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Solon spaghetti dinner raises funds for township park

A spaghetti dinner and dessert auction last weekend raised over $1,000 for Solon Township’s Velzy Park.

A spaghetti dinner and dessert auction last weekend raised over $1,000 for Solon Township’s Velzy Park.

By Vicky Babcock

The mood was warm and festive, the company, in turns, warmly supportive and fiercely competitive. It was a gathering of friends, family and community motivated by a common cause—to eat—and to aid in the culmination of a dream. It was Solon’s second annual spaghetti dinner/dessert auction fundraiser for Velzy Park.

The community came together in support of Velzy Park. With mood music created by Courtney King and tables dressed in Valentine splendor, about 80 area residents sat down to a buffet style supper of spaghetti, garlic bread and salad cooked in house by our own Annette Ellick.

The atmosphere changed when the first desserts were brought out to be auctioned, however.  Friends and neighbors vied for their choices of desserts from the huge array of donated items. It was good-natured rivalry, with some desserts reaching upwards of $50. Many of the desserts were shared table to table and there was plenty left to take home for later. Desserts ruled, but they were not the only choice for bidding as a growler fill and tee shirts donated by David Ringler also shared the auction table.

The event was made possible by the Park Committee, its many volunteers, both in service and donated desserts and other related items. It was a community effort enjoyed by the community.  The event brought in over $1,350 with about $1000 for the park realized after expenses.

The creation of the park will help fill a gap in the Township’s infrastructure. While Long Lake Park—a County Park—is located within its boundaries, Solon has no structured parks of its own. The Township envisions a green area with a soccer field, baseball diamond and playground area, as well as picnic tables and a walking trail. With the North Country Trail planning a route through the park, it will become an important pit stop from the West as it makes its way into Cedar Springs.

Velzy Park is the collective dream of a number of citizens, an area where the community can come together for social events and play, both structured and unstructured. The park will be open to everyone and will not rely on tax dollars. Look for groundbreaking on the trail this spring or summer as the committee continues fundraising efforts. For more information or to donate or volunteer, please call the township office at 616-696-1718.

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Two Red Hawks wrestlers district champs

Head Coach Nick Emery (far left) with the six Cedar Springs wrestlers that will be moving on to Regionals.

Head Coach Nick Emery (far left) with the six Cedar Springs wrestlers that will be moving on to Regionals.

Two others placed second, and two more finished third

On Wednesday, February 8, Cedar Springs High School Wrestling hosted team Districts. Unfortunately, the Red Hawks fell short to Sparta with a final score, 33-38. Heavy Weight Patrick Depiazza, 125 Aaron Smith, 135 lb Jordan Andrus, 140 lb Jordan Ringler, 171 lb Xavier Anderson and 189 lb Ryan Ringler won their matches.

On Saturday, February 11, the Red Hawks traveled to Lowell for Individual Districts. District Champions are Heavy Weight Patrick Depiazza (41-0) and 171 lb Ryan Ringler (42-1). 135 lb Jordan Ringler (36-7) and 145 lb Lucus Pienton (31-7) finished in 2nd Place. 125 lb Aaron Smith (35-11) and 160 lb Nate Patin (25-13) finished in 3rd Place. Congratulations to these six individuals who will continue on to Regionals and the chance to compete at the State Finals.

The following individuals ended their season with Varsity wins as listed: 112 lb Nate Male, 18 wins; 119 lb Logan Hull, 26 wins; 125 lb Patrick Fliearman, 21 wins; 130 Jordan Andrus, 27 wins; 140 Anthony Brew, 14 wins; 140 Jacob Galinis, 24 wins; 152 lb Zak Schmid, 10 wins and 189 lb Chris Shaffer, 13 wins. Regionals will be held at Byron Center, Saturday, Feb. 18 if you would like to continue supporting your Red Hawks.

“The boys put together a memorable season,” said Head Coach Nick Emery.

