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Tag Archive | "Kent County"

North Kent Community Services Announces

“From Survive To Thrive” Plan


N-North-Kent-Community-ServicesNorth Kent Community Services, the largest food pantry in northern Kent County, has recently announced a dramatic change in its mission: NKCS will not just give out food to struggling families; it will now try to help people become self-sufficient, a program called “From Survive to Thrive.”

NKCS is planning to accomplish this huge undertaking in two ways: 1) implement a life-coaching program and 2) hire a program director/social worker to connect clients to educational resources in the community.

“Many of our clients do not know how to move themselves toward self-sufficiency,” said Executive Director Claire Guisfredi. “They may be lacking functional life skills which perpetuates the poverty cycle.”

Clients will be paired with a volunteer life coach who will meet with them weekly and help establish clear, attainable goals. “Because our clients’ problems are so overwhelming, it helps to have someone listen, help identify the root causes and sort out the best plan of action,” said Claire. “Our clients need someone to walk alongside them, cheering them on, guiding them, believing in their abilities and holding them accountable.” The life coaches will guide the clients to the most appropriate community resources, such as classes in budgeting, parenting and resume writing.

“From Survive to Thrive” will add an extra $72,000 in the budget for 2014. “I am out in the community creating awareness and raising funds for enhanced mission as well as current food programs,” said Claire. “The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Please consider NKCS for your year-end giving.”

“Through the Empowerment Coaching Program, we expect North Kent Community Services to be the ‘go to’ place in northern Kent County for your neighbors not just to survive, but thrive,” said Claire.


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West Nile Virus in Kent County

From the Kent County Health Department


More than 40 human cases of West Nile Virus (WNV) infection were confirmed in Kent County residents last year. The caseload prompted staff at the Kent County Health Department to trap and test mosquito populations this summer. Positive results from this testing are meant to serve as an early warning system for the presence of the virus in Kent County. Last week, testing of mosquitoes collected at a random site in West Michigan

during the week yielded a result that was preliminarily positive for WNV.

“This test result confirms that the mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus are likely in our county,” said Adam London, Administrative Health Officer of the Kent County Health Department. “This information should encourage residents take steps to protect their families from mosquitoes.”

Only one case of illness has been confirmed in Michigan, in St. Joseph County, so far this year.

The Kent County Health Department recommends the following:

*At home, be sure you are not making it easy for mosquitoes to breed. Make sure to eliminate any standing water. Empty water from birdbaths, flower pots, swimming pool covers, buckets, barrels, and cans twice a week. Make sure rain gutters are clear of debris. Throw out tarps, old tires and other items that could collect water.

*Use insect repellent when outdoors. Apply repellent to clothing and exposed skin, and always follow directions on the product label.

*Don’t apply repellent under clothing, or on cuts, wounds or irritated skin. You should not apply repellent around the eyes or mouth, and if using spray, apply spray to your hands first, and then apply to face.

*Repellent should not be used on infants under 2 months old at all. KCHD recommends putting netting over the infant’s stroller. Products containing oil of lemon eucalyptus should not to be used on children under three years of age.

*When using repellent on children, put it on your hands first, then on the child. Children tend to put their hands in or near their mouths, so don’t apply repellent to a child’s hands.

*After you and your children get back indoors, wash off the repellent with soap and water, and wash treated clothing before wearing again.

*Avoid areas where mosquitoes are likely to be, such as wooded areas or swampy land.

West Nile Virus can produce a range of symptoms in humans. According to the CDC, most people infected with WNV will have no symptoms, though up to 20 percent may develop mild illness with symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches, rash, and swollen lymph glands. Some people will develop severe illness, with severe headaches, high fever, stiff neck, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, paralysis, and rarely, death. Persons 55 and over have the highest risk of severe disease.

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Report: Michigan child well-being slips

Kent County ranks 29th among 82 counties ranked

LANSING—The latest Kids Count in Michigan Data Book underscores the need to act to help children in Michigan with eight of 15 indicators of child well-being showing worsening trends.

Kent County ranked 29th of 82 counties for overall child well-being with No. 1 being the best ranking. This is the first time since 1992, when the first state data book was released, that the report ranks counties on the overall status of child well-being using 13 of 15 indicators. This provides a bigger picture of local child well-being and how the county compares with others.

“We clearly see a connection between higher-income communities and better outcomes for kids, but even in more affluent counties, child poverty and the need for food assistance jumped dramatically,’’ said Jane Zehnder-Merrell, Kids Count in Michigan project director at the Michigan League for Public Policy. “No area of the state escaped worsening conditions for children when it comes to economic security.”

Child poverty in Kent County increased 42 percent over the trend period compared with a statewide jump of 28 percent. The rate of young children in the county qualifying for food assistance increased 26 percent, compared with a statewide increase of 55 percent. The period covered in the book is generally 2005 to 2011.

