Rockford Area Community Endowment

‘Very special couple’ inducted into Recognition Plaza

June 14, 2012 // 0 Comments

Individuals made Rockford what it is today by BETH ALTENA “Service is the rent we pay for out little spot on this Earth.” This attitude was exemplified in the life led by the late Lynn Gill, who along with his wife LaZelle (Zell) were the lone addition to the Rockford Area Community Endowment (R.A.C.E.) Recognition Plaza. A ceremony took place Tuesday, May 28, beginning with the R.A.C.E. annual meeting at City Hall and ending at the plaza, located on the west side of the Rogue River by the dam. Zell Gill, before a large crowd of well-wishers at the Plaza, spoke with dignity and said the chance to help Rockford become what it is today has been a great honor for herself and her late husband. A plaque with her and Lynn’s name will serve as a permanent tribute to the contributions the couple have made to Rockford. Rockford City Manager Michael Young and the Rockford Area Historical Society nominated the couple and both Young and Historical Society President Terry Konkle spoke during the ceremony. Young talked of his experience of the couple. “In 1995 when I came here, whether it was God’s will, he put me right next to the Gills,” he said. Young described how fortunate his family felt getting to know the Gills and of their kindness and generosity. He noted that when his daughters ran away from home, as kids usually do during their childhood, his girls, ages 3 and 4, ran away to the Gills’ home next door. The Gills were very active in Rockford and are people that were well known as well as universally admired. According to a biography compiled by the Historical Society, the Gills moved to Rockford in 1940. Lynn Gill passed away in March 2009, and Zell still lives in the house they built on Dayton Street. The couple lived their lives with service as a major factor in their activities. Lynn was from Big Rapids, where he graduated in 1935 as salutatorian of Big Rapids High School. He and his brother were well known as semi-pro baseball players. Lynn was inducted into the Mecosta County Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991. Zell was from Reed City and also had a love of sports. Both […]

West Michigan to remember September 11 victims with Healing Field memorial

September 8, 2011 // 0 Comments

3,200 American flags will fly in honor of 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks In the 10 years since our nation was rocked by the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks that changed America, communities across the country have been holding tributes to the 3,200 lives lost on that day. This time, on the 10th anniversary of the horrific event, the Healing Field comes to West Michigan and to Rockford. The Rockford Area Community Endowment (RACE), local communities and area businesses have teamed together to bring Colonial Flag Foundation’s Healing Field memorial to West Michigan. From September 9 to 13 at Cannonsburg Ski Area, 3800 Cannonsburg Rd., Belmont, 3,200 American flags will fly to honor the victims of the infamous attacks including the 21 victims from Michigan. The West Michigan Healing Field is one of 16 Healing Field memorials that will take place across the country for the 10th anniversary of the attacks, and will be open to the public 24/7. The 3,200 flags will be flown on eight-foot poles. Each three-foot-by-five-foot flag will be placed in perfectly aligned rows as a highly visual way to comprehend the sheer enormity of lives lost in the attacks. Each flag will be tagged with the name, story and age of a victim in the attacks. Members of the community can sponsor a flag for $75, which they can take home with them after the event. All proceeds will benefit first responder organizations as designated by RACE. “Three thousand American flags together will make an incredible impact,” said Art Johnson, CEO of United Bank and honorary chair of West Michigan Healing Field. “And when you sponsor one of those flags and take it home with you, that will be a different feeling. It’s honoring and remembering that individual whose name is attached to your flag. That’s what families of victims want—for us to remember their loved ones.” The event is still in need of flag sponsors. To sponsor a flag, please visit and support local first responder organizations. The flags are also available for purchase at all United Bank branches. The public is invited to walk through the flags on the hills of Cannonsburg Ski Area during West Michigan Healing Field. Special programs and events […]

