February 2024 MEC

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February 2024


COUNTRY LINES Midwest Energy & Communications

SWEEPING SUCCESS Michigan Tech’s Broomball Craze

Spotting a Computer Virus

A Cass Family Legacy

Veterans vs. No Barriers Challenge


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Allendale Allendale Htg & Clg (800) 327-1937 allendaleheating.com

Indian River M&M Plmb & Htg (231) 238-7201 mm-plumbing.com

Mt Pleasant Walton Htg & Clg (989) 772-4822 waltonheating.com

Bad Axe/Ubly Cutting Edge Htg & Clg (989) 551-0986

Lansing Candor Mechanical (517) 920-0890 candormechanical.com

Muskegon Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheatingcooling.co

Lowell Arctic Inc. Htg. & Clg. (616) 897-4213 heatingcoolingonline.com

Portland ESI Htg & Clg (517) 647-6906 esiheating.com

Mancelona Top Notch Htg, Clg, & Geothermal (231) 350-8052 Topnotchheatandair.com

Sunfield Mark Woodman Plmb & Htg (517) 886-1138 mwphonline.com

Michigan Center Comfort 1/Air Serv of Southern Michigan (517) 764-1500 airserv.com/southernmichigan/

Traverse City D&W Mechanical (231) 941-1251 dwmechanical.com

Berrien Springs Waterfurnace Michiana (269) 473-5667 gogreenmichgeo thermal.com Big Rapids Stratz Htg & Clg, Inc. (231) 796-3717 stratzgeocomfort.com Clifford Orton Refrig & Htg (989) 761-7691 sanduskygeothermal.com Hart Adams Htg & Clg (231) 873-2665 adamsheating cooling.com

Alger Delta Electric: up to $4,000 Cherryland Electric: up to $2,500 Cloverland: up to $6,275 Great Lakes Energy: up to $5,000 HomeWorks/Tri-County Electric: up to $4,750 Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op: up to $4,750 Thumb Electric: 5% financing available up to $22,500 10-year term

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Contents countrylines.com


February 2024 Vol. 44, No. 2 /michigancountrylines

Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr


GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Karreen Bird RECIPE EDITOR: Christin Russman 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.

10 14

Postmaster: Send all UAA to CFS. Association Officers: Tom Sobeck, Presque Isle Electric & Gas Co-op, chairman; Gabe Schneider, Cherryland Electric Cooperative, vice chairman; Chris O’Neill, HomeWorks TriCounty 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.

6 THE THRILL OF THE CHILL: ICE FISHING IN MICHIGAN Drill a hole and join in the fun.


Best Layer Cakes: Recipes as delicious as they are decorative.


Michigan Tech’s broomball craze.


Memories of an Ice Fisherman: A GLE member recalls the first time he saw a “dinosaur fish.”

MI Co-op Community

To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit countrylines.com/community

Recipe Contest

See details on page 10. Quiches & Savory Tarts due March 1; Tacos & Margaritas due April 1.

Win a $100 bill credit!

Guest Column

Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $200 for stories published. Visit countrylines.com/community to submit.

Win $200 for stories published!








Navigating a Momentous Shift in Energy Policy

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. Tecumseh Solutions Center 5050 South Occidental Hwy., Tecumseh, MI 49286 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 419-344-4015 Dan.Bodette@teammidwest.com

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

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

Jim Wiseley, Bloomingdale 269-760-4619 Jim.Wiseley@teammidwest.com PRESIDENT/CEO: Robert Hance


Midwest Energy & Communications is an equal opportunity provider and employer. Please note: electric customers of MEC must adhere to our bylaws, which can be found at teammidwest.com/bylaws. 4 FEBRUARY 2024

Robert Hance, President/CEO

he state of Michigan recently passed the Clean Energy and Jobs Act, which is one of the most comprehensive and ambitious state climate plans in the country. I want to share with you some of the key items:


The Clean Energy Standard By 2040, Michigan will produce 100% of its energy from renewable sources. The good news is in the legislation, lawmakers recognize the Palisades Nuclear Power Plant as a vital reliability asset, allowing its output to count toward both renewable and clean energy targets. Since our power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative, will be purchasing power from Palisades, that’s a huge benefit to MEC and our customers. In fact, Wolverine’s fuel mix is already over 50% carbon-free. Last fall, Wolverine made a longterm commitment on behalf of its cooperative members to buy power from the Palisades Plant upon its restart. In the legislation, lawmakers recognize the Palisades Plant as a vital reliability asset, allowing its output to count toward both renewable and clean energy targets. Additionally, Michigan’s electric cooperatives, as a group, already power members with over 50% carbon-free energy, placing us in a better position than many to meet the carbon-free requirement. However, the grid is interconnected. So even though Wolverine is well positioned to meet the standard, that doesn’t mean all Michigan utilities are. Constructing the large-scale projects required to meet these goals demands considerable time and financial resources, which makes the proposed

timeline a challenge for the majority of the state’s electric utilities. Additionally, the challenge of land acquisition looms, with an estimated need for approximately 200,000+ additional acres for wind and solar power generation to achieve the renewable energy targets in the legislation. We must remain aware of the concerns over electric reliability, not just as a state but nationwide, as we continue through the clean energy transition. We have in-depth information regarding this issue available on our website at teammidwest.com/reliability.