The rate of confirmed victims of abuse and neglect, linked to poverty, increased by 50 percent in the county compared with a statewide increase of 28 percent.

Statewide, the biggest improvements were the decline of kids in foster care, decreasing from 17,000 in 2005 to 11,000 in 2011, and a drop in fourth-graders not proficient in reading from 40 percent to 32 percent of test-takers in the Michigan Educational Assessment Program.

Statewide, mortality rates for infants fell by 8 percent between 2005 and 2010 while the death rate for children/youth ages 1-19 declined 11 percent.

Kent County ranked 11th of 56 counties in child/teen deaths among children and teens ages 1-19. Child and teen deaths occurred at a rate of 21 deaths per 100,000 children, compared with a rate of 28 per 100,000 statewide. The county’s worst performance was in births to teens, ages 15-19. With a ranking of 57 of 82 counties, births to teens occurred at a rate of roughly 37 births per 1,000 teens, compared with 32 per 1,000 statewide.

The annual Data Book is released by the Kids Count in Michigan project. It is a collaboration between the Michigan League for Public Policy (formerly the Michigan League for Human Services), which researches and writes the report, and Michigan’s Children, which works with advocates statewide to disseminate the findings. Both are nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organizations concerned about the well-being of children and their families.

The report is available at www.mlpp.org.

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Duo arrested for home invasions

Christopher Johnson

Jackie Sturgis

The Kent County Sheriff Department has arrested a man and woman for home invasions occurring in northeastern Kent County during April and May.

Jackie Lee Sturgis, 32, of Greenville, was arraigned in 63rd District Court, on May 29, on a felony charge of home invasion 2nd degree. Bond was set at $25,000.

Suspect Christopher Lee Johnson, 32, was arraigned in 63rd District Court on a felony charge of weapons-firearms-receiving and concealing with bond being set at $35,000. Both were also charged as habitual offenders.

According to Undersheriff John Hess, the two were arrested for home invasions in Courtland and Oakfield Townships. Some stolen property was recovered and investigators are working to determine which incidents Sturgis and Johnson may be responsible for.


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GRCC millage fails; Pierson president survives recall

Kent County voters sent Grand Rapids Community College the same message Tuesday that they’ve sent three times since 2007: NO NEW TAXES.

The college had asked for a $98 million bond proposal to upgrade facilities, and it was soundly defeated by a vote of 26,417 (no) to 19,856 (yes). While Grandville, Northview and Lowell also had millages on the ballot, most communities had nothing else on the ballot, which led to low voter turn out.

Voters in Grandville nixed a $22.85 million bond proposal by a narrow margin—only 38 votes. There were 2,508 no votes, to 2,470 yes votes.

Lowell renewed their operating millage, and Northview passed an $11.9 million bond proposal.

In Montcalm County, Pierson Village President Karl VanHaren survived a recall election by three votes—24 to 21. He has filed a recall petition against three of the trustees involved in the recall against him: Rebecca Starr, Duane Grifes, and Verna Smigiel. That vote will take place in August.

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Animal shelter selected for ASPCA challenge

What if the click of a mouse could save animals in Kent County? Recently, the Kent County Animal Shelter (KCAS) submitted an application to compete in the ASPCA/Rachel Ray $100K Challenge and their application was accepted! But they need your help to win the challenge.

In order for them to compete, they need members of the community to vote for them online. Out of more than one hundred shelters that applied, only the top 50 with the most votes will be allowed to compete. Voting runs from April 5- April 16th. Votes can be submitted at www.votetosavelives.org. Encourage your friends and family members to voice their support for KCAS so that we can save more animals! Voting takes less than a minute and you can submit a new vote every day.

The first time you vote, you need to check your email for a confirmation from the website that validates the email address and you have to reply to it. Once this is done the first time, you do not need to repeat for subsequent votes. Also, the same party voting from separate email addresses will not get credit for an extra vote.

The Kent County Animal Shelter says they will be challenged to come up with innovative ways to save at least 300 more dogs and cats within a three-month period (August 1 through October 31) than were saved during the same three months in 2011. A “save” is quantified as an adoption, a transfer, a reclaim, or when an Animal Control Officer returns a stray dog in the field. Prizes range between $5,000 and $125,000.



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Kent County health rankings improving

From the Kent County Health Department

The national County Health Rankings were released last week by the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Kent County ranked 15th in Health Outcomes, which consisted of measures relating to how long people live, how healthy people feel, and emotional well-being. The ranking is a major improvement over 2010, the first year of the report, when we ranked 22nd in the state.

