April 2022 MEC

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April 2022


COUNTRY LINES Midwest Energy & Communications

Choose Your Own Adventure WITH GEOCACHING

Building Vibrant Communities and Life Skills in Adrian

Manage Your Family’s Online Activities With CommandIQ Now Accepting Strengthening Schools Grant Applications


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Contents countrylines.com

April 2022 Vol. 42, No. 4



6 GROWING ORGANICALLY Through enthusiasm, a commitment to sustainability, and roots in the community, Bear Creek Organic Farm has achieved its vision of a “homestead on steroids.”

Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Spice It Up: Kick up the heat.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr

14 CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVENTURE WITH GEOCACHING Nature enthusiasts and tech lovers alike will delight in the world’s largest treasure hunt.


RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey COPY EDITOR: Yvette Pecha CONTRIBUTING EDITOR: Emily Haines Lloyd

PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association Michigan Country Lines, USPS-591-710, is published monthly, except August and December, with periodicals postage paid at Lansing, Mich., and additional offices. It is the official publication of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Suite 900, Lansing, MI 48933. Subscriptions are authorized for members of Alger Delta, Cherryland, Great Lakes, HomeWorks Tri-County, Midwest Energy & Communications, Ontonagon, Presque Isle, and Thumb electric cooperatives by their boards of directors. Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS. Association Officers: Robert Kran, Great Lakes Energy, chairman; Tony Anderson, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Eric Baker, Wolverine Power Cooperative, secretary-treasurer; Craig Borr, president and CEO.

CONTACT US/LETTERS TO EDITOR: Michigan Country Lines 201 Townsend St., Suite 900 Lansing, MI 48933 248-534-7358 editor@countrylines.com


notify your electric cooperative. See page 4 for contact information.

The appearance of advertising does not constitute an endorsement of the products or services advertised.

Be featured! Use #micoopcommunity for a chance to be featured here and on our Instagram account.


Want to walk with me? Don’t forget your microspikes #repost @cindyscoviacphotos (Cindy Scoviac)

MI CO-OP COMMUNITY To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit countrylines.com/community



Win a $50 bill credit!

Win $150 for stories published!

Up Next: Potatoes, due May 1; Pasta Salads, due July 1

Submit your fondest memories and stories at countrylines.com/community.

Submit your recipe at micoopkitchen.com, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to recipes@countrylines.com.






Electric Bill Is More Than The Energy



Robert Hance, President/CEO

teammidwest.com /teammidwest CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS AND CASSOPOLIS SOLUTIONS CENTER 60590 Decatur Road, Cassopolis, MI 49031 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

PAW PAW SOLUTIONS CENTER 59825 S. LaGrave Street, Paw Paw, MI 49079 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. ADRIAN SOLUTIONS CENTER 1610 E. Maumee Street, Adrian, MI 49221 M–F 8 a.m.–5 p.m. CONTACT US Midwest Energy & Communications 800-492-5989 teammidwest.com Email: info@teammidwest.com BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Clarence “Topper” Barth, Chairperson, Three Rivers 269-279-9233 Clarence.Barth@teammidwest.com

Ben Russell, Vice Chairperson, Constantine 269-506-1590 Ben.Russell@teammidwest.com Ron Armstrong, Secretary, Lawton 269-299-0443 Ron.Armstrong@teammidwest.com John Green, Treasurer, Dowagiac 269-470-2816 John.Green@teammidwest.com Dan Bodette, Wauseon 419-337-8007 Dan.Bodette@teammidwest.com

Gerry Bundle, Cassopolis 269-414-0164 Gerry.Bundle@teammidwest.com

James Dickerson, Bloomingdale 269-370-6868 Jim.Dickerson@teammidwest.com

Erika Escue-Cadieux, Onsted 419-346-1088 erika.escue-cadieux@teammidwest.com Fred Turk, Decatur 269-423-7762 Fred.Turk@teammidwest.com



Midwest Energy & Communications is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

4 APRIL 2022


challenge you to take a quick stroll around your home and note how many electric outlets you have that are not in use. My own experiment revealed two, with several maximized many times over with the help of power strips. The lowly electric outlet is perhaps the most used and least appreciated and understood item in your home. Outlets are coveted as family members compete for the precious space to power everything from refrigerators and coffee makers to computers and cell phones. In 2020, we collectively used 4 trillion kilowatt-hours as a nation, and that number is expected to reach 5.2 trillion kilowatt-hours by 2050. I can’t wrap my brain around figures like that, but it’s clear that we love our electricity and everything it allows us to do!

