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A few reasons when we only need one

By Adam Droscha Contributing Writer Two weekends ago during Charlotte’s annual Frontier Days Parade watchers likely noticed many usual sights — marching bands, horses, tractors, fire trucks, children waving from their floats,...

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Featured Story

Charlotte’s McGill competes in Olympic weightlifting

By Amy Jo Parish

Contributing Writer

When most see weights and gym equipment, they see sweat and work. Eric McGill, however, sees a challenge. McGill has been weightlifting since the age of 14 and has earned several titles — including five national and one world championship title.

McGill competes in the Olympic style of weightlifting. There are two categories to the lifts – Snatch and the Clean and Jerk.

The objective of Snatch is to lift the weights over the head in one continuous motion. The Clean and Jerk involves two parts – lifting the weights to the shoulder and then jerking them overhead to arm’s length.

Last year, McGill placed fourth at Nationals, fourth at Worlds and second at the Pan-American Championships.

Strength sports have obviously motivated the Charlotte native to stay fit. But the endurance, stamina and perseverance needed in the sport has affected many other aspects of his life. McGill said, in his younger years, he was headed down a tough path in life and strength sports gave him an area to focus on and helped guide his life choices.

“Competing gave me something worth focusing on,” said McGill. “I was making some troublesome, bad decisions and strength training and competing helped me focus and got me out of some situations I didn’t want to be in anymore.”

He credits his father, Duane McGill, for getting him started with weightlifting, and that legacy lives on through Eric and those he mentors. Once he witnessed the positive impact the sport had on his own life, he knew it was worth sharing with others.

“It helped me so much in my life that I immediately thought, ‘I can’t be the only one who loves this and it’s got to be able to help others,’” said McGill. “If this can completely change my life around, it’s got to be able to do this for others.”

McGill has grown his love for the sport from his own weights over the years and now owns CrossFit Fade in Charlotte, inside the Al!ve center of Sparrow Eaton Hospital. He and his wife Morene also own the Big Salad franchise in the facility.

Working with the staff at Al!ve has been a fantastic experience, and that relationship has been a big part of his success, explained McGill.

“They have been nothing but great to work with,” said McGill. “Patrick Sustrich and Jake Campbell have been great to work with, and it’s been really great.”

His professional endeavors into strength training got their start with the CrossFit company. The ability of the instructors to work with people of all abilities and experience has kept him with the company over the years. He realized there were many in the CrossFit world who would benefit and are interested in weightlifting.

For McGill, the guidance of his father, and also his coach Fred Lowe, who coaches him to this day, have proven invaluable. He encourages others to seek out someone to lean on for guidance.

“Even if you’ve never worked out a day in your life, there’s a bunch of stuff I can teach you,” assures McGill. “Reach out and find a professional in your area and take that first step.


Photo provided

Eric McGill lifts in the Clean and Jerk category during the 2019 World Championships in Montreal.



Featured Story

Xact Excavating: Local grad takes to the dirt

Amy Jo Parish

Contributing Writer

There is a saying, “Give a man soil and he will prosper.” Gino Costello has taken that to heart this past year, sinking his shovel into the ground and opening his own business — Xact Excavating in Olivet.

For some, the summer after high school graduation is a time of celebration. When Costello graduated from Bellevue High School last year, it was time to get busy. His odd jobs with dirt and equipment while still in school helped him to prepare to branch out on his own.

His optimism and work ethic are apparent when Costello speaks about his business, and it is those qualities that have helped the business grow. 

Once customers experienced the quality and care he takes with the work, Costello said word of mouth brought in more and more jobs. What started as a few jobs on the side grew into a business all its own.

With the help of co-founder Brad Shrontz of Shrontz Trucking, Costello’s business has continued to grow since it opened, and Costello could not be more pleased.

“It has been pretty awesome, how it’s going so far,” said Costello.

From excavating, site work, ice and snow removal and even hauling, there is a long list of services that can be found at Xact Excavating.

The business gives Costello the chance to combine two things he really enjoys — working with equipment and working with people.

“I love working with people, and I think the best thing for me is that I get to do the whole job,” said Costello. “You get to see a project come together from beginning to end.”

The most surprising aspect, however, has been for the customers, not the young entrepreneur.

“My age surprises people. They sometimes aren’t sure at the start if I can do the job, but at the end, they say, ‘wow, you actually can.’”

For Costello, reading blueprints is like reading a book, and he looks forward to working in the dirt for years to come. His eagerness to learn has been a key part of his success thus far and helps him stay on top of new trends in the industry.

“I’m always trying to figure something out to make us better than the competition,” he explained.

For more information about Xact Excavating, visit the company online at Xact Excavating is located at 22105 T Drive North in Olivet. Costello can be reached at 517-706-1563 or

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Featured Story

Bronco basketball teams look to cap off perfect regular seasons

The road to perfect regular seasons for both the Bellevue boys and girls varsity basketball teams could go through Athens. 

The Bronco boys were 18-0 heading into its toughest remaining regular season test, a Friday, Feb. 22 showdown at Athens High School. Bellevue defeated Athens, which was undefeated at the time, earlier this season, 68-62 in Bellevue. The game could be much more difficult in a hostile environment.

