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CHS students learning job skills via recycling

By Carla Bumstead


— Students have been learning value job skills by getting real-world job experience as part of an on-going recycling program at Charlotte High School (CHS). Four years ago, teachers Tami Wilson and Ryan Guimont started looking into ways to give their students, all special education students, some meaningful job experiences.

“Part of our students’ curriculum is to learn job skills,” Wilson said. “We were trying to give them actual experiences rather than just talking about it in class.

“When Ryan (Guimont) moved to the high school, we started looking for hands on job skills we could do. And we ended up doing custodial, landscaping and recycling that same year.”

Guimont had moved to the high school from another school, where he had a run a program similar to the current recycling efforts.

“It was a great way for our students to work on independent job skills while also helping the school building,” Guimont said. “There was no recycling program there at that time.”

Wilson said it is an “awesome” experience for the kids because it provides real job skills and is student-led.

Since the start of their working with the Charlotte Area Recycling Authority (CARA) four years ago, the students have been placing bins in each high school classroom. Two days a week they go to each classroom and collect everything. There is a “mini recycling center” in the lower part of the high school, where students sort the donations. From there, material is taken to CARA. They also return any pop or beverage bottles to Meijer, and the money they earn goes back into the program.

“Caps and lids”

This past year, Wilson and Guimont decided to expand what they were doing. Wilson explained that the students had found a place in Indiana able to recycle the caps and lids they had been collecting — a special process that CARA was not able to do. The Indiana facility turns the caps and lids into plastic/ recycled lumber.

“This year, the students decided to collect as many caps and lids as they could to try and build a bench or picnic table for the school courtyard they have been working on landscaping,” Wilson said. “It was a way to combine our job sites into a group project.”

In order to get enough for the bench, the students needed to collect almost 200 pounds of the caps and lids.

“That number seemed overwhelming at first,” Wilson said. “So they decided to see if they could get the community to help.”

The students made collection buckets at each of the elementary schools and CARA to help make it easier for people to donate. They created a poster at CARA that shows what acceptable caps and lids they are looking for. Students also went to second-grade classrooms at Parkview and Washington earlier this school year to talk about the importance of recycling and to ask for help.

“We even had two students who went to the capitol building in Lansing in December to talk about their project to visitors,” Wilson said.

Prior to the schools being closed because of COVID-19, the students had collected 130 pounds of caps and lids.

“The students are looking forward to continuing this next year and maybe getting the 500 pounds for the table instead,” Wilson said. “The students have been debating the table or multiple benches and maybe trying to do a bench at each school for their support.

“The students, Mr. Guimont and I have been very excited with the response and help from the community, and the students are looking forward to continuing this project,” Wilson said.


Earlier this school year, CHS students Abby McCune and Erin Eisner went to the capitol building to talk about recycling.

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Olivet dentist contributes to students’ dental health

By Deb Malewski

Contributing writer

— With most dental visits on hold right now, it’s still very important to maintain good dental health, says Dr. Lana Lewis of Main Street Dental, PLCC, in Olivet. Feeling very strongly about this, she decided to donate 400 toothbrushes, dental floss and toothpaste to be passed out with the free breakfast and lunches at the Olivet schools.

Lewis wanted to do something to help the community maintain their oral health during social isolation, she explained. Governor Whitmer’s executive order has limited dental health care to emergency services only, Lewis said, so it is more important than ever for people to take their oral health care into their own hands. 

“The need to limit close patient contact to decrease the spread of the coronavirus makes scientific sense,” Lewis said. “This has led me to think outside the box on ways to reach out to my community and my patients.” 

Lewis has been practicing in Olivet at Main Street Dental for almost 15 years and considers the community her home.

“We miss our patient family and hope to see them all soon. By promoting oral health, I am promoting whole-body health.”

For this special project, Lewis teamed up with Crest Oral B, who provided 10 percent of the supplies, with Lewis supplying the rest.

The dental hygiene supplies were handed out May 18 in the breakfast and lunch distribution program through the Olivet schools.

Parents and the community have been incredibly supportive and appreciative of this outreach effort to get oral hygiene tools in the hands of local kids, she said.

“I hope that everyone stays safe and continues to take every aspect of their health seriously.”

In keeping with the governor’s orders, Main Street Dental is temporarily closed through May 28. For dental emergencies, Lewis encourages patients to call the office at 269-749-9477. Lewis can also be reached through her website at and on Facebook.


Photo provided

Sasha and Avi Kelly (daughters of Dr. Lana Lewis of Main Street Dental) are shown packaging dental hygiene supplies.

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Featured Story

‘Convoy’ serves as send off for Bellevue graduates

By Carla Bumstead


On May 8, Bellevue High School seniors took their final “walk” through the district. But instead of walking the halls one last time, they drove through the district in the first-ever Senior Celebration Convoy.