“We came up just a hair short of our team goals but the heart and effort was there. We graduate two fantastic seniors, Patrick Fliearman and Jordan Andrus, who I will miss in the room everyday. But we will have six regional qualifiers returning. Now it’s time for the remaining wrestlers to focus on the Individual State Championship and bring home some medals.”

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Lady Chargers Take WMAES Tournament Title

Lady Chargers: Front: Holly Fahling; 2nd Row: Grace Alverson, Elizabeth Jahns, Cameron Medwayosh, Hannah Hofstra, Faith Watson, Autumn Watson 3rd Row: Sierra Medwayosh, Zoe Roesner, Torie Wierda, Molly Wortz, Brin Calkins, Devin Slocum, Kaela Bucholz, Gabby Fahling Back Row: Coach Steve Washington

Lady Chargers: Front: Holly Fahling; 2nd Row: Grace Alverson, Elizabeth Jahns, Cameron Medwayosh, Hannah Hofstra, Faith Watson, Autumn Watson 3rd Row: Sierra Medwayosh, Zoe Roesner, Torie Wierda, Molly Wortz, Brin Calkins, Devin Slocum, Kaela Bucholz, Gabby Fahling Back Row: Coach Steve Washington

The Lady Chargers continued to improve on their season by competing in the West Michigan Academy of Environmental Science (WMAES) Basketball Tournament. The ladies took on the host WMAES Eagles in the first round and jumped out to an early lead and never looked back while charging to a 31-10 victory. It was CTA’s relentless pressure that enabled the team to force 36 turnovers in the game. Faith Watson led the Lady Chargers with eight points, freshman Hannah Hofstra threw in an additional six points. All of this was supported by senior point guard Holly Fahling who had five points, four rebounds and four assists.

In the Championship games, CTA faced the Grand Rapids Thunder for the the Tournament title.

The Lady Chargers played an aggressive player-to-player defense. Stifling pressure frustrated the Thunder team forcing 32 turnovers which created numerous fast break opportunities for the Lady Chargers’ 37-13. Holly Fahling stepped it up and scored 14 points with five steals and four rebounds. Faith Watson threw in an additional 11 points with Junior Autumn Watson cleaning up the boards with 8 rebounds. All players were able to get into both games and first year players Kaela Bucholtz, Elizabeth Jahns and Molly Wortz also logged points in the tournament. “It is great when when can play good team defense and get all 14 girls significant court time,” stated coach Steven Washington. “All of our players had the opportunity to contribute to a good team win.” With the wins, the Lady Chargers are 5-7 for the year and play this Friday, February 17th at Grace Bible College hosting the Wellspring Academy Wolves.

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4 life changes that affect your taxes and how to tackle them


(BPT) – Life changes often mean tax changes. Whether it’s getting married, buying or selling a home, moving abroad or having a baby, misunderstanding the tax and financial implications of these life changes can lead to taxpayers making mistakes or leaving money on the table.

Depending on your situation, there are new tax implications that will impact your benefits, tax bill and how you file. If you experienced a life change in 2016, here is a list of tax implications and how they will affect you.


Many couples close the book on their “wedding to-dos” once the last thank you card has been sent, but looking at your new tax situation is an important first step in your married life. There are some instances when getting married can have negative implications for a couple’s tax situation. Once you’re married you must file either as married filing jointly or married filing separately. In some cases, a couple where one spouse earns most of the household income will benefit because their overall tax bracket may decrease. However, a couple with two high earners may find they face a higher tax rate than if each paid tax only on their own income and added the taxes paid.

However, there are some ways to protect against potential negative tax implications. After your marriage is official, update your W-4 with your employer to account for your new marital status. If you’re self-employed or a small business owner, make sure to adjust your quarterly estimated tax payments.

