Bonnie’s Story

Thanks to Countless Program Partners

After Bonnie’s husband passed away, she found herself living on a fixed income, which was now about half as much. She suffers from a chronic illness and was living on her Social Security. She made the difficult decision to sell her home near Hesperia and purchase a substantially smaller one near Edmore. In theory, it would be cheaper to maintain and have lower energy costs. She was told by the seller a pellet burner, the only heating source in the house, would easily heat the entire home. She learned very early on that was not the case and ended up having to use supplemental plug-in electric heaters just to stay warm. This sent her electric bills skyrocketing and she found herself falling further and further behind on all her bills.

She was referred to TrueNorth by a Corewell Health worker and she was connected to our emPower program for Heat and Energy assistance and Self-Sufficiency services. Knowing the long-term solution was to have an actual propane, forced air furnace installed, the first step was to enroll her in an Affordable Payment Plan with Consumers Energy, to lower her overall electric bills. Luckily, it was the end of the cold season and this gave Bonnie and her Complex Care Advisor, Jessica, time to start looking for any other resources they could find to help pay for a new furnace, all while Bonnie saved money over the summer.

Jessica was able to connect with the Department of Health and Human Services for part of the cost of a new furnace, and with the money Bonnie had saved being on an affordable payment plan, she was able to have a new furnace installed before the next heating season.

“With all the help I got with my utilities and other things, I can definitely breathe easier… it’s made a substantial difference in my life,” said Bonnie.

TrueNorth Day of Giving

Dusti Finds Multiple Supports to Move Her Family Forward

“Being a single mom it’s definitely a lot harder,” says Dusti Tanner. “They were able to help me when I needed it the most…they go above and beyond.” For Dusti, being a part of multiple programs at TrueNorth Community Services has helped her and her family move forward on their paths to self-sufficiency.

Dusti first came to TrueNorth for housing assistance. After her rent became too expensive, she moved in with her parents as she looked to find more affordable housing. Dusti has recently given birth to her second child and is looking forward to finding her family’s new home.

Tools for School has also been a major help to Dusti and her family. Being able to come and receive assistance in multiple areas is both convenient and helpful. Besides the backpacks and school supplies, Dusti was also able to see what community resources are available for her and her family. Her son, Jackson, had a blast picking out his backpack, going in the bounce house and getting his teeth cleaned. Having a positive and encouraging atmosphere helped get Jackson excited about starting first grade this school year.

Dusti also has applied to receive a car seat for her new baby. The car seat she currently has is not the right size for her child. It is essential to have the correct size car seat for children to ensure their safety in case an accident occurs. Having the right kind of car seat will be a major help and relief for Dusti and her family.

Through her entire experience working with TrueNorth Dusti has remained determined. She continues to seek the resources her family needs and uses them to move her and her family forward. Dusti says, “I definitely appreciate it, it helped me more than I even imagined…It makes me feel like I am not necessarily alone.”

Winter Warmup Wednesdays

Diane Grows and Gives Back

“I have trouble getting out of the house, I don’t usually have a place to go or do anything,” says Community Connections’ participant, Diane. “I live by myself and it really helps me get out and meet new people to interact with them.”

Diane has been a part of multiple Community Connections programs at TrueNorth Community Services. Recently, she has been coming to a new initiative, Winter Warmup Wednesdays, that has given her opportunities to learn, connect and volunteer with others in the community.

Winter Warmup Wednesdays is a new initiative of Community Connections, bringing together community members during the cold winter months. Every Wednesday for the months of January and February people are welcomed to participate in a variety of events. Each Winter Warmup Wednesday features a fun physical activity, meal and conversation, volunteer activity and a learning opportunity with guest speakers.

Diane has come to multiple events to meet new people and foster the relationships she already has with returning participants. One of Diane’s favorite parts of Winter Warmup Wednesdays is volunteering and learning new things with others. Diane says, “That was one of my favorite things because we got to do stuff to help other people and still got to laugh and intermingle with other people we normally don’t see.”

From making soups and laundry soap for the TrueNorth Food Center, to learning how to protect herself from on-line scammers, and how to grow microgreens, Diane has felt both helpful and connected to others. Having these opportunities to grow and give back has given Diane new purpose.

