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Archive | May, 2011

North Kent Community Services seeks donations

The North Kent Community Services, 10075 Northland Drive, is seeking food donations to help feed kids lunch this summer, as well as cash donations to help them earn a matching grant.
$5,000 matching grant

NKCS experienced a drop off in cash donations after the holiday season, and one of their donors has offered to match all donations up to $5,000, during the months of May and June.
“We are asking you, the community, to make a special donation towards this matching grant,” said Executive Director Sandy Waite. “Your donation will be matched, assisting us to make a $ 5,000 donation a $10,000 donation. During these tough economical times our families continue to struggle and we struggle to assist.” Donations should be marked as a matching grant donation.

“We hope you are able to make this a $10,000 win-win for us and the families we serve in our community,” she added.

Summer lunch bags for kids

During the summer months the center’s food pantry is depleted by all the extra requests for food. With children home during the summer months, families need three meals instead of one. During the school year many children receive both breakfast and lunch at school.

“Summer is one of our busiest times for emergency food requests,” said Waite. “This summer we are supplying extra food for 2,800 families who have school age children. We hope to lessen the burden of those summer lunches that families now have to provide. “

Waite is asking people to collect lunch items for families, to help those who are struggling right here in our own back yards and neighborhoods.

Macaroni & cheese
Peanut butter & Jelly
Individual wrapped snacks
Drink boxes
Fresh fruit
Canned spaghetti-o’s, spaghetti, soups
Cheese slices
Bring donations to the center, or call 866-3478 for more info.

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Is It Safe To Use The Internet In Public Places?

(StatePoint) Americans love going online. In fact, a recent study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the Wi-Fi Alliance found that half of all adults go online with a laptop using a Wi-Fi connection while 40 percent use the Internet on mobile phones.

Going online in public is convenient. Public Wi-Fi networks let us check e-mail, update social media profiles, and shop almost anywhere. But should we? How safe is the personal information we send over public networks?

“Most people don’t realize that Wi-Fi signals are just radio waves, and anyone can ‘listen’ to what you’re sending just as easily as tuning a radio to the right station,” says Kent Lawson, Founder and CEO of Private Communications Corporation, a new online security technology company.

That’s because the majority of Wi-Fi hotspots in airports, planes, coffee houses and other public places aren’t encrypted. That makes them havens for data thieves who’ve walked off with millions of Wi-Fi users’ credit card and Social Security numbers.

There are some steps you can take to keep your information safe, says Lawson.
If you’re using public computers, such as those at the library, don’t save anything on them.  Make sure to close the browser and clear the cache when you’re done. In addition, limit your activities, because someone might have installed “key stroke tracking” software, which can watch everything you do, and capture your log-in information.

If you’re using your own computer with public Wi-Fi access, be even more careful.  For example, be cautious about what you put in email messages. Credit card and social security numbers and home addresses should be avoided. Never bank or shop, unless the site is secure — the web addresses should start with “https” not “http.”  And turn off file sharing to prevent someone from gaining access to your hard drive.
Or, for better peace of mind, you can install software that encrypts all data going into and out of your computer, such as PCC’s Private WiFi. This makes you invisible to hackers on any public network, anywhere in the world. While antivirus protects you from viruses and firewalls prevents unauthorized access to your information while you communicate, Private WiFi encrypts all the information you send. All three work in tandem to keep you safe.
If you use your mobile phone to access the Internet, make sure you password protect it and install security software. You can also enroll in a back-up/wiping program, which backs-up your information and also can delete it if your phone is lost or stolen. These services are available from your phone’s manufacturer or your wireless provider.

For more tips to keep your information safe over public Wi-Fi networks, visit www.privatewifi.com or www.private-i.com.

In this digital age, our lives are increasingly lived online, so be sure to incorporate the right protections.

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Main Street

Roger on Main StreetNew direction?
Let’s hope the new direction will be out—from Afghanistan. Ever since our Navy Seals delivered Osama bin Laden his just desserts, it seems like the Taliban has been busy killing other Afghans. Sounds like a civil war to me. I’m not sure why, at this point, we’re in the middle. It seems time to pull out and let them fight it out among themselves. America isn’t winning any friends; we are getting our troops killed and spending a fortune to do it.