Buying a house

Purchasing a home may open the door to more deductions through itemizing if you weren’t already doing so. Once you become a homeowner, you can deduct many of your home-related costs, including your qualified home mortgage interest, points paid on a loan secured by your home, real estate taxes and private mortgage insurance premiums paid on or before Dec. 31, 2016. If you choose not to itemize, you may benefit from other tax advantages such as penalty-free IRA withdrawals if you are a first-time homebuyer under the age of 59 and a half, or residential energy credits for purchases of certain energy efficient property.

New homebuyers should be on the lookout for Form 1098 Mortgage Interest Statement, which is used to report mortgage interest. This form can help you identify these deductions when completing your Form 1040.

Moving abroad

Are you excited to move abroad, but have no idea what will happen to your taxes and how to file? Many Americans living and working overseas will not owe tax to the IRS because of the foreign earned income exclusion and foreign tax credit. However, even if you qualify for those benefits, you have to file a U.S. tax return each year if you received income over the normal filing threshold.

It is also important to understand your Social Security coverage before moving abroad. Knowing whether your earnings overseas will be subjected to Social Security taxes in the U.S. or the country you are residing in will be an important factor when analyzing the economics of your move.

Having a baby

A new baby means you may be able to take advantage of tax breaks, including the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The CTC is worth up to $1,000 for each qualifying child younger than 17, a portion of which may be refundable as the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) depending on your income. A tax preparer can help you understand the qualifications to determine whether a child is considered qualified for purposes of the CTC. Some of those qualifications include but are not limited to their relationship and residency.

You may also qualify for the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) which is a benefit for working people with low to moderate income that reduces the amount of taxes you owe. However, it’s important to note that due to the new “Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes ACT” or PATH Act, this year the IRS is required to hold any refund from those claiming the EITC and ACTC until at least Feb. 15. This delay will be widely felt by tax filers who typically file as soon as the IRS accepts e-filed returns and who normally expect to receive their refund by late January.

To learn more about this new tax law change, how it may delay tax refunds in January and February, and H&R Block’s free solution to this delay, visit www.hrblock.com/refundadvance or make an appointment with a tax professional.

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Free fishing weekend this Saturday and Sunday

Adults and youths alike can have fun exploring Michigan’s winter fishing opportunities during the 2017 Winter #MiFreeFishingWeekend

Adults and youths alike can have fun exploring Michigan’s winter fishing opportunities during the 2017 Winter #MiFreeFishingWeekend

Everyone in Michigan is invited to fish for free Saturday, Feb. 18, and Sunday, Feb. 19, for the 2017 Winter Free Fishing Weekend. A license is not required to fish for those two days, but all other fishing regulations still apply.
These two days make up #MiFreeFishingWeekend—an annual effort to promote Michigan’s world-class fishing opportunities. While many individuals and families will bundle up and head out to fish for free on their own, the DNR points out that there are several organized events scheduled throughout the state to celebrate the weekend, too. Some of these events include:

  • Free Fishing Festival (Bay County) Feb. 18, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Join this annual event at the Saginaw Bay Visitor Center at Bay City State Recreation Area where tons of winter recreation activities are highlighted.
  • 8th annual Wakefield Volunteer Fire Department Ice Fishing Contest (Gogebic County) Feb. 18, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Participate in this annual ice fishing contest where lots of prizes are raffled off.
  • Wild about Winter Activity Day (Van Buren County) Feb. 18, 11 a.m. and 1 and 3 p.m. Visit the Wolf Lake State Fish Hatchery in Mattawan for its Ice Fishing 101 course, held at three separate times. Additional on-site activities will include snowshoeing, a winter scavenger hunt and much more.
  • Family Ice Fishing (Wexford County) Feb. 18,  noon to 4 p.m. Come to the Carl T. Johnson Hunt and Fish Center in Cadillac for an on-the-ice experience and learn how to ice fish.

OUT-Free-fishing2-ice-safety-tipsPlease note that all events are subject to weather conditions. Even if there is no fishable ice in certain parts of the state this weekend, other types of fishing may be available. Also, during the 2017 Winter #MiFreeFishingWeekend no DNR Recreation Passport is required for entry to any state park or recreation area.

