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The Post travels to Belarus

Barb Groth at Mir Castle in Belarus.

Barb Groth at Mir Castle in Belarus.

Barb Groth and her nephew, Cawa, in Grodno, Belarus. Barb Groth at Mir Castle in Belarus.

Barb Groth and her nephew, Cawa, in Grodno, Belarus.
Barb Groth at Mir Castle in Belarus.

Barb Groth sent us some photos from her 3-1/2 week visit last summer to Belarus. She wrote: “Most people ask, ‘Where’s that?’ ‘Is it a city?’ or ‘Isn’t that where all the conflict with Russia is happening? Aren’t you afraid?’

“Belarus is a country. It is between Poland and Russia and north of the Ukraine, where all the conflict is occurring. No, I am not afraid to go there. I have family there and they showed me their country from end to end. I spent time with my half sister on her rural farm that has no indoor plumbing, and time with my nephew, who is an architect. He proudly showed me his achievements in his town of Grodno, which is comparable to Grand Rapids.

“I also visited a historic castle called ‘Mir,’ which is near the capital city of Minsk. Minsk has a population of nearly 2 million.”

Barb said that she took the Post everywhere she went in Belarus. “It was truly a wonderful place to explore and enjoy,” she wrote.

Thanks so much, Barb, for taking us with you!

Are you going on vacation? Take the Post with you and snap some photos. Then send them to us with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com or mail them to Post travels, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. We will be looking for yours!


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Sheriff Department recognizes victim advocates and citizens

Pictured from L to R: Victim advocate Jay Groendyke, residents Ron and Mavee Blain, and victim advocate Charles Roetman.

Pictured from L to R: Victim advocate Jay Groendyke, residents Ron and Mavee Blain, and victim advocate Charles Roetman.

The Kent County Sheriff Department honored two volunteer victim advocates and two county residents on Thursday, November 13, by presenting them with Public Service Awards and Letters of Appreciation.

According to the Sheriff Department, victim advocates Jay Groendyke and Charles Roetman and Kent County residents Ron and Mavee Blain were recognized for their exceptional efforts and kindness in aiding a spouse after the death of her husband in an ultra-light plane crash last summer.

On August 24, 2014, Victim Advocates Jay and Charles were called to assist on a fatal airplane (Ultra-Light) crash located at 7360 Lincoln Lake Avenue, in Vergennes Township. Once at the scene of the crash, the victim advocates were introduced to Mrs. Delia Bowker, the wife of deceased pilot Bryan Bowker. Delia and Bryan had driven their motor home from New Mexico to Lowell, Michigan, for the sole purpose of purchasing this ultralight aircraft.

The Bowkers had no family or friends anywhere in the State of Michigan. Delia was born and raised in the Philippines and spoke broken English, which made it extremely difficult for the victim advocates to communicate with her. Delia was a witness to the accident, and she was exhibiting a high level of distress, grief, anger and anxiety over what had just taken place.

Sheriff Larry Stelma honors the victim advocates and citizens that helped a grieving spouse after an ultra-light plane crash last summer.

Sheriff Larry Stelma honors the victim advocates and citizens that helped a grieving spouse after an ultra-light plane crash last summer.

Jay and Charles were comforting and assisting Delia, and within a short period of time a local couple, Ron and Mavee Blain stopped by, asking if they could help in anyway. Mrs. Blain was also born and raised in the Philippines, and offered to translate between the victim advocates and Delia. This was an overwhelmingly generous gesture and a much needed miracle for everyone involved.

Jay and Charles worked tirelessly over the next several hours gathering information from the Deputies on scene, while they worked at keeping the media away from the grieving spouse. They also comforted the owner of the aircraft, Mr. Paul Nichols who was showing extreme grief over the unfortunate accident. Jay and Charles assisted with arrangements for funeral homes in Grand Rapids and New Mexico. They called several of Bryan and Delia’s friends, and informed them of the tragic accident. Arrangements were made for friends of Bryan and Delia to fly into Grand Rapids the following day.