The Lady Broncos, meanwhile, host Athens on Tuesday, Feb. 26. Bellevue defeated Athens on the road in their tightest contest of the season, 37-36. The girls were 16-0 heading into their game at Climax on Thursday, Feb. 21. Bellevue defeated Climax 49-15 at home earlier this season.

In their most recent action, Bellevue guards Wyatt Waterbury and Gino Costello led the Broncos to a 60-73 win over Climax, securing a third-straight SCAA West Division title. Waterbury paced the Broncos with 20 points, 6 steals and 4 assists. Costello added 14 points, and 4 assists. Carson Betz recorded a double-double, finishing with 10 points, 14 rebounds and 5 steals.

The team travels to Jackson Christian High School on Monday, Feb. 25 to open District play against Tekonsha.

In the girls most recent victory, Morgan Messenger led the way with 13 points as Bellevue defeated Waldron, 33-30. Mikayla Crawley finished with 10 points, 3 steals and 2 assists. 

The Lady Broncos host Colon on Saturday, Feb. 23, and finish off the regular season with home games against Athens on Tuesday, Feb. 26 and Tekonsha on Thursday, Feb. 28.

The team opens District play at Athens High School on Monday, March 4 against Battle Creek St. Philip.

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Eaton County

Eaton County

Featured Story

New 911 safety system up and running

Deb Malewski

Contributing Writer

At a Jan. 9 press conference held at the Eaton County Courthouse, Michael Armitage, Eaton County 911 director, announced the new Eaton County public safety radio communication system, approved by voters in 2017, is now in operation. This replaces an old system which was aging and experiencing failures, Armitage said.

The old system used outdated technology and was at the end of its life, Armitage explained.

“A wind gust in the right direction could blow an antenna or a microwave dish and essentially cripple communication,” he added.

Firefighters sometimes had to carry multiple radios to be able to communicate with other agencies in mutual assistance situations. He explained communication inside buildings was not always reliable.

But those problems will be resolved with the new system. Tests on the new system have shown a vast improvement over the old system, with 98 percent coverage inside buildings in the 1,400 sites tested.

The $13.1 million project provides for five new towers; 957 new radios for police, fire and EMS; and 464 pagers for fire services. There are 39 new outdoor warning sirens in the system, and these will automatically activate based on National Weather Service warnings.

Eaton County Commissioner Barb Rogers said the new system has many advantages.

“With the new system, when dispatch is notified of a tornado, for instance, all the sirens throughout the county can be activated by 911 operators immediately,” Rogers said. “It also provides firefighters with much-improved communications while in structure fires.

“I’m very proud of Eaton County for being the first in the tri-county area with the new and improved radio system to protect firefighters, first responders and citizens.”

Delta Township Fire Chief Gregg Ginebaugh pointed out that the new radios issued to the fire departments have larger knobs on them, making them easier to use with gloved hands and in a dark environment. He also noted that they will be using one system and one radio now, which increases the interoperability between neighbors in mutual assistance events.

“This will be a huge leap forward for us,” Ginebaugh said.

Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich said the new system will be a big help.

“This will improve radio coverage and will help satisfy our mission to provide the very best in public safety and services to the people of Eaton County, including the safety of our first responders, firefighters and law enforcement,” Reich said. He also thanked Armitage for his work in getting the system up and running.

In 2019, Eaton County Dispatch received over 141,000 phone calls and dispatched to over 92,00 incidents involving police, fire and EMS.


Photo provided

Shown here at the Jan. 9 press conference are (l. to r.) Brad Stoddard, Michigan public safety communication system director; Delta Township Fire Chief Gregg Ginebaugh; Delta Township Assistant Chief Mike Roman; Michael Armitage, Eaton County 911 director; Eaton County Sheriff Tim Reich; and Eaton County Undersheriff Jeff Cook.

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Featured Story

Maple Valley exchange students create positive impact

By Amy Jo Parish

Contributing Writer

Exchange students give up their home and their family for a year in order to gain new experiences in a foreign culture. Those experiences, however, can last a lifetime. This year, the Maple Valley School District welcomed nine exchange students into their halls. Though the students come from all around the globe, all were eager to experience America for themselves. For some, it was an eye-opening experience to come to the very rural setting of Maple Valley.

“I imagined it would be like the High School Musical movies, and it’s a lot more different,” laughs Julia Schnull from Germany. “It’s a lot more country life, but I really like it.”

Maria Sousa of Brazil made the journey without any preconceived notions of American life.

“I thought, it will be what it will be – no expectations,” said Sousa. “It is better than I could have expected.”

Along with a new language, the students have also been experiencing new cuisine. For the German students, they are used to sweet popcorn and the salty varieties have taken a bit of adjustment. Overall, the students said they have been enjoying the food.

“I’m gaining weight every week,” said Sousa.  a

A few students have found a new favorite food.

“Deep-fried pickles, they are so good,” said Sofia Kärki of Finland. “I would eat so many of them.”

The course work has been easier for all of the students, making it easier to adjust to new schedules and time zones.