There are many other events scheduled in locations throughout the state. Information about these events, including those listed above, can be found at Michigan.gov/freefishing.

Michigan has celebrated the Winter Free Fishing Weekend every year since 1994. With more than 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline, tens of thousands of miles of rivers and streams, and 11,000 inland lakes, Michigan and fishing are a natural match.

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Ricker family fundraisers

The Ricker Family

The Ricker Family

Various groups are putting on fundraisers over the next couple of weeks to help pay for medical bills for two teen brothers in our community that are battling cancer: Brison and Preston Ricker. Brison has an inoperable brain tumor (DIPG) and Preston recently had surgery for thyroid cancer. They are the sons of Brian and Kim Ricker, of Nelson Township. These are the ones we know about:

Varsity basketball fundraiser

FEB. 17: Please join the Cedar Springs Girls and Boys Basketball programs this Friday, February 17, as they host Forest Hills Central in a #rickerstrong game. Many activities are planned for the evening, which starts at 5:30 p.m. with the boys game. Please pack these stands and bring your wallets as we come together to raise money for this awesome family that is battling cancer! We will have a 50/50, raffling off these fabulous corn hole boards that Steve Elliston made and painted by hand and donated, as well as some half time shooting. It is also Senior Night-the last night these senior boys and girls will suit up and play in the Red Hawk gym.

FFA Silent Auction

FEB. 17-24: The FFA at Cedar Springs High School is holding a series of fundraisers for the Ricker family, in conjunction with National FFA week. The first is a silent auction at both Family Farm and Home and Quality Farm and Fleet, and starts this Friday, February 17 and runs until February 24. Several businesses have donated items, and the FFA will also include some of their own homemade maple syrup and pancake mix in the baskets. They hope to have a couple of tables set up at each store, so stop in at both stores and bid on your favorite items.

Movie at the Kent Theatre: Miracles from Heaven

FEB. 22: The FFA is sponsoring the movie “Miracles from Heaven” at the Kent Theatre on Wednesday, February 22, at 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Tickets are $3. All proceeds from ticket sales and a portion of concession sales will go to the Ricker family. A donation jar will also be set up for anyone wishing to donate more to the family’s medical expenses. The movie, starring Jennifer Garner, is based on the true story of a young girl who was miraculously cured from her illness.

Spaghetti dinner 

FEB. 26: Classic Kelly’s Family Restaurant, 356 N. Main Street, Cedar Springs, is holding a spaghetti dinner fundraiser for the Ricker family on Sunday, February 26, from 6-8:30 p.m. They will provide either a sit down or take out dinner for $10 each, with all proceeds going to the Ricker family. #Rickerstrong t-shirts will also be available to buy that night.

Dinner at Culver’s

FEB. 28: The FFA is holding a fundraising dinner for the Rickers at Culver’s of Comstock Park, located at 4280 Alpine, on Tuesday, February 28, from 5-30-8 p.m. Ten percent of proceeds will go to the Ricker family.

Other things the FFA is doing to support the Ricker family include selling bracelets at the high school that say  “Farming for a cause #rickerstrong” and running a “Kiss the Pig” contest in classrooms. For the Kiss the Pig contest, 24 piggybanks have been set up in various classrooms. According to teacher Larry Reyburn, the top five classrooms that collect the most change will win, and those lucky teachers will get to kiss a baby pig supplied by the FFA. Paper money doesn’t count, so if they don’t want to kiss the pig, they can stuff the piggyback with dollar bills. Fun stuff! FFA students Heather Beverwyk and Kate Hall have been in charge of organizing the current FFA fundraisers for the Ricker family.

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Community pulls together for brothers battling cancer

Carts full of cans were lined up inside and outside the Cedar Springs Meijer store Monday and Tuesday, as volunteers worked to feed over 86,000 of them into the machines. Photo courtesy of Team Rickerstrong.

