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Fundraiser to help pastor’s leader dog

Pastor Darryl Miller with his leader dog, Rowdy.

Pastor Darryl Miller with his leader dog, Rowdy.

January 14 at Sand Lake United Methodist Church

by Judy Reed

When Darryl Miller decided to become a pastor 10 years ago, he knew it wouldn’t be an easy road to navigate. Being legally blind, he would need help from his family—including wife Shari, and daughters Heather and Kelli—and his congregation. But one of the most important helpers and companions to Darryl has been his leader dog, Rowdy, an 11-year-old beautiful black lab. And now Rowdy is facing his own health issues.

Rowdy has been helping Miller gets where he needs to go since 2007, which includes pastoring both Sand Lake United Methodist and South Ensley United Methodist Churches. “He’s been with me from the beginning. Rowdy’s been to seminary and through all of my pastoral training. He’s older now, and we are trying to retire him but he just won’t go,” said Miller with a chuckle.

“If I put my shoes on in my office, he’d hear it even though he’s on the couch in the other part of the house, and he would be there waiting to go out the door. He just wants to go. He still does his job.”

Rowdy has been through several surgeries to fix a fistula—a hole in the roof of his mouth that opens into his nose. Miller said the hole is about the size of a quarter, making it hard for the dog to eat and drink well.

According to PetMD, an oronasal fistula can be caused by injury, infection or disease. “It’s not terribly uncommon for a dog to get a hole in his mouth by running outside and running into a stick,” explained Miller. “But we don’t know how it happened. He did have an abscessed tooth, and we don’t know if that caused it or if it caused the abscessed tooth.”

Rowdy has undergone five surgeries to fix the problem, but every one has failed. And the costs keep piling up. “We recently found out the jawbone was infected as well, and that’s why the surgeries failed,” explained Miller. He said Rowdy was put on a 10-week course of heavy-duty antibiotics to clear it up. The veterinarian—Dr. Moore, in Spring Lake—will then attempt to repair the fistula again.

The Sand Lake United Methodist Women’s group would like to help Pastor Miller by doing some fundraising for Rowdy’s surgery. They will be holding a hot dog and chili lunch at Sand Lake United Methodist Church, 65 West Street, Sand Lake, on Saturday, January 14, at from 11-3.

For those who would like to donate, but cannot attend, you can make out a check to the Sand Lake UMC Women and put “Rowdy” in the memo line. Mail it to Sand Lake United Methodist Church, PO 97, Sand Lake, MI 49343.

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Crash sends three to hospital

Alcohol may have been a factor in this two-vehicle crash in Cannon Twp. last week.

Alcohol may have been a factor in this two-vehicle crash in Cannon Twp. last week.

Alcohol may be responsible for a crash in Cannon Township that sent three people to the hospital the night before New Year’s Eve.

According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, the crash occurred on Cannonsburg Road, east of Blakely, just after 8 p.m. on Thursday, December 30. Police said that a Dodge Ram truck was headed westbound on Cannonsburg Rd, and witnesses reported that it crossed the center line several times. It finally swerved all the way over the centerline into oncoming (eastbound) traffic and struck a 1996 GMC Sierra head on.

The driver of the Dodge Ram, Damion James Nelmark, 39, of Spencer Township, was taken to Spectrum Butterworth with by Rockford Ambulance with non-life threatening injuries.

The driver of the GMC Sierra, Corbin Thomas Verdier, 19, of Grand Rapids, was also taken to Spectrum Butterworth by Rockford Ambulance with non-life threatening injuries.

The passenger in the Sierra, Noah Nathaniel Bosse, 19, of Grand Rapids, suffered serious injuries and was airlifted to Spectrum Butterworth by Aeromed.

All those involved were wearing seatbelts. Alcohol is believed to be a factor in the crash, which is still under investigation.

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Time for winter fun


It’s that time of year again, when kids of all ages love to play in the snow. It might be building a snowman, having a snowball fight, making snow angels, building a fort, going sledding, or just plain eating it! In this photo, Autumn Passage, 7, and her sister Meadow, 3, are playing in their backyard with the beautiful Cedar Creek glistening in the background. The photo was submitted by their mom, Stephanie Passage.

If you have winter photos you’d like us to consider for publication, email them to news@cedarspringspost.com with “winter fun” in the subject line. We publish them as space allows, and do not guarantee publication.

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MSP 131st Trooper Recruit School Graduates 


Forty-one become State Police Troopers, debut new Campaign hats 

n-msp-grads-131-trooper-recruit-gradsForty-one new Michigan State Police (MSP) troopers reported for work at MSP posts across the state last week following graduation from the 131st Trooper Recruit School on December 22. Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, director of the MSP, administered the Oath of Office during the ceremony at the Lansing Center.

