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Archive | January, 2014

West Michigan getting hit with two scams

 

The 473/767 One-Ring scam and the Fix Your Computer scam.

473/767 Scam

The 473 number out of Grenada and the 767 number out of Dominica, both in the Caribbean, calls your phone, but it only rings once.

The scammers hope when you see the missed call that you call the number back and that’s when you get hit with the charges. While the phone numbers appear to be in the United States, the number dialed is actually an international number with a share of the revenue going to the operator of the number. Consumers are tricked into dialing these international phone numbers, which results in substantial long-distance charges.  Because the same laws do not apply to international calls, it makes these areas ideal for scammers who wish to target U.S. citizens.

BBB’s advice: “Don’t call back a number you do not know if they don’t leave a message that makes sense to you.  If a caller uses the 473, 767, or any other area code you do not recognize, do not call it back.  Instead contact the operator to verify where the caller’s area code originates from.”

Fix Your Computer Scam

A caller asks for the computer user in your home.  When the conversation begins, the caller says that they have information indicating that your computer is not working correctly. They ask if you have been experiencing problems with slow speed or other issues. If you get into this conversation, they will guide you to allow them to take control of your computer via the Internet so they can fix the problem. If you allow it, they may install malware on your computer. Malware might permit hackers to learn passwords, steal your computer identity, access personal and financial accounts, and more.

The most recent “company” calling West Michigan consumers is “PC Speedy”, however these types of companies change names frequently.  Remember, it is the premise of the call not just the company name that you want to be wary of.

BBB’s advice: “Never give control of your computer to a stranger on the internet or over the phone.”

BBB is getting calls from numerous callers about both scams in recent days, and requests that you exercise caution to avoid them.

 

 

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50th Wedding Anniversary

C-ANN-Magoon2C-ANN-Magoon1RON & SUE MAGOON

 

Ron and Sue Magoon of Cedar Springs, will be celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary on Saturday, February 1, 2014. In their years together, they have seen their children, Rhonda and Chad, both get married and have been blessed with a wonderful grandson, Zach and a beautiful granddaughter, Leah. Ron is now retired and they have enjoyed having more time to spend together. Through it all, their love for one another continues to deepen and grow stronger. A family dinner is planned to celebrate their special day.

 

The secret of their success is commitment, love and devotion.

 

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Stone Soup

Pastor Darryl Miller  

Sand Lake UMC, 65 W. Maple, Sand Lake

South Ensley UMC, 13600 Cypress, Ensley Township 

 

You may have heard the story of Stone Soup in one form or another. A poor man or peddler comes into a village and goes door-to-door asking for food. At each house he is turned away with the occupant saying that they only have a small portion of potatoes or carrots or something else, never more than one thing and never much. The man goes to the town square and starts a fire under a pot of water into which he places a stone. As the townsfolk come along and ask what he is doing, he says he is making stone soup. The people offer the small items they all have and soon the whole community is sharing in a pot of wonderful soup made of all their bits. In a way, that is how we take care of each other even today.

We, in the faith community think (for the most part) that this is a good way to do things—together. There are many small churches in the area that do all they can for the community they serve. But when we get together and pool our resources, we can do so much more. And it doesn’t stop there. The same works for individuals.

Churches are asked often to help those who are struggling and what a great blessing it is when a number of individuals who have no ability to give monetarily to a church are willing to give of their time and talents to make a difference for their neighbors in need! So much is accomplished by these wonderful people! We may not have a lot to give, but what we do have can make a huge difference in the lives of our communities.

How often have you heard or said yourself “I’m only one person, what can I do?” The truth is—a lot! None of us knows everything—despite what my uncle claims about himself! But we all know something. I used to work in construction and it took an awful lot of us to put together a building. Electricians, heating people, plumbers, carpenters, and the list goes on. If we had tried to do the job alone, we would never have finished and if we had, well… I’m not sure I’d want to live in it! But all of us together made something that will last a long, long time. The same is true of all of us.