Carts full of cans were lined up inside and outside the Cedar Springs Meijer store Monday and Tuesday, as volunteers worked to feed over 86,000 of them into the machines. Photo courtesy of Team Rickerstrong.

Teen Brison Ricker, who suffers from an inoperable brain tumor, is getting better with the alternative treatments he is getting from the Burzynski Clinic in Texas. Photo from the Ricker’s gofundme page.

Teen Brison Ricker, who suffers from an inoperable brain tumor, is getting better with the alternative treatments he is getting from the Burzynski Clinic in Texas. Photo from the Ricker’s gofundme page.

By Judy Reed

The greater Cedar Springs community has shown their support over the last nine months for the family of Brison and Preston Ricker, two teen brothers fighting cancer, but the massive number of cans donated at their annual can drive at Meijer this week took everyone by surprise.

This month’s drive started at 5 p.m. Monday, and by 11 p.m. Monday evening, they had to stop counting. Volunteers returned on Tuesday evening, hoping to finish it off. But the cans kept coming, and at last count, over 86,000 cans were donated, and they still have a trailer that is 2/3 full of cans that they are holding until next month.

“We knew that this month’s can drive would be a larger turnout but honestly we were pleasantly shocked at the amount of cans that kept coming throughout the first night and continued again the second night,” said Melissa Egan, of Team Rickerstrong. “It was such a great thing to witness. So many people continue to support Brison in his fight by faithfully donating each month, but when Preston also was diagnosed…the support doubled and that is why we believe it was so much more successful.”

Egan said that they cannot express appreciation enough for the continued support from not only our community, but surrounding communities. “The love, prayers and support for this family is truly amazing. And who would have thought that a can drive that originally started as a way to possibly raise a quick $500 here or there would turn into a monthly fundraiser that has now brought over $30,000! Each month we have loyal volunteers that help feed machines or empty returnables into carts…ranging from adults to kids, all wanting to support the Ricker family.”

Team Rickerstrong started the once a month can drives in July, when the family took Brison to Texas to be seen and treated at the Burzynski Clinic. Dr. Burzynski offered an alternative treatment for Brison’s inoperable brain tumor (DIPG), which conventional treatment could not eradicate. He had been given only months to live. But this alternative costs $17,000 a month, paid up front. And it is not covered under insurance. The good news is that it is working, and Brison is feeling better than he has in months, according to his mom, Kim Ricker. He is eating again, and getting stronger, but not yet walking on his own. He even went to Swirl last weekend, which she said made him really happy.

Preston, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in December, and had it surgically removed in January, is recovering, and will soon start radioactive iodine therapy.

Kim was also thankful for the success of this week’s can drive. “It was incredible to see the out pouring of love and support with all the cans that were donated! Although a majority of them came from this amazing community, we had people from surrounding communities and even as far as Caledonia donating their cans. We feel so blessed and are truly grateful to everyone who donated, and all the people who worked so hard getting over 86,000 cans put in the machines. Of course a huge thanks to Meijer, we could do not do this without their support,” she added.

The Rickers are faced with needing a minimum of $17,000 every month for Brison’s treatment. “This has to be paid up front; it is not like normal hospital bills that can accumulate and be paid back over years,” explained Kim. “If we don’t pay, Brison doesn’t get his treatment. Although the can drive was a huge success and raised more than we could have imagined, that amount covers two weeks of treatment, so the need to keep raising funds is great.”

If you would like to donate, you can visit their gofundme page at https://www.gofundme.com/rickerstrong, or participate in a fundraiser with Team Rickerstrong at https://www.facebook.com/teambrison/. You can also or send a check to them at 5370 Dio Dr., Cedar Springs, MI 49319.