In 2021, we commissioned a cost-ofservice study to determine if the current monthly service charge still accurately represented our fixed costs. This was a comprehensive, deep-dive study done by an independent third-party consultant with no vested interest in the cooperative or the outcome, and it showed our actual fixed costs are higher than what we are currently charging. Since we are a nonprofit company, we only require enough revenue to meet our bank’s requirements. Currently, some of our fixed costs are being covered in your distribution charge, which is based on how many kilowatts run through your meter. The study results show that customers who use more energy are paying more than their share. Your board of directors believes this should be corrected.

We tend to think of our electric experience just in terms of the kilowatts, but the outlet that brings immediate gratification is otherwise useless without the many behind-the-scenes elements that must be in place for you to access service when you need it.

There will be a special, open meeting on April 26 at which the board will vote on a proposed increase to the monthly service charge, putting us closer to everyone paying a fair and appropriate share of the fixed costs. See page 17 for more information.

Behind your energy consumption is a huge and costly delivery infrastructure that offers power at the flip of a switch. These are the fixed costs that exist, regardless of whether your meter ever turns, and include items like substations, poles and wires, labor, equipment, vehicles, and more. It also consists of daily activities like maintaining and improving system reliability, processing bill payments, and having people available 24/7.

Your board of directors has many tough conversations, many revolving around rates. It’s not something that is taken lightly. However, as a customer-owned cooperative, we need to appropriately assign costs so that no group of users is subsidizing another. And because we’re carrying some of our fixed costs in the variable distribution charge, customers using more kilowatt-hours are subsidizing those using fewer.

Happy Easter

Our offices will be closed for Good Friday on April 15. Make a payment or report an outage via SmartHub or call 800-492-5989. Any payments received in one of our drop boxes will be processed on Monday, April 18.

Board Election Results ne of the guiding principles of cooperatives is democratic control. Midwest Energy & Communications is governed by a nine-member board of directors responsible for establishing corporate policy and strategic direction, hiring and evaluating the CEO, monitoring and evaluating organizational performance, and representing cooperative customers. Directors serve threeyear terms and are elected by and represent customers living in their districts.


In 2022, Districts 6, 7, and 9 were up for election for threeyear terms. All three board members representing those districts ran unopposed for re-election. District 6 includes customers in Constantine, Florence, Mottville, Porter (Cass County), and White Pigeon townships in Michigan, as well as Van Buren, Washington, and York townships in Indiana. District 7 is represented by Gerry Bundle of Cassopolis, and includes customers in Calvin, Jefferson, Mason, and Ontwa townships in Michigan, as well as Harris and Osolo townships in Indiana. District 9 is represented by Dan Bodette of Wauseon, Ohio, and includes customers in Dover, Fairfield, Hudson, Madison, Medina, Ogden, Palmyra, Riga, Seneca, and southern portions of Blissfield and Deerfield townships in Michigan. It also includes Brady, Chesterfield, Clinton,

Ben Russell, District 6

Gerry Bundle, District 7

Dan Bodette, District 9

Dover, Franklin, German, Gorham, Mill Creek, Pike, and Royalton townships in Ohio. In 2023, Districts 1, 2, and 5 will be up for election. District 1 is represented by Fred Turk of Decatur and includes Decatur, Hamilton, Penn, Porter (Van Buren County), Marcellus, and Volina. District 2 is represented by Jim Dickerson of Bloomingdale and includes Arlington, Bainbridge, Bangor, Bloomingdale, Coloma, Covert, Hartford, Keeler, Lawrence, Paw Paw, Pipestone, Silver Creek, Watervliet, and Waverly. District 5 is represented by John Green of Dowagiac and includes Howard, LaGrange, Milton, Pokagon, and Wayne. For more information about serving on the board of directors, please call us at 800-492-5989. We will share election information in the September issue of Michigan Country Lines.

Congrats Linemen! J

acob Reed and Henry Krohne recently completed the Joint Michigan Apprentice Program (JMAP) to become journeymen linemen for MEC. As part of the program, they completed 7,000 hours of on-the-job training along with schooling at the Wolverine Training Center in Lake City, Michigan.

Jacob Reed Henry Krohne

MEC partners with JMAP, which was created by Wolverine IBEW 876 and Northwest Lineman College, to train and educate our next generation of linemen. JMAP is a Department of Labor-certified program. Interested in becoming an MEC lineman apprentice? Visit teammidwest.com/careers to sign up for job alerts. You will receive notifications about all available MEC positions, including apprenticeship opportunities.