“As these new troopers travel home to be with their loved ones for the holidays, they can leave proud knowing they have what it takes to join the ranks of the elite Michigan Department of State Police,” stated graduation keynote speaker, Governor Rick Snyder. “We wish them safety each and every day and hope they enjoy long and rewarding careers serving and protecting the residents of our great state.”

Troopers are wearing MSP’s new Campaign hats, a nod to what enforcement members wore until the early 1920s.

Troopers are wearing MSP’s new Campaign hats, a nod to what enforcement members wore until the early 1920s.

Today’s graduation ceremony also marks the debut of MSP’s new Campaign hats, a nod to what enforcement members wore until the early 1920s. All active enforcement members were given the opportunity to vote on whether the department should make the uniform change for its 100th Anniversary, which will be celebrated across the state throughout 2017. All active enforcement members began wearing the hats on Dec. 22.

In her address to the graduates, MSP Director Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue said, “You have joined the MSP family at a very exciting time. As our newest troopers and the last recruit school to graduate in 2016, you are now part of our department’s history and you will help determine its future. I expect you to do what’s right, to do your best and to treat others the way you want to be treated. In everything you do, I ask that you provide ‘Service With a Purpose.’”

Tpr. Thomas Gladney III was elected Class Orator by his fellow recruits and spoke on behalf of the graduating class at the ceremony. Other award recipients included Tpr. Brett Nichols, who received the Academic Achievement Award and Team Building Award; Tpr. Trevor Baesch, who received the Marksmanship Award; and Tpr. Antonio Palmer, who received the Outstanding Performance Award.

Troopers assigned to the Sixth District Rockford Post include Ross Crofoot, of Freeland; Aaron Damstra, of Byron Center; and Jared Orban, of Suttons Bay.

Troopers assigned to Lakeview include Paul Fry, of Roseville; Daniel Hickey, of Lake George; and Anthony Marcelin, of Queens, New York.

The 131st Trooper Recruit School began on July 17, when 50 prospective troopers reported to the MSP Training Academy in Lansing. For the past 23 weeks, recruits received training in firearms, water safety, defensive tactics, patrol techniques, report writing, ethics, first aid, criminal law, crime scene processing and precision driving.

In order to be selected to attend the academy, all applicants had to pass a stringent selection process that included a physical fitness test, background investigation and hiring interview.

As part of the department’s commitment to “Providing Service With A Purpose,” the recruits participated in community outreach projects in which they donated food to the City Rescue Mission of Lansing and packaged food for Capital Area Community Services.

The 131st Trooper Recruit School is the third of four trooper recruit schools this year, as well as a motor carrier officer recruit school. The

21st Motor Carrier Officer Recruit School started August 28, 2016 and will graduate January 6, 2017. The 132nd Trooper Recruit School started August 28, 2016; will graduate February 3, 2017.

The MSP is actively recruiting; interested candidates should visit www.michigan.gov/mspjobs for more information on how to apply.

Including these troopers, there are currently 1,065 troopers assigned statewide.



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American Legion welcomes state commanders and presidents

American Legion Auxiliary Honorary Junior President, Sabrina Townes.

American Legion Auxiliary Honorary Junior President, Sabrina Townes.

Sons of the American Legion Commander, Carvin Chapman.

Sons of the American Legion Commander, Carvin Chapman.

American Legion Auxiliary President, Ellen Jackson.

American Legion Auxiliary President, Ellen Jackson.

American Legion Commander for Michigan, Larry Money.

American Legion Commander for Michigan, Larry Money.

The American Legion Post #287 in Cedar Springs is proud to welcome the State Commanders and Presidents to our home for the annual Early Bird Dinner. The dinner is held the first week in January to show our appreciation to the members of our Post, Auxiliary and Sons of the American Legion who have paid their dues by Veterans Day of the previous fall.  It is our tradition to invite the leaders of our state to attend this event. It is also our tradition to give them each a set of Red Flannels. In the past it was given to prepare them for the Upper Peninsula trip which usually follows directly after our dinner, in an attempt to keep them warm during the cold and often snowy conditions of the UP in January.

This year the American Legion Commander for the State of Michigan is Larry Money. He was elected and installed as Commander at the 2016 Annual Summer Convention held in Sault Saint Marie, Michigan, June 23-26. Larry is from Post #51 in Buchanan Michigan. He has worked tirelessly for the cause of veterans in this state, holding many offices and chairmanships along the way, including membership and Americanism. He has served as Post Commander, District Commander, and Department vice Commander. Commander Money is a U.S. Army veteran who served from 1969-1976 in the 12th Special Forces Group. He has been a member of the Buchannan Post for 38 continuous years. He and his wife Barb have three sons and three daughters. At our dinner, Commander Money will be speaking about his special project Operation Comfort Warriors and bringing updates on Legion activities this year. We welcome Larry to our Post.