Winter Warmup Wednesdays are made accessible to everyone in the community, ensuring people always feel welcomed. Diane appreciates this as she says, “Of course when you get older you can’t really go and do a whole lot but with something like this, they adapt it to where we can help and be able to do things that we wouldn’t otherwise know or be able to do.”

Being able to participate in meaningful activities with others has connected Diane to the community. Whether it be through volunteer projects and building relationships, or even just having more experiences at community spaces and businesses, Diane has flourished through the program.

There is still time for you to participate in Winter Warmup Wednesdays! There are two more events taking place on February 21 and February 28.  Join us next week Wednesday, February 21 for balance exercises, an enrichment presentation by Elizabeth Pitzer, fleece blanket making and brunch at the Moondance Café. Pick and choose which activities you want to participate in or come for the whole day. Everyone is kindly requested to pay for their own meals, but the rest of the activities are free of charge. We hope you will join us!

For more information on Winter Warmup Wednesdays or any of the Community Connections programming, please contact Riley Knight at rknight@truenorthservices.org or (231) 924-0641.

Youth Ambassador Named

Rylee’s Statewide Opportunity

The Michigan Afterschool Partnership (MASP) recruited and selected five youth to serve as Youth Ambassadors, to share their perspectives on afterschool programs, statewide. Each Youth Ambassador also receives a stipend of $500 after their participation in the program, which runs for six months, from December 2023 to May 2024. One of the five students selected, was 13-year-old eighth grader from White Cloud Junior High School, Rylee Reisinger, who attends our Out-of-School Time Program, Project FOCUS Rural Grit.  

MASP Youth Afterschool Ambassadors receive training on being afterschool advocates; learning how to effectively communicate their afterschool experiences with elected officials, media, and others in leadership positions, and how to use their afterschool stories to advocate for change. As part of their ambassadorship, Youth Ambassadors will participate in virtual training focused on state-level policy and funding, and how to talk to legislators. As Youth Ambassadors, students will host legislative visits to their programs, and on May 9, 2024, which is MASP Capitol Day, youth will have the opportunity to travel to Lansing and meet with legislators on the lawn.

“A month ago, Mrs. Krbez (Project FOCUS Rural Grit Site Coordinator) told us about the MASP Youth Afterschool Ambassador Program,” said Rylee. “She asked who was interested, and encouraged us to apply if we were interested in being the voice of the Afterschool program. Not to mention the great opportunity it would bring to our community and school.” As she plans to continue her education in Early Childhood and open her own daycare center someday, Rylee thought she’d give the application a try and applied. After filing out the online application, which included a brief essay about her experiences with the TrueNorth Project FOCUS Rural Grit program, she waited almost a month to hear back.

“Rylee came into the room jumping up and down, shouting ‘I got it! I got it!’“ said Mandi Krbez. “I don’t know who was more excited, but I do know she’ll make an excellent Ambassador. This is a real honor for her, our program here at White Cloud, and for TrueNorth!”

Way to go Rylee!

 

 

 

The Joy of the Season

Thanks to Countless Supporters

Our Children’s Christmas Programs has been a continuing legacy of providing hope and joy to local families since its inception in 1952. This year, we held our annual distribution event from December 11th through December 15th where individuals were able to self-select gifts for their kids. Children received a game, toy, art supplies, a hat and gloves, socks, and a book, among other gifts.

We continued to serve a handful of families after the official distribution dates, and in the end, 1,997 children, representing nearly 1,000 families, were able to experience the joys of Christmas. 

This event is heavily supported by the community, with 131 volunteers contributing over 575 hours between setting up the room, and distributing the gifts. Besides the great volunteer support, the community also gave generously to support the program and local families. Overall, the program was supported by over 200 donors and the Keith Johnston Memorial Fund at the Fremont Area Community Foundation, making total contributions nearing $35,000.

“I think it is 100% important, especially for single-moms and children that are less fortunate,” says Children’s Christmas Programs participant and mother of three, Stephanie, about the impact the program has had on her and her family. “I’m not having to worry about having Christmas for my kids.”

Hundreds of families just like Stephanie’s were able to celebrate the season without added worries, thanks to the support from the community, local organizations, and volunteers. 