Courtney Kent Photography

Growing Organically I

n 2014, when Anne and Brian Bates started looking for a piece of land where they could start organic farming, they had a wild but achievable vision. “We wanted to create a homestead,” said Brian. “On steroids.” Entering year nine of Bear Creek Organic Farm, Petoskey's first-ever 100% USDA Certified Organic Farm and the first B Corp Certified Farm in the state of Michigan, things have gotten a little bigger than the Bateses first imagined. It’s mostly because their raw enthusiasm, passion, and pluck were just the “steroids” that their 76-acre piece of land needed to grow into a thriving business. While other business owners may kick things off with a one- or five-year plan, the Bateses were looking at something a bit more long-term. 6

APRIL 2022

“When you’re looking at farming, it’s not a quick-turn business,” said Brian. “We were looking for something that we could grow over 50 or 60 years.” The couple was looking at more northern climates, ultimately to hedge their bet against the fallout of climate change. The sandy terroir of Emmet County ended up the final winner. With neither hailing from farming families, Brian and Anne took internships on CSA farms, attended lots of farming seminars, and even ventured into Beekeeping 101. “There’s a lot of knowledge that gets passed down on family farms,” said Brian. “We were starting from scratch. But it felt like we’d ventured into the Old West. There was so much to learn, but everything seemed possible.” While they lacked the generational knowledge, their enthusiasm and even their naivete seemed to blend perfectly with the sandy soil of

By Emily Haines Lloyd

northern Michigan, as the farm started to grow as wildly as their crops. When asked about the decision to maintain a fully organic farm, Brian insists that while it aligns with their personal values, it wasn’t because they were looking to be rebels. “We knew we’d be the first organic farm in the area,” said Brian. “It’s not to be some sort of counter-culture revolutionary. We believe it is the most sustainable way to grow food, and we want to be part of the solution for the long haul.” Similar to their organic commitment, the Bateses have also invested in balancing the resources the farm consumes with a commitment to energy. As members of Great Lakes Energy Cooperative, the Bateses have invested in a 30-panel solar array. “When we first started the farm, we had this idea of making our own energy. We’d never heard of an

If we support the making of ‘good electrons,’ we feel like the market will see the value in the co-op model and we can all start supporting renewable energy producers.

electric co-op before,” said Brian. “If we support the making of ‘good electrons,’ we feel like the market will see the value in the co-op model and we can all start supporting renewable energy producers.”

With production booming (Bear Creek had their first million-dollar year), a dozen full-time employees, and 85% of their crops sold and consumed within a 12-mile radius of the farm–the idea of the lonesome homestead is long gone. As the Bateses have come to understand and know their community, as well as get more involved in groups like the local Chamber of Commerce, Crooked Tree Arts Center, and Thriving Petoskey, Brian and Anne understand more and more how deeply community affects farm life. As COVID-19 changed the lives of everyone, often closing people off–the

Bateses were faced with the opposite reality. With farmers markets closing, Brian and Anne actually opened Bear Creek Organic Farm up to the public. Intermingling between staff and customers, sharing time and space, and with a passion for lovingly grown food—Bear Creek Organic Farm keeps growing both logistically and communally. “We started out with this idea of doing everything on our own, but there is nothing sustainable about

In addition to the solar array panel that produces 10kW of renewable energy to the farm, Bear Creek Organic Farm is committed to sustainability in a variety of ways, including: • Passive solar hoophouses and greenhouses • Ultra-low sulfur diesel fuel in their tractor • Clamshells are made in Michigan from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic and are 100% recyclable • Packaging boxes, flats, and cartons are made 100% recyclable in Michigan • Transplant containers and propagation flats are made locally,

living on an island of self-reliance,” said Brian. “With every person we’ve met, everyone who has answered a question, or helped fix a tractor or build a greenhouse–we wouldn’t go back to the initial idea. Not when there is this new version with so many beautiful humans rooting for you.” It looks like another bumper crop of certified organic vegetables, civic engagement, and compassionate community for Bear Creek Organic Farm this year.

of recycled plastic, and are fully recyclable • “Plastic” produce bags at their on-farm market are 100% plantbased and 100% biodegradable in normal compost piles • Paper shopping bags are 100% recycled paper and 100% recyclable • Beehives are never treated with any fungicides, insecticides, or pesticides, ever

For more information, visit: bearcreekorganicfarm.com /bearcreekorganicfarm /bearcreekorganicfarm




Strengthening Schools Grants A

re you a teacher with plans for a big class project? Maybe a school admin or official looking to replace old and outdated equipment? Great news—the 2022–23 application cycle for MEC’s Strengthening Schools Grants opens this month!

