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Social Security benefits U.S. citizens outside the U.S.

V-SS-US-citizens-benefitsBy Stephanie Holland, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Over half a million people who live outside the United States receive some kind of Social Security benefit, including retired and disabled workers, as well as spouses, widows, widowers, and children.

If you’re a U.S. citizen, you may receive your Social Security payments outside the United States as long as you are eligible. When we say you are “outside the United States,” we mean you’re not in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, or American Samoa. Once you’ve been outside the United States for at least 30 days in a row, we consider you to be outside the country.

If you are traveling outside the U.S. for an extended amount of time, it’s important that you tell Social Security the date you plan to leave and the date you plan to come back, no matter how long you expect your travel to last. Then we can let you know whether your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) will be affected.

You can use this online tool to find out if you can continue to receive your Social Security benefits if you are outside the United States or are planning to go outside the United States at www.socialsecurity.gov/international/payments_outsideUS.html.

This tool will help you find out if your retirement, disability, or survivor’s payments will continue as long as you are eligible, stop after six consecutive calendar months, or if certain country specific restrictions apply.

When you live outside the United States, periodically we’ll send you a questionnaire. Your answers will help us figure out if you still are eligible for benefits. Return the questionnaire to the office that sent it as soon as possible. If you don’t, your payments will stop.

You can also read the publication titled Your Payments While You Are Outside the United States at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs.

Social Security is with you through life’s journey, even if that journey takes you outside the United States.

Stephanie Holland is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan.  You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 455 Bond St Benton Harbor MI 49022 or via email at stephanie.holland@ssa.gov  

 

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Bicycle donations needed for kids’ event

Find your old bike a new home.

Find your old bike a new home.

Has your child outgrown his or her bicycle? Would you like to have another child enjoy it as much as yours did? How about donating it for an event that gives away bicycles to kids that need one?

Almost 50 kids that didn’t have a bike received one at last year’s Blessing of the Bicycles event at The Springs Church. About 40 used ones were given away, as well as eight brand new ones. This year, organizers of the event are looking for more bikes to give away to kids who need one.

Dozens of kids and parents showed up at last year’s event to take advantage of the free bicycles, helmets, face painting, and other goodies. On hand was the Kent County Sheriff Department, Cedar Springs Fire Department, and Rockford Ambulance. They will be all be on hand again at this year’s event on June 25, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at The Springs Church, with fun for kids and their families. But in order for the event to be a success, they need bicycles to be donated.

Bicycles can be dropped off any time at 5581 17 Mile Road (at Ritchie) at the Bike Exchange. Or, if you need someone to pick up the bike, please call 616-799-2850.

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The eagles have landed

Tim Hindenach sent in this photo of the eagles at Pine Lake.

Tim Hindenach sent in this photo of the eagles at Pine Lake.

Randy Johnson snapped this shot of an eagle at Sand Lake

Randy Johnson snapped this shot of an eagle at Sand Lake

We continue to get eagle photos from area readers. This week we received clearer photos of an eagle sighting at Pine Lake that we ran last week (thank you Tim Hindenach) and a new sighting at Sand Lake. Randy Johnson took his photos on Friday morning, April 22. “I was able to get a few reasonable photos (low light/foggy conditions) from the north shore of Sand Lake, of this beautiful bird,” he wrote. Thank you, Randy!

We have gotten photos from Algoma, Solon, Nelson, and now Sand Lake. The Post asked Ranger Steve Mueller about whether there were now quite a few eagles here, or whether these could be the same birds.

Eagle numbers have increased significantly during the last several decades due to the Clean the Water and Clean Air Acts and the discontinuance of chlorinated hydrocarbon pesticides like DDT,” explained Mueller. “It is likely that some eagle pictures may be the same individuals by different people because eagles are wide ranging.”

Eagles can often be found near bodies of water, since fish make up over half of their diet. They also consume other birds, mammals, and small prey.

Do you have wildlife photos you’d like to send us? Email them to news@cedarspringspost.com, along with your contact info and some information about the photo (what’s in it, where it was taken, etc.) We will print as space allows.

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Sen. MacGregor reads to CTA students

State Sen. MacGregor

State Sen. MacGregor read to the kindergarten and first grade students at CTA

N-MacGregor-reads2Michigan Senator Peter MacGregor stopped by Creative Technologies Academy for a visit on Friday morning, April 22, and read to the kindergarten and first grade students. He read “Bobby Bramble Loses His Brain” by Dave Keane. Senator MacGregor discussed the difference between fiction and non-fiction books with the young students and encouraged them to read with their peers, siblings and adults. He made sure to allow time to answer the many questions the students had, such as: How did you get elected, who’s your boss and what’s your favorite food?