Together we can make a difference that will last a long, long time. Helping those in need in the name of Christ makes a difference in the world. And that is what we are supposed to do. Just remember that when you do something for someone else out of the goodness of your heart and in the name of Christ, you are not alone! God is with you and so are all of us who are brothers and sisters in Him.

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Like a rock

by Ronnie McBrayer

by Ronnie McBrayer

This year Bob Seger will celebrate his tenth anniversary in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. His songs and persona are legendary. My personal Seger favorite is “Like a Rock,” and it has nothing to do with Chevrolet pickup trucks. I associate the lyrics with the evening of my high school graduation: “I stood there boldly, sweatin’ in the sun, felt like a million, felt like number one; the height of summer, I’d never felt that strong, like a rock.” And then the refrain, a refrain Seger wrote about himself as a younger man: “Like a rock, I was strong as I could be; like a rock, nothin’ ever got to me; like a rock, I was something to see; like a rock.”

Seger captures the years of youth, perfectly. It is a time of unbridled optimism, strength, and arrogance. A young person can do anything, be anything, try anything, and overcome anything. No challenge is too big, too tough, or too much. Honestly, youngsters need this kind of bravado and audacity when life is just getting started. But he or she will also learn that do-everything, dare-anybody, defy-anything of youthfulness, doesn’t last.

We live a little while and experience a few disappointments. We bury loved ones, suffer loss and betrayal, age, have our hearts broken, or muddle through a couple decades of muted frustration. Then we learn, and this learning is as absolutely necessary as youthful strength, that we really aren’t like a rock—at least not anymore. Life, like erosion, has a way of reducing the hardest stone into sand.

But the recognition that we won’t always be “standin’ arrow straight, chargin’ from the gate, and carryin’ the weight,” is not cause for despair. It is liberation. It is deliverance from the “try-harder-and-do-more” life. It is release from the totalitarian, gladiator ethic of “If it’s going to be, it is up to me.” It is surrender, and surrender is where life begins.

“If you try to hang on to your life,” Jesus said, “then you will lose it.” This “hanging on” includes our personal arrogance and stubborn self-reliance. We learn to let these go, not because we have hopelessly given up, but because we have given over. We have exchanged our failing abilities and life for the power of God and his life. We have learned to live a life entrusted to the Rock that is Christ.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, pastor, and author. His newest book is “The Gospel According to Waffle House.” You can read more at www.ronniemcbrayer.me

 

 

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Who Should File a 2013 Tax Return?

 

Do you need to file a federal tax return this year? Perhaps. The amount of your income, filing status, age and other factors determine if you must file.

Even if you don’t have to file a tax return, there are times when you should. Here are five good reasons why you should file a return, even if you’re not required to do so:

1. Tax Withheld or Paid.  Did your employer withhold federal income tax from your pay? Did you make estimated tax payments? Did you overpay last year and have it applied to this year’s tax? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you could be due a refund. But you have to file a tax return to get it.

2. Earned Income Tax Credit.  Did you work and earn less than $51,567 last year? You could receive EITC as a tax refund if you qualify. Families with qualifying children may be eligible for up to $6,044. Use the EITC Assistant tool on IRS.gov to find out if you qualify. If you do, file a tax return and claim it.

3. Additional Child Tax Credit.  Do you have at least one child that qualifies for the Child Tax Credit? If you don’t get the full credit amount, you may qualify for the Additional Child Tax Credit. To claim it, you need to file Schedule 8812, Child Tax Credit, with your tax return.

4. American Opportunity Credit.  Are you a student or do you support a student? If so, you may be eligible for this credit. Students in their first four years of higher education may qualify for as much as $2,500. Even those who owe no tax may get up to $1,000 of the credit refunded per eligible student. You must file Form 8863, Education Credits, with your tax return to claim this credit.

5. Health Coverage Tax Credit.  Did you receive Trade Adjustment Assistance, Reemployment Trade Adjustment Assistance, Alternative Trade Adjustment Assistance or pension benefit payments from the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation? If so, you may qualify for the Health Coverage Tax Credit. The HCTC helps make health insurance more affordable for you and your family. This credit pays 72.5 percent of qualified health insurance premiums. Visit IRS.gov for more on this credit.