Jeannie Shannon, a third-grade teacher at Marcellus Elementary, and her students display a grant check to expand her classroom library.

Starting in 2013, Strengthening Schools Grants has helped public school teachers, officials, and administrators reach their students in new and exciting ways. The program is made possible by partnership dollars from Wolverine Power Cooperative, MEC’s power supplier. In 2022, the program funded 28 projects at 26 local schools. Winning projects ranged from book vending machines and science equipment upgrades to all-new programs and facilities, with an eye toward reaching underserved student populations. Cassopolis Middle School Principal Carey May was thrilled to learn her school had been chosen to receive a grant. “It helps us so much, as we are a smaller district,” she said. “Fewer students mean less money from the state, so every bit we can get helps—goes directly to our students and helps immensely.”

Marcella Hunt, a Watervliet High School art teacher, poses with her students to accept a grant for a printing press.

MEC has awarded 247 grants totaling $300,838.10—and if your application is approved by our volunteer team of electric customers, it could be your turn next.

How It Works If you’re a teacher, administrator, or school official at a public elementary, middle, or high school serving students in our electric service territory, you’re eligible to apply. Once the application cycle officially begins, go to teammidwest.com/ strengthening-schools and follow the directions to submit your application. Each application can receive up to $2,500. School districts can receive multiple grants, but the combined grants can’t exceed $5,000. An application isn’t a guarantee of funding, and incomplete applications won’t be considered. The application cycle closes in mid-October. After that, a committee of MEC electric customers reviews and discusses each application. The committee isn’t told which schools, educators, or districts the applications came from. Once the review committee has made its decisions, winners are notified, and grant funds are awarded. Winners for the 2022–23 grant cycle will be notified in January 2023. Best of luck to all Strengthening Schools Grant applicants! We’ve received lots of great applications over the years— we can’t wait to see yours. 8 APRIL 2022

Denise Halgren, a first-grade teacher at Edwardsburg Primary School, sits with her class to receive a grant for a reading tent.

MEC Needs Grant Reviewers Interested in joining the SSG review committee? We’re looking for MEC electric customers to volunteer for the upcoming grant cycle. Any MEC electric customer who can dedicate time to the review process is eligible to apply. You’ll be responsible for reviewing, discussing, and awarding grants for the 2022–23 cycle. You’ll have to meet in person for one full weekday in the fall, and possibly one full weekday in January. If you’re interested, email us at pr@teammidwest.com.


The skeleton of a canoe, crafted at the Sam Beauford Woodworking Institute, hangs in the window of the institute.

The Success Of The Sam Beauford Woodworking Institute n 2015, Adrian officials approached Luke Barnett and Dena Koehn to take over the former power plant for the Adrian Training School, a reform school for girls that operated from 1879 to 2008. Barnett, a world-renowned chairmaker, had been teaching classes at a local art center. Koehn was an Adrian College graduate with a passion for art. The duo agreed to fix up the space, offering community members an artistic approach to career building through Barnett’s classes. The newly dubbed Sam Beauford Woodshop, named after a dog Barnett had owned during his career, would continue to be part of the campus’s longstanding community-minded education tradition.


Barnett later applied for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status when demand for stackable education credentials and a growing interest in furniture making became clear. To register, the woodshop had to donate all the equipment it had accumulated. The next mission for the organization, now known as the Sam Beauford Woodworking Institute (SBWI), was to build its collection back up. By 2021, all that remained of this goal was to replace a pair of worn-down belt sanders—tools every student

used, but which were inadequate for helping them reach their full potential. It was then that the SBWI applied for a grant from MEC. Our Building Vibrant Communities grant program, made possible by partnership dollars from Wolverine Power Cooperative, offers local nonprofits a chance to receive funds for community-oriented projects and purchases. Barnett used his grant to acquire new sanders, which he referred to as the last piece of the puzzle. Todd Gillman, a student, explained just how important his time at the shop was during a free weekly session for veterans. “It gets me out of the house. It gives me a chance to be creative, be with others, and make friends to discuss life and connect,” Gillman said. “I’m here every week. I’d be down here every day if I could.” In addition to classes for all skill levels, the SBWI now hosts several community outreach programs. While the size of the woodshop and the scope of its activities have grown, Barnett says the focus has remained the same: improving people’s lives by teaching woodworking as a craft and a career path. “We believe that creativity and continuous learning are essential to healthy human development,” the SBWI’s website reads. Barnett puts it another way: “The goal is to live happy and healthy and do what you want in your life.”