In a letter from Bellevue Community Schools Superintendent Kathy Mohney, the community was invited to cheer them on.

“We are encouraging the entire community to join us in celebrating our amazing students by cheering them on as the convoy passes your homes or businesses – keeping our social distancing guidelines in place at all times,” Mohney stated. “We want each of our graduates to know how much our community loves them, so let’s cheer them on.”

The convoy lasted approximately two hours, and made its way down streets and highways all around the Bellevue area. But its most important stops were at the homes of the graduates, explained Cindy Gaedert-Gearhart, parent of one of the grads.

“It must have been such a lot of work for the people who organized it all, as they stopped at each kid’s house,” explained Gaedert-Gearhart, who rode in the convoy with her son Carter Wing. “And it was so nice to see how the community put signs in their windows, and people who didn’t even have kids in the school were out in their yards with signs, waving.”

After making its rounds, the convoy ended up at the high school, where students got out of their vehicles and had their photos taken in their caps and gowns by Candy Marie Robbins. As the day of the convoy was to have been the seniors’ last day of school, if not for COVID-19, there were also stations set up and manned by teachers. The stations gave the kids a chance to say goodbye. At the conclusion of the event, grads were able to pick up their yard signs and bring them home.

As a parent, Gaedert-Wing said the entire event was both delightful and quite sad.

“The kids were so happy, and you saw tons of smiles on their faces,” she said, while trying to choke back a few tears. “These poor kids haven’t seen each other in forever, and they were so happy to be able to talk to each other.”

Another Bellevue parent, Jessie McClelland, offered her thanks to the entire community for its show of support.

“Thank you to our awesome district, administrators, teachers, staff, fire department, parents and community for the parade honoring our students,” McClelland stated. “These kids have faced a lot of challenges and disappointment this year, and I can’t think of a more special way for them end their high school career.”


Photo by Candy Marie Photography

The convoy celebrating Bellevue High School seniors is shown making its way down the village’s main street.

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Eaton County

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Featured Story

Eaton County tax foreclosures suspended

— Eaton County Treasurer Bob Robinson has suspended tax foreclosures of occupied properties and businesses and has extended the redemption period for property owners facing tax foreclosure in Eaton County until 2021.

“It’s the right thing to do,” said Robinson. “The COVID-19 pandemic is an unprecedented financial catastrophe for many homeowners, renters and business owners.

“Halting foreclosures on occupied properties is the best way to balance my responsibilities to state foreclosure law and to the citizens of Eaton County. We need to assist our households and businesses to get through this difficult time.”

Foreclosure for 2020 will continue for properties that pose a threat to public health, safety and welfare. Interest will continue to accrue on delinquent taxes.

Tax foreclosures in Eaton County have declined by 50 percent since 2013 — from a historical high of 60 to less than 30 in 2019.

Although the county treasurer’s office is closed to the public, all staff are working 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday with added safety precautions to help taxpayers work through their tax debts.

“Anyone having difficulties paying their delinquent property taxes should call us at 517-543-4262,” said Robinson.

Delinquent property taxes can also be paid by mail and online by credit card, debit card or e-check by going to the website at and following the “pay delinquent property taxes” link at the bottom of the page.

Article submitted by Eaton County Treasurer’s Office.

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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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Potterville’s Jake Briney named All-State 2nd Team Coach

By Travis Silvas

Sports Writer

By most standards, the Potterville High School boys varsity basketball season was a tremendous success. By the Associated Press’ standards, it was All-State-worthy.

In guiding the Vikings to a 17-5 record, a 10-win improvement from last year, first-year head coach Jake Briney received AP Div. 3 All-State 2nd Team Co-Coach of the Year honors.

“Ultimately, it comes down to the people around you,” Briney said of the recognition. “You have to have a good staff.

“We had a lot of guys doing a great job implementing a brand new system. I was fortunate to have a great junior high staff and great high school staff. It’s the team around me that allowed me to get the award.”

While taking a moment to reflect on the team’s success, Briney can’t help but see the what-ifs in a season cut short by a global pandemic.

The season was put on hold just before the MHSAA Div. 3 District Finals, where the Vikings had the opportunity to match-up with defending state champs, Pewamo-Westphalia, for the third time.

“It’s always hard to beat a team a third time in a season,” Briney said of Potterville’s District-Finals match-up with Pewamo. “The coaches and I really feel we could have defeated PW that Friday.

“The regional had really opened up, too. We could have had a chance to make a run.”

Potterville, which only suited up a full roster once in 22 games, finally had its full lineup intact. The team was missing its second-leading scorer in both previous losses to the Pirates. Junior Adam Pickelman had returned in time for the MHSAA playoffs and had provided a spark.

