return to Rockford encouraged the VanBerkels to organize a 300-mile Michigan route bike ride to raise funds and awareness for the orphanage. “More than funds, we are looking for awareness on the part of helping this mission,” said Geoff. “We are hoping that more and more people come to understand this story and find their own unique way to help.” This year’s bike ride is in specific support of a safehouse that was created due to the earthquake, called H.I.S. Home ER (Earthquake Relief) in Port Au Prince. ER houses girls aged 8 to 16 years who were severely affected by the earthquake—there were over 15 girls sold into slavery just after the disaster, multiple accounts of abuse, and five girls who ended up pregnant due to abuse. ER is currently taking care of 29 “at risk” girls at this location. These girls for the most part are not adoptable, and need emotional healing and physical care. The funds raised through the ride will provide the orphaned girls with food, shelter, school, medical and emotional healing, and vocational training. This event is 100 percent volunteer-driven. For more information, visit www.hishome300mi.blogspot.com.  

Cannonsburg Elementary School’s Natalie Frank is Example in Excellence

July 14, 2011 // 0 Comments

Student has a quiet confidence and generous spirit Natalie Frank, 10, is the daughter of Dan and Carolyn Frank and sister to Cameron. At Cannonsburg Elementary School, Natalie’s teachers and staff describe her as a student with a positive attitude and spirit of service. She is always willing to help another student and her patience, kindness and teamwork are always evident. She enjoys volunteering and helps younger students get to their busses at the end of the school day. Natalie never fails to show care and concern for others. She is always the student to include others and help them feel like part of the team. She has a strong sense of civic duty and participates on the student council at her school and is vice president. She has been involved in safety patrol, Jump Rope for Heart, and the Recycling Club. Natalie’s teachers say she has a quiet confidence that is impossible to teach, a trait that comes from within. Her outgoing personality and generous spirit motivate her to become involved with many activities at school. She constantly strives to improve herself and to help others do their best as well. She is a ray of sunshine and her positive attitude translates into positive action. “Natalie has an amazing understanding of fairness,” her teachers state. “She always wants to do what is right and fair to help others. She also has a passionate love of learning. She coaches herself through subjects she may have a difficult time with, such as multiplication facts. She stayed positive the entire time and worked hard until she had them.” In addition to being chosen as vice president of student council at Cannonsburg, Natalie in the past has been recognized for her artwork. Her Odyssey of the Mind team made it all the way to state finals in 2009. Her free time is spent dancing for the Dance Dimension competitive team. She also loves gymnastics, skiing and baking. For her spirit of service, positive attitude and constant commitment to helping others, Natalie is Cannonsburg Elementary School’s Example in Excellence for 2011.    

Zoo Society announces campaign for tigers, bears, more

July 14, 2011 // 0 Comments

The John Ball Zoological Society recently announced they will be bringing tigers back to Grand Rapids with the help of a generous community. The fund drive is Phase II of the Zoo Society’s “Restore the Roar” Capital Campaign. The projects include the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation Funicular and Forest Realm, the Bissell Tree House (announced earlier this year), new Amur Tiger Exhibit, new Grizzly Bear Exhibit, Visitor Welcome Center, and a Central Services/Commissary facility. This major zoo expansion and renovation breaks ground this summer with expected completion of the Funicular, Tree House, Welcome Center, and Central Services facility in 2012, completion of Grizzly Exhibit in 2013, and completion of Tiger Exhibit in 2014. The campaign began in 2010 with the largest contribution in the history of the zoo of $5 million from Bea Idema and the Bill and Bea Idema Foundation. The Zoo Society is pleased to announce as of June 23, 2011, the campaign has received $10,250,000 in pledges and contributions. A spokesperson for the Wege Foundation said of the expansion, “Peter M. Wege and the Wege Foundation Trustees support this expansion because they know introducing children to wildlife teaches future generations to be good stewards of the planet.” This announcement kicks off a community-wide effort to raise $1,750,000 to complete the expansion/renovation projects. The zoo’s last tiger was moved to another zoo in 2009. The decision was made not to bring tigers back to the zoo until a larger more natural exhibit could be built for them. The new Amur Tiger Exhibit will anchor the west end of the hilltop expansion with the Idema Funicular and Bissell Tree House anchoring the east end. The tigers will have a green habitat nestled into a natural bowl in the hillside. The Grizzly Bear Exhibit will be a total renovation of the grizzly bear/dall sheep exhibits. Those exhibits were built in the 1960s and remain in the heart of the zoo. Now, however, the two older exhibits will be totally demolished and one bold and beautiful grizzly exhibit constructed. The new exhibit will double the space for the zoo’s two rescued grizzlies and give visitors a feeling for the grizzlies’ lair. The Welcome Center will add restrooms and other amenities for the zoo’s guests. A new […]

Rockford Public Schools employees save district millions with contract concessions

July 14, 2011 // 0 Comments

Contract negotiations between the Rockford Public School Board, the Rockford Education Association (REA), and the Rockford Education Support Professionals Association (RESPA) concluded quickly this year in an attempt to balance the district’s budget in the face of more funding cuts from the state. Rockford Public Schools’ (RPS) teachers and support staff accepted two years of compensation cuts that average around $7,000 per employee. These cuts come on top of last year’s concessions of about $3,000 per employee. Cuts were agreed upon in the form of pay freezes, loss of steps (years of service compensation), additional contributions into health care benefits, and a weaker benefits package. With the state legislature threatening bargaining rights and the district’s low fund equity balance, REA and RESPA took some of the deepest cuts in the county in order to maintain programming and smaller class sizes. Rockford administrators took the same cuts negotiated by REA. During this two-year contract, both sides are hopeful that better economic stability will allow staff to recover some of their sacrifices. REA and RESPA are encouraged by Dr. Michael Shibler and the school board’s commitment to RPS teachers, administration and support staff. “We need to be able to offer competitive compensation for our employees so we can attract the best teachers, administrators, and support staff we can hire,” said Dr. Shibler, Superintendent of Rockford Public Schools. With the concessions made at the bargaining table and other budget decisions by the school board, Rockford will be able to call back nine of the 25 teachers who received pink slips at the beginning of June. “It is a difficult time to be in education right now,” said Linda Spencer, REA vice president and head of the Bargaining Committee. “People go into education because they love kids and want to give them the best education possible, but the political climate right now makes it very difficult to keep morale high.” REA, RESPA, administration, and the school board will be working together to maintain RPS’ standards of exemplary education even in the face of very difficult economic times. Ultimately, the district’s budgetary fate lies in the hands of the state legislature. Public school funding is neither equitable nor consistent. Just for one example, Forest Hills Public Schools receives $8,800,000 more […]

The White Insurance Agency opens Rockford branch

July 14, 2011 // 0 Comments

The White Insurance Agency is proud to announce the opening of their fourth location in Rockford. For 138 years, since their establishment in 1873, The White Insurance Agency has been providing quality products, excellent service, and competitive prices to Western Michigan through their main branch in Fremont and offices in Grant and Twin Lake. With their new location, they are excited to share their wealth of knowledge, experience, and customer service with the Rockford community. The new Rockford office represents many well known and respected insurance companies and can meet all your home, auto, life, health or business insurance needs. Ryan DeVries, the insurance agent at the Rockford branch, has been with The White Insurance Agency for nine years. He resides in Rockford with his wife and daughter and is eager to share his know-how and expertise with the community of Rockford. To contact our Rockford office or to schedule an appointment, please call Ryan at (616) 863-9248.  

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