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The Post travels to Colombia

N-Post-travels-to-Colombia-Springs-ChurchThe Post recently traveled to Colombia with The Springs Church mission team. Members of the team included Matt Goehler, Pastor Barry Briggs, Cindy Mason, Cathy VanOss, Bill VanOss, former Springs Pastor Gary Cruce, Johna Alexander, Floretta Reighn and Shane Jewell.

The group traveled to Bogota, Colombia on Saturday, April 9, and then on to Medellin, Colombia on Thursday April 14. They did some painting at a church, and spent time with the girls at an orphanage called Findesin, which means “the end of without.” They also handed out the Gospel of John and tracts to people in both communities. “There were a couple of people that came to know Christ through this activity,” said Cindy Mason.

Cindy described the area around the orphanage. “There are homeless people that sleep in the median along the road of the orphanage, and people pulling around carts, picking through trash.”

She said they took the girls on a day outing. “We enjoyed the arcade and lunch with them, and then purchased each of them a new outfit. We gave them homemade new dresses, snacks from the U.S. and crocheted stuffed animals. We gave them donated backpacks and shoes. We gave the girls love. Although verbal communication was tough, we were still able to spend time with them and show them how much we all cared for them through playing, photo taking and lots of laughter. And in the end, we shared tears with them. We have no idea whether or not those same girls will be in the orphanage when we return or if they will be back with their parent(s). Therefore, the good-bye that we experienced could very well have been good-bye forever.”

Thanks so much to The Springs Church 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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Beware: you may be visited by pink flamingos

Flocking is a new way for Rotary Interact members to raise money for their organization. From left to right: Holly Scheer, Kaylee Klompstra, and Alec Falicki.  

Flocking is a new way for Rotary Interact members to raise money for their organization. From left to right: Holly Scheer, Kaylee Klompstra, and Alec Falicki.

By Randy VanDuyn

On Sunday afternoon, April 24, a flock of pink flamingos took up residency on the front lawn of Marge and Jack Clark’s home. The flamingos allegedly escaped from the Cedar Springs Rotary Interact Club. Jack and Marge were surprised and entertained to see the exotic pink birds in their yard with a hot pink sign stating, “You’ve been flocked!”

The Clarks now have a unique opportunity to pay a small fee that supports the Interact Club and they get to select the next recipient to flock. This is confidential until the chosen recipients see the flock of pink flamingos in their yard! It’s a great way to support our local kids, community, and to have fun throughout Cedar Springs.

The Interact Club, sponsored by the Cedar Springs Rotary Club, is made up of high school students from CSHS and CTA. This is exciting, as it’s the first year Cedar Springs has had an Interact Club. Other communities with Interact clubs include Greenville, Rockford, Lowell and Kenowa Hills.

The Interact Club is a great service organization, like the Cedar Springs Rotary Club. It’s all about our youth learning to lead and be great community volunteers. This will help to build our community with a philosophy of “service above self.”

Some students of the Interact Club were part of the Rotary Life Leadership Conference last June. The CS Rotary sponsors student participation in the Life Leadership Conference each year. Students are selected by CS Rotarians Julie Wheeler, of Independent Bank, and Aaron Gauger, of White Creek Lumber. Selected students attend a camp with approximately 140 other young leaders from Rotary District 6290.

The CS Interact Club was spearheaded by Dr. Laura VanDuyn, Cedar Springs Superintendent of Schools, after joining the local Rotary Club and working alongside local Rotarians. The Interact Club is now led by Rotary advisors, Nicole Kozminski of Independent Bank and Randy VanDuyn, who serves on the Board of Directors for the CS Rotary and the Red Flannel Festival. Josh Cooper, CSHS teacher, assists the Club leaders and offers his classroom as the meeting place for the Club.

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Montcalm educator wins excellence in education award

Kathy Maguire poses for a photo with Baldwin Heights principal, Mike Walsh, and her mother, Elizabeth Fraser, after accepting her Excellence in Education award from Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo.

Kathy Maguire poses for a photo with Baldwin Heights principal, Mike Walsh, and her mother, Elizabeth Fraser, after accepting her Excellence in Education award from Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo.

Kathy Maguire talks with Michigan State University basketball coach, Tom Izzo, after accepting her Excellence in Education award.

Kathy Maguire talks with Michigan State University basketball coach, Tom Izzo, after accepting her Excellence in Education award.

A Montcalm County educator known for her commitment to encourage students to read and explore new books and for devoting her own time to help teachers and students has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.