Following their generous offer, Mrs. Bowker agreed to stay with Mr. and Mrs. Blain, until her friends from New Mexico arrived the following day. Victim Advocates Jay and Charles drove the Bowker’s motor home, trailer and dog to the Blain home, as Mrs. Bowker was unable to drive the motor home herself. Jay and Charles then facilitated a gathering where all involved continued to support and comfort Delia.

The next day, Victim Advocates Jay and Charles met the Blains and Delia at the Gerald R. Ford Airport to pick up the friends arriving from New Mexico. Information, comfort and resources were shared over dinner, with all involved. The Blains once again opened their home to Delia and her friends; they accepted the invitation and were very appreciative of the generous hospitality.

The Sheriff Department said that Kent County Victim Advocates Jay Groendyke and Charles Roetman went above and beyond the traditional expectations of the role of victim advocate. They provided compassionate and professional care for Mrs. Bowker, spending in excess of thirty hours with her over a three-day period, following the tragic event. During the three-day period, Jay and Charles unselfishly placed the needs of Mrs. Bowker ahead of their own lives and responsibilities.

Mr. and Mrs. Blain opened their hearts and their home to a complete stranger, who was in great distress, for three days and two nights providing care and comfort to her. Their unselfish kindness was not only a comfort to Mrs. Bowker, but a source of great relief to our victim advocates, knowing that someone was watching over Mrs. Bowker, grieving so far away from home.

For more information on the Victim Services Unit of the Kent County Sheriff Department, please visit www.accesskent.com/Sheriff/victim_services.htm or email Sandi Jones at sandi.jones@kentcountymi.gov, or call (616) 632-6221.


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Add Some Sparkle to Your Holiday Décor


By Melinda Myers

Liven up your holiday décor with lights, a bit of glitz and some colorful blossoms this season.

Start by gathering greenery from your landscape. Use needled evergreens like pines and firs, broadleaf evergreens like boxwood, holly and evergreen magnolia as well as junipers and arborvitaes to create wreaths, swags, centerpieces and garland. And don’t forget to include cones, holly berries, crabapples and the bluish-colored fruit of junipers.

Be selective as you prune your trees and shrubs when collecting these materials. Use sharp bypass pruners that have two sharp blades and will make a clean cut that closes more quickly. Make your cuts above a healthy bud, where the branches join another branch, or back to the main trunk. Take only a few branches from each tree or shrub to maintain the plants’ beauty.

Place freshly cut greens in a cool location away from heaters, fireplaces and open flames. Set them on colorful fabric or paper to catch the sap and avoid damaging your woodwork and furnishings.

Check your greenery for freshness every few days. The needles, leaves and stems should bend, but not break. Replace dried greens with fresh materials.

Then brighten up the display with some cool burning LED lights. Create a mantle display or centerpiece with the help of LED pillar lights. Or add a string of LEDs to your garland. Look for something unusual like pinecone string lights (gardeners.com) to add sparkle and charm to your display.

If you have artificial greens that could use a facelift, add fresh berries, cones and seedpods for a more natural look. Increase the glitz with the help of silver and gold metallic paint or glitter.  Paint milkweed, lotus and other pods and then tuck them into the greens. Painting allium seedheads white will add the appearance of flowery snowflakes in your indoor arrangements and outdoor container gardens.

And don’t forget the fresh flowers and flowering plants. Poinsettias are a long-time favorite, but you may want to change things up with Amaryllis, spring flowering bulbs and lily of the valley.  Look for unusual varieties or combinations to increase your enjoyment. Combine large flowered amaryllis with small flowering bulbs like star of Bethlehem. Or go for a unique size shape or flower color like that of the Honeybee Amaryllis with its beautiful yellow flowers that are sure to brighten your days.

Add a few flowers to your greenery and houseplants for some instant color.  Stick your greenery and flowers in dampened floral foam to create a long-lasting holiday centerpiece. Or place cut flowers in floral picks and set them in dish gardens and houseplants to brighten things up. Then swap out the flowers as they fade.

