West Michigan Healing Fields

Endowment gives nearly $58,000 in first responder grants

June 28, 2012 // 0 Comments

‘We said from the beginning it all goes back to rescue’ by BETH ALTENA  Fourteen fire or police departments have funding for life-saving equipment they needed thanks to the generosity of those who supported the West Michigan Healing Fields (WMHF) memorial to 9/1/1 held last September. The Rockford Area Community Endowment (RACE) met last month to give away the money raised by the sponsorships of the 3,200 flags—each representing one of the people who died 10 years ago in terrorist attacks that changed the U.S. in one horrific day. According to Rockford City Manager Michael Young, the project was brought to RACE by Susan Bodenner, who heard about the program. It allows communities to honor those lost while raising funds for grants to first responders, many of whom were among those killed. She brought the idea to the RACE board, where it was enthusiastically embraced. “We said from the beginning it all goes back to rescue,” said Young. “The franchise was $50,000, so RACE could either lose $50,000, break even or make money.” In addition to covering the initial franchise fee for the WMHF, the project raised nearly $60,000 more given away at the RACE annual meeting held at Rockford City Hall on Tuesday, May 18. Not all of the 20 grant applications or all of the grant request amounts were approved, but an amazing $57,840 in grants were given for worthy needs of local rescue. The grants included $5,000 each to Cannon and Courtland township fire departments, the City of Rockford Police and Fire, and the Kent County Sheriff’s Department Mounted Division, which is located in Rockford in Plainfield Townshhip. Plainfield Fire Department received $4,900 to purchase thermal imaging unit equipment; Algoma Fire Department received $4,882 for needed equipment; Sparta Fire Department received $4,785; Grand Rapids Police Department received their entire grant request of $4,473; Wyoming Police and Grandville Police departments were given $3,500 of their grant request; Grattan Fire Department received $2,400 of their requested grant; and Grandville Fire Department received a check for $2,200 of their requested grant. Polly VonEschen, who is an at-large member of the RACE board, said the grants represented the most the board has given since her tenure on the board. The endowment was formed in the early […]

From the City of Rockford

October 13, 2011 // 0 Comments

by ROCKFORD CITY MANAGER MICHAEL YOUNG Financial Outlook Over the past several years, the City Council has implemented numerous cost cutting measures to ensure that the City of Rockford budget is maintained within our budget constraints. One of the many cuts that were made included the elimination of the publication of the Rockford Outlook Newsletter. As an alternative, Council has asked that I coordinate periodic articles in the Rockford Squire to update the community on all that is the City of Rockford. The following information will represent the first installment of the Rockford Outlook in the Squire Newspaper. As mentioned above, the City Council has implemented many cost cutting measures over the last several years to ensure that our budget is balanced. We have cut staff by 25% and have reorganized virtually every department to ensure that we are working within our budget framework. On July 1st of this year, the City’s new fiscal year began and I am very pleased to announce we are working on a balanced budget, which maintains expenditures in check with revenues. This, quite frankly is a significant task in that we have seen major reductions in State shared revenue, property tax revenue, and investment income while many expenditures continue to increase. We have put together a multi-year budget strategy, which will ensure that the City’s fiscal position remains strong. One indicator of our strong position is the recent review of the City’s bond rating. Two (2) years ago, we received an upgrade in our bond rating to AA, which was recently confirmed by Standard and Poors. As we look to the future, our main focus will be preservation and enhancements to our public infrastructure including water, sewer and streets and an eye towards maintaining quality services that our residents have grown accustomed to. Our forecast is that property values will continue to decline for at least the next year at a rate of around 4%. Even with this news, we have developed a budget framework that will take us to 2013. Our budget projections will be updated as we work through the new budget process in February of next year. The new budget maintained the City’s millage rate at 10.9 mils, one of the lowest in the County for cities and […]

West Michigan Healing Field flags still available for community to keep memory of victims alive

