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July 29, 2014

"Tuesday Group" Volunteers Make Leila Shine

In Sun or Shadow, These Volunteers Help Make

 Leila'a Dramatic Entrance “Shine” 

By Jim Richmond

When the nearly 5,000 visitors pulled into the front entrance of the Leila Arboretum over the course of last Saturday to attend the Leilapalooza Music Festival (30 bands on 5 outdoor stages), many “ooohed and aaahed” to the volunteers directing traffic, complimenting them on the beauty of the Arboretum’s stone columned entrance and welcoming rows of flowers, plants, water pool and flowing fountain.

 

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The Leila Arboretum Entrance has become a trademark of the Arboretum’s dramatic 75 acres of 3,000 trees, 10 gardens, walking paths and so much more that today makes many call the Arboretum “Battle Creek’s and Nature’s ‘Jewel’” of southwest Michigan.

“The front entrance says it all,” commented Leila Arboretum Society’s Brett Myer, its executive director. “And it wouldn’t look or be that beautiful without the incredible hard work, dedication and creativity of our volunteers.”

For as sure as the sun rises, Tuesday mornings year-round find a group of seven to ten volunteers busy working at or around the Leila Arboretum entrance – planting flowers, pruning trees, mowing grass, or in the Leila Arboretum office updating tree labels and doing other chores.

They are affectionately known as “The Tuesday Group,” and their signature volunteer contributions were  among those  nominated and recognized at the recent Battle Creek Voluntary Acton Awards celebration held at the W. K. Kellogg Foundation.

photo (3).JPGThe Tuesday group have donated an estimated 12,500 hours to the Arboretum over the past nine years –  in 2013, alone,  a total of 1,206 hours -- volunteer hours valued by the national INDEPENDENT SECTOR organization at $27,135 just for last year; and approximately $281,250 since 2005.

This spring (2014) they planted more than 4,000 annual and perennials at the Arboretum’s front entrance and surrounding the entrance’s pool and fountain that have become a Battle Creek favorite for young people as an outdoor site for weddings. There are 19 flower beds in this small area alone.

Other Tuesdays, you see the group laying down mulch and clearing weeds out from around the hundreds of trees near the entrance. 

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When the rain or the snow falls, the Tuesday group moves indoors to the Leila Arboretum Society office to plan for next year, print out tree labels or even – very recently – to clean, brighten and better organize the supply room and other office spaces.

Shortly before the Christmas Holiday season, the Tuesday Group strings thousands of holiday lights, plus life-size lighted toy soldiers that welcome visitors at the Arboretum entrance, plus the lighted tree in the fountain’s center and on the nearby pergola.

There are many civic benefits at least partly attributable to the Tuesday Group’s year round efforts:  a big boost in attendance at Leila recreation events, growing use of the entrance and fountain area for weddings, and a major increase in people using the Arboretum’s walking trails and picnic areas.

Overall Arboretum visitor attendance reached nearly 70,000 last year --- and has continued to grow in each of recent years – serving not only Battle Creek residents, but attracting thousands from throughout southwest Michigan and even other states.

Why did the Tuesday Group pick Leila Arboretum for their volunteer passion, perspiration and contribution to Battle Creek?

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Volunteer Jerry Tilmann serves as the group’s unofficial scribe: “The camaraderie of the group has made it fun to work ‘in the soil’ again and the work has given us a sense of accomplishment and pride.  (Mid-week, Tilmann sends out a detailed email summary of the group’s previous day’s accomplishments, future challenges.)

“We simply believe we’re helping to provide some civic pride by having a beautiful park location in the Urbandale/North Side of the City,” he said.

The Tuesday Group’s core volunteer group comes from disparate backgrounds.    Rick and Mary Maison, Jerry Tilmann, Judy Wright, and  

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Gary Steiner are all retirees of the Battle Creek Federal Center.  Glen Walters is retired superintendent of the Harper Creek School District.  Mary Ann Ruesnik  is employed  by Jiffy Mix in Chelsea and Martin Krieger, as a medical librarian at Bronson-Battle Creek.   Most are graduates of the MSU Master Gardeners’ program, offered at Leila Arboretum’s training center for many years.