The American Legion Auxiliary President for 2016-2017 is Ellen Jackson. She was also elected at the State Convention this summer. She is a member of Walter Fraser Unit #108 in Oxford, Michigan. She has held many offices and chairmanships on her way to the office of President. She has been busy this year traveling around our State visiting the many Districts and Posts. Her theme for this year is “Hats Off For Veterans”. Her special project is The Michigan Wounded and Returning Warrior Program. Ellen has been married to her husband PDC Carnie, a Viet Nam era veteran, for ten years. They have three children and four grandchildren. Welcome to Ellen and Carnie to our Post.

The Sons of the American Legion Detachment of Michigan is proud to bring Carvin Chapman to our Post as the Commander for the State of Michigan for 2016-20217. He is a member of the Chief Pontiac Post #377 Sons of the American Legion Squadron and has served there for nearly 30 years. He says that he is 100 percent for veterans and is striving for 100 percent membership this year. He has been Squadron Commander, 18th District Commander, and Zone Commander. He also serves as a VA Rep in Detroit. His Special project is Operation Comfort Warriors, a program dedicated to meeting the needs of wounded, injured or ill military personnel. He has been married to his wife Kathy for 32 years, has two sons, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren. We are looking forward to spending time with Carvin “Huey” and Kathy.

We are also proud to have with us from the Department of Michigan, American Legion Auxiliary Honorary Junior President, Sabrina Townes. She is from our own Unit and area, being a member of Glen Hill Unit #287 here in Cedar Springs since 2001.  Sabrina’s theme this year is Tinkerbell.  She and her Department Junior officers are spreading their “pixie dust” around the State bringing happiness and awareness to veterans and the American Legion Family. Honorary Junior President Sabrina’s special project this year is Stiggy’s Dogs. This is a nonprofit organization that rescues dogs from shelters and with the help of correctional facilities trains them for veterans with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) or Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). This is done at no cost to the veteran. Stiggyy’s Dogs is based in Michigan and is for Michigan veterans. We are very proud of Sabrina and the project she has chosen.

The dinner will be held Saturday night at the Post at 80 S. Main St. in Cedar Springs.

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Free Radon test kits for residents


The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) is teaming up with the Grand Rapids Griffins to stop a silent killer—lung cancer caused by radon gas. This Friday, January 6, 2017, at Van Andel Arena when the Griffins take on the Charlotte Checkers at 7:00 p.m., KCHD staff will be there armed with thousands of radon test kits. They will be situated in the upper concourse near section 128, and will give the kits away while supplies last.

For those not attending the Griffins game, KCHD is offering free radon test kits to Kent County residents at all three of its locations until the supply runs out.

Colorless and odorless, radon gas kills more Americans annually than drunk driving and drowning combined according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says more than 20 thousand deaths are caused by radon each year making it the nation’s second leading cause of lung cancer next to smoking.

The Kent County Health Department (KCHD) recommends that all homes should be tested for radon every few years.

Testing is the only way to know if radon is present in your home.

“Testing for radon is an easy and important step in protecting the health of your family,” says Sara Simmonds, Supervising Sanitarian with the Kent County Health Department. “The kit is easy to use. Simply hang a filter inside your house for a few days, then send it in a self-addressed, pre-stamped envelope for testing.”

People using the kits will receive their results via email once the kit is received and tested. Residents can use the information when deciding on how best to pursue remediation. For help understanding the test results, please contact the KCHD Environmental Health Division at 616-632-6900.

Radon occurs naturally in the ground. It seeps into buildings through cracks or openings in foundations or floors. It occurs in both new and old homes. Radon has been found in houses built over a basement, over a crawlspace or built on slab-on-grade. The EPA and the U.S. Geological Survey have developed a map of risk zones for the United States. You can view the risk maps by clicking here. Kent County is typically categorized as having moderate to high levels of radon.

The kits are available Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. at the:

Kent County Health Department, 700 Fuller Avenue NE, Grand Rapids.

KCHD North County Clinic at 4388 14 Mile Road NE, Rockford.

KCHD South Clinic at 4700 Kalamazoo SE, Kentwood.

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Former Survivor contestant sentenced 

Michael Skupin

Michael Skupin

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced that Michael Skupin, 54, of Farmington Hills, was sentenced to one to four years in prison by Oakland County 6th Circuit Court Judge Wendy Potts following his conviction of four counts of possession of child sexually abusive materials in November.

Once out of prison, he will have to register as a sex offender on SORA and is restricted from using a computer outside of work purposes.

He was also sentenced to pay restitution of $31,800 and probation for his financial crimes, with the first payments going to restitution.

“Today’s sentencing is a strong message to those who prey on children: no matter who you are or what you do, we will find you,” said Schuette. “The act of downloading and viewing images of children in sexually abusive situations is reprehensible. This behavior re-victimizes the child victims over and over.”

