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Family takes next step in independence for those with disabilities

March 26, 2009 // 0 Comments

by BETH ALTENA When Beth Sturr contacted the Squire for a story about her daughter, she said she had been planning the article for 18 years. Kailey Sturr, who will be 18 in May, has Angelman Syndrome. The smiling, active girl can do many things-help with laundry, chose her own meals, give hugs. She is also non-verbal, is mentally at the level of a toddler and traditionally would either live at home her entire life or be placed in a group home. Her parents have a different vision for her. Before the Sturr family settled in Rockford, they knew they wanted their daughter to eventually live in her own home and achieve a level of independence formerly unheard of for a person with Kailey’s disability. Planning to settle in West Michigan, they called schools and visited towns. When they talked to Rockford Public Schools and the person in charge of the programs for students with disabilities, they felt what they called “such a warm welcome.” When they saw the downtown, that was the end of the search. Kailey started in the district in the pre-primary impaired program at Meadowridge Elementary and has moved all the way up through to Rockford High School, where she enjoys eating lunch with other students. “Kailey has risen to her potential in Rockford Schools,” said Beth. Now, at 18, it is time for Kailey to transition to the next phase of her life. Years ago, her parents purchased the home next to theirs on Courtland just north of Monroe. They are ready for Kailey to live in her own home. “It’s a block from Rocky’s, a block from the bike path, close to all the festivals. It’s the perfect situation for a disabled adult to be a part of,” said Sturr. Fifty years ago people with severe disabilities were routinely packed off to institutions. Parents of children with disorders such as Downs Syndrome weren’t given much in the way of options. Now group homes or living at home are common. The idea of setting up a disabled person in their own home is brand-new and cutting edge. “We have had to get creative,” said Sturr. “Getting the house was probably the easiest part.” The next piece in the puzzle  of […]

Enjoy the benefits of volunteering for your community

March 26, 2009 // 0 Comments

The same holds true for any organization.  The Rockford community has a jewel in its volunteer police officers.  Situated in the heart of downtown Rockford, the Rockford Police Department Volunteer Service Unit (VSU) officers patrol our charming community searching for parking violations, sidewalks in disrepair or in need of shoveling, as well as patrolling trails as needed, helping shut-ins, and checking on the homes of citizens who are on vacation.  In addition to those duties, VSU officers answer questions at their downtown “headquarters,” the Welcome Center in the heart of downtown Rockford. VSU officers serve at special events such as the Start of Summer celebration, National Night Out, parades, and other community activities. They help with traffic control, crowd control, and in other ways. They have two vehicles for their patrols-a donated Jeep Cherokee and a golf cart with police lights.  They have the authority to approach someone who is breaking the law and they have the means to call for back up. All volunteers are equipped with a walkie-talkie that is a direct line to the Rockford Police Department dispatchers, who oversee the VSU.  Any sign of trouble is immediately called in to dispatch and a police officer is sent to their location without delay. The VSU officers don’t get paid monetarily; they get paid with feelings of pride by helping to make their community safer, cleaner, and happier. One such volunteer, Jim Herdegen, retired from Steelcases’ manufacturing engineering division. He has been volunteering with the VSU for over three years and has also been at God’s Kitchen in Grand Rapids for six years.  Prior to his stint downtown he volunteered at the Michigan Community Blood Center.  He volunteers his time because he likes being able to meet people from all over including, England and Ireland. He recalls a story of how a woman from west of Milwaukee, Wisconsin had ridden her bike to Rockford and was looking for trail information.  Moments after he sent this woman on her way to a local restaurant, a couple from the Rockford area came into the Welcome Center looking for trails to get them to Wisconsin.  He quickly told this couple to go to the restaurant and find the woman that he spoke to minutes before. When […]