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First grade library card drive

 Cedar Springs Library Director Donna Clark, Mrs. Graff (Cedar Springs first grade teacher), Heidi Fifield (CS Children’s Paraprofessional), Sara Magnuson (Youth librarian at Nelson Township/Sand Lake branch of KDL), and Mary Shallman (Youth Paraprofessional at Spencer Township branch of KDL) pose with children in Mrs. Graff’s classroom.

Cedar Springs Library Director Donna Clark, Mrs. Graff (Cedar Springs first grade teacher), Heidi Fifield (CS Children’s Paraprofessional), Sara Magnuson (Youth librarian at Nelson Township/Sand Lake branch of KDL), and Mary Shallman (Youth Paraprofessional at Spencer Township branch of KDL) pose with children in Mrs. Graff’s classroom.

For 20 years the Cedar Springs Public Library has celebrated “March is Reading month” by holding a library card drive for all first graders in the area. It started with a push from Mike Metzger in 1997, and has grown into a joint project with two local Kent District Library branches (Nelson Township/Sand Lake and Spencer Township) as well, since children in those library areas also attend school in Cedar Springs.

With “March is Reading Month” right around the corner, Library staff from the Cedar Springs Library, Nelson Township/Sand Lake KDL Branch, and Spencer Township KDL Branch decided to officially visit all first grade classes, Monday, February 6, for the 21st year in a row! One-by-one, Sara Magnuson (KDL Nelson Twp), Mary Shallman (KDL Spencer), and Heidi Fifield (Cedar Springs Library) made their way to the 10 different classrooms at Cedar Trails, then out to Creative Technologies Academy for one more. As Children’s Specialists, Sara, Mary and Heidi shared a world available to first graders with a simple library card…a world of books, movies, music, toys, electronics, eMaterials, and more.

“First graders love learning to read and they love reading incentives,” said Clark. “All first graders are invited to come to see Lego Batman for FREE, compliments of the three libraries. A personal or family library card also adds value to the evening for first graders—FREE Popcorn! But, what about moms and dads, family and friends? Yes, for only $3 first graders may invite anyone they wish to join them! There is plenty of room at the Kent Theatre!”

This invitation goes out to all first graders in the Cedar Springs area, whether they go to a public, private, charter or home school.

All first graders may go to one of the three participating libraries and pick up a FREE movie pass before the showing on Monday, March 5 or the showing on Tuesday, March 6. The movie starts at 6 p.m. both nights. Oh, and by the way, there are books about Legos, too!

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Ringleader of gas-pump skimming scheme convicted


Jury convicts last of seven defendants in scheme that stretched from Texas to Colorado, Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio and Michigan 

Antonio DeJesus Perez-Martinez, 44, of Austin, Texas, was convicted on January 30, of conspiracy to commit wire-fraud, credit account fraud, and aggravated identity theft after a four-day jury trial. Perez-Martinez, the last of eight defendants charged in the case and the overall leader of a conspiracy that at times involved over a dozen participants, remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service pending sentencing on May 15  before Chief Judge Robert J. Jonker, who presided over the trial.

The evidence at trial established that Perez-Martinez, a Cuban citizen and lawful permanent resident of the United States (“green-card” holder), recruited numerous other recently-arrived Cuban citizens, all of whom had entered the United States in 2014 under a special “parole” program that admits Cuban citizens who present themselves to immigration authorities at the border, into a fraud scheme that initially involved obtaining compromised credit-account data from illicit websites, encoding that data onto cards, and using the “cloned” cards to bulk-buy gift cards and stored-value cards.

During the Summer of 2015, Perez-Martinez switched from acquiring account data online to using “skimming” devices that his accomplices secretly installed inside gas-pumps, and also extended his group’s operation into West Michigan. Skimming devices capture the account data of any card used to purchase gas without interfering with the purchase, leaving the account holder unaware that the data has been compromised until it has been re-encoded onto cloned cards and used to make unauthorized purchases. Because skimming devices acquire account data firsthand, the numbers are more recent and more reliable than those acquired secondhand from online hackers, and the illegal profits are greater.