Executive Director Luke Barnett, left, and Assistant Director Charlie Johnson, right, pose for a photo at the Sam Beauford Woodworking Institute.

For more information about the Sam Beauford Woodworking Institute, head to longlivewood.com. To learn more about the BVC grant program, visit teammidwest.com/community-grants. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


MI CO-OP Recipes

Photos by Robert Bruce Photography || Recipes Submitted by MCL Readers and Tested by Recipe Editor Christin McKamey

SPICE IT UP Kick up the heat.


Bean Cakes: 2 tablespoons olive oil, divided 6 garlic cloves, minced 2 fresh jalapeños, seeded and finely diced 1 tablespoon ground cumin 2 (14-ounce) cans black beans, rinsed and drained (pat dry) ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon black pepper 2 cups finely grated raw sweet potato (press with paper towels to remove moisture) 4 green onions, thinly sliced 1 egg, lightly beaten ½ cup panko breadcrumbs Lime Sour Cream: ½ cup sour cream 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice 1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced • salt and pepper, to taste



energy bill credit!

10 APRIL 2022

Potatoes due May 1 • Pasta Salads due July 1 Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $50 bill credit and have your recipe featured in Country Lines with a photo and a video. Submit your recipe at micoopkitchen.com, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to recipes@countrylines.com.

Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in medium skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, jalapeño, and cumin; sauté until softened and fragrant. Transfer contents of skillet to a large mixing bowl. Stir in black beans and mash well. Add salt, black pepper, sweet potato, green onions, egg, and breadcrumbs. Divide into 12 balls and flatten into patties. To the medium skillet over medium heat, add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and sauté the bean cakes, turning often so as not to burn. Cook about 5–6 minutes or more on each side, until browned and cooked through. To make lime sour cream, mix the sour cream, lime juice, jalapeño, and salt/pepper in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate (can be made first). Serve black bean cakes topped with lime sour cream. Note: You can also bake the cakes at 375 F for 30–45 minutes (spray both sides with baking oil first), then flip 20 minutes in to ensure even cooking. The longer you bake, the firmer and drier they will get. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/videos

KICKIN’ HOT CHOCOLATE Deb Finedell, Great Lakes Energy

2 cups whole milk ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon • pinch kosher salt • generous pinch cayenne pepper or hot chili powder 3½ ounces chopped dark chocolate • whipped cream to serve, optional

Combine milk, vanilla, sugar, cinnamon, salt, and cayenne (or chili powder) in a medium pot. Heat over medium heat until simmering. Reduce the heat a little and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes. Add chopped chocolate. Cook, whisking, until the chocolate is fully melted and emulsified. Taste for sweetness and spice. Adjust as needed. Pour hot chocolate into mugs. Add whipped cream if desired. Serve immediately. Enjoy!


Tommie Schmidt, Midwest Energy & Communications 2 ½ ½ ½ 1 1 1 1 1 1 1

tablespoons olive oil cup diced green peppers cup diced white or yellow onion cup diced celery teaspoon chili powder (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes (8-ounce) can tomato sauce tablespoon hot sauce tablespoon Worcestershire sauce teaspoon white sugar pound raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

To a medium skillet over medium heat, add the oil, peppers, onion, and celery. Sauté until soft. Add to slow cooker. Add chili powder, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, and white sugar. Cover and cook on high 3 hours. Add shrimp, cover, and cook an additional 3–5 minutes. Serve over rice. Serves 8.

ALL-IN FIRED UP CHILI Dennis Miller, Great Lakes Energy

1 pound ground round, browned, crumbled, and drained 1 pound Bob Evans hot breakfast sausage, browned, crumbled, and drained 1 pound stew beef, seared 1 pound boneless/skinless chicken breast, cut into chunks and cooked 1 large red onion, diced 1 large red bell pepper, diced 1 large green bell pepper, diced 1 cup celery, chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced 4–5 hot peppers (serrano, jalapeño, habanero, etc.), diced

1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes with green chiles 1 (28-ounce) can stewed tomatoes 1 (15-ounce) can hot chili beans 1 (15-ounce) can Great Northern beans 1 (15-ounce) can red kidney beans 1 (15-ounce) can black beans 1 bottle spicy V8 juice 3 tablespoons chili powder Add all ingredients to a large stew pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer low, stirring occasionally, for at least 2 hours. Serve in a bowl with a dollop of sour cream and crumbled corn chips.