And consider making a few extra planters or centerpieces to give as holiday and hostess gifts this year.

Now is the time to put on your gardening shoes, grab the pruners and get started decorating for the holiday season ahead.

Gardening expert, TV/radio host, author & columnist Melinda Myers has a master’s degree in horticulture and has written over 20 gardening books, including Can’t Miss Small Space Gardening and the Midwest Gardener’s Handbook. Her web site, www.melindamyers.com, offers gardening videos, podcasts and monthly tips.

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Indulge in a bite of pie and take a nap 


HEA-Indulge-in-a-bite-of-pieIt could keep you healthy this holiday season


(BPT) – The holiday season is full of celebrations. From office parties to family events, everyone gathers to spread a little extra cheer. While people may be wary of what all of the holiday treats will mean for their health, avoiding all of the revelry could cause more harm than good. Creating a balance between restraint and indulgence will help sustain physical, mental and emotional well-being. Come out of the holiday season feeling just as good as you did when you went in with these easy tips.

Choose wisely.

During the holidays there are tempting treats everywhere you turn. From cookies at the office to fondue at the holiday party, your favorites can be hard to resist. But if you choose your treats wisely, you can guiltlessly enjoy every bite.

Browse the buffet line for healthy options like veggies or fruit, shrimp cocktails or chicken skewers so you won’t have to skip dessert. You can always share a sweet treat with someone else to keep you accountable. And if you’re worried about not having the will power, it’s a good idea to eat 1.5 ounces of healthy protein before an event to keep you feeling satiated.

Don’t deny yourself.

Food is connected to family, culture, tradition and celebration, and it should be a source of enjoyment. Avoid creating a list of items you cannot have. “When it comes to tempting foods, forbidding them only makes you want them even more,” says Debbie Swanson, registered dietician, and nutrition and healthy-cooking tips instructor at The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Colorado. She suggests eating smaller portions of your favorites, such as a bite of pie instead of the whole piece. “My friend makes the best apple pie. I always have two bites,” Swanson says.

Work it off.

The best way to prevent the extra pounds from sneaking up on you is to engage in a regular exercise routine. Doing something as simple as parking farther away from the office or taking the stairs instead of the elevator can help increase the number of steps you take each day.

Individuals typically gain around two pounds during the holidays, according to the Mayo Clinic. “The problem is that we don’t lose the weight,” Swanson says. Rather than adding weight that you have to work off later, maintain a workout regimen or find other ways to burn the calories you consume throughout the busy day.

Make “me” time.

Research over the past two decades has begun to demonstrate the strong connection between mental health and the strength of the immune system, which affects overall physical well-being, according to Jim Wasner, dean for the American School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University|Schaumburg. Wasner says that the strength and resilience of everyone’s overall immune system, feeling depressed or overly anxious, often correlates with poorer physical health and vulnerability to illnesses. “Relax and schedule time for yourself,” he says.” Go easy on the alcohol and sugar. Catch up on your sleep.” Maintaining this overall balance will keep you physically and mentally healthy during the holiday season.

Allow yourself to enjoy the celebrations, just maintain the balance between health-conscious and indulgent decisions so the holidays don’t get the best of you.

For more information about Argosy University, visit argosy.edu. For more information about The Art Institutes, visit artinstitutes.edu.


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Wolves in Ecosystems Part 2

The gray wolf. Photo from the Encyclopedia Britannica online (Britannica.com)

The gray wolf. Photo from the Encyclopedia Britannica online (Britannica.com)

By Ranger Steve Mueller


Wolves’ presence and behavior increases wildlife populations despite their killing individual prey. Their predatory role in ecosystems has significant positive impacts on animal and plant communities. For thousands of years their presence in Michigan nature niches fluctuated in relation to plant and animal population abundance.