To sum it all up, check to see if you would benefit from filing a federal tax return. You may qualify for a tax refund even if you don’t have to file. And remember, if you do qualify for a refund, you must file a return to claim it.

The instructions for Forms 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ list income tax filing requirements. You can also use the Interactive Tax Assistant tool on IRS.gov to see if you need to file. The tool is available 24/7 to answer many tax questions.

Additional IRS Resources:

Publication 596, Earned Income Credit

Publication 972, Child Tax Credit

Publication 970, Tax Benefits for Education

Health Coverage Tax Credit

 

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Investing in roads

An investment we cannot afford to ignore 

 

Rob VerHeulen

Rob VerHeulen

By state Rep. Rob VerHeulen, 74th Distrtict

In his 2014 State of the State address, Gov. Rick Snyder laid out an impressive list of accomplishments made over the last three years. I share his enthusiasm and have supported many of his measures since I took office just over a year ago. However, one of his priorities remains unfinished and must be addressed: the condition of our roads.

A national transportation research group, TRIP, recently released a new study which placed the cost of deficient roads at $7.7 billion annually. The costs result from higher operating costs, traffic crashes, congestion and safety issues. The study also noted nearly 27 percent of Michigan bridges show significant deterioration or are currently not meeting safety standards.

According to the study, the average driver in Grand Rapids pays $327 per year in additional maintenance costs from tire alignments, flat tires, bent wheels or auto crashes. Virtually every expert agrees that failure to preserve our roads will lead to much higher costs in the future. Gov. Snyder uses the example of oil; you might be able to skip an occasional oil change without damage, but if you fail to perform routine maintenance on your vehicle the ultimate cost will be much higher.

The condition of our roads will also impact our ability to attract and retain jobs in Michigan. A recent survey of Michigan businesses suggest that employers look at the quality of a region’s transportation system when deciding where to grow their business. If we fail to address this problem soon, we may see Michigan’s best in the nation job growth rate drop as employers look elsewhere.

Michigan invests less per capita in its roads than its neighbors. The per capita investment in our roads is $174 per person compared to $187 in Indiana, $231 in Wisconsin, and $235 in Ohio and Illinois. Part of the lack of funding is that our 19 cent per gallon gas tax does not provide the revenue that it did historically. This tax is an excise tax based on each gallon of gas sold and is not based on the price of gas. Revenue from the gas tax peaked in 2001-2002 and has declined

each year thereafter. While it is a good thing that we are consuming less fuel due to increased fuel efficiency, increased use of public transit and other factors, this has created a funding issue for our roads.

In the current fiscal year, the Legislature was able to identify more than $250 million in increased investment from the General Fund. Last month the Michigan Department of Transportation announced road projects across the state. With the economy recovering and a “surplus” predicted for the next fiscal year, I am hopeful that we will be able to invest an even greater amount in our roads. However, it is estimated that we need to invest an excess of $1 billion to maintain our roads.

Michigan has many competing interests for its limited funds. Education, human services, community health, corrections, and natural resources are all important and compete for state appropriations. All benefit from making road funding a priority and one that returns value. Moody’s recently suggested that every additional dollar spent on infrastructure generates a $1.44 increase in gross domestic product.

When I met with groups of constituents I took a poll on how many believe we need to invest more in roads. The overwhelming majority say invest more. The challenge comes in finding the best method to fund our roads over the next decade and beyond. I will continue to advocate for making road funding a top priority and encourage all Michiganders to remind me and my colleagues that roads impact everyone in Michigan and are critical to our future success.

The 74th District encompasses the cities of Walker, Grandville, Rockford and Cedar Springs, as well as Solon, Tyrone, Sparta, Algoma and Alpine townships.

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Red Hawks lose to Panthers in overtime

Brad Brechting led the team in total points scored with 22 against Comstock Park. Photo by Kelly Alvesteffer.

Brad Brechting led the team in total points scored with 22 against Comstock Park. Photo by Kelly Alvesteffer.