My Priorities

Prioritize traffic and devices on your network


You can set up to 3 traffic priority schedules


Always On

Set a new traffic priority schedule

Device Not assigned

Set device priorities

Frustrated with trying to manage when and how your kids use the internet? Our free CommandIQ app helps you take control. To get started, download the app from your app store. You must use MEC Wi-Fi to take advantage of the app, and if your router looks like the one below, you’ll need a new one in order to use the full suite of parental controls. We’ll provide it for free. Give us a call at 800-492-5989 to learn more.

Powered by

By setting up a profile for each family member, you can create a unique set of rules for everybody.

To access a user’s profile, go to the main dashboard, tap “People,” and select the profile you want to view.

From the main dashboard, tap the Plus button at the bottom of your screen and select “People.”

A profile lets you see usage statistics like that person’s total minutes online, their top apps, and how long they used each. Tap the arrow next to “Today” to track usage over the last seven or 30 days.

Now you can add the user’s name, a profile picture, and all of the devices they own that are connected to your Wi-Fi network. When you’re finished, tap “Done.”

Read on to learn how you can implement parental controls and other restrictions on internet usage for your Wi-Fi network.


This data allows you to make informed decisions about content restrictions, time limits, and usage priorities—all of which you can adjust from this page.










People (5)

Time Limits


Turn off internet during set times for Jamie’s devices.

Jamie Active





Mary Active


9:00 PM 8:00 AM



Manage access to specific applications by adding them here Search Applications





Block Always Allow Allow for



Google Play Block


Always Allow


Allow for

Powered by



ExperienceIQ™ Things


Let’s say your child always seems to be on TikTok. You log into CommandIQ, check their user profile, and see they’ve already used the app for two hours today—and it’s only noon! How can you limit their time on TikTok without banning them from your network? From their user profile, tap “Restrictions” under the Options menu. On the next page, selecting “Applications” will allow you to choose between “Block” or “Always Allow” settings for each individual app. You can also choose to set a daily duration limit. Back on the “Restrictions” page, you can also choose “Content Restrictions” to apply filters for things like gambling and violence, or you can tap “Websites” to block specific URLs. Finally, two toggles at the top of the restrictions page allow you to turn on Safe Search, or block access to YouTube.

Learn more about CommandIQ

Maybe your child isn’t getting enough sleep because they’re browsing the web late at night. You want to limit not just their time on TikTok, but all online activities. On their profile, tap “Time Limits.” Here, you can select “Everyday” and set the hours when Wi-Fi is inaccessible from their devices. You can also select “Custom” to choose which days these hours take effect, or set up to five offline blocks of time per day.



Perhaps your child’s internet usage isn’t the issue—they spend an appropriate amount of time online, they don’t need content restrictions, and you don’t want to limit their internet access. Still, you need Wi-Fi to work from home, and you need to make sure you have the best connectivity in the house for video conferences and other important work. With CommandIQ, you can prioritize your own activities without cutting your family’s off entirely. From the main dashboard, tap “My Network” and select your main Wi-Fi network. Tap “Network Priority,” turn the toggle on, and select “Set a new traffic priority schedule.” From this screen, you can rearrange your activities from highest to lowest priority, and set a schedule for when these priorities are in effect. Back on the “My Priorities” screen, choose “Set device priorities” to instead choose up to five devices for your network to prioritize. On the next screen, choose whether these priorities are always in effect, or set a schedule. Tap “Done” to save your settings.

Congratulations! You’re now an expert on managing your household’s internet use. This is just a fraction of what you can do with CommandIQ—for more tips and tricks, look for MEC’s CommandIQ User Guide at teammidwest.com/internet-resources. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES 13

Choose Your Own Adventure WITH GEOCACHING


erhaps the most concise explanation of geocaching can be found on a bumper sticker that reads:

A scavenger hunt using multimillion-dollar satellites to find Tupperware in the woods. If that’s not quite enough to get you interested in the sport—and yes, enthusiasts insist it’s a sport—then maybe a few more details might help. The perfect combination of technology and nature, geocaching started more than 20 years ago in Oregon using decommissioned satellites and longitude and latitude coordinates to locate a specific spot. This outdoor recreational activity uses a GPS receiver or mobile phone to locate a “cache” in a specific location that is uploaded to the official website—geocaching.com. Your average cache is a small, waterproof container that must at the very least contain a logbook and sometimes a pen or pencil. Just as often, tiny toys or tchotchkes can be found with a “take one/leave one” exchange policy. All you have to do to join the fun is create a free profile on the website and prepare to get hooked. Most of us already hold the key tool in our hands, a mobile device with some navigational ability. Also required is