Rick Maison was quick to note there are other volunteers who also work with the Tuesday Group on an irregular schedule when personal and professional responsibilities permit. They include Burget and Mary Jane High, Jeff Vanderboss, Richard Avery, Don DeNooyer and Dave DeGraff.  Josh Bell of K Drive Greenhouse has been instrumental each year helping the group select and purchase plants and flowers for their Leila projects, he said.

So, come on out to Leila Arbortum on W. Michigan Avenue.  See what dedicated volunteers can do.

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July 27, 2014

Bizon, Helmboldt stand out as 62nd District Candidates

Bizon, Helmboldt stand out as candidates for Michigan’s 62nd District:

Your AUG 5th Primary Vote Can Make a Difference

By Jim Richmond

August 5th primary election votes don’t count for much, do they?  Unless you have a marked, stark contrast in leadership, competency, experience and personal strengths of candidates for State House and Senate seats.   

You hear so many people exclaim: “I don’t have time and I don’t NEED to vote in the primary.”

Sorry.  But to quote the vernacular, not the Elephant’s, not the Donkey’s, but in the pig’s eye. 

Who wins in August will matter.

Take the case of the current Michigan State Senator from the 22nd District, who won his House seat primary by just ONE vote in 2002, and has gone on to win every election since and moved up to be an important influence in Michigan politics.

Yes, what happens in August matters.

There are 2 Republicans and 3 Democrats running in the August 5th primary to represent their party come November 4th, to represent the 62nd District, which includes Battle Creek, Calhoun County, Bedford, Convis Township, Pennfield and Springfield.

Terris Todd, Andy Helmboldt and Dave Morgan are the Democrat candidates. 

Republicans are fielding Art Kale and Dr. John Bizon. 

All have solid civic records. 

But two seem to stand out in terms of leadership skills and experience.

532074_293210357479051_264262032_n.jpgIf you lean progressive and Democrat, Andy Helmboldt may be the best choice in that group.  For Republicans, moderates and conservatives, Dr. John Bizon -- the stronger candidate among their choices.   

And if you vote independent, Helmboldt and Bizon have a few  but important differences.   Most of what they said in recent sit down interviews was about support of good roads and creating jobs.  Hardly controversial, partisan positions.

But Helmboldt stresses social equity issues; and Bizon the need to make major changes in the way we educate our children. 

Helmboldt is a popular guy around town, and an effective two-term Battle Creek City Commissioner, according to several of his Commissioner colleagues I was able to reach and talk with on background.


 He’s taught school, has two young children, shows up at City social and recreational events. He was the top-voter getter among all the at-large candidates in last fall’s city commission election.  Helmboldt currently owns and runs a small design and photography business in Battle Creek.

Perhaps most important, you get the impression that Helmboldt is a thoughtful, focused, rather intense and serious young (age 39) guy.

Dr. John Bizon, 63, is running as a Republican candidate, for the first time, because he says “I can make a difference.” 

As a successful physician, he probably doesn’t need the $73,000 a year salary that goes along with being a State Representative. 

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In addition to his medical practice (serving patients and also leading his profession at many levels), Bizon is a former Air Force Colonel with distinguished overseas military service; has a family, and grown children.

There are other differences, of course, between Helmboldt and Bizon that one might expect, party wise, on gun control, the Affordable Care Act and current issues and directions locally and nationally.

But bottom line, they would do a good – perhaps the best jobs – for us from the 62nd District, as our Representative in Lansing. 

On average historically, only 1,000 to 1,300 votes decide primary election winners in the 62nd District.

So your vote can and will make a difference.

This August.

Next year. 

And perhaps for many years in Michigan’s future.

 

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This is Jim Richmond's personal blog.  No money or any other form of compensation determines what is published on this site.