A Mentor’s Impact

A Mentor’s Impact

“Amazing,” that’s the word fifteen-year-old mentee Kyrin used to describe her relationship with her mentor Kathy. Being matched for over a year now, both have grown as individuals and in their friendship.

Kyrin and Kathy are an active match. They both enjoy spending time outdoors and having new experiences together. One of Kyrin’s most memorable moments with Kathy so far was going kayaking together for the first time. While Kyrin likely would not have done this on her own, she felt safe doing that” with Kathy even though “it’s out of [her] comfort zone.”

Not only has Kathy helped Kyrin feel comfortable trying new things, but Kyrin has also done the same for Kathy. Kyrin enjoys hobby horsing and even makes her horses herself. Sharing her hobby with Kathy has made her more confident in expressing herself and her interests. Kyrin has also introduced Kathy to real horses at her grandparents’ home, something Kathy would have never done without Kyrin.

“What I’ve enjoyed most is seeing life through Kyrin’s eyes,” says Kathy. “Not only have we mentored each other but we have also established a friendship.” Kathy and Kyrin have built a solid foundation of trust in their relationship. Kyrin is very honest and feels comfortable sharing her feelings with Kathy. Having this safe space with Kathy has increased Kyrin’s confidence overall.

Kathy loves having those moments when she and Kyrin can talk freely together. Whether they are hiking, hobby horsing or doing anything else together, the mutual trust they have has allowed both of them to grow. Kyrin knows that she can come to Kathy with anything, and she’ll be happy to listen.

“It’s made me feel a lot better because being like a teenager, you feel like you have no one to talk to,” says Kyrin about spending time with Kathy. “You feel like you’re always on your own, like no one’s ever there for you. It’s nice to actually have someone that’s like ‘yeah let’s go hang out.’”

Having Kathy to talk to and spend time with has positively impacted Kyrin’s life. Both Kathy and Kyrin are looking forward to continuing their relationship and being able to grow older together.

January is National Mentoring Month, highlighting the importance of youth like Kyrin being connected to dependable role models like Kathy. 

You can be a role model for area youth just like Kyrin. Find out more about mentoring by contacting Serena Lafferty at slafferty@truenorthservices.org.

Peace of Mind

Provided to Dolly Through LifeLink

87 year old Dolly lives alone in a second floor walk-up condo. She is very independent, but after having a knee replacement, and a recent development and diagnosis of fibromyalgia, her three children worried about her safety.

Her two daughters live almost 30 minutes, and her son, over 3 hours away. They all want to allow their mother to live as independently as she wants to for as long as she is able and capable of. About ten years ago, her son signed her up for a medical alert system. Feeling she didn’t need it, Dolly never wore the unit, so after one year, they discontinued the service. 

A couple of years ago, after Dolly’s knee replacement, she realized her mobility was compromised. She purchased a chair lift system to safely take her from her ground-level garage to her condo, but her front door was still a separate long flight of stairs up and down. Her son, who lives in Newaygo County, learned of TrueNorth’s LifeLink system which can be worn and used anywhere, even while traveling. Dolly agreed the time had come to be diligent about using the system.

“What I love about it is I can wear the pendant anywhere I go, and I know help is only one push of a button away,” said Dolly. “I can still go to the grocery store or church or the hair stylist… it doesn’t interfere with anything I need to do. Then, when I’m in my home, I switch to the lighter unit – I always have one or the other on.”

Her children feel a much greater peace of mind knowing their mother has help always readily available in case of an emergency. Dolly’s unit even has “fall detection” on, so if she falls and is unable to push the button, the system will still activate.  

Susan’s Family Finds Hope

Through Children’s Christmas Programs

For single-mother Susan, the upcoming Christmas season is not the time of joy she hoped for. She recently lost her job and is struggling to find flexible full-time work where she can still take care of her eleven-year-old daughter Allie and pay all of the bills. Susan is dreading the holidays because she worries about the stress her family’s situation is having on Allie and wants to give her a sense of normalcy.

Due to compassionate supporters like you, Susan will participate in TrueNorth’s Children’s Christmas Programs. Susan is thrilled to have the opportunity to pick out gifts she knows Allie will love. She will select a game, toy, art supplies, a hat and gloves, socks and a book among other gifts for Allie to open on Christmas.