By Kendra Coons

 

On Monday, January 20, 2014, the Cedar Springs Red Hawks varsity boys basketball team took on the Panthers of Comstock Park. Before this match-up both teams were undefeated and ranked in Western Michigan. It was a very close game between the two undefeated teams. There was a total of 11 lead changes throughout the game, but in the end, Comstock Park came out on top and beat Cedar Springs 73-69 in overtime.

“I felt we played at a high energy level from the start. The game was back and forth for a while and every possession required that level of energy,” said head Coach Jeff Patin.

In the first period, it was a tight race the whole time, but Comstock Park ended up leading the Red Hawks 14 to 12. The Red Hawks came back fighting hard after the first period and entered into halftime down 5 points. After halftime, the Red Hawks came back out focused and in the third period, the Hawks scored 19 more points to add on to the score. Comstock Park was still on top after they scored 21 points, making it 50-43 at the end of the third period.

The Red Hawks were not willing to give up and at the end of the fourth quarter the Hawks scored a total of 20 points while Comstock Park scored 13. At the end of the fourth quarter, the game was tied 63-63, sending it into overtime. The teams fought hard and the game went back and forth. In the end, Comstock Park scored 10 more points to clinch the victory, while Cedar Springs scored 6. The final score was 73-69 Panthers.

“Comstock Park is a very good team. When you play a team of that caliber every possession is important,” stated Coach Patin.

Cedar Springs’ own Brad Brechting led the team in total points scoring 22. He was 9 for 13 on his two point shots and 4 for 6 on his free throw shots. Cameron Link also came on strong totaling 15 points. Link was 3 for 8 on his 2-point shots and 6 for 9 on his free throws. David Kearney, Aaron Mabie and Nick Krajewski also contributed to the Red Hawks points by scoring some key baskets in the middle of the game. Kearney had a total of 12, and Mabie and Krajewski both came in with 6. Overall, Cedar Springs was 22 for 56 on their shooting. Their shooting percentage for the game ended at 39.3 percent.

Comstock Park’s Jake Bush and Matt Hurley both scored a total of 20 points for the Panthers. Drake Baar came in third in highest scoring for Comstock Park with 14 points. The Panthers beat the Red Hawks in their shooting percentage coming in at 42.9 percent.

The battle between the Panthers and Red Hawks was a hard fought match. The game ended was tied 8 times and the largest lead throughout the whole game was 10 points. After the loss, the Red Hawks record is now 8-1.

“We didn’t finish the game the way we would like to, so we are hoping to learn from that experience,” commented Coach Patin.

On Friday, January 24, the Red Hawks were scheduled to play the West Catholic Falcons. Due to the weather, the game was cancelled and rescheduled to Monday, January 27. Due to weather, the game was also cancelled again. It is now rescheduled to Saturday, February 1. The boys varsity game will be starting around 4:30 pm after the girl’s game. The varsity boys basketball team’s next game is scheduled for Friday, January 31 at Cedar Springs High School. The Red Hawks are matched up against the Wildcats of Northview High School. The Red Hawks are looking for their 9th win. So come on out and support the boys varsity basketball team! Tip-off is at 7:30 pm! Go Red Hawks!

“It should be a very good game,” noted Coach Patin. “Both teams have had some success in the early part of the season, so it should be fun.”

 

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Wrestlers earn medals

Second place medalist Luke Egan.

Second place medalist Luke Egan.

West Michigan Pursuit braved the crazy Michigan weather to attend the Forest Hills Tournament last weekend, bringing 18 grapplers to compete, and 13 placing in the top 4. This week brought a total of 59 battles, with 33 ending in victory for the Pursuit family.

“The interest in youth level wrestling keeps growing in numbers,” said owner and Head Coach Dave Andrus. “Our facility alone has 14 kids who are trying this competitive sport for the first time this season and are completely hooked.”

This week’s placements are as follows:

Fourth Place Medalists include Chayson Chlebek in the 4/5/6 Novice age group in the 49 lb wt class; Nathan Elliston in the 9/10 Open age group in the 80 lb wt class; Blake Longcore in the 13/14 Novice age group in the 107/114 lb wt class; and Olivia Male in the 9/10 Open age group in the 71 lb wt class. It was Blake’s first tournament!