The award winner, Kathy Maguire, is a media center specialist at Baldwin Heights Elementary School in Greenville. The school is part of the Greenville Public Schools district.

The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education award program in 2014 to recognize outstanding public school educators across the state during the school year. 

Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $500 cash prize, and a $500 grant to their classroom, school or school district. One of the weekly winners will be selected as the Educator of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize.

Each winner also is featured in a news segment on the Lottery’s media partner stations:  WXYZ-TV in Detroit, FOX 17 in Grand Rapids, and FOX 47 in Lansing. The news segments featuring Maguire aired last week.

For the Excellence in Education awards program, the Lottery has teamed up with Michigan State University basketball coach Tom Izzo. Izzo met recently with Maguire at the Breslin Center and presented her with the award.

Maguire said her favorite part of being an educator is “helping teachers and students find the resources they need to excel. It’s also seeing the joy on students’ faces when they find just the right book and it clicks with them and changes their lives.”

Maguire said she was attracted to a career in education because of her father, Morley Fraser, who was a football and baseball coach and teacher at Albion College. “He instilled the love of education in all six kids in our family. In fact, the whole family entered the education field.”

She said she’s motivated to do her best each day because “my father taught me to help ‘win the game’ in every job, so I go the extra mile to help the teachers win the game in their classrooms and to win the game with students so they know they are valued and respected and that I’ll help them in any way that I can.”

The Excellence in Education award nomination for Maguire described her as “the most upbeat person on our staff” and who “always goes beyond anything that is expected.”

Our media center is a welcoming, friendly place to be thanks to her caring, diligence and the love of the staff and kids. It’s not unusual for students to stop in the media center after school just to talk to her. Taking time for students never stops for Kathy,” the nomination said, adding that “volunteers are a common sight in our media center because she is so accepting and appreciative of anyone who might want to help.”

Maguire has been an educator for 15 years, the last 11 with the Greenville Public Schools.  She attended Alma College and the Moody Bible Institute.

Excellence in Education award nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:

Excellence – Their work consistently helps students and/or their schools or school districts advance to higher levels of academic achievement.

Dedication – They consistently go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed.

Inspiration – Their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations either academically or professionally.

Leadership – They demonstrate clear leadership skills in their positions with their school or school districts

Effectiveness – The nominee’s work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or school district.

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Presentation clarifies school board’s role

By Judy Reed

A special presentation at Cedar Springs Public Schools last week Tuesday, April 19, shed some light on what the community should expect from both the Board of Education and the Superintendent, and how the board operates under the open meetings act.

The presentation was given by Scott Morrell, a senior facilitator with the Michigan Association of School Boards (MASB).

Recently there have been complaints from some longtime school staff members about a negative atmosphere at the school brought on by a new administration, and complaints from members of the community regarding board members not responding to concerns. Other staff and community members have voiced their approval of the current administration. People have spoken at board meetings, and sent letters to the Post. Many who are not happy with the way things are going, cite the resignations of four long-time administrators in the last year and a half.

Morrell said he had seen the letters in the Post, both positive and negative, and didn’t think either were helpful. “How many of them were about kids?” he asked.

One person in the audience asked him, “You don’t think those letters were positive, encouraging?”

Morrell said no. “Some were positive but many were hurtful. That’s not looking at what’s best for kids. When we have scores that aren’t where we want, it’s easy to have peripheral stuff going on…Once we start focusing on adult issues, neither side wins.”

Another community member pointed out that some of those issues are affecting the kids. Another said that four administrators had left.

Morrell noted that the administrators won’t share why they left because they are looking for another job. “There are two sides to every story and the truth is usually somewhere in the middle,” he said. “At some point, we’ve got to let some of this stuff go. Change is hard. You could have staff leaving every year as expectations get harder. It’s not that they are bad people. Sometimes it’s just a bad fit.”

He remarked that he is also concerned about where Cedar Springs is headed, and that he wants the district to succeed. “I also have skin in this game. If it fails, I’m also partly responsible. I interact with the board.”

Morrell did a presentation for the board in the fall, and he also does classes that the board members take. He has been a board of education member elsewhere in Michigan, and served on the MASB board of directors. And he does not envy the board members in Cedar Springs. “As an outsider reading those letters, I’m glad that I’m not on this board,” he said.

According to Morrell, the board is in charge of developing policy that governs the district, setting the vision for the district, and adopting the budget. The superintendent is in charge of managing the day-to-day operations of the district, such as hiring staff, managing the budget, implementing the vision and policies that the board adopts, and communication with the board.