Who’s entitled?
The buzzwords in Washington are “entitlement reform.” That’s an evasive term to mean that Social Security costs money that the government would like to spend on something else. Social Security is indeed an “entitlement” because those drawing it paid for it and it was promised to them. Calling it “reform” just means taking away what has been promised.
Social Security and Medicare are valuable programs. They have transformed the formerly dismal circumstances of the majority of America’s elderly. If we have to raise taxes to pay those entitled, we should do it. And we should boot out the people in Congress who want to take away what was promised.

Father O’Malley joke
Father O’Malley was assigned from Ireland to a Texas diocese. He rose from his bed to a fine spring morning in his new Texas mission parish. He walked to the window for a deep breath of the beautiful day outside. In the middle of his lawn a jackass lay dead. He promptly called the local police station.
“Good morning, this is Sergeant Jones, how might I help you?”
“And the best of the day te yerself. This is Father O’Malley at St. Bridget’s. There’s a jackass lying dead in me front lawn. Would ye be so kind as to send a couple o’ yer lads to take care of the matter?”
Sergeant Jones considered himself to be quite a wit. “Well now, Father,” he said, “it was always my impression that you people took care of last rites.”
There was silence on the line for a few moments. Father O’Malley then replied: “Aye, ‘tis certainly true, but we are also obliged to notify the next of kin.”

Marriage joke
A wife, standing nude, looks in the mirror while her husband reads in bed.
“I feel horrible,” she says. “I look fat and ugly. Please pay me a compliment.”
The husband replies, “Your eyesight’s darn near perfect.”
He never heard the shot…

Golf  joke
Vic stood over his tee shot on the 450-yard 18th hole for what seemed an eternity. He waggled, looked up, looked down, waggled again, but didn’t start his back swing.
Finally his exasperated partner asked, “What the heck is taking so long?”
“My wife is watching me from the clubhouse balcony,” Vic explained. “I want to make a perfect shot.”
His companion replied, “You don’t have a chance in hell of hitting her from here.”

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From the City Manager’s Desk

By Christine Burns, City Manager Cedar Springs

City adopts 2011-2012 budget

Is anybody else sick of the saying, “We are doing more with less [money]?” As public budgets tighten, we aren’t doing “more with less” we’re doing less with less. Services are reduced, staff is reduced and community events are reduced.  Most taxpayers are doing the same with their personal budgets—weighing “wants” versus “needs.”

Since 2001, interest revenues on investments have decreased by almost $47,000 while our revenue sharing from the state has decreased by nearly $145,000.  That equates to a $192,000 reduction in funding over a 10-year period of time.  Couple that reduction with double-digit increases in health care costs and we find ourselves in the midst of a budgetary nightmare; cuts are now taking place in areas that were previously sacred.

Over the course of the past few months, City staff, as well as City Council, have wrestled with recommendations and decisions that will impact the lives of residents, business owners and City employees.  These certainly aren’t decisions that were made in haste or without a lot of thought about the long-term ramifications.

City staff had the daunting task of bridging a shortfall of approximately $55,000 in the City’s 2011-2012 fiscal year budget. While some folks might say that $55,000 isn’t a huge shortfall by comparison to what some other Michigan communities are facing, by proportion, it’s big for us; especially when you take into consideration that we have been steadily trimming our budget over the course of the last four years. We haven’t broadcast our budgetary struggles or declared “woe is us.” Council has balanced the budget as needed and made do with what we had.