Canada lynx studies found plant populations control top predator populations. The Hudson Bay trapping records show snowshoe hare populations increased despite lynx, wolf, and other predators until the hares over browsed the plants causing hare starvation. When hares died the predators starved. Predation slowed hare population growth that helped maintained healthier communities.

When wolves were returned to Yellowstone National Park in 1995, they caused elk and other prey species to roam more. This saved shrubs and trees from being over browsed in valleys along rivers. Shrubs and trees regenerated habitat when protected by wolves.

Mice, rabbits, and other herbivores were able to find food where deer and elk had previously devastated wildlife communities by overgrazing. Songbirds moved into areas when vegetation recovered. Beavers found rapid growing aspens provided essential food that allowed their return to streams and rivers. They built dams creating rich floodplain habitat that had been lost and washed away in the absence of wolves. Wolves eat beavers when the opportunity arises but these rodents reproduce more rapidly than predators kill them. Large fires in the Yellowstone region also rejuvenated early succession communities but wolves caused elk and deer to move preventing overgrazing.

Beavers created wetland habitats, stabilized stream banks, and reduced soil erosion. Fish populations found healthier streambeds for egg laying. More oxygen in less silted rivers aided fish survival.

With increased landscape vegetation that resulted from wolf presence, plant-eating rodents increased and resulted in more predators like hawks, eagles, weasels, foxes, and badgers. Carrion left by wolves allowed bears, ravens, and other animals to provide more food and it improved their health and reproductive success. Increased shrubs provided more berries needed by bears, birds, and many other animals. What inferences can be applied to Michigan ecosystems? No one animal or plant is responsible for all positive or negative changes. It is a community effort but some animals like the wolf start what is called a positive “trophic cascade” in how they change animal movements and cull animal populations with selected animal predation.

The wolves even changed the course of rivers. Overgrazed landscape along rivers cut straighter channels when wolves were removed but with the wolf return stream meanders returned. Vegetation recovery along banks reduced erosion causing stream meandering. More pools developed with more fish hiding places. Waterfowl increased. Wolves transformed the landscape to healthier nature niches for plants, mammals, birds, amphibians, insects and a host of native wildlife that had diminished in wolf absence.

Human social and economic aspects of wolf presence have been beneficial in the Yellowstone ecosystem but not completely. Ranchers drive cattle into the national forest and leave them unattended to feed. In Michigan, farmers graze animals on their private property and care for their livestock. The national forests are public lands used for watershed flood management, timber harvest, grazing, hunting, hiking, camping, recreation, fishing, and mineral extraction. In short they are all things for all people.

This becomes a management challenge when people consider their interests more important than their neighbors and it results in Congressional gridlock. Maintaining healthy ecosystems to provide for future generations of our families requires decisions beyond one group’s personal self-centered interest.

There are times when wolf management is important for our neighbors. At present in Michigan, each case is addressed when a problem arises. Legal hunting might one day be appropriate in balance with the multiple uses of our National and State forests in the UP. Decisions should be ecosystem focused for maintaining society’s sustainable needs. Plants and animals have essential roles in ecosystem sustainability that we cannot duplicate. Future generations are as important as our own but decisions frequently place priority only on the present.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433.


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Teenager danger: Five rules for young drivers

CAR-teenager-danger_driving_infographicCAR-Teenager-Danger(BPT) – If you’re feeling nervous about handing the car keys to your teenager for the first time, you’re not alone. It’s a common sentiment given some sobering statistics. According to teendriversource.org, 20 percent of all 16-year-old drivers will be involved in an accident during their first year behind the wheel. And studies show more teenage motor vehicle fatalities happen during the summer than any other time of year. But there are some things you can do to help keep your teenager from becoming a statistic. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has some tips and tools to keep your teen safe.

Though auto accidents are a fact of life for most drivers, even a minor fender bender can impact insurance rates, costing parents and teens for years to come. The good news is research shows teen drivers who follow rules are half as likely to get in an accident. Before your teen hits the road, consider establishing some simple guidelines to protect his or her safety and your wallet:

1. Set a driving curfew. More than 40 percent of teen auto deaths occur between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Set a curfew to keep your teen off the road during these times.