The board is also responsible for maintaining two-way communication with staff, students, and members of the community. However, while a board meeting is an open meeting that the public may attend, it is not a public meeting with the community. We are basically watching the board do their business. And while the public may have an opportunity to speak, the board does not respond.

They don’t do dialogue with the public,” explained Morrell. “If they answer one question, and nine others don’t get anything, they would be mad at the board.” He noted that instead, comments are referred to the superintendent to handle.

Morrell explained that the board also cannot do exit interviews. If a staff member is let go, they can appeal to the board under the law. “The board approves resignations and terminations because they are the legal entity, but they may not see why (someone was terminated) unless a grievance reaches them.” He also explained that the board cannot grant a closed session or hearing before the board for a resignation. “Boards don’t do exit interviews because they don’t hire (except for the Superintendent). Their hands are tied—they have to follow policy and the law. They have been advised by their attorney not to do exit interviews.”

Former Athletic Director Autumn Mattson had requested an exit interview with the board after she resigned and was turned down.

Dr. VanDuyn explained that the school has started doing exit interviews with human resources, and that the Superintendent or Asst. Superintendent can sit in when requested. “People can also write or speak to the board, or come to a board meeting and speak during the public comment time and share,” she said.

Morrell noted that when people speak at the meetings, that they shouldn’t be throwing people under the bus. “You (the speaker) are liable, not the district. You could be guilty of libel if it’s not true,” he explained. “And even if it’s true, you still have to be careful, because it could be violating staff members’ rights.”

A resident asked if a former administrator was identified as someone who made a mistake, was that ok? “Some people saw that as an attack on a person,” he said.

Morrell said that was ok. “It’s not an attack on a person, it’s on the process. There will be times it has to come out,” he said.

He also addressed whether letters read at board meetings and requested to go in the minutes should be recorded. “No, because it’s not a board action,” he explained. Morrell said that minutes are not recorded word for word. There is roll call, when the meeting was called to order, motions voted on, etc.

He also covered when the board can go into closed session, how to know when a board is in trouble, and other ins and outs of the system.

But the bottom line was that everyone has their own job to do, and the board of education sets the tone. “As the board goes, so does the district,” said Morrell.

IT works best when everyone swims in their own lane. It takes a community to educate our kids. But we can’t do each other’s jobs. It’s when the district works best. We need to start working collaboratively, working together.”

For a copy of the powerpoint presented at the meeting, visit csredhawks.org.

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Prescription drug take-back day this Saturday

This Saturday, April 30, the Michigan State Police (MSP) will partner with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other law enforcement agencies for National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day to provide a venue for citizens to dispose of unwanted and unused prescription drugs.

MSP’s 29 posts will participate in the one-day “Take-Back” effort from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 30, by serving as drop-off points for Michiganders to discard expired, unused and unwanted medications for destruction. No liquids, inhalers, patches, or syringes will be accepted. The service is free and anonymous with no questions asked.

This initiative addresses a vital public safety and public health issue,” stated Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue, Director of the MSP. “Medicines that languish in home cabinets are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. Rates of prescription drug abuse in Michigan and across the nation are alarmingly high, as are the number of accidental poisonings and overdoses due to these drugs.”

Studies show that a majority of abused prescription drugs are obtained from family and friends, including from the home medicine cabinet. In addition, Americans are now advised that their usual methods for disposing of unused medicines—flushing them down the toilet or throwing them in the trash—both pose potential safety and health hazards.

MSP collection sites in the Post reading area include:

The Rockford Post, 345 Northland Drive, Rockford, MI 49341. This post covers Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa Counties.

The Lakeview Post, 10300 Howard City-Edmore Road, Lakeview, MI 48850.

This post covers Gratiot, Ionia, and Montcalm Counties.

The Hart Post, 3793 W. Polk Road, Hart, MI 49420. This post covers Lake, Mason, Newaygo, and Oceana Counties.

Additional collection sites across the state can be found by going

to www.dea.gov.

Citizens who are not able to participate on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Day can anonymously surrender their prescription drugs at any MSP post, Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., excluding holidays.

Prescription drugs can also be disposed of at Cedar Springs City Hall, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Sen. MacGregor to hold office hours

Senator Peter MacGregor will be holding office hours on Friday, April 29th from 7:30-9:00 am at Mr. Burger, 5181 Northland Dr. NE, Grand Rapids, MI 49525.

I will be available to answer questions and respond to concerns any residents of the district may have.  Office hours are a one-on-one meeting with constituents, and in order to see as many people as possible please keep the conversation to ten to fifteen minutes. If your question requires additional time, please contact my office to set up an appointment.”

For more information or to contact his office, please visit SenatorPeterMacGregor.com or call 1-855-347-8028.

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