As the cost of plowing your streets increases and the electricity to pump your sewer goes up and chemicals to treat the water increase, we are faced with the question of how to absorb the costs. There comes a time when the City can no longer absorb the cost and it is necessary to increase utility rates to ensure a sound infrastructure. Again, more tough decisions that affect every elected official’s pocket book, as it does yours. For the first time since early 2007, residents and businesses will see an increase in their water and sewer bill. We were able to maintain the City’s water and sewer system for more than 4 years without a rate increase. Regrettably, the time has come when we can no longer avoid those tough conversations.
All budget workshops (as well as the subsequent adoption of the budget) are open to the public. Attendance at budget workshops and public hearings is minimal, if non-existent. Budget workshops are where the discussions take place regarding estimated revenues and potential expenditures. In 2011, Council actually held two budget workshops. The first budget workshop was specifically for the purpose of hearing a presentation from the City Engineers regarding the City’s water and sewer infrastructure while the second focused mainly on the General Fund budget. Knowing the complexity of our budget challenges, Council realized that everything could not be addressed in one full day and elected to hold two budget workshops, giving the public ample opportunity for input. If you have concerns about where your tax dollars are allocated, you are invited and encouraged to voice those concerns during those forums. In 2010 and 2011 one person attended the public hearing for the adoption of the City’s budget.
In 2011, Council continued its movement towards 100 percent transparency by posting all agendas, accounts payable lists and agenda reports on its website for public dissemination. Public notices for all hearings are published in the local paper, on the City website (both on the calendar and on the main page) and on a bulletin board at City Hall.  Many events are posted on the City Facebook page [We Celebrate Underwear.]  Visit the city’s website at www.cityofcedarsprings.org to download the City’s complete 2011/2012 fiscal year budget and to view the 2011/2012 fiscal year cost savings measures.

Questions regarding the budget may be directed to City Manager Christine Burns 696-1330 x 104 or Finance Director Linda Lehman 696-1330 x 101.

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Morel lovers beware of poisonous mushrooms

Conservation and safety are key when hunting

As hungry morel enthusiasts head to the woods this spring in search of their favorite fungi, the Department of Natural Resources ask that they keep conservation and safety in mind.

“It’s important for morel hunters to practice conservation-friendly harvesting techniques,” said DNR Forest Management Division Chief Lynne Boyd.  “Proper collection encourages the growth of a new mushroom crop the following year.”

Boyd said that when harvesting mushrooms, hunters should pinch them off at the stem, slightly above the soil. This technique minimizes the amount of dirt on the mushroom and encourages regrowth.  She said to avoid raking the forest floor, because raking has a negative impact on the ecology of the forest and overharvests the mushrooms.

These morels were picked last week in Solon Township. Post photo by J. Reed.

These morels were picked last week in Solon Township. Post photo by J. Reed.

Some of the DNR’s activities also promote a healthy yield of morels.  “In forests where we have had a prescribed burn, we typically see a larger crop of morels the following year,” said Boyd.  The DNR publishes a list of prescribed burn and wildfire areas as a service to morel hunters.

In addition, mushroom hunters must be certain they can identify what they are picking. Some false morels are poisonous and can cause people to get sick, sometimes fatally.  The Michigan State University Extension has identified at least 50 types of poisonous mushrooms that grow in Michigan.

“Please be certain you are familiar with mushroom species before picking and eating wild mushrooms,” said Boyd. “If you’re not certain a mushroom is safe to eat, don’t pick it.”

Those who wish to search for mushrooms on state land do not need a permit.  Mushroom hunters who use off-road vehicles to get into state forest lands are reminded that ORV use in the Lower Peninsula is restricted to designated and signed trails, routes and use areas.  Persons who use state forest lands other than state forest campgrounds for camping are reminded they must fill out and post a free camp registration card, available at most DNR offices.

To find maps with suitable ORV trails, public lands available for mushroom picking and types of vegetation, check out the new innovative application Mi-HUNT. To access the application, learn more about poisonous mushroom species and find a list of wildfire locations, visit www.michigan.gov/mushroomhunting.

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May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month in Michigan

Before venturing out this summer make sure you take some precautions against Lyme disease. Lyme disease and other tick-borne diseases can be transmitted through the bite of an infected tick. Ways you can protect your family this summer:

• Wear light-colored clothing. This allows you to spot ticks more easily.
• Wear a hat and long-sleeved shirt. Tuck your clothes in, shirts into pants and pants into socks.
• Use an insect repellant with DEET on exposed skin.
• When hiking, stay in the middle of the trails, and try to avoid underbrush, fallen trees, and tall grass.
• Always perform a tick check when returning in from outdoors or when outdoors for extended periods of time.
• If you do find a tick, use a pair of fine-pointed tweezers, grasp the tick as close to the skin as possible and pull gently and firmly until tick releases; this may take several tries. Avoid crushing or killing the tick while it is still attached to the skin. Once the tick is removed clean the area with an antiseptic, such as alcohol.
• Save live ticks for testing. Directions and forms can be found at www.mlda.org.

