Central Michigan University (CMU) junior Danielle Schmutz of Rockford recently participated in CMU’s Alternative Winter Break volunteer program. Schmutz, a Rockford High School graduate and daughter of George and Tina Schmutz of Rockford, was among more than 120 CMU students who took part in the week of service travel organized by the university’s Volunteer Center. During Alternative Winter Break, 11 teams of CMU students volunteered around the world with organizations that address such social issues as at-risk youth, disaster relief, sexual abuse, hunger and homelessness, terminal illness, care for the elderly, and civil rights. Schmutz was a volunteer at Operation Breakthrough in Kansas City, Mo., working in classrooms and conducting activities for the nearly 700 children served by the center, who are among Kansas City’s poorest-about 25 percent of whom are homeless. She is majoring in child development and sociology and minoring in global justice at CMU. Created in 1994, Alternative Breaks is a program that provides CMU students with opportunities to travel domestically or abroad to experience meaningful service projects. Teams led by trained CMU student site leaders engage in public service and social issue-based education on the trips, which take place during winter, spring and summer breaks, as well as on weekends during the academic year.
Please join the Land Conservancy of West Michigan for a volunteer workday. There will be a Garlic Mustard Pull at Brower Lake on Saturday, May 9, from 9 to 11 a.m. Meet at 8748 Je Ne Be Drive, Rockford. All events happen rain or shine unless otherwise noted. We are making progress! Through years of volunteers pulling the garlic mustard at Brower Lake, the amount has significantly declined. Come make a big difference by helping put an end to the garlic mustard. Work gloves are recommended. Advanced registration is not required but would be appreciated. Please call 616-451-9476 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
by CHRISTINE BIGNEY Courtney Fedeson knows the importance of sticking to a project until it’s finished. In this particular case, $1,000 and a trip to Washington, D.C. was the reward. Courtney, a seventh-grader at North Rockford Middle School, was awarded an engraved silver medallion that signified her selection as one of Michigan’s top two youth volunteers for 2009 in the Prudential Spirit of Community Awards program. The ceremony took place at the school board meeting on Monday, March 9. The award, sponsored in partnership with the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), is part of a broad initiative created by Prudential Financial to encourage young people to become involved with community service. The award was presented by Douglas Kliewer, a financial planner and representative from the well-known insurance company. “We want to recognize the students who donate an insurmountable amount of hours for their community,” said Kliewer. Courtney was honored for helping her Girl Scout troop lead a project that landscaped and beautified the front entrance of her school. They raised approximately $12,000 to fund this project. “I think I understand now what a great community I live in; a place where people will pitch in and volunteer,” Courtney said. “All you have to do is take the initiative and act.” Courtney was one of 104 other top honorees from across the country to win this prestigious award. She will join them in early May in Washington, D.C. for several days of national recognition events. Ten of them will be named America’s top youth volunteers for 2009 at that time. Courtney’s father, Brian Fedeson, is extremely proud of his daughter’s accomplishments. “This is an impressive award. If Courtney wins one of the top ten, $5,000 comes back to the Rockford area to help area charities.” Courtney plans on saving her $1,000 award for college. She wants to become a lawyer. “I found out that I can make a difference,” said Courtney.
Ride along with Rockford Police, answer questions from downtown visitors, write out a ticket for someone parking illegally in a handicapped parking space. These are among the duties of Rockford’s volunteer police force and you are welcomed to join up. According to Michigan’s Volunteer of the Year Linda Crone, who is a loyal member of the team who logged in over 500 volunteer hours on the force in 2008, the job is rewarding. “It’s pretty flexible, you can volunteer for many different duties, such as the Rockford Youth Night Out this Friday. We check on people’s homes when they are out of town and visit shut-ins. I’m pretty nosy so it all looks interesting to me,” Crone said. Crone enjoys riding around Rockford in the police jeep in the winter and in the golf cart in the summer. Volunteers can hit the White Pine Trail to watch for mischief or a chance to offer help or enjoy a day at the Welcome Center at 12 Squires Street. There visitors ask for everything from advice on where to go to eat to directions. “Husband and wife teams are allowed, so you can be on patrol together. It’s good for retirees. I’m a very friendly person, so I love it because you get to meet so many people and talk.” Crone points out that the Police Department is careful their volunteers aren’t put in dangerous situations that the more trained officers sometimes face. They will never be expected to make an arrest, take part in a chase or confront obnoxious individuals. The police do the hard work and let the volunteers enjoy the “lighter side” of police work. “There’s nothing rocket science about it,” said Crone. “Anyone can do it.” Applications are available at the Welcome Center and training is provided by the Rockford Police. Crone said her training consisted of a few drive-alongs with the police and advice on how to handle different situations. The volunteer force consists of 15 members currently and members are only required to put in 16 hours a month. “It’s a lot of fun. I love the summer when we get to ride up and down the White Pine Trail in the golf cart.”