There was a whole lot of ugly going on in the backroom of Bell’s this past Thursday. Gaudy. Over the top. Tacky. Blinky. Jingly. These are just a few of the words that described the sweaters party guests donned on Thursday, December 5th. All the ugly was for a good cause: supporting CIS Kids’ Closet which provides basic need items of clothing, school supplies, and personal care products to help ensure all kids can attend school every day with confidence and dignity, ready to learn.
Guests poured into Bell’s, bringing with them new items from the “wish list” or $15. All these donations will directly support the CIS Kids’ Closet which distributes these items to 20 CIS supported KPS schools. Students and school staff can then connect with the CIS Site Team at their school to request needed items. This year, we welcomed over 140 guests who donated over $3,000 and 65 new items!
As the band, Rock Rx, played, guests chatted and munched on appetizers. Throughout the evening, guests cast their votes for the ugliest sweater.
Here are the top three winners:
A hearty thanks to Janet and Scott Nykaza, the Kalamazoo Rotaract for another successful year of Kalamazoo Bundle Up, to all the businesses that served as Bundle Up locations, and party guests that showed up Thursday—all to benefit our kids.
Keep following us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. We’ll soon be featuring CIS Board Member and Vice President, Financial Center Manager III of Fifth Third Bank Sara Williams. Seven Fifth Third Bank sites served as Bundle Up locations, making it convenient for the community to drop off a needed item or two.
You’ll learn a bundle today as this post is packed with fun information on Bundle Up, a project of Kalamazoo Rotaract Club. You’ll also meet two of the club members working behind the scenes as members of this community service and social club composed of young professionals & students in the Kalamazoo area.
On the heels of Rotaract’s annual wrapping party, Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids caught up with club members Evan Anderson and Liz VandenHeede at Walnut & Park Cafe. Serving as President of Kalamazoo Rotaract Club, Evan Anderson grew up in Kalamazoo and went to the University of Michigan. He returned to his home town four years ago and is a mechanical engineer at Parker Hannifin. Member and former President of Kalamazoo Rotaract Club Liz VandenHeede hails from Niles, Michigan. She graduated from WMU in public relations and works in communications and marketing with Miller-Davis.
The week before, Evan and Liz had gathered with a dozen other Rotaract Club members at Wax Wings Brewing to decorate the donation boxes used for their annual Bundle Up winter clothing drive. One of those festive boxes was nestled just inside the front door of the café where we chatted over hot chocolate and a chai tea latte.
Tell us about Bundle Up. What is the history behind this project? How long has this partnership between the Kalamazoo Rotaract Club and Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo been going on?
Liz: And our club is always looking for ways we can participate in different community service projects. We do a lot of one-time events, such as park cleanups, and we also really wanted to do a signature project, something that we could have all hands on deck, and make a bigger impact in the community. We tossed around lots of ideas and arrived at winter weather gear drive.
We started doing Bundle Up with CIS in 2015. So we’re on our fifth year with this project. And it keeps evolving. Those first few years we were collecting for both adults and kids. As our partnership with CIS was strong, we really felt the need to focus in exclusively with CIS and put our energies towards the kids.
Evan: Bundle Up is a clothing drive for new and like-new winter wear and personal items that help stock CIS Kids’ Closet. We kick it off in October with our wrapping party and it runs throughout November. By the first of November we’ve placed boxes throughout the community at Kalamazoo business locations where people have volunteered to host a box. We list the needed items on the side of the box—and people can drop off the donated items at any of the Bundle Up locations. [Locations listed at end of this post.]
From the start, the community has been really supportive, dropping off these much needed items that our club members will eventually gather up to stock the CIS Kids’ Closet.
The project culminates in the Ugly Sweater Party. This year’s event—open to all—will be held on Thursday, December 5th from 5:30 – 8:00 p.m. at Bell’s. People are asked to bring an item or make a donation of $15.