Lyme Disease may cause symptoms such as a rash which only appears in about 68% of cases, and not necessarily at the bite site. Other symptoms that may appear are flu-like symptoms such as fever, muscle aches, joint pain, headaches, fatigue or weakness. Symptoms can appear days to weeks after a tick bite. If gone untreated, Lyme disease can lead to sever heart, neurological, eye, and joint problems because the bacteria can affect many different organs and systems in the body.
For a free packet of information on Lyme disease contact the Michigan Lyme Disease Association at 1-888-784-5963 or visit our website at www.mlda.org.

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DNR reminds anglers about bait restrictions as bass season opens

Bass season opens statewide on Saturday, May 28, and the Department of Natural Resources reminds anglers that the use of minnows for bait is restricted in some waters as part of a strategy to slow the spread of viral hemorrhagic septicemia (VHS).

Anglers who purchase minnows for bait should make sure they are certified as VHS-free. Certified disease-free bait is widely available and may be used anywhere for 14 days. The use of uncertified bait is restricted to only those waters that have been detected with VHS. All bait collected by anglers is considered uncertified bait.

VHS is a viral disease that causes fish to die from internal bleeding and has caused mortalities among a number of species of fish in Michigan. The disease has been found in the Michigan waters of Lakes Erie, Huron and Superior and has been detected in Lake Michigan, though not in Michigan waters.  It has been found in at least two inland lakes – Budd Lake in Clare County and Baseline Lake in Washtenaw County.
“There is no known treatment for VHS,” said DNR Fish Production Manager Gary Whelan, who monitors fish diseases for the department. “Our best defense against it is trying to prevent its spread.”

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With gas prices as high as they are right now it is getting harder and harder to fill up.  It cost me almost $70 the other day to fill up our white Town and Country minivan, which we affectionately refer to as Vanna White.  More and more I find myself driving around on E. And I don’t like driving on empty.

If we were honest, that describes a lot of our lives. The truth is, a lot of us are living life on empty. We’re coasting on fumes. We’re sputtering spiritually. Thankfully the good news is that you and I don’t have to live life on empty. We don’t have to constantly stay on E. We can be spiritually refueled.

Ephesians 3:19 (NLT) says this: “May you experience the love of Christ, though it is so great you will never fully understand it. Then you will be filled with the fullness of life and power that comes from God.”
God wants to fill us with the fullness of life and power that only He can offer. How?  Through a personal relationship with Him. When Jesus invited people to follow Him it was very personal and relational. He used words like “Come to Me” and “Be with Me” and “My burden is light.” Those are the words of Jesus.
In Matthew 11:28-29 (NLT), “Jesus said, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you.  Let Me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls.”

Let me ask you a question about your spiritual life that only you can answer. When you think of your own spiritual life, do you hear Jesus saying, “Come to Me, be with Me, My burden is light” or do you hear a voice in your head saying “You’re not doing enough”?

So many Christians feel like they are spiritual failures and live with all this guilt because they feel like they are not doing enough. They think they should be reading the Bible more and praying more and giving more. The Christian life is not a checklist of all these different religious duties you have to perform. If you feel the pressure to perform some type of religious duty, whatever that is, it leads to rituals. Rituals lead to checklists (all these things you need to do). Checklists can lead to failure. Failure leads to guilt. Guilt leads to withdrawal. And withdrawal ultimately leads to emptiness.

Jesus didn’t say, “Come to Me and I’ll give you a bunch of stuff to do.” When Jesus says, “Come to Me” that’s not an invitation to perform, it’s an invitation to connect. It’s not about doing more; it’s about spending time with God. Refueling happens when you and I connect with God.

