Empty Bowls Success

Attendees Enjoy Hot, Delicious Soups!

On Thursday, October 6th and Friday, October 7th, Empty Bowls made a triumphant return to traditional in-house, sit-down events. The Thursday event took place at the TrueNorth Service Center and the Friday event at the Commission on Aging in White Cloud.

Attendees enjoyed a wide variety of soups and bread provided by local establishments including The Blind Squirrel, and Moon Dance Cafe in Fremont, Old Iron Bar & Grill in Grant, Northern Trails Bar & Grill, and Camp Newaygo’s own Ridge Specialties Catering in Newaygo, and The Shack in White Cloud. The conversation was lively, the fellowship friendly, and the soups hot and delicious.

At the Fremont event, people made purchases of bulk food items to stock our pantry and ended up buying enough to stuff 15 shopping carts. At the White Cloud event, they filled another 3 carts for a grand total of 18 carts; beating our goal of 12 carts. In total this brought in $2,331 in donations. Overall, the two events raised $23,453 in support of our Hunger Prevention Programs.

Jubilee Concert

50th Anniversary Concert Slated for October 23rd

Bernadine Johnson, who has been involved with TrueNorth’s Cultural Programming since she moved to Fremont in the early 1970’s is organizing another free Sunday Concert we are calling the Jubilee Concert, to celebrate our 50th anniversary.

Over the years, in addition to her work with the Madrigal dinner concerts and the Newaygo County Piano Teachers Association’s slate of programs and events, Bernadine has organized and headlined several Birthday Concert Series events celebrating the music of great composers. For the Jubilee Concert, she is bringing back several local favorites and has asked a few newcomers to offer up musical selections. Those scheduled to perform include; Leslie Anderson, Shaunna Baker, Jack Brooks, Cassie Luchies Dalton, Mick Hanna, Thea Hoekman, Jean Howarth, April Keith, Chris and Jill Kuebler, Gabriel Malone, Christina Tuls, Jim Webb, Kirk and Alexandra Weller, and of course, Bernadine Johnson herself.

The concert will have something for everyone, from pianists and vocalists, to cellists and singer/songwriters. “We are so thrilled to have Bernadine work her magic for us, once again as she brings together a wide variety of talents for this concert,” said our CEO, Bev Cassidy. The FREE concert will take place at the TrueNorth Service Center on Sunday, October 23, starting at 3 pm. Light refreshments including cake will be served.

Fall Youth Programs Begin

Out-of-School Time Sites Kickoff for the Year

Along with the beginning of a new school year also comes the start of a new programming year for our Out-of-School Time (OST) Programs; Engage!, Project FOCUS, and REACH. TrueNorth offers OST Programs in Baldwin, Hart, Hesperia, Holton, Muskegon Heights, Walkerville, and White Cloud, and each program has kicked off the new year in BIG ways! Check out all of the fun things happening for area youth.

Programming has included lessons surrounding:Choosing happiness; Being kind; Showing respect to others; Embracing unique differences; Spreading positivity; The Constitution; Controlling emotions; Season changes; Michigan Frogs; Safety; and STEAM Projects. The program also has offered interactive activities including: Fall arts and crafts; Scavenger hunts; Team building; Fall movies; Paper airplanes; College and career exploration; Nature hikes; Guest speakers; Obstacle courses; and more!

Prior to the 2022-2023 programming kick off, OST staff attended the Happiness Advantage/Orange Frog workshop which is designed to increase engagement, build resilience, and spread optimism within youth. The workshop focuses on the parable, The Orange Frog, who learns to embrace his differences and spread the “orange” way to live. Through doing so, he creates a positive ripple effect with his frog peers. Being orange is open to all, so staff have been implementing Orange Frog principles within their weekly programming, which in turn is infusing positive practices into their personal habits, school routines, and the entire school environment.

Cheers to 50 Years!

Celebration of TrueNorth’s 50th Anniversary

Last week community members, agency partners and supporters joined in celebration of TrueNorth’s 50th Anniversary! The evening event consisted of delicious appetizers, yummy drinks and a lively interactive trivia style game show. Attendees will long remember the fellowship, laughter and enjoyable evening, and hopefully some TrueNorth facts too!

The room was bustling with good fun and competitive nature as teams strived to dominate the leaderboard. The trivia consisted of a variety of formats, including video and audio; and even included a trivia break for a dance off! With both participation prizes, and prizes for the winning team, fun was had by all. What a great way to celebrate 50 Years!