Third Place Medalists include Casey Chlebek in the 7/8 Open age group in the 58 lb wt class; Derek Egan in the 11/12 Novice age group in the 85 lb wt class; and Brocke Fisher in the 11/12 Open age group in the 65 lb wt lb class. It was Derek’s first tournament.

Second Place Medalist was Luke Egan in the 4/5/6 Novice age group in the 46 lb wt clas.

Champions are Cameron Fess in the 11/12 Open age group in the 85 lb wt class; Blake Peasley in the 4/5/6 Novice age group in the 58 lb wt class; Jayden Marcano-Cruz in the 4/5/6 Novice age group in the 43 lb wt class; Lucus Pienton in the 13/14 Novice age group in the 122/130 lb wt class; and Jay Smith in the 11/12 Novice age group in the 95 lb wt class. Special recognition still applies to Blake Peasley who remains undefeated.

Congratulations to all of you grapplers for stepping out on the mat and working as hard as you do. You truly are The Pursuit of Champions!

If you are interested in learning more about wrestling, feel free to check out West Michigan Pursuit.  We are located in the Cedar Springs Sports Plex and practices are on Tuesday and Thursdays from 6:30 p.m.—8:00 p.m.

 

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Second state-record fish caught this month

A white perch in Muskegon County

 

Aaron Slagh with his state-record white perch.

Aaron Slagh with his state-record white perch.

The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) confirmed the catch of a new state-record white perch on Friday, Jan. 24. This is the second state record caught in the month of January.

The white perch was caught by Aaron Slagh, of Holland, Mich., on Tuesday, Jan. 21, on Muskegon Lake in Muskegon County at 11 a.m. The fish weighed 1.93 pounds and measured 13.25 inches. Slagh was ice fishing with a spoon when he landed the record fish. The record was verified by Rich O’Neal, a DNR fisheries biologist, at the Muskegon field office.

The previous state-record white perch was caught by Kyle Ryan, of Reese, on Lake Huron, in Tuscola County, on July 13, 2002. That fish weighed 1.88 pounds and measured 13.25 inches.

“It was just another normal day on the ice for me, as I get out as much as I can,” said Slagh. “We were actually targeting yellow perch and I thought I had a walleye. When we pulled it up we thought ‘Holy cow—that’s a big white perch!’”

State records are recognized by weight only. To qualify for a state record, fish must exceed the current listed state-record weight and identification must be verified by a DNR fisheries biologist.

“This winter, despite the extreme weather most of Michigan has been experiencing, is shaping up to be a great time for many anglers,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “This latest state record once again showcases the quality of the state’s fisheries.”

For more information on fishing in Michigan, visit www.michigan.gov/fishing.

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Youth rabbit hunt a new tradition

The annual youth rabbit hunt, put on by the Belding Sportsmen’s Club and other conservation groups in partnership with the DNR, pairs kids with hunting mentors. Pictured here, Walter Ingvartsen of Ionia (right) offers 14-year-old Cohl Riddle of Vicksburg his guidance.


The annual youth rabbit hunt, put on by the Belding Sportsmen’s Club and other conservation groups in partnership with the DNR, pairs kids with hunting mentors. Pictured here, Walter Ingvartsen of Ionia (right) offers 14-year-old Cohl Riddle of Vicksburg his guidance.

What started out as an experiment has turned into a tradition. The youth rabbit hunt at the Belding Sportsmen’s Club, near the Flat River State Game Area—now in its third year—attracted 45 youngsters last Saturday for a morning of stomping brush piles, following beagles and tromping through the snow.

“We’re getting great participation from everyone,” said club president John Burns, “club members, parents and youngsters.”

The idea for the youth hunt sprung from John Niewoonder, the Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologist at Flat River, who had been on a campaign to improve the small game habitat by building brush piles for “rabbitat” at the area.

“When John brought it to us, we said yes,” Burns said. “This is a good thing, getting the kids out in the elements instead of staying on the computer all day. It’s all about getting the kids—our future—into the outdoors.”