Sponsors stepping up to Healing Fields memorial

June 23, 2011 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA United Bank’s CEO and president Art Johnson, honorary chair of the West Michigan Healing Fields, has stepped up to present his bank as Field Sponsor for the memorial tribute to those killed on 9/11. The bank gave the project a $10,000 check Tuesday, May 24. According to Nancy Martin, manager of the Rockford branch of United Bank, the area tribute to those lost in the terrorist attack is likely to result in national media coverage. Martin said the tribute will take place on the 10th anniversary of the attack—a milestone memorial—and this Healing Fields event will be one of the biggest in the country. “It’s very expensive to put on, but we felt we had to go full bore with it.” The parent organization of the West Michigan Healing Fields is the Rockford Area Community Endowment (RACE), which put up the $50,000 required to stage the event. The public, organizations and businesses are invited to buy one of the three-by-five-foot flags at just $75, which are limited to 3,200—the number of people who died in the September 11, 2001 attacks. Martin said she is excited her company CEO wasted no time deciding to be a major sponsor and is already joined by such familiar names as Meijer, Grand Rapids Press, Ingraberg Farms and others. Flag sales are currently underway as well. “This is going to be so huge,” she noted. Johnson spoke during a press conference held at Cannonsburg Ski Area, where the display and associated memorial events will take place. He talked about the affect the attacks had on the country and the world and how all Americans’ lives have changed as a result. For United Bank, there was a personal connection to the tragedy. The legal team employed by the institution was located in the Trade Towers and every one of them lost their lives that day. Johnson himself, the former chairman of the American Banking Association, had been scheduled to fly to Washington, D.C. that day and had a late morning, so he postponed his flight. The flags will fly on eight-foot poles, a “living display of heroism,” which will be a temporary tribute to the strength and unity of Americans. Flags may be dedicated in honor of an […]

Rockford partners with national group for Healing Fields 9/11 tribute

May 19, 2011 // 0 Comments

Flag sponsorship underway by BETH ALTENA “We all have a 9/11 story,” said Sue Bodenner, one of the organizers of the West Michigan Healing Fields, which will remember and honor those lost 10 years ago in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Bodenner, along with chiefs of local fire departments, members of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, Rockford Police and local Boy Scouts, unveiled plans for West Michigan Healing Fields tribute and memorial. Bodenner heard of the Colonial Flag Foundation’s Healing Fields projects and brought the idea to members of the Rockford Area Community Endowment (RACE), who took on the project as a good fit for the organization and for West Michigan. On Wednesday, May 11, before television cameras and news reporters, the West Michigan Healing Fields plan was officially presented. Cannonsburg Ski Area, 6800 Cannonsburg Road, Belmont, will be the site of 3,200 American Flags representing each one of the people whose lives were lost on September 11. “The memorial we are here to talk about began as a simple way for one person to visualize and comprehend the sheer enormity of human loss that occurred in the terrorist attacks,” said Art Spaulding, honorary chair for the West Michigan Healing Fields, chairman and CEO of United Bank and former chairman of the American Bankers Association. Spaulding said, to him, the Healing Fields bring to memory the bank’s legal team, who were located in the twin trade towers and who all perished that day. Area resident Jack Vander Baan described the loss of his daughter, Barbara Edwards, who was on the flight which terrorists crashed into the Pentagon. The memorials will be open 24 hours a day and include several planned events, including a Salute to Heroes to honor rescue personnel and first responders, a memorial service held by the American Legion, moments of silence in commemoration of the crashes of the American Airlines and United Airlines flights at 8:46, 9:03, 9:43 and 10 a.m. on September 11 and a “Lessons Learned” expression of tribute by West Michigan students, including poems, essays, visual arts and music composition. Individuals, businesses and groups are invited to participate by sponsoring a flag—which can be dedicated to an individual—for just $75. After the memorial events, the flags can be […]

Healing Fields 9/11 memorial coming to Rockford

April 21, 2011 // 0 Comments

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 […]

1 2 3