“I was really confident going into that Friday game,” Briney said. “The way we played the first two games in the Districts, scoring a lot of points, it’s tough not to think of the what-ifs.”

Briney said, through injuries and ineligibilities, his team came together through a lot of adversity.

“We were constantly adjusting,” Briney said. “We wanted to do a lot more full-court stuff, but unfortunately couldn’t with our lack of depth.

“It’s a huge compliment to the boys who were constantly adjusting their roles and expectations.”

The sting of the what-ifs may fade with time, and Briney will be able to look back on the success of his first year and enjoy the recognition. Helping to ease the sting is the excitement now surrounding the program. The team will return 10 players next season and could see an influx of talent from a few underclassmen.

Briney also acknowledged the support of the Potterville administration and community as a whole as crucial factors in the program’s rebuild.

“We are fortunate to have an administration that trusts what we’re doing and allows us to do what we need to do to build this program,” Briney said. “A majority of our games, our gym was packed, which made it special.

“On top of that, for a very small school, we traveled well. Everyone, from the student section, cheerleaders, band and local businesses, was outstanding. We had a great place to be on a Wednesday or Friday night. Thanks to the community and administration for allowing us to build a program that everyone can be proud of moving forward.”

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Eaton Rapids

Eaton Rapids

Featured Story

ER man unearths old gravestone in his backyard

By Deb Malewski

Contributing columnist

— Imagine the shock of finding a gravestone in your backyard. My first thought would be “If I lift it up, will there be bones underneath?”

This is what happened recently to Levi Polihonki, who lives on Water Street in Eaton Rapids. Last year, he tore down a circa-1925 stone shed on his property. He believes the shed was probably built when the house was. He and his wife have been rehabbing their house for six years, Polihonki explained. This year, while grading the land where the shed had stood, his blade hit stone.

The marble slab was covered by five to ten inches of dirt, Polihonki said.

“I tossed it to the side, thinking it was just another block from the garage, initially. But then the corner of the stone broke, and I saw that it was white, which really caught my eye. I took my hand and brushed the mud off. And I saw the word ‘die.’ I hosed it off with water to see what it really was.”

The stone reads:

Christiana North   

Wife of Joseph E. North

DIED Aug 11, 1854

aged 65 years & 7 months

Dismissed, I calmly go

my way which leads me to

the tomb

The last line is from an old hymn. At the top of the stone is a willow tree, which is associated with life after death and immortality.

One of the first things Polihonki did was contact his mother about his discovery. She did a quick search online and discovered that Christiana North wasn’t just an average person. Christiana North and her family were some of the early settlers of Lansing, according to “MIGenWeb” — a well-respected genealogy site.

Christiana Teeter (born in 1789) and Joseph E. North (born in 1791), both from Pennsylvania, were married December 18, 1813, in Lansing, New York. They had 12 children. North’s father, Thomas North, had purchased land in the township of Lansing, New York, which had been set aside for soldiers of the Revolutionary War. Joseph North served in the War of 1812 and was taken prisoner on the Canadian frontier. One of their sons, Henry, was later responsible for the naming of the city of Lansing, based on their property in New York. The Norths settled in Lansing, Michigan, in 1839.

My initial concern about bones being buried underneath, as the actual grave of Mrs. North, was shared by Polihonki.

“When I realized what it was, I didn’t want to dig anymore,” he said.

Polihonki works as a site contractor on parking lots and underground utilities.

“I know if you come across a grave it turns into a big thing!”

Many people, back in the early days, were buried right at the family farm, so this was definitely a possibility.

But with a quick search at, I guessed that Mrs. North was not buried on Water Street. She was more than likely buried with the rest of her family in North Cemetery on Miller Road, in Lansing, which was named after her family. How her stone got to Eaton Rapids is the mystery.

I spoke with Shirley Hodges, local genealogy and cemetery expert.

“Sometimes people took them and made sidewalks with them,” she explained. Or possibly this tombstone was replaced for some reason.

I visited North Cemetery to see what was there. The North family members are located in the southwest section of the cemetery, as I was told by Loretta Stanaway of the Friends of the Lansing Cemeteries. One of the North family descendants is also involved in the organization.

The North family wasn’t hard to find, but due to age and weather, the stones were somewhat difficult to read. Most were broken and hard to read. Joseph North’s stone was almost completely erased, but his son Joseph North Jr., was in fairly good shape, having passed in 1851. There was no sign of a grave or marker there for Christiana North, although there was plenty of space for one.

Polihonki plans to return the stone to the North Cemetery to mark the grave of Christiana North and also plans on doing some restoration work on it to attach the two pieces back together.

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