Hosting the event “is not a problem,” Burns said. The club donated breakfast, and members began showing up at 5 a.m. to cook eggs, sausage, hash browns and toast for the crowd’s 7:30 arrival. It cost the club about $200 for the victuals, he said.

“This is what we do—conservation,” he said. “We’re sportsmen. We need to do this to promote hunting and getting the kids out.”

Besides feeding the crowd, providing a meeting place and lining up sportsmen to help guide the young hunters, the sponsors made sure all the youngsters at the event went home with a door prize.

Door prizes were collected by the Mid-Michigan United Sportsmen’s Alliance (MMUSA), a consortium of sportsmen’s clubs, conservation groups (Ducks Unlimited, Michigan Trappers Association and Quality Deer Management), as well a couple of soil conservation district offices. Mike Winegard, a retiree who spearheaded the MMUSA effort, said it wasn’t that hard. His partners collected multi-tools, shirts, hats, game calls, knives, fishing rods, pocket binoculars, candybars and even a high-tech slingshot. There were three grand door prizes—a shotgun, a .22 rifle, and a trapper’s kit with the stuff a youngster needs to get started trapping.

Bill Bird and Wally Ingvartsen, Ionia-area rabbit hunters, showed up to take a party—two boys and a pair of parents—to their stomping grounds behind Bird’s home. They ran a handful of rabbits, and Kam Snyder, a ninth-grader from Schoolcraft, harvested his first-ever rabbit.

“He was on the edge of the brush, and it dropped right in its tracks,” Snyder said. “It was cool.”

Giving up their own Saturday hunt to take a couple of youngsters hunting was a positive experience, Bird said. As far as he and Wally were concerned, they got out and ran their dogs and didn’t have to bother with carrying a firearm.

 

“Both of those boys we took had killed deer, but neither had taken a rabbit before,” Bird said. “Kids aren’t coming up the same way we did; I started hunting rabbits when I was around 10 with my father and I think that’s a great way to start. I wish we’d have got more rabbits running than we did, but they both got shots.”

That wasn’t unusual, said Niewoonder.

“When I asked how we did, a lot of guys said, ‘We didn’t get any, but we had some shooting,’” Niewoonder said. “But a lot of these kids are young and they’re still figuring it out. They’re going to get some shots and some of them are going to miss. Shooting and missing is good fun, too.”

Niewoonder said the event has really been an eye-opener to him.

“I am impressed with how much the main sponsors – the Belding Sportsmen’s Club, MMUSA and the Mecosta Quality Deer Management Association guys—really seem to like it. They’re all standing in line to help, smiling the whole time. They’re not a bunch of young people, but when they get a chance to hang out with these young kids, I think it really warms their hearts.”

The hunt wasn’t all rabbits this year. A couple of guys, who are members of the Michigan Squirrel Dog Association, brought squirrel dogs to take the kids out with. Kirk Evans, an aircraft mechanic from Ionia, brought a black-mouthed cur and a feist (a hunting dog that has been cross-bred, originally by mixing Native American dogs with terriers, but is now recognized as a breed by the United Kennel Club). Randy Lubbers of Hamilton brought three feists.

The squirrel hunters managed to tree four squirrels, but only one hit the ground, taken by third-grader Nick Collins of East Grand Rapids, who said: “It was cool.”

And it wasn’t just youngsters who were successful hunters. Steve Newland, a Belding insurance adjuster, brought his two young sons—only one of whom carried a firearm—but he got all the shooting in his party.

“We got three of them,” 7-year-old Owen Newland said proudly. “I didn’t get any shooting, but I stepped on one.”

Both Niewoonder and Burns agree that the event has turned into a tradition.

“I hope this keeps up,” Burns said. “This is a good thing. It’s good to get people out here on the state land. The DNR wants people to out here using this land and it promotes bringing some city kids out here in the country to try something new. Basically, it’s all about the kids.”

To learn more about getting young people involved in hunting, visit www.michigan.gov/mentoredhunting

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