Liz: The first couple years Rotaract was doing the Bundle up project and CIS was also doing its Ugly Sweater Party. We talked with each other and said, hey, let’s weave these together and make it one project, with the Ugly Sweater Party culminating in the final celebration of our Bundle Up project.
Evan: It’s been a wonderful partnership. Each year, we adjust our list based on our conversation with CIS as to what items kids need most. For instance, this year, cloth headbands have been added to the list.
Liz: It’s been a terrific partnership all around. The Rotary Club of Kalamazoo is our sponsoring club and we have a great partnership with them as well. They have been such supporters of both us and our Bundle Up Project.
How many items do you generally collect during the drive?
Evan: Our fourth annual Bundle Up Kalamazoo drive in 2018 provided kids with nearly 2,000 items of winter wear, such as coats, boots, hats, snow pants, and gloves.
Liz: In addition to last year’s donated items, we also raised nearly $600 to purchase additional needed items for our kids.
Definitely a success! How did the name Bundle Up come about? It’s such a great name.
Evan: It is a great name, isn’t it? Liz has been with the project from the start. She knows that history.
Liz: Yes, we came up with the name when we were meeting at Bell’s. We were brainstorming on what would be a good name for gathering up winter gear. We came up with Bundle Up. We want to keep Kalamazoo warm!
Evan: If you are a student or young professional between 20 to 35 years of age, we encourage you to contact us. You can find out more on our website, our Facebook page, or just show up to one of our meetings. While we publicize meetings on both our website and Facebook page, we typically meet somewhere in the community two times a month, on the second Tuesday and fourth Wednesday of the month.
Okay, now we’d like to know a little more about each of you. What are you currently reading?
Liz:Born to Run by Christopher McDougall. I usually boycott reading books about running. I spend so much time running I don’t need to spend time reading about it when I’m not running.
Evan: You should download the audiobook so you can listen to it while you run.
Liz: [Laughing.] I should!
What is your favorite word right now?
Liz: Bundle up!
Behind every successful person is a caring adult. Who has been your caring adult?
Evan: I’d have to say my caring adults are my parents. Both have been very supportive throughout my life, education, and career. They have always been about giving back to others and value community involvement.
Liz: Maybe that’s how you ended up becoming involved in Rotaract.
Evan: You’re probably right.
Liz: Mine is my former teacher, Miss [Marilyn] Klimek. She was my journalism teacher at Niles High School. She took me under her wing and opened me up to opportunities I wouldn’t have known or done otherwise. “You should do this. You should try this.” She was always saying that and encouraged me to attend journalism camp and get involved in the school newspaper, where I ended up being editor-in-chief.
Anything else we should know?
Liz: We’re excited that Interact—the high school version of our service club—is in its first year at Loy Norrix High School. The students just had their own wrapping party to support the Bundle Up project. We provided them with boxes and paper and they decorated the boxes and even found their own locations! Deborah Harris is the person from the Rotary Club of Kalamazoo helping to support this initiative by local youth.
Thank you, Evan and Liz, for hanging out with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids. And thanks to all Kalamazoo Rotaract Club members for bundling up our kids and keeping them warm this winter.
Are you a young person interested in serving the community, meeting new people, developing lasting friendships, and growing professionally? Consider becoming a member of Kalamazoo Rotaract Club today.
