Agency Stories

Alzheimer’s Association

Testimonial from Social Worker

A caregiver was referred to me by the admissions coordinator of an assisted living/memory care facility in Marquette. He had been providing care for his wife for the past four years. She was diagnosed with dementia after visiting several doctors. They live in an apartment complex in town. She had many behaviors including wandering, delusions, paranoia and many physical health concerns, including incontinence, trouble walking/dressing/eating/sleeping. Needless to say, he was very burned out and overwhelmed. He contacted the facility for a respite stay for his wife, but was very hesitant and leery about it. He did not think she would do well and would try to run away or become very angry.

I contacted him after the referral and we sat down and talked about his family and wife, along with his caregiving experiences. He reported that in the past three to four years, he lost over 30 pounds, had a difficult time sleeping (he slept on the floor next to his wife to make sure she did not fall out of bed), and was ignoring his own health concerns. After speaking, he decided to go through with the respite stay for his wife. I was able to connect him to the Alzheimer's Association respite scholarship of $500 to offset the cost of respite, which is very expensive (over $1,000). The caregiver was so thankful for this and it really helped in his decision to have his wife stay for respite. After using the respite services, the caregiver realized that he could not take care of his wife 24/7 any longer, and with the help of this social worker, the Alzheimer's Association, and the respite facility, his wife is now a permanent resident there. He feels much more support from many other agencies in the community including the VA, UP Home Health and Hospice, and the Alzheimer's Association. He simply needed to make one call to me and we were able to connect him and his wife to the necessary services. "I can't believe how much has been done for us in such a short period of time. I am so thankful."


Bay Cliff Health Camp

Name of Camper:  Kalli Gustitis, Negaunee MI  Age 16

Kalli is an enthusiastic 17 year old girl from Negaunee, MI. This was Kalli’s fifth summer at Bay Cliff and her first in the Teen Program. Besides being the Teen Program, Kalli received Speech therapy while at Bay Cliff. Kalli's mom Katie shared, "Kalli loves being at camp, and especially enjoyed the teen program. She is always happy to spend the summer with her friends. At school she can sort have feel like the underdog, but at camp she learns new skill and that she has things to offer to. Her self-confidence is always improved and that makes a big difference. She loves going.” Kalli worked hard not just in therapy, but on her teen jobs as well.


Big Brothers Big Sisters - Client Story

Yesterday a mom called our office to enroll her son in our program.  I asked her why she thought her son needed a Big Brother. She said, “His Dad was arrested on Friday and is incarcerated.  He is going to get up to 15 years in prison.  My son saw his dad every other weekend and now he is not going to see him.”  She added, “My older son has a Big Brother and it has made a world of difference.  I have nowhere else to turn for help with my sons.  I know I can turn to Big Brothers Big Sisters.”

Her older son’s name is David and he is matched with Bill.  They have been matched for two years and see each other every week.  They do a variety of confidence and skill building activities.  Bill has taken him to Hunter’s Safety and they go to the shooting and archery ranges.  David has learned how to menu plan and cook.  Since being matched, he now gets A’s and B’s and his Big sends him congratulatory cards.  David’s mom said Bill has played a crucial role in David’s life.  When it was David’s birthday, Bill was out of town, but he made sure to send him a card and a gift.  David’s Dad did not contact him on his birthday.


Community Action Alger Marquette

Meals on Wheels Client Story 2018

Mike is a younger senior with physical and mental health issues living in a local subsidized housing unit and a Meals on Wheels client. Meals on Wheels has been serving Mike for about 8 months.  During this time the drivers have observed that Mike is lonely, depressed, and living with some overwhelming medical concerns that make it difficult to socialize.  His medical conditions also do not seem to be addressed.

We sent a social worker in to check on Mike, and referrals were made from there.  Mike needed to be hospitalized for his medical condition, and was then released to a nursing home for further recovery.  Once Mike is released back to his home, home health will be making regular visits, along with resuming Meals on Wheels.  In addition, plans are in place to provide him with a friendly phone visitor from RSVP when he is home.