2. Limit passengers. A teen’s relative risk of being involved in a fatal crash increases with each additional passenger. More passengers equal more potential distractions.

3. Make the cell phone off limits while driving. Talking and texting can double the likelihood of an accident. If your teen must use the phone, instruct him or her to pull over before doing so and be sure to set a good example when you are behind the wheel.

4. Empower your teen to exercise his or her rights as a passenger. Only 44 percent of teens say they would speak up if someone were driving in a way that scared them. Remind your teens they are just as vulnerable in an accident as the driver, so they should speak up if they feel unsafe.

5. Be Prepared. Arm your teens with the knowledge of what they should do if they do get into an accident. Mobile apps such as WreckCheck can help take the guesswork out of a tense situation, guiding users through a step-by-step process to create an accident report. WreckCheck uses your device’s location service, camera and audio recorder to document all pertinent information about the incident and provides tips on how to file and follow up on a claim.

A Teen Driver Contract is a simple way to keep your teen accountable. It establishes basic driving ground rules and clearly lays out the consequences associated with driving privileges. The NAIC has developed an online tool to guide parents through building a customized Teen Driver Contract. There’s also a downloadable sample contract to help get you started. Just visit www.insureuonline.org/insureu_special_teendriving.htm.

Educating yourself and your new driver about the risks and insurance implications of unsafe driving can save lives and money. As your teen begins his or her journey on the roadways, take time to speak openly and candidly about your expectations for behind-the-wheel behavior.




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Early snowstorm slams West Michigan

Blowing snow, wind chills in the single digits and icy roads put the area in a deep freeze, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, causing hundreds of schools to close and many drivers to slide off the road.

Heavy lake effect snow piled up across the area, with most areas getting somewhere around a foot. According to WOOD-TV8, Tuesday’s high temperature of 19 degrees was the coldest high temperature ever recorded for that date in Grand Rapids. That’s 27 degrees below average. At this same time last year, on November 17, we had severe weather that even spawned tornadoes across the state.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Kent County was under another winter weather advisory until early Friday morning, with another 6-8 inches of snow expected. By Saturday and Sunday, temps are expected to climb above freezing again.

Now that winter seems to be here, Kent County Emergency Management reminds everyone to pay attention to weather conditions before heading out the door. Give yourself a few extra minutes to arrive on time.

The cold can cause problems for many, especially people with pre-existing medical conditions, young children, and seniors. “Be a good friend or neighbor. Check on those who are elderly or have a medical condition,” says Jack Stewart, Kent County Emergency Management Coordinator. “Making a daily call or visit part of your routine could really help someone in need.”

If you haven’t shut off water to your outdoor spigots yet, do it now. Make sure you have emergency kits in your car and home this winter. The Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness recommends you keep the following items in your home: Battery-powered flashlight, Batteries, Weather and/or portable radio, Extra food (canned or dried food is best) and a can opener, Bottled water (at least 3 gallons per person), First aid kit.

“If you lose power in your home and use a generator, be sure that you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning,” Stewart says. “Also know the hazards if you need an emergency heating source, like a space heater.” Keep emergency supplies in your car as well. A small battery powered radio and extra batteries, a cell phone, and a blanket should always be kept within reach.

This early in the season, pets may be more vulnerable to the cold. Keep pets indoors as much as possible. The smaller the pet, the quicker the cold impacts them. Puppies and kittens are especially sensitive to the cold, as are older pets. Watch out for community cats that might crawl under the hood of your car to keep warm. Bang loudly on the hood before starting the car, and never leave pets in a car during the winter. Temperatures can be just as cold inside the car as they are outdoors.

More tips on winter preparedness from the Michigan Committee for Severe Weather Awareness can be found at: www.mcswa.com/Winter-Hazards.html.


