Agency Stories

August 31, 2016 - 3:32am -- sysop

Alzheimer’s Association

Jacob took our dogs for a walk, on trails he had walked nearly every day for over a year, and became lost. It was raining, but he had not brought a rain jacket, nor did he have a compass. He finally came out of the woods on a road near the home of some friends, but he had no idea where he was.  Fortunately, some kind people came by and loaded a very wet Jacob and our two soaking Labs into their vehicle and brought them home.  He was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  Lindsay from the local Alzheimer’s Association office provided a helpful perspective on this disease, based on her work as a Social Worker and her personal experience as a caregiver. She has given us important information on Medicare and Medicaid, and local home care and adult day care options. I look forward to taking the Creating Confident Caregivers class, taught by Lindsay.


Bay Cliff Health Camp

Name of Camper:  Nora Runstrom, Negaunee MI  Age 6

Nora is an enthusiastic 6 year old girl from Negaunee, MI.  She was a first-time Bay Cliff camper in 2016, and received Vision Instruction and Occupational Therapy while at camp.  Nora's mom Tammy shared, "Nora loved camp and everyone she met there.  The best thing about camp has been the way Nora is now able to advocate for herself at home and school.  She now asks her teacher for what she needs instead of waiting for someone to ask her if she needs help.  She has expressed a new love of reading, thanks to Bay Cliff's help with visual scanning.  Her functional vision skills have improved in relation to hygiene, tying her shoes, and getting places on her own. We have gone to family-style dining, which is good for her and her brother.  Passing dishes and serving themselves have given them an extra sense of control. She has also shared the idea of making healthy choices like choosing between seconds or dessert.  She learned how to shower independently at camp and now asks to do it at home.  We love that she got to try fun new things, like swim lessons, that we have been nervous to try ourselves.  We are happy with her new-found independence."    


Big Brothers Big Sisters  - Client Story

Tom and Hayden have been matched for one year.  Hayden is 11 years old.  He tended to have few friends, was resentful of controls and authority, had problems with peer relationships and the parent/child relationship. Hayden’s mom felt that he needed a good male role model.  His counselor stated he needed someone to encourage his confidence and help him learn how to communicate in a positive way.  

Tom and Hayden do all kinds of things together.  They shared pizza at Tom’s house and made blueberry jam.  They attended the Big Brothers Big Sisters cooking class at the Marquette Coop.  Hayden loves his match with Tom and so does his mom. Here’s what Hayden said about Tom: “I think that everything is going great and we’re having lots of fun.”

He describes Tom as, “fun, creative, funny, kind and cool.”  Hayden said that Tom gives him advice and it does help.  He said that he has changed since being matched, “in a good way.”  Hayden’s grades are much better.  His interest in school is much better.  He is getting along with everyone at home a little better.  His wanting to learn new things is much better.  Hayden’s mom reports that his confidence is much better.  She wants to see the match keep blossoming and said, “they are really great together!”


Community Action Alger Marquette

Sulo was referred to Meals on Wheels by his older sister living in Harvey.  Sulo is 76 and lives alone in Ishpeming in his own home with no supports.    We started him on meals the next day, and then asked if the local senior center were working with him and had assessed him.  The local senior center had attempted to get some services into his home, but Sulo refused both the help and the assessment.  The Meals on Wheels social work assessor called and made an appointment with him within a few days.  Our assessor found that Sulo had recently been released after three months in a long term care facility without any home help.  Our assessor found that Sulo does indeed qualify for Meals on Wheels, is a veteran, and had other needs such as someone to help with housekeeping, snow removal, and his home wasn’t adequate as he had no running water in the kitchen due to plumbing problems.  Sulo had actually gone outside with his walker to try to shovel snow.  Our friendly assessor talked Sulo into talking to the CAAM program for veterans, and the Marquette County Veterans officer to see if they could provide some help.  In addition, the assessor was able to make a referral for Sulo to CAAM’s Thome Grant to Keep Seniors Safe in the Home for some home repairs and to get a plow to clear out the built up icy snow in his driveway and sidewalks.  The local senior center was then able to come in once trust was developed and offer services such as regular snow shoveling, and some home making services.  Sulo now has running water in his kitchen, daily meals and a visit from his driver, snow shoveling and some cleaning services, and is working with Veterans agencies exploring further supports for him.


Cancer Care

December, 2016

To whom this may concern,

I do not know where I would be without the team and help from Cancer Care Of Marquette County. Cancer not only robs you of yourself emotionally, physically. It depletes you financially. They help lessen that burden, it makes less worry for my family, gives us time to heal together. You have been my saving grace. May God bless every single one of you who have been there for us.  Without your help, I would not be able to heal.