Summer Trip to the U.P.

Parks in Focus students experience the outdoors

Parks in Focus is an outdoor-based group-mentoring program, utilizing curriculum provided by the Udall Foundation. Run by our TrueMentors division, the purpose of Parks in Focus is to connect youth to nature through photography. Outings of various lengths take youth to Michigan State Parks, Public Lands and National Parks.

Parks in Focus recently wrapped up their summer 2022 Immersion Trip to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. Eleven youth enjoyed five days of photography, hiking, exploring and adventure! The group visited the Seney National Wildlife Refuge, Beaver Basin, Sable Point, Miner’s Castle, a Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore sunset cruise, and much more.

“Parks in Focus provides Newaygo County youth with new experiences such as camping, hiking, and photography,” said Danielle Siegel, our Youth Programs Director. “Connecting youth to the outdoors is more important than ever and the memories they make will last a lifetime.”  

reception for students and their families (which is open to the community), showcasing the students’ photos is scheduled for Tuesday, September 20th at 5:30 PM, at the TrueNorth Service Center in Fremont. The photos will also be on public display here on Wednesday, Sept. 21st during our normal business hours.

Empty Bowls is Back!

Support our Hunger Prevention Programs

Our Empty Bowls luncheon is our area’s premier hunger prevention fundraiser and collects a great deal of much-needed financial support for TrueNorth’s Hunger Prevention efforts. After two years of pandemic disruption, we are very excited to move this event to its original, sit down format this year.

Attendees will receive delicious soup, bread, and dessert, all donated by a number of local restaurants and caterers, and a one-of-a-kind, hand-decorated bowl to remind them of all the empty bowls in and around Newaygo County. Bowls are made, and/or decorated by local students, artists, and volunteers.

“We’re looking forward to having everyone back in the building this year,” said Mark Kraus, TrueNorth’s Development Director. “We know half the fun of this event is getting to sit down with our friends, neighbors and co-workers over a bowl, or two (or three!) of delicious hot soup!” We will also be bringing back our Stuff the Carts portion of the event this year, which affords attendees the opportunity to purchase bulk quantities of food staples for the food pantry. In past years, this part of the event has raised thousands and thousands of dollars!

The dates for the two Empty Bowls events are; Thursday, October 6 from 11:30 am until 1:30 pm at the TrueNorth Service Center in Fremont, and Friday, October 7 from 11:30 am until 1:30 pm at the Commission on Aging in White Cloud.

Community Connection – a Place to Call Home

TrueNorth: a Lifesaver

Carla was homeless in Muskegon, and had spent a good deal of time in shelters there. As she put it, “I was in there so many times, everyone got to know me.” With encouragement from her church family, who didn’t want to see her on the streets or in a homeless shelter any more, she relocated to Oceana County, where she stayed in an attic bedroom of a church member’s house. Eventually,
with the help of one of our Housing Resource Specialists, Amy, she found a studio apartment to call her own, through our Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) Program. PSH is a housing program for people who are chronically homeless; people who are sleeping someplace not meant for human habitation, tent, car, outside, shelter, etc., homeless for 12 consecutive months, or 12 months in a 3
year period.

Amy met with Carla a few times to complete applications for apartments. While doing case management, Amy was contacted by a local landlord who had two units open. They talked to Carla and let her pick which one would work best for her, which ended up being a first floor studio apartment. Amy says when they first toured the unit, Carla did a little twirl when they said she could have it. Carla is paying a portion of her rent, and the PSH program covers the rest. Carla is
learning to budget her money and save. Carla has also started volunteering at a nearby LOVE Inc. restore, and has definitely become a member of the local community. She said TrueNorth was a lifesaver and she would “recommend anybody to TrueNorth!”

Jubilee Concert Announced

Bernadine Johnson to Headline Concert for TrueNorth’s 50th

When Bernadine Johnson first moved to Fremont in 1973, she was hoping a music education position would become available. When that didn’t happen,
she started a piano studio offering private lessons and never looked back. A few years after her move to the area, she met Rev. Gene Cotton, TrueNorth’s
first Executive Director. Gene asked her to join the Music Scholarship Committee, a precursor to what would eventually become the Music Enhancement
Committee. Through this committee, she helped organize and run the annual Music Scholarship Contest, and Music Clinics. Bernadine also served
on the Fine Arts Committee, and is known for bringing the Madrigals to Newaygo County.