Child & Family Services

Last October a sibling group of six was placed in a foster home.  The oldest was twelve with the youngest five.  The children came into care with only what they were wearing.  Both foster parents worked and child care was needed for three of the children.  The foster mom and the caseworker accessed many community resources to locate some of the needed clothing, school supplies, and snow clothes.

The immediate need of a change of clothes, undergarments, socks, etc. needed to be purchased immediately.  This left very little to no funding for school supplies and additional clothing.   Jackets and hats were located through donations.  Clothing vouchers from local resale stores were utilized; not all needs could be met.  The grocery bill took all the foster parents additional money.  The stress on the family was great and the children's behavior was very difficult.  There were several times the placement almost fell apart.  School became an issue and meetings with the teachers were frequent.  Overtime and as support payments began, DHHS daycare payments began, and the household's stressors leveled out the children's behavior evened out.  If additional funding had been available, the transition would have been much smoother.  The transitional stress would have been reduced, and the foster parents would have had an easier time managing the initial children's behavior.  While this is a bit of an A typical situation being most sibling groups are smaller, the needs of the children coming into care and the stress of meeting those needs are common.  An extra $200 for food or clothing would have gone a long way in providing for the home.  In the end, the care of the children is our goal.


Girl Scouts

Girl Scouts opens doors to travel adventures! This leads to opportunities girls otherwise may not have a chance to experience. Ishpeming and Negaunee Girl Scouts and their leaders, set their sights west and found the Great Lakes Aquarium in Duluth as a destination.

They began planning logistics and preparing a budget.  Their Cookie Program earnings together with United Way support helped make the weekend trip affordable for all eighty participants. A stop at the Ashland Visitor Center was a bonus.

Walking through those Aquarium doors; the excitement shown on the girl’s faces was electrifying. They were given behind the scenes looks at food preparation, water filtration, and even fed the otters. It was estimated that close to 90% of the girls had not been on a trip like this before. They learned about the life of an aquarium, about life on the road! In a word from the girls? AWESOME!


Janzen House

Julian Garcia arrived at the Janzen House in November 2017 and is currently residing in the Emergency Shelter Program.  Two years ago, Julian set out on a quest to go from coast to coast on his bicycle.  This was well until he ran into two setbacks in Luce County: First, his bicycle broke down and second, he encountered the early winter weather of the Upper Peninsula.  Luce County officials arranged to have Julian transported to the Janzen House because of the unique services we offer.

Julian has been very successful at our facility.  He took advantage of the platform we offer to individuals who are experiencing homelessness and was soon in the kitchen cooking for himself and others.  He helped staff at the Janzen move the belonging of several individuals who were moving. He enjoys walks around Marquette, and the scenery of the area.  He states that the personality and perspectives of the people he has encountered through the Janzen House will have a lifelong impact on him.

During his bike trip, which began in New Mexico, he lost all forms of identification, and contact with his family.  With assistance from Janzen staff and NMU BSW interns, he has re-acquired all forms of I.D. and has been able to enjoy numerous phone calls with his father and brother.  In addition, he has been able to access medical, vision and dental care for the first time in years.  Julian continues to cook for everyone daily, and has begun the process of locating employment, planning to move to his own room, and repairing his bike.  Of course, he reminds us that when the conditions are right, he will think fondly of us as he once again heads towards the East Coast.


Lake Superior Hospice

When we first met Edgar and admitted him to hospice, he lived alone at home in Marquette.  Despite his diagnosis of six months or left to live, Edgar always maintained a positive attitude.  He said, “Never worry about things you can’t change.  If you can’t change them, then why worry?”

Edgar, originally from Estonia, joined the Estonian army at a young age.  When he learned that the Russian army would take over the Estonian army, and he would become a part of the Russian (Red) army, he and two buddies decided to cross the border and believed they would get taken in and protected by the Germans.  Instead they were taken as prisoners of war and sent to a POW camp in Germany.   As he tells it today, Edgar keeps the attitude that things will always get better, and “it will be that way until the day I die”.