Skupin, a former contestant on the television reality show Survivor, was charged by Schuette in February 2016 with the counts of financial crimes of Larceny by Conversion and Racketeering as well as Possession of Child Sexually Abusive Materials.

An investigation began into Skupin after victims from his alleged Ponzi scheme contacted a local news reporter. Michael Skupin recruited investors and friends to take part in his “gifting scheme” called Pay It Forward. Victims made cash investments in the scheme. Their money would then cycle through a chart in which participants were eventually paid out of other new investors’ money. The scheme was discovered when eventually there were no new investors signing and most people in the scheme lost all of their money.

Skupin’s laptop was searched in conjunction with the Ponzi scheme investigation. During the search, investigators discovered images of underage children in sexual situations.

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Phone scam hits area again


Have you gotten a telephone call saying that you have failed to report for jury duty and need to pay a fine or be arrested? It’s a scam.

According to the Kent County Sheriff Department, Kent County area residents are being contacted by phone by individuals claiming to be a representative of the Sheriff Department. The caller advises the victim(s) that they have failed to report for jury duty. The caller instructs the victim(s) that they have to pay an amount of money or they will be arrested on a warrant.

The caller instructs the victim(s) to obtain a prepaid credit card from a local store (example stores: CVS, Walmart, Rite Aid) for a specific amount. The victim is told to call the caller back.

The victim is then requested to provide the numbers on the back of the prepaid card. Once the numbers are given, the money is then taken off the card by the suspect(s) and the fraud is completed.

“This scam is again taking place in the Kent County Area. The Sheriff Department does not conduct business in this manner,” they said in a news release.

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Year in Review 2016: WWII Vet gets diploma

Erwin Duane Empie, 90, celebrates as he receives his diploma at the Cedar Springs High School graduation. Cedar Springs Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn is next to him. Photo by K. Alvesteffer.

Erwin Duane Empie, 90, celebrates as he receives his diploma at the Cedar Springs High School graduation. Cedar Springs Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn is next to him. Photo by K. Alvesteffer.

By Judy Reed

A lot of things happened in the Cedar Springs area in 2016, but the story about WWII Veteran Erwin Duane Empie, 90, finally getting his high school diploma last June was one of the most heartwarming. Empie left Cedar Springs High School in 1944 at the age of 18 to enlist in the Navy and serve his country during WWII. He was a sophomore at the time, so never got his diploma.

Erwin’s son, Mike Empie, got the ball rolling when he heard about Public Act 180 of 2001, which says that a high school diploma can be awarded to a veteran who enlisted or was drafted into WWII, Korea, or Viet Nam. He spoke with school registrar Susan Andrzejewski, who found Erwin’s transcript in an old box in the basement of the school, and verified that he had been a student. Empie then graduated with the rest of the Class of 2016 at Cedar Springs High School.

The photo above, taken by photograher Kelly Alvesteffer, perfectly caught the emotion of the moment.

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Year in Review: Former refugee becomes RF Queen

Red Flannel Queen Mumina Ciise (left) is shown here on Red Flannel Day with Grand Marshal and Library Director Donna Clark, and court members Kaley Louck and Madison Case. Photo courtesy of the Red Flannel Festival.

Red Flannel Queen Mumina Ciise (left) is shown here on Red Flannel Day with Grand Marshal and Library Director Donna Clark, and court members Kaley Louck and Madison Case. Photo courtesy of the Red Flannel Festival.

By Judy Reed

For Mumina Ciise, being chosen as the 2016 Red Flannel Queen is a dream come true. And not all that long ago, this special event would never have seemed possible for Mumina or her family—a family that was just struggling to stay safe in war torn Somalia.

Mumina’s parents, Max and Maryan, fled Somalia with their seven children, due to civil war, when Mumina was only three-years-old. They arrived in Cedar Springs in 2010, and moved into a two-bedroom apartment. The community welcomed them, and helped them realize the dream of owning their home, through the Inner City Christian Federation. Mumina was thankful to be chosen to represent the Red Flannel Festival as queen. She hopes to one day become a teacher and teach at Cedar Springs High School.

Grand Marshal

Longtime resident and Library Director Donna Clark was chosen as Grand Marshal for the 2016 Red Flannel Festival. The Festival chose Donna due to her many years of selfless service and outstanding dedication to the community through both the library and several service organizations. “The Red Flannel Town is truly a better place because of her exceptional community involvement and extraordinary volunteerism!” said former RFF president Michele Tracy.

RFF President

In other Red Flannel news, Michele Tracy stepped down as President after 15 years, and assumed the role of president emeritus, a non-voting member of the board. Tracy moved to Hershey, Pennysylvania this year to work for Penn State University’s Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. Taking over as president of the RFF was Randy VanDuyn, husband of Cedar Springs Schools Superintendent Dr. Laura VanDuyn.

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