Sincerely, Tammy Hebert


Child & Family Services

Karen (not her real name) has been in peer recovery support services since March 2016. She successfully completed inpatient treatment through Great Lakes Recovery Centers, and is working at rebuilding her life. She has faced many obstacles during this time: health issues, homelessness, and unemployment. However, she has persevered, and is now in her own apartment, has been approved for MSHDA, and is working with Michigan Rehabilitation Services to find employment.

Karen left treatment with a small amount of cash and her clothes. United Way funds allowed me to assist her with the purchase of household items for her apartment, and to provide her with bus tickets to help her get around.

In Karen’s own words: “It really helped me out. I had nothing. No toilet paper, no cleaning supplies, nothing. It really helped me, especially having no income right now.


Girl Scouts

The Girl Scout slogan, which has been used since 1912, is "Do a good turn daily." The slogan is a reminder of the many ways girls can contribute positively to the lives of others. The following are impactful stories of Marquette area Girl Scouts K- High School doing a good turn in our community:

Breakfast with Santa is a yearly event hosted by Troops 5055 and 5101. The party is for the children from Harbor House. The girls plan the party including the menu, activities and decorations. They prepare breakfast for over 50 people. They make crafts with the kids. Santa comes to visit. This year the girls from Senior Troop 5101 provided music.


Decorating Christmas trees is a tradition at the Peter White Public Library. Our troops decided to create Giving Trees. The girls decorated their trees and asked for donations of new hats, mittens, scarves and socks. The donated items are then given to those in need.


Seventy two Christmas stockings were made from recycled material. A Beanie Baby and stuffed animal were placed in each one. The Christmas stockings were donated to residents at Brookridge Heights Assisted Living Facility.


Cookies for Our Heroes is an annual baking day attended by over 60 Girl Scouts who helped bake and package over 200 dozen cookies. The cookies are then delivered to local fire fighters, police officers and others who the girls recognize as a hero including veterans.


An annual event is to plant and maintain the four flower planters created by Girl Scouts at the intersection of US 41, M28 and Cherry Creek Road in Harvey. This year the girls also planted a memorial flower for their music teach who passed away shortly after retiring.



Great Lakes Recovery Center

Bridges is a good program that teaches kids patience and how to help others and not just themselves. Also, you get a strong connection with the senior and you make them your friends. You get to know them each week and then it begins to feel like family. The program promotes challenges, because you have to do crafts and stuff with your seniors and it feels good to accomplish the goals. It also teaches us about respect and to care for someone other than ourselves. I look forward to every Wednesday so I can go to bridges and hangout with my seniors.


Janzen House

Larry Salisbury moved into the Janzen House in October of 2015 and rents a room on the 3rd floor. He lived downstate but remembered attending college in the Upper Peninsula in the early 80's and increasingly felt that he wanted to relocate to this part of the state. Initially, he used shelter services in several different UP towns, and checked in to the Emergency Shelter Program at the Janzen House. When a room became available a short time later Larry began renting. Larry had many years of experience as a cook in the National Guard, and soon began applying the skills he had acquired in that service to the kitchens of the Janzen House. The Janzen House receives many donations of canned, dry, and frozen goods throughout the year-and Larry began systematically producing meals and events with the resources here. At a minimum, several times a week he puts together 3-6 course meals for his fellow renters, with an emphasis on making sure that the gentlemen who are currently using the shelter are encouraged and invited to enjoy the meal. On a regular basis, he inventories the items on hand and suggest to the Program Director what additional ingredients could be purchased to produce full meals with what is available.

Larry is an excellent example of an individual who uses the basic platform provided by a   facility like the Janzen organization to produce a tangible product out of potential. Larry's continuous work in the kitchen is unsolicited, but it is certainly encouraged by the Janzen organization. In the past 16 months, his endeavor has produced hundreds, potentially thousands, of delicious individual meals from the building blocks provided by the community, the Janzen House, and financial supports such as the United Way of Marquette.


Lake Superior Hospice

One of the most incredible opportunities we faced this year was with a woman and her husband.  They lived in a very modest, neat and clean trailer in southern Marquette County with their two dogs.  She worked various jobs until she could no longer work because of her health.  He too worked various part-time jobs, and was down to working only two days a week when she became ill.   Neither had any positions that afforded retirement or benefits.  They lived on the income he earned working two days a week.

When diagnosed with esophageal cancer, she had no insurance, but was able to secure insurance through the Market Place.  That insurance had an $11,000 deductible.  Although very independent, when it became evident that she could no longer remain home alone without him to help with medications, to assist if she fell, or help with ambulation, he needed to stay home but could not as they had no other source of income.

Lake Superior Hospice worked with Cancer Care of Marquette County and was able to assist so that he could be with her those two days a week during the last six weeks of her life.  The joy and thankfulness on his face when Lake Superior Hospice provided him a check for one week’s income, $250, from its patient care fund was amazement and gratitude.   One comment made was that “nobody has ever done anything like this for us before”.