Interested in donating a much needed item (noted above) for kids this winter? Throughout November, drop off your donation at any of these locations:
Bundle Up Locations
Cityscape Event Center (125 S Kalamazoo Mall)
Crossfit Torrent (5033 West Main St., Kalamazoo 49009)
Discover Kalamazoo (240 W Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49007)
Fifth Third Bank (Oshtemo, 6040 Stadium Drive, Kalamazoo, MI 49008)
Fifth Third Bank (Kalamazoo Downtown,136 East Michigan Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49007)
Fifth Third Bank (Burdick and Crosstown, 101 East Crosstown Parkway, Kalamazoo, MI 49001)
Fifth Third Bank (Milwood, 4109 Portage Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49001)
Fifth Third Bank (Crossroads, 6488 S Westnedge Ave, Portage, MI 49002)
Fifth Third Bank (Westwood, 4705 West Main St., Kalamazoo, MI 49006)
Fifth Third Bank (Gull Road 5653 Gull Road, Kalamazoo, MI 49048)
Humphrey Products (5070 East N Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49048)
KPS Administration Office (1220 Howard St, Kalamazoo, MI 49008)
Old National Bank (5003 Century Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49006)
Old National Bank (3201 Portage St., Kalamazoo 49001)
Pet Supplies Plus (5230 S Westnedge Ave, Portage, MI 49002)
Read and Write Kalamazoo (802 S Westnedge Ave, Kalamazoo, MI 49008)
Regus (251 N Rose St, Suite 200, Kalamazoo, MI 49007)
Sweetwater’s Donut Mill (2138 S Sprinkle Rd, Kalamazoo, MI 49001)
Visiting Angels (120 South Main St, Plainwell, MI 49080)
Walnut & Park Cafe (322 W Walnut St., Kalamazoo, MI 49007)
And remember, you’re invited join Kalamazoo Rotaract and CIS on Thursday, December 5th from 5:30-8:00 p.m. to celebrate this year’s conclusion of Bundle Up Kalamazoo with drinks, food, and an Ugly Sweater Contest.
Since 2011, students who participate in Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) After School Programs have been coming up with their own ways to shine the spotlight on quality after school support. This year is no different. In anticipation of National Lights On Afterschool Awareness Day, Thursday, October 24, 2019, Kalamazoo Public School students are once again reminding grownups about the importance of investing in and advocating for after school programs.
“Students have been busy researching and discussing the importance of after school programs,” says CIS Senior Director of Site Services Dr. Tamiko Garrett. “At the secondary level students are writing letters to public officials to raise awareness about the need for after school opportunities. Kids experience first-hand the benefits from an extended learning day and they want to remind adults that after school programming affords them a safe place to learn, to make positive connections with their peers and adults, have opportunities to work on and receive assistance with homework, create friendships, and more.”
Kids want their elected officials to know that a significant body of research demonstrates that students who regularly attend after school programs are more likely to improve their grades, tests scores, attendance, and overall academic behavior. To glean highlights from what students shared last year with public officials, you can click on this post: P.S. Please don’t get rid of after school programs.
“Our elementary students are also looking forward to participating in the Lights On rally,” says Dr. Garrett. The rally, organized by KYD Network, will be held on October 17th at the Arcadia Festival Site. “All CIS after school elementary sites will be represented,” says Dr. Garrett. “Washington Writers’ Academy and Woodward School for Technology and Research will be on a short break during this time [as part of the Kalamazoo Public Schools’ Balanced Calendar Pilot which provides a year-round school experience]. However,” Dr. Garrett points out, “the students have been busily making signs and posters for their peers to use during the rally.”
Nationwide, 11.3 million children are alone and unsupervised from 3 to 6 p.m. After school programs offer not only a safe place to learn and grow, but can serve as a strategic way to address both academic achievement and opportunity gaps. The achievement gap between students from lower- and higher-income families has grown by 40% over the past 30 years. By the sixth grade, middle class students have spent 4,000+ more hours in after school and summer learning opportunities than their low-income peers. Consistent participation in high-quality after school programs can help close and eliminate these gaps.
In Kalamazoo, CIS relies heavily on local resources and partnerships for its core work during the school day to identify needs and connect students to the right resources to remove barriers to school success. The CIS After School Program is able to extend the learning day Monday through Thursday in 15 KPS schools thanks to the support of federal dollars awarded through the Michigan Department of Education (21st Century Community Learning Centers).
As Kalamazoo Public School students prepare to step into their second month of school, they have a community of support that launched them into a successful year of learning.