In order for God to fill us up we’ve got to change the way we think about Him. We need to start thinking of God as a friend who is inviting us into a relationship. When a close friend invites you over to their house do you all of a sudden stress out and feel all this pressure to perform and impress? Not if it’s a good friend. If it’s a good friend you walk in, you get something out of the refrigerator, and you make yourself at home. You’re yourself. You’re not trying to perform. You’re not trying to make somebody like you more. If they’re a good friend you just don’t feel that pressure. You just get to be yourself.

I think many of us need to stop feeling like a failure and start viewing God as our friend.  Connecting with Him is not about a bunch of things you need to do. It’s not a checklist.  It’s not jump through these hoops. It’s not about a ritual, it’s about a relationship. It’s not about your performance; it’s about being in His presence. It’s not about a show. It’s about showing up. It’s not because you have to. It’s because you want to. It’s not about guilt. It’s about His grace. It’s not about a formula that you’ve got to figure out. It’s about a friendship.

Jesus said, “I no longer call you servants… Now you are My friends…” (John 15:15 NLT).
Refueling is not what you think. It’s not an invitation to do more. It’s an invitation to be connected—to be connected to the One who loves you, who knows you and wants to fill you.

Pastor Barry Briggs
The Springs
135 N. Grant St., Cedar Springs

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The Gospel according to Nick’s

Ronnie McBrayer

Ronnie McBrayer

Just down the road from my house is a legendary seafood joint called Nick’s. Aesthetically, and I say this with great affection, Nick’s is not much to look at. The building is constructed from whitewashed, concrete blocks, now decades old. The parking lot is often flooded with rainwater, and chickens roam about in the yard. The ceiling is too low for my liking, and the view of the surrounding bayou is obscured by windows a touch too dark.

So if you were driving by, uninformed and uninitiated regarding this establishment, you might think Nick’s to be some notorious hole-in-the-wall dive, and keep driving. That would be your incalculable loss. For three generations, the Nick family has been serving glorious local seafood, shucking the best Gulf Coast oysters, and slinging the coldest brew around. Trey and Jennifer Nick, the restaurateurs that now operate this roadside oasis, keep the parking lot flooded alright—flooded with cars. People just can’t stay away. This has a lot to do with the food, of course, but that’s not the main draw. The Nicks know how to make you feel welcome. They make you feel at home. And what the atmosphere lacks visually, it more than makes up for with sincere friendship.

The church could learn a few things from the Nick family. Their success is not the result of clever marketing, pumping thousands of dollars into publicity campaigns, or arguing that their food is better than some competitor down the street. No, the Gospel According to Nick’s is quite simple: Welcome people as friends, surround them with love, and then send them out satisfied, with joy in their heart and a good word to share on their lips.

In this day when “image is everything,” it’s easy for the church to cave in to prevailing corporate wisdom: Elegant buildings, comfortable parking lots, expertly executed marketing plans, Disney-ready children’s programs, and stage-practiced Sunday services. But like many folks, I would rather wade across a river in hip-boots to be with people who care about me, to be in that place “where everybody knows your name,” than to be treated like just another consumer through the turnstiles. We must care for people as unique, distinct individuals, and not as a means to padding our pews and our coffers. The Nicks are right. Treat people like family. Feed them well. And send them on their way with joy.

Ronnie McBrayer is the author of “Leaving Religion, Following Jesus.” He writes and speaks about life, faith, and Christ-centered spirituality. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.

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Anthony Isaiah Matthews

Anthony Isaiah Matthews

Annette Marie House of Cedar Springs and Edwin Marshall Matthews of Pierson would like to announce the birth of their son, Anthony Isaiah Matthews, born on January 18, 2011 at 7:20pm in Butterworth Hospital, Grand Rapids. Baby Anthony weighed 8 pounds 11 ounces and measured 19 inches long. He is welcomed by big sister, Kylie Matthews. Proud grandparents are Robin Arlene House of Cedar Springs, Rodney Arnold House of Cedar Springs, Connie Matthews of Owosso, and Steven Matthews of Morley. Great-grandparents are Robert A. Leach Sr. of Rockford and Arlene A. Bailus of Texas.

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