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Charlotte

Charlotte

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Charlotte

Featured Story

Timepiece Park a showpiece for Charlotte’s revitalization

When Timepiece Park officially opens in a couple weeks, it will mark a significant point in downtown Charlotte’s revitalization efforts. For all its lightning rod qualities, its ability to spark passionate conversations about city funds, street conditions, and aesthetic appeal, the pocket park was the project that moved the community from talking and planning into action.

It was the project in the community that galvanized a downtown business district, drawing private donations from many sources. It was the foresight displayed by a number of local entrepreneurs who saw an opportunity, and like all good entrepreneurs do, they capitalized on it. 

Donations exceeded $30,000 — enough to purchase a blighted building, and community eyesore and gift it to the city. Donors believed a pocket park would signify the positive growth for which downtown Charlotte was yearning.

Timepiece Park is what revitalization in Charlotte should look like — private citizens, business owners, and city officials working together on ways to reenergize our community.

The plans may have taken longer to come together than expected, which is part of the reason the pocket park was such a hot topic. The bright yellow, and pastel spattered building stayed up longer than anyone really wanted. But, these kinds of projects take time … and money.

The cost of the park has been a constant topic for local fodder. But, consider if you will, the actual cost.

When complete, Timepiece Park will come in at about $215,000. A lot for a small concrete park, for sure. Of that cost, however, $10,000 came from a Public Art for Communities grant from the Lansing Economic Area Partnership (LEAP) and PNC Foundation. Another $25,000 came from a Made on Main Street grant from One Main Financial, and the Main Street America organization. Still $10,000 more came from a grant from the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission. Close to $10,000 will come from a private citizen. Adding to all the private and grant funds is the Capital Region Community Foundation, which awarded the project a $75,000 Impact grant. 

That’s $130,000 of the $215,000 that came from grant funds or private donations, not counting the $30,000-plus donated to purchase the property. The city would have spent $85,000 or close to it just to demolish the building and put in a five- or six-space parking lot. 

Instead the community gets a new gathering place; a showcase for another piece of public art; a place to stop and warm by the fire on a cool evening; a place the community can and should feel good about.

Sure, it would have been nice if the park could have included an abundance of green space. Unfortunately, the contamination left by the former dry cleaner made that impossible. But, designers have done their best to include as much green space as possible.

Plans for the park’s official dedication are still coming together, though Charlotte Area Networking for Development and Opportunity (Can Do!) has planned to hold its September meeting the park on Wednesday, Aug. 28 at 5:30 p.m. All are invited.

Olivet

Olivet

Featured Story

Gardener’s grave blankets bring comfort during cold winter months

The December chill doesn’t quite have the same sting as it once did for Monica Lee, a resident of Battle Creek. Kathy Gardener, an Olivet resident, has made sure of that.

It’s been 12 years since Kathy reached out to Monica unexpectedly with a special gift — one that brings Monica tremendous comfort every December.

Kathy, who started making grave blankets more than 30 years for her daughters who passed as small children, donated a grave blanket to Monica in 2006 after hearing how she had tragically lost her only daughter.

“To think she was thinking about someone else at that time,” Monica recalls. “Kathy is a beautiful woman. My baby is warm every year. It gives me a warm feeling.”

Monica has ordered a grave blanket for her daughter ever since, and has added a grave blanket for her mother as well. Monica said it brings her great comfort to know her daughter, who died on Dec. 2, is warmed by the blanket throughout the cold months.

Kathy said she identified with Monica’s story after hearing about it on the news and knew she needed to reach out to her. 

“I’ve been there, losing someone close to you,” Kathy said. 

She started making grave blankets after losing two daughter 35 years ago. Her daughters passed in October and she said she recalls thinking about how they were going to be cold all winter. That’s when she first learned about grave blankets, and the concept brought a feeling of comfort for her daughters. It’s a feeling she said people often convey to her about her creations.

“I hear a lot that blankets are a comfort,” Kathy said. “Our loved ones aren’t with us physically, but they are always in our hearts. The blankets provide a comfort to us and color to the cemetery.”