When Thea Hoekman, another private piano instructor in the area suggested the start of a local piano teacher’s forum, Bernadine was quick to agree, with TrueNorth being the obvious home of the newly formed Newaygo County Piano Teachers Association (NCPTA). Utilizing the 1912 Steinway piano Bessie Slautterback secured all the way back in 1952, the NCPTA ran the First Friday Piano Showcases for local students, annual Piano Clinics, summer Piano Camps, Sonata / Sonatina Festivals, and another of Bernadine’s creative ideas; The
Birthday Concert Series. These annual concerts celebrated the music of famous composers in the year of significant birthdays, and featured many local performers and occasionally students.

In 2004, Bernadine joined other NCPTA and community members in an effort to raise money needed to completely renovate the Steinway, starting with the Save the Steinway concert. In 2017, she organized a 20th Anniversary Birthday
Concert featuring performers and selections from each of the previous year’s concerts. For the 2022 concert, Bernadine has a list of performers she hopes to feature, many of whom have performed at past concerts. Details on who will be performing, themes, and name of the concert are still in the works, but we know the date – Sunday, October 23. At the insistence of an old friend, Bernadine has also committed to perform a solo piece on the piano.

“I’ve been so thrilled by my time here. I’ve made so many friends and have had the opportunity to perform with, and alongside such talented people, many of whom are no longer with us; Ted Havemen, Chuck Witteveen, Roger Marshall, Phyllis Jansma… These things all started, not only as a need to use my musical talents but also as a gift to a community that has been the biggest blessing to me. And this place, NCCS / TrueNorth has been such a blessing to so many people in so many ways. I’ve had the best life here…”

Yes, Soup For You!

The return of Empty Bowls

Empty Bowls is back and better than ever! The signature fundraising event for TrueNorth’s Hunger Prevention Programs will be held on Thursday, October 6th at the TrueNorth Service Center in Fremont and Friday, October 7th at the
Commission on Aging in White Cloud. “After a two-year pivot away from our traditional, in person soup luncheon, we are happy to be able to come
together again,” said Community Liaison and Development Director Mark Kraus.

Thousands of households in and around Newaygo County suffered from food insecurity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the struggle continues
today. TrueNorth’s onsite and mobile food pantry usage has increased sharply in recent months. “We are seeing numbers surpass the levels we saw in 2020. Food prices are up, gasoline is expensive and our neighbors are feeling it,” said Kraus.

Due to the twofold impact of high prices and increased need, the success of Empty Bowls is critical this year. “We hope to raise $20,000 this year, but it may not be enough,” warned Kraus. The community can help fight hunger by attending
and/or sponsoring the event. Attendees can sample a variety of soups and stews provided by local restaurants and caterers. Each person will also take home a hand painted bowl to remind them of all the “empty bowls” in our community.

50 Years Strong

TrueNorth’s geographic growth

Though TrueNorth’s main office is tucked in the middle of a corn field in rural Fremont, people may be surprised to learn our programs and services span far and wide. Our housing programs provide service in Lake, Mason, Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana Counties; Out-of-School Time Programs serve Lake,
Muskegon, Newaygo and Oceana counties; and our largest program geographically, emPower, covers all 83 counties across Michigan.

Even with a widespread service area, TrueNorth stays true to our roots. We’ve been a consistent voice, and rural expert at the table, both regionally and nationally. As Kate Kesteloot-Scarbrough, TrueNorth Board President put it, “What makes TrueNorth unique is our history…we have 50 years of service in the
community, our connection to our local community and [a] willingness and ability to take that and value it and share it. We share that expertise and experience at the state level, at the national level. And that makes a difference for policy makers.”

Kate goes on to share an example, “When we talk about heat and energy assistance, which is a core service that TrueNorth has been involved with, the conversation typically is natural gas and electricity. And TrueNorth is who’s at the table and saying fuel oil. What about fuel oil? We pay for that differently. Those
issues are different. What about pellets? What about this? And have you thought about that? And that, I think, is such an important part of our work and why it’s important that our voice remains heard.”

Over the past 50 years, TrueNorth has leveraged resources in a collaborative and community-based way to ensure the voices of the rural community are being heard, while responding to the needs at hand. We will continue this important work as we strive to reach 100 years!