Tradition continues at family business

March 26, 2009 // 0 Comments

Thirty nine years ago, to celebrate their Irish Heritage, Norm and Rosemary Byrne of Byrne Electric decided to do something nice for their employees on St. Patrick’s Day. They invited all of their employees for breakfast at their home. “They set it up in their basement. Everyone was invited,” said Mike Lomonaco, Customer Relationship Manager. But as the company continued to grow throughout the following years, the Byrne’s basement couldn’t hold them all. So when they moved to their current location, they continued to have the St. Patrick’s Day breakfast/party, but now they have it in the company cafeteria. While the employees eat their breakfast, they listen to the live Irish music for about an hour. Lomonaco stated that if business allows them to do it, the employees also receive a half day off on St. Patrick’s Day. Lomonaco continued, “That’s one of the advantages of being a privately-held company, we can do this for our employees. They are the heart and soul of our company,”

Residents warned of township employee impersonator

March 26, 2009 // 0 Comments

Within the past three weeks, two different residents of Plainfield Township were contacted by individuals claiming to be working for the “Water Department.” In both instances the Kent County Sheriff’s Office believes they were attempting to impersonate a water department employee in an attempt to enter the residence with criminal intent.  One resident was contacted by telephone and the suspect set up an appointment. He never showed. The other resident was contacted at her residence by an individual claiming her water meter on the outside of the house was not working properly. He said he needed to come inside for a more accurate reading. The home owner did not allow him to enter then contacted the Sheriff’s Office. Investigators from the Sheriff’s Office are looking into both situations. Plainfield Township officials advise residences to check their official website,, for current project information that may be taking place throughout the township. They also advise that all township employees drive clearly labeled vehicles, wear uniforms and carry township pictured ID. The Sheriff’s Office verified the township had no reported water problems nor did they have any workers in that area. Sheriff’s Deputies believe the suspect may be working with an accomplice and possibly stealing property from the victims when given the opportunity. The suspect is described as a white male, tall and thin. Their vehicle was described as a white or grey SUV, or possibly a white-colored pick up truck. Remember: Government workers should be in uniform and should always have proper/official identification before being allowed into your home.  Use your phone directory and attempt to verify the information that the subject is giving you. If they are legitimate they will be patient, understanding, and accommodating while you verify their credentials. For more information contact the Kent County Sheriff’s Office (616) 632-6100 or Silent Observer at (616) 774-2345.

Annual cake auction raised funds for Girl Scouts

March 26, 2009 // 0 Comments

From castles to snowmen, volcanoes to teddy bears, dads, uncles, grandpas and their favorite Girl Scout arrived with their entries for the third annual Father/Daughter Cake Bake held at Our Lady of Consolation on March 14.  Twenty-seven cakes were entered in this year’s auction and sold for a total of $1,180 for the financial assistance fund for the Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore council.  The girls and their baking partners were also recognized for their culinary designs. Tia Hawkes, Lydia Kolbe and Sarah Bloem each won prizes for the cakes depicting the best Girl Scout spirit. In the cutest cake category, Olivia Baldwin, Amanda Zeboor and Baily Knittle took the honors. The judges chose the cakes created by Emilee Frost, Danielle Dettloff and Shelby Taylor as the most creative. Every color of the rainbow was represented in the cakes designed by Katherine Parker, Emma Gearhart and Skylar Fabish in the most colorful category. Most artistic honors went to Julie Fitzhugh, Micha Merren and Maddie Ripple. A salute to patriotism was represented in the designs of Marissa Dettloff, Violetta Vega and Sarah Nicklowitz and were awarded prizes in the most patriotic category. “The turnout was great for this year’s event. We raised more money this year then ever in the past-that says a lot about the caring community we live in and their support of our young people,” said Lori Dettloff, co-chair of the event. “As Girl Scouts celebrates their 97th birthday, it is great to know that this organization is stronger then ever in the Rockford community.” The Rockford Girl Scouts would like to extend a “thank-you” to Our Lady of Consolation for donating the use of their building for the event, Wiley and Company for the assistance with decorations, judges Candy Lancioni and Jeannie Gregory and to all our bakers and bidders that made this event possible.             To learn more about Girl Scouting in our area, visit

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