“School here is so much easier, but it’s so different,” said Matilde Lenzi of Italy. “We don’t change classroom; teachers change, and we go on Saturday.”

Through all the differences and adjustments, Maple Valley High School Principal Michael Knapp said welcoming exchange students into the district creates a positive impact for not only the students but the community as well.

“It allows our students that don’t leave the area to get to experience other cultures,” said Knapp. “They get involved with extracurricular activities and in our school community, and our students just really embrace them.”

Maple Valley typically welcomes anywhere from 10 to 15 exchange students each year, some stay for a semester, others an entire year. The district works with CET USA, Share and other exchange programs to bring the students into the community. The organizations works with local families to match students’ interests with the families and ensure a positive experience for all those involved. Knapp said Maple Valley will continue to work with exchange student companies well into the future and is certain the host families and students are changed for the better because of the programs.

“In many cases, students and host families will visit each other down the road,” said Knapp. “It just spurs on what can be a lifelong friendship.”

The commitment of leaving family and friends for a year can be daunting, explained Knapp, but the experiences and memories make for an unforgettable 12 months.

“It’s a huge step for that student to commit to leaving their homes for a year,” he said.

The students could not agree more and would encourage other students who might be interested in becoming an exchange student to take the chance.

“It’s hard sometimes, but it’s worth it,” said Schnull.


Photo by Amy Jo Parish

This year’s Maple Valley High School exchange students include (front, from left) Veerin Yimsmerjit, Thailand; Matilde Lenzi, Italy; Leo Roskouetz, Germany; Luisa Pidun, Germany; Julia Schnull, Germany; Maria Sousa, Brazil; (back, from left), Vilma Viitanen, Finland; Sofia Kärki, Finland; and (missing from photo) Sally Park, South Korea.

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Featured Story

New Potterville High School boys varsity basketball coach sets first camp

Newly hired Potterville High School boys varsity basketball coach, Jacob Briney, and his entire coaching staff, is offering a four-day basketball camp for area youth in second through 12th grade. The camp will be held four consecutive Sundays beginning July 21 in the Potterville High School gymnasium.

Students entering ninth through 12th grade will attend from 2 to 4 p.m. July 21, July 28, Aug. 4 and Aug. 11. Students entering sixth through eighth grade will attend from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and students entering second through fifth grade will attend from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The cost of the camp is $50 per participant, which includes access to all four Sundays, and a custom Moneyball practice jersey. Checks should be made payable to Potterville Public Schools, attention Boys Basketball.

Registration forms must be completed before the start of camp and are available in the Potterville High School athletic office. There will also be an opportunity to register your child on Sunday, July 21 prior to the start of camp.

For more information, contact coach Briney via email at

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Eaton Rapids

Eaton Rapids

Featured Story

Kerry Colestock perfects the ‘art of the cookie’

By Deb Malewski

Contributing Writer

Some artists paint on canvas, some paint murals on walls, some paint rocks. Kerry Colestock, of Eaton Rapids paints with royal icing on sugar cookies and has started a small cookie-making business. These cookies have no chocolate or peanut butter, but they are far from plain. Each sugar cookie is custom made and decorated with colorful icing. They are cut out and hand decorated with whimsical designs matching the request or the interests of the buyer. And they are made with love, Colestock said.

Colestock started approximately a year ago with her “Kerry’s Cookies” business. She sells through Facebook or word of mouth. She attended one cookie-decorating class, and it took off from there. She has two children and a husband, still works a full-time job and makes cookies in the evenings.

Colestock gets some assistance from Zoey, her six-year-old daughter.

“She can decorate a nice cookie,” Colestock proudly admitted.

Any profit Colestock makes from her cookie sales is set aside to purchase equipment for her son, Wesley, who is five years old and has special needs, she explained. She recently purchased a special bike called a Wee Hoo, as he is unable to ride a regular bike. Colestock also was able to upgrade his stroller to a larger, special-needs stroller. Next, she would like to purchase him a large swing.

Her goal is to make people happy, Colestock said, and her favorite part of the work is knowing her cookies are the “‘wow’ of the party.”

“I love to see the reaction of the person they were made for,” she said. “They’re personally designed with that person’s likes in mind, and I like to make the person feel special.”

Colestock usually asks for inspiration photos to make sure she knows what her customers want and creates a set of five to six different cookie designs based on that theme.

“People don’t realize how long it takes to research and prepare the cookies.”

She has received many compliments regarding the amount of detail she puts in her cookies. Some of her cookie themes include law enforcement, cartoon characters, construction vehicles, motorcycles, nursing, unicorns, island cookies and hunting.

“These cookies were so cute for my daughter’s baby shower,” said Robin Hernandez, about the Mama Bear cookies she ordered. “They weren’t only adorable, they were delicious — such a big hit.”

Colestock said it can take 12 hours to decorate 24 cookies, in addition to the actual cookie-baking process. Most cookie orders take four or five days to fill.

For more information, including pricing and ordering, visit Colestock’s Facebook page, “Kerry’s Cookies.”


Photo by Deb Malewski

Kerry Colestock of Eaton Rapids is a cookie artist — hand-decorating sugar cookie masterpieces.






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