The Health Outcomes measure put Kent County 15th out of 82 Michigan counties. The second measure, Health Factors, ranked Kent County 19th in the state; up from 25th in 2010. That part of the study looks at measures that affect health, such as access to healthy foods, air pollution levels, education, income, smoking, and obesity. Some of the findings the rankings have determined nationally:

• People are nearly twice as likely to be in fair or poor health in the unhealthiest counties;

• Unhealthy counties have significantly lower high school graduation rates;

• Unhealthy counties have more than twice as many children in poverty;

• Unhealthy counties have much fewer grocery stores or farmer’s markets; and

• Unhealthy counties have much higher rates of unemployment.

*courtesy www.countyhealthrankings.org

More than 80 hospitals, care providers and community groups in Kent County, including the Health Department, just completed a Community Health Needs Assessment (CHNA) to determine health concerns that need addressing.  “These rankings, along with the CHNA, are critical in helping us determine where to focus our efforts, to make Kent County a healthier place,” said Cathy Raevsky, Administrative Health Officer for the Kent County Health Department. “The improvement in our Health Outcomes ranking in 2012 is welcome news, and we continue to work towards improving factors that impact health, especially in the areas of education, healthy eating and children living in poverty.”

The annual rankings help health care providers better understand the health problems in our communities. For more information, go to www.countyhealthrankings.org.

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Kent and Montcalm counties collaborate

Taxpayers in both counties will benefit

According to Kent County Administrator/Controller Daryl Delabbio, saving money while delivering top notch services continues to be a top priority in West Michigan. With this in mind, Kent County and Montcalm County plan to enter an agreement where Kent County will provide Equalization services for Montcalm County.

Montcalm County is required by state law to have an Equalization Director certified as a Michigan Master Assessing Officer (4). Kent County’s Equalization Director has the required MMAO (4) designation. Rather than hire a new director, Montcalm contacted Kent County, to see if there was a more cost-effective solution. The counties reached an agreement to contract with Kent County for this need for the next year. Montcalm County will pay Kent County for the services rendered.

Delabbio said Kent County has a long history of collaborating with other government units, and after looking at the additional effort required, found that collaborating with Montcalm would be beneficial to both counties. He believes that efficiencies can be gained while saving taxpayers in both counties money.

“The economic realities of the past decade mean we have to look for ways to be lean,” said Delabbio. “We see this as one more way to use tax dollars efficiently and effectively through collaboration.”

Kent County Equalization Director Matt Woolford will work one day a week from Montcalm County offices in Stanton while maintaining connections to both county offices. “The equalization staff at Montcalm has been doing a good job during this period of vacancy,” Woolford said. “I look forward to working with the Assessors and staff in Montcalm County.”

Equalization is responsible for property appraisal and mapping functions on behalf of taxpayers and municipalities. The staff updates property descriptions for area municipalities, creates map products and maintains property information records for reference by local municipalities, title companies, realtors, developers, surveyors, environmental companies, architectural and engineering firms and the general public.



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Home Invasions on the rise across the county

The Kent County Sheriff Department reported late last week that there have been many home break-ins throughout Kent County recently.
Many have occurred in rural areas where homes are not close together. Daytime home break-ins have occurred everywhere: Algoma, Cannonsburg, Lowell and Byron Townships. Break-ins occur at all times of day, in any season and in all neighborhoods.
The KCSD asks resident to please be aware of, and report, any suspicious persons or vehicles. When possible, write down license plate numbers.
They advise you to protect your home by being discrete. Don’t advertise your items of value. Keep valuables out of plain sight of doors and windows. If you are throwing away boxes or bags that depict valuable items such as TVs, computers or jewelry, make sure they fit in you trash or recycling can. Cut or shred as much information as possible.
Keep all exterior doors and windows locked. Make sure your home is well lit. Keep criminals guessing as to whether or not you are home. Utilize interior lights and, if possible, different lights through-out the home when you are not home.
Keep an eye on your neighbor’s house as well and report anything out of the ordinary.
To report any crimes or suspicious activity, call the Kent County Sheriff’s Department at 632-6100 or 911.

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Golf course break-ins

Over the past few weeks the Kent County Sheriff Department has investigated at least six golf course break-ins in the eastern and southeastern portions of Kent County. In each of the break-ins, suspects have forced their way in to either the pro shop or storage buildings and targeted merchandise or cash.  Investigators believe the break-ins are related and the Kent County Sheriff Department is asking for the public’s help in identifying either of the subjects pictured.

The first suspect was seen at one of the break-ins wearing mostly white. He is described as a white male, with a tall thin build. The suspect has dark hair and wears glasses. He had a unique hat on with a short bill, similar to that of a train engineer. Headphones can also be seen around the top of the hat.  See the first two pictures below.

The second suspect was seen wearing a dark shirt with lighter colored pants. He is described as a white male, shorter than the first suspect, with a thin build. He also was wearing a hat which was dark in color and a dark colored bag with a shoulder strap.

Any information can be forwarded to Silent Observer 1-866-774-2345 or to Detective Roon at 616-632-6142.

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