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Community comes together during power outage


Consumers Energy trucks staged at both Meijer and the Cedar Springs Middle School during the outage. Post photo by J. Reed.

By Judy Reed

 A transmission line erupted in flames at the Consumers Energy substation at Fifth and Church Street last Thursday, February 7, causing most residents to lose power. Photo courtesy of Holly Knox.

The Cedar Springs community was hit hard last week by two back to back ice storms that hammered West Michigan, leaving a path of ice, snow, downed tree branches, and downed power lines in its wake. Many were without power on Wednesday after the first ice storm, and on Thursday another one hit, causing widespread outages, including most of the Cedar Springs area.

According to Consumers Energy spokesman Roger Morgenstern, the power outages ramped up quickly the morning of Thursday, February 7. “We were bombarded mid-morning. We went from outages affecting 30,000 customers, to over 100,000 in a couple of hours,” he remarked. “I thought there was something wrong with our outage system.”

The City Impact outreach center in Cedar Springs opened as a warming station, thanks to the donations of business and residents. This photo shows one of the rooms filled with cots for sleeping. 

Morganstern said it was the ice on branches and power lines that was responsible for the outages. He noted that there was remaining ice from the storm earlier in the week, which had never melted, and now there was even more. “A half inch of ice can inflict 500 lbs on a strand of electric wire,” he explained. “And if you add branches, that ice adds more thickness, and they drape over the power lines, pulling the lines down.” At that time, they had over 1,000 downed wires in the West Michigan area. 

Consumers first predicted Sunday evening to have everyone’s power restored, then changed it to Monday at 11:30 p.m. That was bad news for those without power, including the entire City of Cedar Springs, who lost power when a transmission line at the substation at Fifth and Church Street exploded. Schools remained closed, restaurants and gas stations had no power, and Meijer was on partial power. On top of that, the wind chill took a dive below zero on Friday. What could people do?

They pulled together, that’s what they did.

Last week we wrote about the new community outreach center, City Impact. They were slated to have a grand opening last Saturday. Instead, they opened their doors Friday as a warming center to serve people in our community. They were also without power, but someone bought them a 10,000 watt generator, and both businesses and citizens stepped up to donate supplies to help those in need. They received cots and blanket from the Red Cross; a woman in Grand Haven made 40 lbs of bbq to feed people; Lean on Me provided food; others donated snacks, fruit, donuts, bottled water, coffee, and more. 

“We had people coming in all night long to get warm and/or to sleep,” said Kelley Bergsma. “And these weren’t the people we usually serve.” Instead, she said that a lot of the people they usually serve were in the center serving others. “It’s just amazing the way we came together as a community,” she said.

About 50 people spent the night Friday at the center. But the volunteers didn’t wait for people to come to them. Several of them walked the dark streets of Cedar Springs Friday night, looking for any house that might have a candle or flicker of light in the window. That’s how they found a 100-year-old woman sitting in the dark, with only her four burners on the stove for warmth. They then brought her to the center. 

Bergsma grew up in Ada, and said she didn’t have a heart for her neighbors. But three years ago she visited San Francisco, and that started a transformation in her life. “God broke my heart,” she explained. “I wanted to do something to help people.”

For the last three years, Kelley and her team have been working with Lean on Me to deliver groceries to those in the area that couldn’t pick them up and working with people in other ways, such as taking them to doctor appointments. Someone at Resurrection Life Church in Rockford liked what they were doing, and bought the building on Main Street for them in 2017. It took some time to renovate, but it couldn’t have come at a better time. “It’s amazing the transformation we are seeing in their lives,” she said looking around at some of those people now volunteering at the center. “As we displayed our love to them, they are now showing it here. Love activated—that’s our motto.” They closed the center on Sunday after most of the area’s power came back on.

Others in the area also showed compassion in various ways. As power slowly came back on, some posted on social media that their homes were open for those that needed to get warm or take a shower. One area hair salon offered free shampooing. 

In the meantime, dozens of electric line workers poured into Cedar Springs to work on restoring power. And people were kind to them as well, offering hot coffee to warm them up. Most power was back on by Saturday evening, with a few getting it back on Sunday and Monday.

Bergsma is still in awe of what happened in our community. “It was amazing seeing the entire community come together to help those in need,” she said.

As storms ramped up again this week, City Impact was ready to open again in an emergency, but it was not necessary. She did say that if an emergency does arise, premade meals would be a big help, as well as pillows, blankets, and snacks.

City Impact postponed their grand opening and dedication of the center to this Saturday, February 16. Take a tour of the facility from 1-4 p.m. and the dedication is at 4:30 p.m. The center is located at 288 N. Main Street, next to Dollar General.

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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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Year in Review: Cedar Springs community is #rickerstrong


Ricker Family: L to R Preston, Brian, Brison, and Kim.

Ricker Family: L to R Preston, Brian, Brison, and Kim.

By Judy Reed

Another amazing story in 2016 is the way that the Cedar Springs community has embraced a local family and supported them in their fight against a rare brain tumor. Before symptoms began last fall, Brison Ricker was a happy, well-liked and athletic teen, who loved riding dirt bikes with his younger brother Preston, and playing soccer. In January 2016, Brison was diagnosed with a rare and deadly childhood brain tumor called Diffuse Intrinsic Pontine glioma (DIPG), which is nearly always fatal and lacks an effective treatment, according to Stanford University. The tumor is inoperable because it grows through the brain stem, and half of patients die within 9 months. A gofundme page was set up to help the Rickers with expenses, and groups began holding fundraisers—and praying. Then, in the late spring, Brison’s family was told to take Brison home and call in hospice because he didn’t have long to live.

But Brison’s parents, Brian and Kim Ricker, are strong in their faith in God, and believed there was another way to beat it. They sought alternative treatment at the Burzynski clinic in Texas—a treatment that had reportedly had some good results in other patients, but was not covered by insurance—and would run $17,000 a month for the treatments alone, not including loss of income from the parents staying home to take care of Brison. The community has continued with fundraising drives to help the family meet the costs, and continued to pray, and though Brison has gone through some tough stretches, his MRI shows he is making progress. Unfortunately, on the same day last week that they received the good news on Brison’s progress, they were hit with the news that Brison’s younger brother Preston, has thyroid cancer. He is due to be operated on next month. If you would like to help this family, you can donate through their gofundme page at https://www.gofundme.com/rickerstrong.

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