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Red Hawk’s Alvesteffer voted WZZM13’s MVP of the season

Cedar Springs sophomore Collin Alvesteffer (center) receives the 2014 Season MVP award from WZZM13 and sponsor Mercy Health during last Friday’s edition of “On your sidelines.” Brent Ashcroft, left, and Dan Harland, right, are the show’s anchors. Photo by K. Alvesteffer

Cedar Springs sophomore Collin Alvesteffer (center) receives the 2014 Season MVP award from WZZM13 and sponsor Mercy Health during last Friday’s edition of “On your sidelines.” Brent Ashcroft, left, and Dan Harland, right, are the show’s anchors. Photo by K. Alvesteffer

By Judy Reed

The Cedar Springs Red Hawks Varsity Football team had a great season, going 9-2 and winning the OK-Bronze Conference Championship outright. They won their first playoff home game at Red Hawk Stadium, against Forest Hills Northern, and were defeated by Muskegon in the district regional the following week. They scored an average 35 points per game.

One of the sparkplugs that fired that success was sophomore quarterback Collin Alvesteffer, who was equally efficient on both offense and defense. He received a great honor last week when he was voted by fans as WZZM13’s 2014 Season MVP. WZZM listed 10 nominees for the award, and fan voting online narrowed it to three. Fans then voted again, and Collin came out on top. He was given the award on their final “On your sidelines” show of the season last Friday evening.

Collin was selected as a MVP of the week earlier in the season, and also voted to MLive’s defensive dream team. That’s a lot of attention for a 15-year-old. The Post asked how he was dealing with all the attention.

Collin Alvesteffer scored both touchdowns against the Muskegon Big Reds. Photo by K. Alvesteffer.

Collin Alvesteffer scored both touchdowns against the Muskegon Big Reds. Photo by K. Alvesteffer.

“It’s all exciting, but I just try to focus on the team’s success instead of my own,” said Collin. The attention was not something he was expecting. “I knew I was not the best football player that we had, so figured they would get all the attention,” he added.

Football is in Collin’s blood. He started playing flag football at ages 4-6, and then Rocket at age 7. He’s continued to play ever since.

The Post asked him if he did anything special to prepare for this season. “I just tried to become the best player and teammate that I could,” he remarked.

And it seems to have paid off, not just for him but the whole team. “We had excellent team work and effort in practice and during the offseason,” he explained, when asked why he thought the team did so well.

Collin knows his success was made possible by those around him.

“I want to thank my teammates and coaches for always pushing me and making me better,” said Collin. “But most importantly, I want to thank my Mom and Dad, because they support me no matter what and are my biggest fans.”

Collin’s Mom, Kelley Alvesteffer, won’t argue with that. “Collin has always excelled at football and I have always been proud of him for that. However, this year he learned that it is not about him. He learned to play for the team—not for himself. He learned good sportsmanship and learned to be truly humble.”

Congratulations to Collin, and we look forward to seeing what the Red Hawks can do in 2015!

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The Post travels to the Arctic Circle

N-Post-goes-to-Alaska-AGAINThe Cedar Springs Post traveled to the Arctic Circle last summer with John Osburn, of Nelson Township. Thanks so much, John, for taking us with you!

Are you going on vacation? Take the Post with you and snap some photos. Then send them to us with some info to news@cedarspringspost.com or mail them to Post travels, PO Box 370, Cedar Springs, MI 49319. We will be looking for yours!


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Do you remember the 1965 Palm Sunday tornado? 


The National Weather office in Grand Rapids needs your help. April 11, 2015 will mark the 50th anniversary of the 1965 Palm Sunday Tornado Outbreak and they  are looking for photos, home movies and eyewitness accounts of the tornadoes to be documented as part of their commemoration event. They are especially interested in details on the tornado that struck from near Marne to Comstock Park on that day. If you have firsthand accounts of the tornadoes or film of the event, please contact them at w-grr.webmaster@noaa.gov. You can also leave a phone message with your contact info at 616-949-0643 extension 356.


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