Kathy donates at least one grave blanket each year, often to a family like Monica’s. 

“It changed my life losing my girls,” Kathy said. “This is a legacy I can carry on through my daughters.”

The blankets are made from fresh pine branches and weigh 25-30 pounds. They are anchored in the ground before it freezes. Kathy said she is very particular about the colors she adds through flowers and bows. Each takes about an hour to create. She said she cuts down about 11 big trees from a local tree farm each year.

To order a grave blanket for your loved one, call Kathy at (269) 274-3266.

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Bellevue

Bellevue

Featured Story

Bronco basketball teams look to cap off perfect regular seasons

The road to perfect regular seasons for both the Bellevue boys and girls varsity basketball teams could go through Athens. 

The Bronco boys were 18-0 heading into its toughest remaining regular season test, a Friday, Feb. 22 showdown at Athens High School. Bellevue defeated Athens, which was undefeated at the time, earlier this season, 68-62 in Bellevue. The game could be much more difficult in a hostile environment.

The Lady Broncos, meanwhile, host Athens on Tuesday, Feb. 26. Bellevue defeated Athens on the road in their tightest contest of the season, 37-36. The girls were 16-0 heading into their game at Climax on Thursday, Feb. 21. Bellevue defeated Climax 49-15 at home earlier this season.

In their most recent action, Bellevue guards Wyatt Waterbury and Gino Costello led the Broncos to a 60-73 win over Climax, securing a third-straight SCAA West Division title. Waterbury paced the Broncos with 20 points, 6 steals and 4 assists. Costello added 14 points, and 4 assists. Carson Betz recorded a double-double, finishing with 10 points, 14 rebounds and 5 steals.

The team travels to Jackson Christian High School on Monday, Feb. 25 to open District play against Tekonsha.

In the girls most recent victory, Morgan Messenger led the way with 13 points as Bellevue defeated Waldron, 33-30. Mikayla Crawley finished with 10 points, 3 steals and 2 assists. 

The Lady Broncos host Colon on Saturday, Feb. 23, and finish off the regular season with home games against Athens on Tuesday, Feb. 26 and Tekonsha on Thursday, Feb. 28.

The team opens District play at Athens High School on Monday, March 4 against Battle Creek St. Philip.

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Eaton County

Eaton County

Featured Story

Howe named 2019 Frontier Days Grand Marshal; Blocker is Junior Grand Marshal

Out of the many nominations submitted by community members this year, the Charlotte Frontier Days Board has selected Charlotte’s own David Howe to serve as the 2019 Frontier Days Grand Marshal.

David has been a businessman in Charlotte for more than 40 years. You may have heard of his business, the very well known Beacon Sales and Service. As you enjoy driving down Lansing Road, and its manicured median, which David maintains, you may also notice the Eastside Pantry he created and keeps stocked to help those in need. 

David has always had a soft spot for Charlotte’s youth and proudly supports athletics, performing arts, FFA, 4H, Pheasants Forever and school-related activities. Most recently, David donated funds to cover school lunch balances. He has been actively involved in demolition derbies at the Eaton County Fair. He sponsors the Eaton County Fair and Charlotte Frontier Days and is a strong supporter of organizations such as CharlotteRising, Guardian Angel Suitcases for Kids, Homeless Angels, Bikers4Books, Christmas Kiddies, AL!VE, and the Eaton Area Senior Center. He is a member of the Friends of Maple Hill Cemetery, Eaton County Buck Club, and the Chamber of Commerce, just to name a few. Dave was also a long time volunteer at the Charlotte Fire Department.

He currently enjoys and sponsors short track racing. He has been the recipient of several racing related awards, including Spirit Award, Golden Circle Award and Sponsor of the Year Award. He is also the recipient of the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce’s President’s Award. To say Charlotte is lucky to have this hard working, big-hearted family man is an understatement. 

David, thank you for your limitless contributions that have made and will continue to make huge impacts on our community. 