Lake Superior Village Youth & Family Center

Wow, I can’t believe it has been ten years since the day that I walked into the Youth Center. It’s been such an amazing ride all the way through. I have learned so much being at this great program. From having staff members help me with my homework, to having my first interview as a LSV staff member. Being at this wonderful place, it has really changed my life not only as a student, but a person. During the journey, I have inspired kids to do good choices, such as informing kids to do great in school and to stay positive. After years of hard work and many hours of doing homework, I’ve finally graduated and now I attend college. Let me tell you something, I definitely wouldn’t have gone through high school to get where I am without the Youth Center. The staff members have taught me to stay focused and to never give up on achieving my goals. Thanks to them, I graduated high school with a 3.8 GPA and also working at one of the greatest programs that has ever been established.   -Trevor Buchanan



Lakestate Industries

John was born with Cerebral Palsy and was placed at the Newberry Institution at the age of 3.  He has lived in an institution or a group home setting since that time.  He lived at Bridgewood Central and  worked at Lakestate Industries in Escanaba during the late 1980’s and early 1990’s.  He enjoyed working and really enjoyed earning a paycheck.   For a number of reasons, he was moved from the group home in Escanaba to a group home in Marquette and after being moved around a number of times, he is now living in Gwinn at a group home. 

When Lakestate opened in Marquette in July 2013, John was one of the first people to be referred for services.  He was so excited to be working and earning a paycheck. His favorite job was shredding and he always looked forward to the days he worked.  Unfortunately, in March of 2015, Pathways had to make cuts and John was one of the people who lost his services at Lakestate.  John was heartbroken and the staff were sad to see him leave.  

Fortunately, because of United Way dollars, we have been able to have John return to work.  John was ecstatic to hear he could come back to work and the staff at his group home in Gwinn as well as the staff at Lakestate Industries are all very happy for him!  John feels productive and the fact that he is back working and earning a paycheck has given him self-confidence and self-worth.  He may have a difficult time communicating because of his Cerebral Palsy, but the smile on his face says it all! 



Marquette County Habitat for Humanity

In the spring of 2016 our affiliate was invited to set up a booth at the Community Baby Shower where our volunteer coordinator met Clayton and Tasha Lesatz.  They had their 4 year old son Evan and infant daughter Piper along with them.  The Lesatz’s were encouraged to fill out and return the pre-application, which they did almost immediately.

Clay works as one of the managers in a fast growing food co-op and Tasha is a stay at home mom.  The Lesatz family was living in one of the smallest 2 bedroom houses the Family Selection committee had ever seen.  Rent was $900 a month and was soon to be raised to $1,000. Because the appliances were old, the utility bills were very large.  The roof leaked where an old wood stove had been removed, allowing for mold to grow.  The porch floors sagged due to the wrinkled foundation and the furnace room was extremely hot.

Once the selection committee approved their application the Lesatz family was hard at work with their sweat equity.  As promised the rent was raised and to help save money, Tasha moved in with her mother in another part of the state, while Clay rented a room from some friends.  Even with Tasha away, she was able to accomplish putting in her required sweat equity hours on the weekends.  In January, the Lesatz family was able to move into their new, energy efficient affordable home, making 2017 a very happy new year!  


Negaunee Senior Center

One of our senior center board members, Jake, recommended a young man to the staff for a student worker position at our center. We had known Jake for a while, a single guy who had never married, who was a great cook and often brought his culinary creations to share at our board meetings. He was a pleasant, even-tempered man who always had an interesting story to tell. Jake knew this student, George, from his small hometown community.


About six months after George was hired and started working at the senior center, Jake was diagnosed with a terminal disease. Because he was a healthy, active guy, many of us were shocked. His health deteriorated rapidly, and soon we didn’t see him coming into the center anymore for cribbage, and he resigned his position on our board.

George and his father went to the hospital to see Jake while he was dying. George said it was the hardest thing he’d ever done, and even tried to get out of the trip because he didn’t know how he’d handle saying goodbye. But once he was there, Jake made it easy. The two friends talked and joked, and Jake, who never had any children, got to pass his words of advice on to George before he died. The bond between the two was strong, and George wore several items of Jake’s clothing to school in the weeks after his death. George and the staff still talk about Jake and remember him fondly; his influence on the young man can still be seen today.



Room at the Inn

Bill has been a guest of Room At The Inn on and off for six years.  He has been in and out of prison, and has had his moments of being barred from staying at the shelter.  He has always known, however, that he is welcome at the warming center.  The center has kept Bill connected to us when he was connected to nothing else.  During this time Bill has never expressed a desire for housing, nor has he ever expressed a desire to seek treatment for his alcoholism.  He acknowledges how his mindset prevents him from moving forward with his life, but he readily accepts responsibility for whatever consequences there are for his actions.  He has simply felt more comfortable on his own on the streets.