September 22, 2011 // 0 Comments

Following the West Michigan Healing Field memorial, a local business is continuing the tribute to 9/11 victims by displaying flags that have not yet been sponsored. Until Friday, Sept. 23, 100 of the American flags displayed at Canonsburg for Healing Field will be on display at Bishop Hills Elder Care Community, 4951 11 Mile Rd., Rockford, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day. Each flag is tagged with the name and biography of a victim in the attack and the community is welcome to walk through the display. Flags are still available for purchase at Bishop Hills, United Bank branches, and www.healingfield.org/west-michigan-2011. “We had many people stopping by Cannonsburg after the display was taken down, sad to find out that they missed the memorial,” said Susan Bodenner, owner of Bishop Hills and project chair of West Michigan Healing Field. “But Healing Field is not just a five-day event. We are thrilled to have flags at Bishop Hills to continue this memorial, and we hope that we encourage the community to do the same. We hope to give every flag a home in a West Michigan business, school or home to forever continue the conversation about the tragedy and hope of September 11 through the eyes of a victim.” “When you bring a flag to your home, the conversation becomes even more meaningful and personal,” Bodenner added. “It also gives us a platform for sharing the story with our young people that were not born when the attacks happened or were too young to remember them.” West Michigan Healing Field has the potential to raise more than $175,000 for local first responder organizations if every flag is purchased. Facts about West Michigan Healing Field: • A five-day display of 3,200 flags on the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks; each of 2,997 flags represented the name of an individual victim and was tagged with their name. The remaining 203 flags represented the unnamed victims who have not been identified. • The entry path brought visitors to a center isle, creating a visual break in the flags, each side representing one of the World Trade Center towers. • The field was laid out in 93 rows. • Each flag was six feet from the next, […]

THE TAX ATTIC with Jerry Coon

September 15, 2011 // 0 Comments

Taxes make our world go If you didn’t make it out to the West Michigan Healing Fields event at Cannonsburg this past weekend, you missed a truly inspiring and emotional event. Seeing 3,200 flags waving in the breeze up the ski slope was quite the sight. It was an even better sight looking down at the flags from the top of the hill. As a volunteer Rotarian, I had the honor of taking a couple of World War II veterans, both in their 90s, up the hill on golf carts supplied by Boulder Creek Golf Course. Both of them discussed the 9/11 event in terms of Pearl Harbor at the start of WWII. People of their generation could tell you where they were when they heard the news that Pearl Harbor was attacked. That event was indelibly etched forever into their memory banks. I can tell you where I was when we were informed that President Kennedy was assassinated. That’s something I believe I will always be able to recall. Similarly, practically anyone who was alive 10 years ago can tell you when they heard or saw the World Trade Center attacked. It was that type of world-changing event. Pearl Harbor ushered in WWII. September 11 brought the War on Terror into our living room and it has remained there. September 11 also brought back some of the patriotism that seemed to be lacking somewhat in our society. Remembering those who perished in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and Flight 93 is a great exercise in patriotism. All of us who walked through the flags on the hill of Cannonsburg Ski Lodge will attest to that. Paying taxes is also patriotic. Taxes are what make our world go around. At our local level, we pay real estate property taxes. Those taxes help to run the City of Rockford, Kent County, and the Rockford Public Schools. At the Michigan level, we pay sales tax and personal income tax. That sales tax gets funneled back to our schools, and income tax is used to provide the services we are accustomed to receiving, such as those provided by the Secretary of State. At the federal level, we pay personal income tax and various other taxes, such as gas tax. […]

West Michigan Healing Fields began with a Rotarian

September 1, 2011 // 0 Comments

What is perhaps not as well known is that the Healing Field program had its beginnings with a Rotary International member. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 had a horrifying impact on us as a nation and as individuals. Rotarian Paul Swenson saw the “sheer enormity” of the human loss evidenced by the rubble, carnage and confusion at ground zero. The horror and despair of that scene brought no comfort. Swenson wanted to acknowledge the enormity of the sacrifice with a positive image that would also offer hope and comfort: a display that would offer healing. As the president of Colonial Flag Company, Swenson recognized the simple yet emotional power of the United States flag. He had seen the comfort in the eyes of a Gold Star Mother upon the receipt of a flag presented “on behalf of a grateful nation.” The folded flag, which had so recently draped the casket, reminded family that the fallen warrior was part of a cause greater than self, that we all are indeed part of that same cause, something greater than self. Swenson knew from so many similar experiences the healing power that can be found in the simple display of the flag. Swenson envisioned a display of 3,000 flags, a “healing field,” to honor those who died on the altar of freedom on 9/11. Not a pile of rubble bleak against a gray smoke-streaked sky, but ordered lines of flags posted on a grassy field, fluttering in the breeze against a blue sky. The enormity of the event symbolized with a positive and beautiful image. This was certainly a big idea. Many people have big ideas that never come into fulfillment. However, that would not be the case with Swenson and his vision of a Healing Field. He set out to make his vision a reality. The vision took planning, coordination and determination. In the effort, Swenson discovered a host of problems that required solution. He encountered doubters and naysayers who did not share the vision that he saw so clearly. Swenson found an appropriate grassy field adjacent to the city hall in Sandy, Utah. The quadrangle seemed to have been planned for the very purpose, and city officials were excited in their support. On the […]

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