On Saturday, August 17th, the Beyond the Backpack School Readiness Fair took place at Bronson Park. Hosted by Collaboration Kalamazoo, the fair, designed to increase school readiness for students, was a huge success. More than 1,100 in attendance, families were able to learn about community resources available in literacy, dental and other health supports, and more. From free glasses to free backpacks and supplies, with the support of our community and collaborating together, more students are on the path to success this school year.
With more than 1,100 individuals in attendance, families were able to learn about literacy supports in the community, access dental education and additional health resources, including mental health education, immunizations, sign up for health insurance, and more. In partnership with Hiemstra Optical and VSP Vision Care, 34 students were served on the Mobile Vision Unit, with 27 receiving glasses. Students also benefited from free haircuts and fresh hair styles from area barbers and stylists. The event provided free and much needed backpacks for students, but certainly went “Beyond The Backpack” to prepare students for a successful school year.
Wednesday, May 15th will mark the twelfth year of Champs, a celebration in which Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) recognizes those who are making a difference in kids’ lives. Kalsec, a local company with business around the world, is the presenting sponsor for a second year, demonstrating its continued interest in the educational success of Kalamazoo’s children.
So, who will be honored this year? Drum roll, please! This year’s Champs are:
Dedrenna Hoskins and Isaiah Hoskins, CIS Volunteers Gary Heckman, CIS Volunteer Rod Raven, Lead Activity Helper, KPS Arcadia Elementary School Swan Snack Emporium, CIS Business Partner
The Volunteer Leadership Advisory Council (VLAC) will also be honored with the Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award, a recognition established last year by Gulnar’s family to honor her long-time contributions to Communities In Schools and work as a CIS Site Coordinator at Arcadia Elementary School. This award recognizes CIS volunteers who emulate Gulnar’s belief that there is no greater calling than serving children. Last year, 828 individuals volunteered through CIS, contributing over 14,000 hours of service. Behind the scenes, the Volunteer Leadership Advisory Council—composed of CIS volunteers ranging from college students to seniors—works to strengthen and support these tremendous volunteer efforts. The VLAC members are Jeme Baker, Jashaun Bottoms, Chartanay Bonner, Pam Dalitz, Theresa Hazard, Moises Hernandez, Dedrenna Hoskins, Rollie Morse, Richard Phillips, Howard Tejchma and Marti Terpstra.
The CIS Board will also be honoring Barry Ross and Jane Rooks Ross with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. Established in 2010, this award is named for Western Michigan University President Emeritus Diether Haenicke. Barry Ross and Jane Rooks Ross together have brought joy through music to the children and youth of Kalamazoo. They have created experiences to hear music, experience music, learn music and connect through music. Through their vision, collaboration and endless work, Barry and Jane have touched many lives in the community. They have given time to find new and creative ways to use music to expand human potential. Family Discovery Concerts, Marvelous Music, the Instrument Petting Zoo, and Kalamazoo Kids In Tune reflect just some of their efforts.
It was exciting to learn that this year’s Reading Together book is written by author Angie Thomas, the inaugural winner of the Walter Dean Myers Grant 2015. [Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids featured Walter Dean Myers and his 2013 “Reading is Not Optional” visit to Kalamazoo in this post, “Finding Words in Your Pockets.”]
Even more exciting is that Thomas’ book, The Hate U Give, is resonating with our youth. CIS After School Coordinators Phillip Hegwood, Shannon Jones, and Katherine Williamson incorporated the Reading Together Book as part of CIS programming. Hegwood, who oversees CIS afterschool at Maple Street Magnet School says part of the reason for such a strong and positive response from students is due to the powerful themes woven throughout The Hate U Give, themes such as isolation, privilege, racism, violence, and activism.
Here’s what two students from Hillside Middle School told us about how the book has impacted them and what, if given the chance, they would ask the author. (Their school also selected The Hate U Give as their all-school read.) And they just might get the chance! Angie Thomas will be in Kalamazoo on Wednesday, April 17, 2019 at 7 pm to talk about her book. More information on this event noted below.
I’d ask, “Is this a true story? What aspects of this story happened to you?”