14 APRIL 2022

By Emily Haines Lloyd Photos courtesy of Jamie Ball, Michigan DNR.

something we all started out with, but have often forgotten along the way–our sense of curiosity. “Geocaching gives you this fun reason to go exploring,” said Stephanie Yancer, social media coordinator for Michigan’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR). “You get out there in the woods or the wild and there is this wave of fun and excitement you can’t help but feel.” Walking through parks, forests, hilltops, and even urban environments, a cache can be found anywhere. With caches located in 191 different countries, on all seven continents, this global treasure hunt may well speak to our fascination with buried and lost treasure and tug at our inner Indiana Jones. With more than 3 million caches around the world, it’s no wonder there are 7 million active geocachers on geocaching.com. Locally in Michigan, there are many avid geocachers, including individuals who belong to MiGO (Michigan Geocaching Organization). Steve Bassette, who is the president of the executive committee and an avid geocacher himself, has helped grow interest in the sport, which also promotes environmental stewardship and an appreciation of the outdoors.

“I ‘accidentally’ came across geocaching when my wife and I were camping and kept seeing a couple hopping on and off their bikes in the woods where we were set up. We finally asked them what they were doing,” said Bassette. “They explained geocaching to us and we’ve been hooked ever since.” Bassette and MiGO hope to leave the discovery of the sport less up to chance and are determined instead to bring as much attention to geocaching as they can. MiGO has partnered often with the DNR and other organizations to coordinate year-round events, including Camp MiGO every August and specialized events like the Michigan State Parks GeoTour, which celebrated our state parks’ 100-year anniversary in 2019 by placing 100 new caches throughout the state that can now be accessed annually.

“You get out there in the woods or the wild and there is this wave of fun and excitement you can’t help but feel.”

“After surveying folks who participated in the GeoTour, we found that people had discovered 80 new parks on average for themselves through the event,” said Yancer. “This is the heart of geocaching—discovering something new.” Yancer has even found herself discovering things in environments she thought she knew well. While participating in an Adventure Lab, a sort of clue-based cache that involves multiple sites, Yancer took a colleague on a tour of the murals in downtown Bay City, where she works. She saw many wonderfully expressive paintings– some she knew, some she didn’t, and some she was seeing with new eyes. “It was such a great way to show someone Bay City,” said Yancer. “And to rediscover it for myself.” Ultimately, geocaching can be as simple or complicated as you want it to be. Each cache is identified by two indicators–difficulty and terrain. You can use your phone or find yourself a GPS receiver. You can look in Antarctica or Ann Arbor for treasure. In the end, it’s your quest. “The best part of geocaching is the unexpected adventures it takes you on,” said Bassette.

Geocaching Go Bag After creating your free profile on geocaching.com, Stephanie Yancer recommends pulling together a small backpack that’s ready to go. She recommends: • Bottles for water • Snacks • First aid kit • Bug spray and sunscreen • Extra batteries (if you’re using a GPS receiver)




MEC Awards Building Vibrant Communities Grants

Changes to BVC Grants MEC is making changes to our BVC grant program to make it easier to apply for and receive funding. First, applications are now accepted on a rolling timeline. MEC will review submissions three times per calendar year: • April 30 • August 30 • December 31 We’ll notify applicants of the status of their application within two weeks following these dates. Projects not funded are eligible to reapply. Funded projects must be completed within six months of receiving a grant. Eligibility requirements are opening up too. In addition to 501(c)(3) nonprofits, the following organizations can now apply for a grant: • A recognized government entity at the state, county, or city level, including law enforcement or fire departments, requesting funds exclusively for public purposes

Leaders from the Therapeutic Equestrian Center accept a Building Vibrant Communities grant from MEC, along with a matching grant from CoBank’s Sharing Success program.

n February, we awarded dollars to eight local nonprofits through the Building Vibrant Communities grant program, made possible through partnership dollars from Wolverine Power Cooperative. The organizations were recognized for their work in lifting up communities within MEC’s service territory:


• Care Pregnancy Center of Lenawee (Phase I Pathway to Parenting program for new parents) • Cass County Council on Aging (Handy Helpers program to provide seniors and families with wheelchair ramps) • Community Learning Connections (Getting Ahead financial literacy program) • Diamond Lake Youth Sailing Fund (2022 Youth Sailing Program)

16 APRIL 2022

• Glen Oaks Community College Foundation (Campus Cupboard upgrades to help feed students in need) • Patriots Garage (auto projects to help veterans struggling with civilian life) • Redemption Church of Eau Claire (Community outreach projects) • Vicksburg Historical Society (Vicksburg Harvest Festival) “Our vision as a provider of energy and telecommunications services is to create vibrant, relevant, and sustainable rural communities, and we work hard to ensure that individuals living and working in rural areas have access to the same amenities as those in more urban areas,” says Bob Hance, MEC President/CEO. “Part of living out that vision is also supporting important work being done across our communities.”

• Nonprofits holding a tax-exempt status as a public charity benefitting veterans, as specified under Section 501(c)(19) of the Internal Revenue Code • Some nonprofits holding other IRS designations, such as 501(c)(4) or 501(c)(7), if they benefit the public at large

How to Apply If you represent a nonprofit in need of funding for a community-oriented project or program, visit us at https://midwestenergy.wufoo.com/ forms/building-vibrant-communities-grants/ to see our full list of requirements and to apply for a BVC grant. Applicants must represent an organization located in MEC’s service territory. Incomplete applications will not be considered, and an application is not a guarantee of funding. MEC service territories include portions of Berrien, Cass, St. Joseph, Kalamazoo, and Van Buren counties in southwest Michigan, as well as Lenawee County in southeast Michigan. MEC also serves portions of St. Joseph, Elkhart, and LaGrange counties in northern Indiana, and Williams and Fulton counties in northern Ohio. Visit https://www.teammidwest.com/ electric-resources/ for a full list of townships served by MEC.

Notice to Electric Customers of Midwest Energy & Communications Special Board Meeting: April 26, 2022 The Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC) Board of Directors will consider changes to the cooperative’s rates and tariffs, in accordance with P.A. 167 of 2008, at its meeting on April 26, 2022, beginning at 10 a.m. Given continued precautions related to COVID-19, we will open the meeting to interested electric customers through a videoconference. Please email board.inquiries@teammidwest.com by Friday, April 22, for log-in information. Comments may also be submitted in advance to that email address. The following item will be considered: • Changes to all distribution, service, and power supply-related charges based on a recent Cost of Service study. Notice of changes or additions to the cooperative’s electric rates or service rules shall be sent to all customers as required by P.A. 167, by publication in Michigan Country Lines at least 30 days prior to their effective date.

Notice to Electric Customers of Midwest Energy & Communications 2022 Annual Meeting The Annual Meeting of the Midwest Energy & Communications (MEC) electric customers is April 26, 2022, immediately following the Special Board Meeting, which begins at 10 a.m. The Annual Meeting is called by the secretary of the cooperative pursuant to Article II of the MEC bylaws. The purpose of the Annual Meeting is to announce the results of the ballots cast and the election of the MEC board of directors in districts 6, 7, and 9, and to act on any other business properly brought before the board. Given continued precautions related to COVID-19, we will open the meeting to interested electric customers through a videoconference. Please contact board.inquiries@teammidwest.com by Friday, April 22, for log-in information.

Bring In Your CFL Bulbs Before It’s Too Late! MEC is ending its CFL recycling program on April 30. If you have any bulbs remaining, be sure to bring them to one of our service locations before then!

Visit teammidwest.com/contact-us/locations for directions. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES 17



ADVENTURES FOR RURAL VETERANS—APPLY BY MAY 13 IN-PERSON EXPEDITIONS WILL TAKE PLACE IN JULY AND AUGUST Michigan electric cooperatives believe there should be “No Barriers” for veterans with disabilities. That’s the name and idea behind CoBank’s No Barriers initiative. Michigan cooperatives are looking for qualified veterans* from our local community to participate. No Barriers is a five-day, all-expenses-paid expedition in Colorado, designed to help veterans with disabilities transform their lives through curriculum-based experiences in challenging environments (climbing, rafting, and hiking).

If you are a disabled veteran, or you know of a disabled veteran in our community who would like to participate in the No Barriers program, please complete the form on our website:

countrylines.com/nobarriers *Must have VA disability rating to be eligible.

Well-Connect qualifies for rebates and a 26% tax credit through 2022. Add Well-Connect geothermal heating for $0 down and as little as







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