When Edgar was released after being in a POW camp, he hadn’t seen his wife in eight months.   Things did get better.  When he returned home his wife introduced him to their two-month old baby.  Unable to stay in Estonia because he was a deserter in the Red Army, they moved to Germany, where he met a few American POWs—and became friends with one whose parents sponsored him coming to America.  Edgar and his family has lived in Marquette since 1949.

Edgar has maintained this positive attitude.   Recently he lost his sight and moved from his home to an assisted living facility, but he still remains positive.  If there are things you can’t change, “…then why worry?”


Lakestate Industries

“Lakestate Industries has changed my daughter’s life. Working at a job is a natural part of life for adults. This important job has helped my daughter feel more “abled” than “disabled” by showing her she has the same value as other working adults. Earning her own paycheck makes her feel successful and accomplished. She is surrounded by job coaches who help train her and ensure her success. This program is extraordinary.” – LSI Parent


Marquette County Habitat for Humanity

In August of 2017 we received an application for our Homeowner Occupied Repairs program from Michelle Zimmerman.  Michelle has MS, is wheelchair bound and lives alone.  Michelle requested that MCHFH renovate her bathroom to make it accessible.  Her current shower was a step in shower with about a 4” lip.  She had to use a slide board to get from her wheelchair to her shower chair, oftentimes falling in the process.  When she fell, she couldn’t get herself up and would have to call (and wait) for help.

MCHFH was able to help Michelle by taking some space from her bedroom closet to put in an accessible shower that Michelle can wheel her shower chair into.  Her shower head is also accessible.  It is on a slide so it can be low for Michelle or at a standard height for guests.

Michelle is thrilled that she can continue with independent living because of the renovation to her bathroom by the MCHFH Homeowner Occupied Repairs program.


Superior Watershed Partnership

On October 6, 2017, United Way funds helped to support a trip for 45 Marquette Alternative High School students to Presque Isle Park. At the park, students worked with Superior Watershed Partnership staff to improve Lake Superior coastal habitat by planting 286 native red and white pine transplants. Students learned that native tree species and healthy coastal habitats are important to Lake Superior nearshore water quality. By planting the trees, students were helping to capture and slow the flow of urban runoff including sediments, nutrients, pathogens, and pollutants prior to entering Lake Superior.  In total, the tree planting event is expected to capture 16,874 gallons of untreated urban runoff prior to entering the lake each year. Following the event, Marquette Alternative High School teacher Brian Prill noted “we all had a great time, and I am sure that this is an experience that will be with my students as they grow and watch those trees grow.”



Women’s Center

Lisa (alisa) arrived at our shelter a broken skeleton of a woman via a law enforcement patrol car.  She had been both emotionally and physically abused by her spouse for years and this time she was only seconds away from losing her life to strangulation from her husband.  It was a neighbor that heard Lisa’s initial cries for help and the scuffle that was happening behind the closed door while out for her morning walk.  On the way back home, the neighbor still heard a struggle and decided to make a call that saved Lisa’s life.  When law enforcement arrived, Lisa was crawling to the door, battered and beaten, blood flowing from under her hair and strangulation marks on her neck while her perpetrator still screamed obscenities at her.  Law enforcement sought medical attention for Lisa and brought her directly to our shelter.  The first couple of weeks that Lisa resided with us at the Harbor House were filled with doctor appointments and wellness checks.  Lisa began working through her trauma in sessions both at Harbor House and at local therapist’s office.  We can remember Lisa saying to us “that it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, he could have killed me… He would remove his hands from my throat just as I thought it was over.  He did this again and again.”  It took months of intense conversations with Lisa to help her understand exactly what she had been through and just how severe what had happened to her was.  We worked with her to obtain safe and sustainable housing upon departure of Harbor House and encouraged her to utilize our outreach services and support groups.  We still see Lisa from time to time and at this point, she is unrecognizable from the woman she was when she entered shelter.