Last summer, for the first time, he approached us about helping him get into treatment.  He went.  He felt good when he came out, but was nervous about his ability to stay sober.  He lapsed, and returned to treatment.  This time, while he was in treatment, he talked about wanting to have his own place, safe from the temptations of familiar places and people.  We were able to connect Bill with the Welcome Home program from Lutheran Social Services, and Bill has been in his apartment since October.

The warming center has been a beacon of hope and stability for many of our current and former guests, as they know they will be welcomed here, with a hot meal waiting for them and someone to talk to if they need help.


Salvation Army – Ishpeming

Recently we had a mother of 8 children apply at our food pantry. She was struggling with food insecurity. She was a stay at home mother with no income, and although her husband had a job he suffered with a serious health condition, and would miss work because of it (unpaid). She had never been to a pantry before and was very concerned if she needed to pay for the food she was given. Our receptionist explained to her that it was free, and she was welcome to come once a month for additional food and other services.  The women started to cry telling our receptionist that it had been a very long time since anyone had been as kind as we were being to her, and she had been embarrassed to ask for help but was told by a friend to come to our pantry.  When the women left she had a smile on her face, and we knew we had made a small difference in one family’s life.


Superior Watershed Partnership

This story tells how Powell Township Schools sixth through eighth grade students became “water guardians” through the Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative program.

Sixth through eighth grade students at Powell Township Schools experienced a year-long project that started with salmon eggs in their classroom and ended up with building a small underwater robot to observe the hatched fish in their native habitats. Along the way, the students learned how to observe, assess and care for the rivers, streams and lakes that are intertwined with the Great Lakes.

Students learned about water quality, the life cycle of salmon, and their native streams and lakes. As the fish grew throughout the year, periodic lessons connected the students to their own environment and their impact on it. Salmon in the Classroom is a well-established educational program, but the grant helped expand it further in the community, like a local nature center and the Yellow Dog River ecosystem.

In the spring, students moved on to the next phase of their project; releasing the young salmon into a nearby river with the help of community members. Teachers began to see what they had hoped for: real engagement with the river, with the fish and with the environment. "They began to make connections between the fish we were putting in the river and their role in Lake Superior. The kids could identify the cold water, the perfect bottom and the clarity of the water as good places for the fish to survive,” said Kathy Wright, teacher.

Throughout the year, Powell Township students connected with all kinds of community groups and agencies, and were able to see the whole picture of their salmon project. A boat trip to Pictured Rocks got them out on Lake Superior, while closer to home, Yellow Dog Watershed Preserve helped with river testing and monitoring, and winter and spring lessons on fish and native plants.


The budding scientists also kept track of macroinvertebrate (aquatic insects), water quality and native plant data and uploaded it all to national databases to help other researchers. Students felt a sense of real accomplishment and contribution to their community, and had a greater understanding of how their actions impact their watershed.



Teaching Family Homes


Justin K. is a 16-year old youth from the UP. He’s a resident in the treatment programs at Teaching Family Homes and is expected to continue in the program for as much as two more years.

“When I got here, I had problems with honesty and impulse control. They taught me it’s ok to tell the truth and it’s easier to tell the truth. These programs helped me seeking employment, helping me with patience and communication. They’ve given me counseling and therapeutic help with programs. It’s helped me deal with frustrations and work through problems.”

“Opportunity to lead other youth and give them peer advice on how to do things better.”

“The ropes course is a great addition to Teaching Family Homes. It gives the kids a really good reason to get out of the house and work on skills like communication and leadership skills. You have to show others how to do things and you have to work as a team to get through the course.”

“These programs have helped me with healthy life habits and better coping skills.”


Women’s Center


“My son and I came to the Harbor House with only the clothes on our backs.  I was feeling defeated and worthless.  The advocates at the Harbor House worked with me day and night to get to where I wanted to be.  It wasn't easy, but I couldn't be more proud of where I am now.  I am employed, have my own vehicle and my son and I have our own apartment.  My son is thriving and I couldn’t be happier.  I couldn’t have done this without the help and support of the Women’s Center!!”



We all enjoy going to the YMCA. I’m so glad we are able to be a part of the Y family. It has been great seeing the kids develop healthier lifestyles that I wasn’t able to as a child. My daughter took swim lessons at the Y and also went swimming with the Y camp. The learning never stops! I have tried spin class, Zumba, Body Pump, and I really enjoy it. My son loves basketball and is planning on going to spin class with me. Our son isn’t as sick as he used to be. Now, he’s more active. He loves being in the water. He is learning how to swim! It helps relieve stress and develops good lifestyles for all of us. Our health has improved.