Perez-Martinez’ conviction brings the total number of convictions from the case to seven: Raul Gonzalez Falcon (29), Yunier Carballo-Pupo (34), Manuel Perez-Cabrera (38), and Michel Velazquez-Gregori (30), none of whom had prior criminal records and all of whom agreed to plead guilty and to cooperate with the investigation. All received sentences of 21 months in prison. Pedro Sanchez-Pupo (32) received a sentence of 37 months. A seventh defendant, Juan Estrada-Galvez, was allowed to plead guilty to a state misdemeanor in Kent County when the investigation determined that his involvement in the scheme was minimal.

Perez-Martinez faces maximum penalties of 30 years in federal prison for the conspiracy and ten years for the credit account fraud, as well as a mandatory two-year prison sentence for the aggravated identity theft charge that must be served after the sentences on the first two counts are complete.

“Identity-theft is a continually expanding and especially pernicious form of property crime,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Andrew Birge, “and the pump-skimmer scheme is an aggravated form of identity theft because it targets every citizen of West Michigan doing one of the most basic and necessary things we all have to do: putting gas in our tanks. Any person who comes to West Michigan on a skimmer crew had better understand that the odds of getting caught are good, and that if they are caught, they will be prosecuted in Federal court.”

“As demonstrated by Monday’s guilty verdict, the defendant orchestrated a fraudulent scheme in order to steal proprietary financial information from their victims through the use of credit card skimmers at local gas stations,” added David P. Gelios, Special Agent in Charge, Detroit Division of the FBI. “Criminals who engage in these types of plots exploit and manipulate the very technology that we depend on to conduct secure financial transactions in the retail marketplace. Furthermore, such high-tech criminal activity causes significant losses for both merchants and banking institutions. The FBI and its local, state and federal law enforcement partners remain committed to protecting consumers, businesses, and financial institutions from the fraud schemes of criminal enterprises like the one this defendant led.”

The case was investigated primarily by the FBI’s Lansing office, with assistance from the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Grand Rapids Metro Fraud and Identity-Theft Team, the Grand Ledge Police Department, and the McAllen Police Department, McAllen, Texas. It is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagen W. Frank.

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Bolthouse property donated to CBDT

This photo shows the original brick home built by Bill Bolthouse Sr. in 1953, which adjoined the property he farmed that many call “the muck fields,” “onion fields,” or “carrot fields” on 17 Mile Rd, east of the city.

This photo shows the original brick home built by Bill Bolthouse Sr. in 1953, which adjoined the property he farmed that many call “the muck fields,” “onion fields,” or “carrot fields” on 17 Mile Rd, east of the city.

Bill Bolthouse Jr. and his wife, Nora.

Bill Bolthouse Jr. and his wife, Nora.

By Sue Wolfe

One of the advantages of small towns is the personal and trusting friendships that develop and are often carried through with future generations. Such is the case with the Bolthouse and Stout families.

Bill Bolthouse Sr. and Carl D. Stout were local business owners who also shared time together as friends in Cedar Springs starting in the late 1940s. Their sons, Bill Bolthouse Jr. and Leon Stout continued a relationship as fellow businessmen and friends. In 1953, Bill Bolthouse Sr. built the brick home located on 17 Mile Rd, about one mile east of town, adjoining property often referred to locally as the “muck farms” or “carrot fields.”  For many years the Bolthouse family raised carrots, celery, onions, and other crops in the fields running along both sides of 17 Mile Road east of the homestead. Bolthouse Farms was founded in 1915 in Grant, Michigan and sold the business to Madison Dearborn in 2005. Bill Bolthouse Jr. is a 3rd generation of farmers in his family and graduated from Cedar Springs High School (CSHS) in 1958 as part of the last graduating class from Hilltop School.

“My father was operating three farms in 1953. Cedar Springs was in the middle of the Grant and Sheridan locations, making it a desirable location for our home,” explained Bill Bolthouse Jr.