I’m gaining some insights from reading her book. You know, like the main character in the book, she is scared to speak up at first. But something I’ve discovered is that it’s important to speak up. Don’t be scared to say what’s right!
-Zechariah, 8th grade, Hillside
I would ask Angie Thomas, “How were you able to do this so well? How were you able to compare real life to the life you have created in your book?” She really was able to capture real life—and the world of black and white—so real-like. How was she able to do that?
Reading and seeing the movie, The Hate U Give, is the luckiest thing that has ever happened to me. That book by Angie Thomas has really helped me and has given me more courage…I have two copies of the book and watch parts of the movie almost every day!
Last week, more than 420 guests attended the 11th annual CIS Champs Celebration, presented by Kalsec. Before guests even entered the Radisson’s Arcadia Ballroom, they were treated to a live performance by the Kalamazoo Kids In Tune Middle School Ensemble, under the direction of Ben Gudbrandson and sponsored by Warner Norcross + Judd. It was clear these young musicians had practiced and practiced as they performed at their best.
What about you? Do you do your best and try hard, too? That is one of the questions fourth graders from Woodward School for Technology and Research asked the grown-ups in the room. Kyla Clark, Isaac Dyer, Kiana Gill, Kieara Virgil, and Curtis Whitfield, representing their Woodward peers, recited “The Kalamazoo Poem” at Champs (their presence sponsored by Borgess). As part of Mrs. Calloway’s English class at Woodward, these KPS students were five of the 60 fourth graders from Mrs. Rice, Mrs. Polsco, and Mrs. Calloway’s classes who participated in poetry workshops facilitated by CIS. The poem also incorporates several lines written by students involved in the CIS After School Program at Milwood Elementary School. On April 7, 2018, “The Kalamazoo Poem” premiered at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts as part of the 5th Annual Kalamazoo Poetry Festival.
We share with you, this week, their poem and hope you’ll keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids to discover the Champs experience. We’ll be publishing the two inspiring speeches given by representatives of the Class of 2018, Kanequewa Steward, Kalamazoo Central High School, and Dreon Smith, Loy Norrix High School. Over the coming weeks you’ll also be inspired (for the first time, or all over again!) by learning what each one of the eight award winners is doing to help kids stay in school and achieve in life.
Thanks to CIS volunteer Don Kingery and CIS youth development worker Nae Williams, you’ll also be able to see what guests saw (and missed!) through their photographic lens.
The Kalamazoo Poem
We love Kalamazoo.
All the wonderful places you can go,
like home, the Kalamazoo Public Library,
and all the schools.
I love going to school and learning.
Kalamazoo can be loving and caring,
even to people who aren’t always nice.
This big, wonderful city has all my friends in it.
In this city that is not too big and not too small
people can be themselves.
Did I mention I love the schools?
That teachers are teaching?
Kalamazoo does not have hurricanes.
Get this: it has a banana car!
My head feels like it will explode
because Kalamazoo is so cool.
I love the way people handle their biz.
I love the summer and wind.
My family is here. My friends.
My school. My teachers. Me!
Kalamazoo is the best city I’ve ever been to,
it’s our home, we have the Promise–and college is free!
You see, people here treat each other with kindness.
Kalamazoo can be so kind.
Kalamazoo gives presents and parties on cold, Christmas mornings.
It gives us teachers and tutors who help us with our work.
People say kind words. Someone says hi.
Students listen to their teacher.
We play together. We clean up. We get along.
When people are put down, Kalamazoo help them get back up.
We get together and help the homeless, the poor,
and those who are feeling sad.
We fix each other’s houses.
I wish everybody had a home
and that it never snowed.
Yes, there are things we wish were true about Kalamazoo.
We need more good jobs.
If only everything cost a penny!
I wish the river wasn’t polluted,
that I could see my dad.
I wish we always remembered to treat others
how we want to be treated.
I wish we had a robot.
If only rappers lived in Kalamazoo
and there was no such thing as the flu.
I wish Kalamazoo was 5,000 miles long and 5,000 miles wide.
