M. Solle

No soldier forgotten

May 27, 2010 // 0 Comments

by M. SOLLE No matter what your view of the United States Armed Forces, as Memorial Day approaches and we pause to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice so we can have our freedom, let us not forget those who are still fighting to preserve those freedoms for us and for future generations of Americans. Belmont resident Ellen Schmuker never forgets. Imagine you are a soldier returning from an 18-month deployment in the desert. Imagine you are a soldier who saw things most people would have nightmares about and can’t comprehend. Imagine you are a soldier returning home to West Michigan and no one greets you at the airport when you arrive—no one. Imagine your thoughts as that soldier. Now, imagine you are soldier returning home to West Michigan late at night—you are tired, sore, and just want to sleep in a warm bed. Imagine your surprise to find yourself greeted by strangers, dozens of them, all of whom just want to say “thank you” for defending our country and risking your life in the process. Imagine it. Schmuker, a married mother of two, makes that image happen on a regular basis. Schmuker heads Hats Off to Service Members, a local organization that provides memorable homecomings to area soldiers and prides itself in recognizing area soldiers both at home and abroad. She finds volunteers to make signs, stuff gift baskets full of goods from area merchants, and greet those men and women of the Armed Services, who risk their life for our personal freedom. It’s a thankless job, but as Schmuker says, “It’s the least I can do. If I don’t do this, who will?” Not only does Hats Off provide bags to soldiers as they return, but it also puts together bags for troops as they deploy and deals directly with chaplains who e-mail Schmuker to let her know what soldiers need at their remote outposts where creature comforts are few and far between. Schmuker has many stories about her experiences doing what she feels is her duty as a citizen of the United States. She says often she just hangs out at the Gerald R. Ford Airport waiting and hoping a soldier is on a flight, hoping she and her group of […]

RCS’ environmental program like no other

March 4, 2010 // 0 Comments

by M. SOLLE The Rockford Christian School (RCS) campus sits on over 36 acres and overlooks beautiful Lake Bella Vista. To the average person, RCS is a “typical” Rockford school—stunning facility, large campus, academically excellent. Yet something many don’t know is that RCS has an environmental focus. RCS was the very first school in Kent County to earn the title Green School and has done so consistently since 2007. However, RCS has something that no other area school has. It has an environmental-based curriculum that is rooted in its sixth-grade classroom, but resonates throughout the entire school. While there are other environmental programs in the area, few bring the environment to the forefront while keeping with the schools’ main mission, “to prepare students to be effective servants of Christ in contemporary society.” At no other time in history has the environment been so important. Sixth-graders at Rockford Christian Middle School learn about creation and the environment daily through hands-on activities as well as weekly and annual off-campus trips to places like Camp Roger, Frederick Meijer Gardens, Plainfield Township Water Department, cleaning up the roadside as part of MDOT’s Adopt-a-Highway program, NASA Aeronautics Lab at Gerald R. Ford Airport, AuSable Institute in Mancelona, aboard the research vessel WG Jackson on Muskegon Lake, and camping at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. At these places they learn about recycling, water pollution and filtering, winter survival, and composting. But mostly they learn how to be better caretakers of the Earth and its resources. Veteran teacher Don VerMerris, with over 32 years of experience in teaching, leads the RCS community on this trek of stewardship and sustainability, and is joined by fellow teacher Julie Barrett, who has been teaching six years. The environmental classroom has impacted the student body of the whole school, trickling down to even the smallest children. A simple task, like composting food waste, becomes something even kindergarteners take part in daily with small worm compost bins placed outside of each classroom for their snack and lunch waste. Each year’s sixth-graders are responsible for “emptying” the bins, and bagging the POW (“poop of worms” as it may be) to sell it to school families for houseplant compost. On their weekly trips to Camp Roger, sixth-graders are responsible […]