Susan says that she tries to teach gratitude to Allie and encourages her to always look on the bright side, but this year it is challenging for both of them to remain positive. She expresses how overwhelmingly thankful she is to know that despite their financial struggles this year, Allie will carry the joyful memory of this Christmas for years to come thanks to kindhearted supporters like you.

When Allie opens her gifts on Christmas, she will have both the joy of receiving the gifts her mother picked for her while also knowing she lives in a community that cares. Because of your generosity, Allie and Susan will be able to celebrate Christmas without worrying about their situation.

You can help families just like Susan’s by making a gift to TrueNorth’s Children’s Christmas Programs. Through your support, you can lighten the hearts of thousands of local children just like Allie in our community. 

With the rising cost of living, more and more families need your help. Many do not have the means to make ends meet, let alone celebrate the season. But through your gift, you can inspire hope, joy and love in our children.

You can make a real difference in the lives of our children and their families. Make a generous gift today and bring joy and stability to the children in our community. Gifts can be made by clicking right here.

 

Patrick and Anthony

Mentoring Adventure

Patrick and Anthony were matched in July of 2023. Although they have been matched for a short time, they have gone on many different adventures together. One of their excursions included Patrick taking Anthony on a day trip to Camp Newaygo. Patrick has worked in the camping industry for the past 10 years, and he wanted Anthony to experience the wonderful atmosphere camp has to offer. Their day at camp included archery, fire building, s’mores and tie-dying. When making a fire, Anthony and Patrick started from scratch. Anthony was able to learn the patience and skills it takes to build a fire, and how rewarding it can be, especially if it results in s’mores! Anthony was also able to problem solve, when it came time to make tie-dye shirts for his mom, himself, and Patrick. During archery Anthony was reminded not everything has to be a competition. When he stepped back, took his time, and had fun, he impressed Patrick by making a bullseye on one of the targets. Anthony’s day at camp was a huge success.

Over the past few months, Patrick and Anthony have also built a wagon, sat front row at The SpongeBob Musical, and even tried freeze-dried skittles together. We can’t wait to see what other adventures they go on in the future. As a mentor, Patrick has a huge impact on Anthony. He is able to be there to help Anthony process things that are going on at school, as well as in his personal life. However, Anthony has also had a huge impact on Patrick. Patrick says he is really impressed by Anthony’s abilities, and he continues to learn new things from him;

“My goal is for Anthony to do things that he wants to do, but also challenge him to tap into other potential that he has. He is capable of more than he knows”.

We are so thankful for our mentors, like Patrick, who take time to impact our kids’ lives. These mentors create a safe environment and encourage our youth to try new things. If you are interested in becoming a mentor, we would love to add you to our team of volunteers. Contact Serena Lafferty, slafferty@truenorthservices.org or (231) 924-0641, ext. 174, for more information.

TrueNorth & emPower

A Long History of Utility Assistance

emPower kicked off their 2023-2024 program year October 1st thanks to a $11.2 million grant from the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) awarded for the Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) to ensure the most vulnerable in the state stay warm and safe. This program has a long history with TrueNorth, as some form of utility assistance and self-sufficiency services have been offered since our inception in 1972. We began the Northwest Michigan Rural Partnership in 2004 as the lead agency in delivering heat and energy assistance to rural counties in Michigan, and expanded to a 34-county service area with the birth of our emPower Division in 2012. We expanded our service area to 64 counties in 2014, and went state-wide, serving all 83 beginning in 2016.

“Our emPower Division with its myriad services, provides a wide-range of support for Michigan’s low-income populations,” said Marissa Boerman, our new emPower Division Director. “Everything from one-time financial assistance for families who have gotten behind on their utility payments, to working with our utility companies to set people up with Affordable Payment Plans, and a broad spectrum of self-sufficiency services, including our Complex-Care services which we began in 2017.”

This long history, our innovative programming and top-notch staff have made us a recognized leader in our field, and the model for service delivery, particularly in rural counties, which encompasses most of Michigan. With cost-of-living increases continuing to skyrocket, the services and assistance our emPower Division offer are needed now, more than ever. We continue to see record numbers of Michigan residents reaching out for help, and our emPower staff of nearly 100, spread out over the entire state, stand ready to help. Visit our website for more information at helpforheat.com.