I wish everybody-and I mean everybody-could be in my family.
I wish I could help everyone
and that we wouldn’t stop helping each other—
even when we don’t always get it right.
I wish that the power wouldn’t get shut off.
I wish everyone had a place to live and I had a bed of my own.
There should be a waterpark in the middle of town.
If only Kalamazoo was California. I miss my cousins.
I miss my mom. I worry and wonder where she is.
We need more bikes and shooting stars.
No shootings! There is a scared little street
that worries someone could get hurt today.
Will you keep me safe forever?
I dream I will become ….
A firefighter, a doctor, a teacher, an artist,
a football player, a wildlife technician…
Will you take care of me?
Help me learn today?
Be there when I grow up?
Will you do your best, like us, and try hard, too?
-a group poem by 4th graders of Woodward
At the conclusion of the poem, Kiana asked emcee, Dr. John Oliver, if they could introduce the next speaker. Dr. Oliver graciously agreed. Kyla then called Dr. Michael Rice to the stage and Curtis let everybody know that Dr. Rice is their superintendent. Kieara shared that “he likes poetry, just like us!” Isaac pointed out that every day, “and I mean every day—Dr. Rice does his best, and like us, he tries hard, too.”
The students then gifted Dr. Rice with a book, the completed works of Langston Hughes, signed by the fourth graders of Woodward.
What about you? Are you working hard for kids, too?
Wednesday, May 9th will mark the eleventh year of Champs, a celebration in which Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo (CIS) recognizes those who are making a difference in kids’ lives. CIS is thrilled that Kalsec is the presenting sponsor for this year’s event.
So, who will be honored this year? Drum roll, please! This year’s Champs are:
Kalamazoo College Civic Engagement Scholars, CIS Higher Education Partner Diane Fuller, CIS Volunteer from Miller-Davis Company Nkenge Bergen, Director of Student Services for Kalamazoo Public Schools Woods Lake Math Squad, CIS Volunteers Black Student Union at WMU, CIS Higher Education Partner Chris Werme, CIS Volunteer
Sally Stevens will also be honored with the Gulnar Husain Volunteer Award, a new recognition established by Gulnar’s family to honor her long-time contributions to Communities In Schools and work as a CIS Site Coordinator at Arcadia Elementary School. For more than 38 years, Gulnar dedicated herself to being an effective volunteer for many causes throughout the Kalamazoo community, as well as cultivating and supporting volunteers to benefit others, particularly children. This award recognizes a CIS volunteer who emulates Gulnar’s belief that there is no greater calling than serving children.
The CIS Board will also be honoring Dr. Marilyn Schlack with the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award. Established in 2010, this award is named for Western Michigan University President Emeritus Diether Haenicke. Dr. Marilyn Schlack has served as the president of Kalamazoo Valley Community College for more than three decades, becoming Michigan’s first female community college president in 1982. With her leadership and vision, KVCC has grown to four campuses and more than 10,000 students, each campus responding to unique student, educational, and community needs. Despite overseeing an expansive, increasingly complex institution, Dr. Schack has maintained a commitment to understanding the needs and challenges of individual students whose circumstances are filled with obstacles to college completion.
We thank all of our event sponsors for sharing our vision and igniting in kids the hope and belief that they can succeed in school, graduate, and be prepared for life. Thank you to our presenting sponsor, Kalsec, Fifth Third Bank, Maestro, PNC, Anonymous, BASIC, Borgess, Chase, Humphrey, Miller-Davis Company, Old National Bank, TowerPinkster, Warner Norcross + Judd, Zoetis, 1st Source Bank, Bronson Healthcare, BDO USA, LLP, First National Bank of Michigan, Greenleaf Trust, Lake Michigan Credit Union, Western Michigan University, and CSM Group.
Stay tuned to Ask Me About My 12,000+ Kids. Over the coming weeks we will spotlight each of these award recipients. You’ll learn what they are doing to make a difference in kids’ lives.