The Bolthouse family sold their home to the Russ and Angie Kniff Family but retained ownership of the farming land then deeded over to Bolthouse Farms and later Bolthouse Properties LLC. A few years ago, Bolthouse Properties LLC, now based out of Bakersfield California, put the 17 Mile Road farming property into a Wetlands Reserve Program overseen by the US Department of Agriculture, who holds a perpetual conservation easement deed.

“After graduating from CSHS, I left for college. Our family had a good life in Cedar Springs,” said Bolthouse Jr. “Upon college graduation, my wife Nora and I built a home on the Grant farm. When this opportunity to support Cedar Springs arose, I was happy to give back. I am also grateful Leon Stout assisted me in putting the property into a Land Conservation Reserve Program. This program not only preserves a natural green and animal habitat space for the community but also protects the trout beds where many locals enjoy fishing, including Leon Stout.”

About a year ago, Bill Bolthouse Jr. and Kevin Pike, owner of Bliss, Witters, and Pike Funeral Home and a nephew of the Bolthouses, were discussing the need for a Community Building in Cedar Springs. The discussion carried forward with long-time friend and local realtor Leon Stout, co-founder of Stout Group.

Leon stout with daughter Debra Stout and son Jon stout.

Leon stout with daughter Debra Stout and son Jon stout.

In early 2016, Bill Bolthouse Jr., Leon Stout, and Kurt Mabie, President of the Community Building Development Team (CBDT) began sharing ideas and options. In November 2016, the 195-acre property was appraised at $315,000 by John A. Meyer Appraisals Co. Then, in December 2016, Bill Bolthouse Jr. and Bolthouse Properties signed legal documents donating the property to the Community Building Development Team. Local businessman and attorney Thomas Cronkright Jr. donated his professional services thru Sun Title for the closing. The property will remain titled to the CBDT for three years, with a lease created for the purposes of fishing, hunting, and recreation to include an option to buy being overseen by Stout. The leasing party wishes to remain unnamed, but will be paying $10,000 per year. The funds earned from both the lease (after taxes and insurance) and eventual sale will be used to continue building the “Heart of Cedar Springs” on property owned by the City of Cedar Springs, which is located on the northwest corner of Main and Maple Streets, and surrounds the Community Library currently under construction. A community building, amphitheater, boardwalk along the creek, Veteran’s Clock tower, and more are included in the master site plan, but is dependent on donations from community members in order to be completed.

Leon Stout, along with his children and business partners, Debra Stout and Jon Stout, provided their professional real estate expertise and community-focused services at a greatly reduced fee for the transfer of property and leasing arrangement. Leon Stout hesitantly shared some of his interesting history within our community to include sailboat and piloting adventures. He has dabbled in beef farming and quarter horse racing. His hobbies include hunting, fishing and traveling around the world. Stout, now in his mid-80s, continues to stay active with his various business endeavors and is always looking for ways to serve a community that has provided him with generations of meaningful friendships that still carry on today.

“The Bolthouse property was a wonderful gift. The CBDTeam would like to thank Bill Bolthouse Jr, Leon Stout, and Kevin Pike for investing their time and resources for the greater Cedar Springs Community,” said Mabie. “These significant leaders will join the ranks of others that have chosen to leave a legacy and help to make the Cedar Springs Community even better,“ he added.

“All community members are encouraged to get involved by attending the one-hour monthly team meetings, monthly board meetings, and/or various other committee meetings. The CBDTeam needs each member of the community to share their ideas and help to find ways to complete the various opportunities. Each person has a special talent that can help bring this all together,” said Mabie.

The CBDT now meets at Creative Technology Academy (CTA) located at 350 Pine St on the third Tuesday of each month at 6 p.m. while the board meets on the second Tuesday at CS Tool Engineering at 7 a.m. The various committee meetings are scheduled as needed. These open meetings allow residents to exchange suggestions and information.

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