This year’s Junior Grand Marshal is Garrett Blocker. That name may sound familiar to those who saw him featured in a Lansing State Journal article. Perhaps you have seen him perform in multiple plays or at Windwalker’s open mic nights. If you live in downtown Charlotte, you have probably been lucky enough to hear Garrett singing and playing guitar while he walks his dog, Jake. 

Many have commented on local Facebook pages thanking Garrett for sharing his voice and his musical talent. Garrett is 19 and graduated with honors from Charlotte High School last year and attended MSU briefly. This fall, he will be attending LCC where he will be taking Advanced Pre-Calculus and a rock band class. Garrett loves alternative rock and hip-hop. He plays guitar, piano, cornet and is currently learning how to play the drums. Garrett has many accomplishments, but his biggest one is how he manages his Autism. Garrett found his love of music and acting at a young age and uses these outlets as forms of expression. Social situations are often uncomfortable for Garrett, but music helps. Garrett is currently employed at Peckham, but still finds time to compose his own original music. 

Whether on stage or on the downtown sidewalks, Garrett’s voice brings joy to those that are lucky enough to hear it. Garrett, thank you for sharing your voice with us. You bring joy to our hearts and smiles to our faces. Charlotte is so fortunate to have you in our community.

Article submitted by the Charlotte Frontier Days Board.

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Vermontville

Vermontville

Featured Story

JoLei’s Diner opens in downtown Vermontville

Crissta Ames

Contributing Writer

When looking for a delicious place to eat, check out Vermontville’s newest restaurant, JoLei’s Diner. The farm-themed diner, which had its grand opening on Saturday, June 8, serves breakfast and dinner foods like skillets, omelettes, country fried steak, a variety of sandwiches, pizza, and more. If you’re in the mood for chicken and waffles, they’ve got that too! 

The owner, Denna Matonis, managed the Maple Leaf for five years and has been in the Vermontville area for about 10 years. 

“I like this community. I try to help out with the community as much as I can, with the schools, volunteer coaching, doing Vermontville days,” Matonis said. “The community needed a restaurant.” 

Matonis has been asked many times if she is JoLei, but she is not. However, the name of her restaurant has a very personal meaning. 

“When we decided to purchase the restaurant, we obviously had to come up with a name.  I wanted a name that differentiated the restaurant from anything it was in the past. I wanted a name that was personal and had meaning,” Matonis said. “I have two wonderful children. Joseph is 9 and Leigha is 7.  These two are my world. Therefore, I decided to name my new labor of love, after my forever loves. ‘Jo’ for Joseph, and ‘Lei’ for Leigha.” 

She also chose the word “Diner” to give the restaurant a cozy, small-town feel and absolutely succeeds in doing so, with warm red walls, fresh flowers, and cute animal decor all around. 

“I get a lot of compliments on my decor, and I have the barn door to stand out,” said Matonis. The front barn door follows right along with the farmhouse theme so visitors can spot it from the road and know that’s where JoLei’s Diner is.

While brainstorming for the diner’s menu, Matonis wanted to create foods that were unique and not easy to find in the area, like cheese curds, chicken and waffles, and tater tot tumblers. Tater tot tumblers are a mixture of mashed potatoes, hash browns, bacon, cheese and onion, all deep-fried together. 

“We tested a lot of things.” Matonis said. The diner opened shortly before Syrup Festival and that served as a little trial run for the business, and it’s done well in the meantime. “I’m happy with it. It’s been a fun venture.” 

JoLei’s Diner is located at 174 S. Main Street in Vermontville, and hours can be found on their Facebook page.

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Potterville

Potterville

Featured Story

New Potterville High School boys varsity basketball coach sets first camp

Newly hired Potterville High School boys varsity basketball coach, Jacob Briney, and his entire coaching staff, is offering a four-day basketball camp for area youth in second through 12th grade. The camp will be held four consecutive Sundays beginning July 21 in the Potterville High School gymnasium.

Students entering ninth through 12th grade will attend from 2 to 4 p.m. July 21, July 28, Aug. 4 and Aug. 11. Students entering sixth through eighth grade will attend from 4 to 5:30 p.m. and students entering second through fifth grade will attend from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

The cost of the camp is $50 per participant, which includes access to all four Sundays, and a custom Moneyball practice jersey. Checks should be made payable to Potterville Public Schools, attention Boys Basketball.

Registration forms must be completed before the start of camp and are available in the Potterville High School athletic office. There will also be an opportunity to register your child on Sunday, July 21 prior to the start of camp.

For more information, contact coach Briney via email at coachbriney@yahoo.com.

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Eaton Rapids

Eaton Rapids

Featured Story

Car Cruise-In held Wednesdays in downtown Eaton Rapids

Deb Malewski

Contributing Writer

“It started on a dream and ended in reality,” said Eaton Rapids Car Cruise-In organizer William Hammond. 

Back in 2014 Hammond and his friends decided that a cruise-in was what Eaton Rapids needed. It had been tried in nearby towns with no luck, so they were a little nervous about trying it here. Former Eaton Rapids City Manager Jon Stoppels offered some help from the City and it took off from there. 

The event grew through word of mouth, Hammond said, along with photos of the event posted online. Locals saw the photos and told him they had cars sitting in their garage and Hammond encouraged them to bring them downtown. 

“To accomplish something like this in a small town is beyond anything that we dreamed of,” Hammond said. “I now have been to other towns to help them get a cruise-in started, but I tell them it’s not me that has to do this —it has got to be you that starts it — and most give up.” 

The event has become Hammond’s passion. He visits other car cruises and invites them to Eaton Rapids to see how it’s done. The memories that the cruise-in bring are part of the fun, he says—the cars bring flash backs to 1969 and eating chili at the West Brook Inn (the empty building next to the Library) where the hot rodders hung out after the bars closed. 

He says the Eaton Rapids police have been very supportive and helpful with the event, “bending over backward” to make the event work, and yet do not put a damper on the fun. Event organizers create and enforce the rules that they make very clear to the participants regarding alcohol and behavior. 

“Bad town to come to if you are drinking and driving a hot car because you will not be coming back. It works,” Hammond stated.

“I worry that it will die out, but it just keeps getting better,” Hammond continued. “In fact, we are running out of space on Main Street, but no one wants to park in the parking lots. Main Street is the place to be every Wednesday!”

The cars in attendance come from Eaton Rapids and towns nearby. Art Jones, from Eaton Rapids, brings his 1959 DeSoto downtown. The DeSoto was manufactured by the DeSoto Division of the Chrysler Corporation here in Michigan from the 1928 to the 1961 model year. Jones inherited the shiny black car from his father, who worked at Olds, when he turned 50.

Jerry and Susan Akin hail from Charlotte and are members of the Charlotte Cruisers Car Club. They’ve owned their 1955 red Belair for about 10 years. They own seven other cars and came to Eaton Rapids for dinner and the Cruise-In.

Dave and Kaye Persell are also from Charlotte and bring the 1965 Ford Mustang Fastback to the event that was first owned by Detroit rocker Bob Seger. The car also has the lowest documented mileage for a 1965 Mustang in the world, about 7,300 miles, according to Ford. The car originally sold for less than $3,000 when Seger purchased it, and it had flywheel problems, which created a bumpy ride. 

This past week some of the cars dropped by Island City Assisted Living before the Cruise-In to inspire some classic memories for the residents there, which was greatly enjoyed.

Head downtown most Wednesdays while the weather is good for the Eaton Rapids Cruise-In, starting about 4 p.m. While you’re there, enjoy the music by Thick N Thin near the Island.

Sunfield

Sunfield

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Mulliken

Mulliken

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Dimondale

Dimondale

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Beloved Dimondale restaurant to reopen

With a sigh of relief and a round of applause, residents of Dimondale, and the surrounding areas, celebrated at Mike’s Village Restaurant Wednesday, June 27 as Lori Conarton announced she’d be reopening the Dimondale favorite....

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