Renewable Energy Siting This bill gives state regulators authority over renewable energy permits. It empowers the Michigan Public Service Commission to issue permits for solar systems exceeding 50 megawatts and wind systems over 100 megawatts. Formerly, localities held exclusive control over siting. The new laws centralize permitting for large projects at the state level, while smaller solar projects remain under local authority. This doesn’t directly impact MEC because we do not build generation sources, but you’ll likely see this cropping up throughout rural Michigan.

Employment The legislation also establishes a “community and worker economic transition office” aimed at addressing job losses for people working with fossil fuels and internal combustion engines. MEC will share more on this legislation as we continue to dive into its implications for co-ops and our customers.

Five Ways to Save Energy in the Kitchen Ah, the kitchen. It’s undeniably one of the most-loved rooms in our homes. It’s where we gather with family and friends for our favorite meals and memories. But like most of us, you probably aren’t thinking about saving energy when you’re planning that perfect dish. Here are four ways you can save energy in the kitchen with minimal effort.


When possible, cook with smaller appliances. Using smaller kitchen appliances, like slow cookers, toaster ovens, and convection ovens, is more energy-efficient than using your large stove or oven. According to the Department of Energy, a toaster or convection oven uses one-third to onehalf as much energy as a full-sized oven.


Unplug appliances that draw phantom energy load. Plugged-in appliances continue to draw energy even when they’re not in use. Devices, small appliances, and chargers left plugged in year-round can add up in wasted energy costs. Unplug smaller appliances when they’re not in use, or better yet, use a power strip for convenient control.


Help large appliances work less. Keep range-top burners clean from spills and fallen foods so they’ll reflect heat better. When it’s time to put leftovers in the refrigerator, make sure the food is covered and allow it to cool down first. That way, the fridge doesn’t have to work harder to cool warm food. Speaking of your fridge, keeping it full can help it stay at a consistent temperature. If you need more to fill it with, try using containers of cold water (or bags of ice for the freezer).


Use your dishwasher efficiently. Only run full loads, and avoid using the “rinse hold” function on your machine for just a few dirty dishes; it uses three to seven gallons of hot water for each use. You can also save energy by letting your dishes air dry. If your dishwasher doesn’t have an automatic air-dry switch, turn it off after the final rinse and prop the door open so the dishes will dry faster.


Use Energy Star-certified products. The blue Energy Star label tells you that a product is more energy efficient than a product without the label. For example, Energy Star-certified refrigerators tend to be around 9% more efficient than models that aren’t certified, while Energy Star-certified lightbulbs can use up to 90% less energy than normal incandescent bulbs, according to the Energy Star website. Shopping for Energy Star-certified products can save lots of energy in the long run, especially if you’re replacing older, non-certified appliances with newer certified ones.



The Thrill Of The Chill Ice Fishing In Michigan By Yvette Pecha

t’s February in Michigan, and the deep freeze is here. Some people will complain, some will seek respite in warmer regions, and some, like Tim Cwalinski, with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, will embrace this opportunity bestowed upon us by Mother Nature. Cwalinski, fisheries unit supervisor for the Northern Lake Huron Management Unit based in Gaylord, Michigan, enjoys fishing and is grateful to have a sporting activity he can take part in year-round. “Ice fishing gives us an additional recreation in the winter,” he said. “It’s a value we have in coldweather states, and we should use it to our advantage.”


“Hard-water fishing” is not just another fishing trip—it’s a completely unique experience. Aside from the level of solitude you likely wouldn’t find in other seasons, the lack of bugs, and different setups with different equipment give people a prospect they may not have the rest of the year. “Not everybody can afford a 20-, 40-, or 50-thousand-dollar boat,” Cwalinski said. Anglers who were previously relegated to fishing on the shoreline can now get to the middle of the lake simply by walking, snowmobiling, or driving out. Another perk—according to many anglers—is that ice fishing produces some of the



best-tasting fish. “I think there’s some truth to that,” Cwalinski said. “Some species that live in lake vegetation, like crappie and bass, taste a little like their environment in the summer, but not in the winter.” One unfortunate part of ice fishing is that it’s highly dependent on weather. If Michigan experiences a mild winter, ice conditions will be poor. Cwalinski says Saginaw Bay is a popular destination when conditions allow because there’s an abundance of walleye and perch in the bay. But Cwalinski notes that recent winters haven’t been particularly cold, and people have wound up traveling to places with cooler temperatures. “Some people eagerly anticipate hard-water fishing, so downstate people will drive north and follow the good ice,” he said. Cwalinski lives in Gaylord (where he receives service from GLE) and says he generally fishes in lakes close to home, which are inhabited by plenty of trout. He said they’re also full of panfish, which he is partial to. Panfish, thusly called because they fit in a campfire-style pan, are classified by fish types such as blue gill, pumpkinseed, crappie, and yellow perch. Cwalinski says it’s better for everyone if there’s cold weather statewide because

it spreads out where people fish and doesn’t deplete the northern bodies of water. But no matter the temperatures in the lower part of the state, Gaylord and other upstate communities enjoy a financial boon in the ice-fishing season. “If you come up from downstate to fish, you’re spending money on bait, you’re buying gas and food, you might eat in a restaurant or stay in a hotel—all of that money is getting pumped into local economies,” Cwalinski said. There are also numerous northern Michigan ice fishing festivals and tournaments that serve as valued community development opportunities. Before you head anywhere for ice fishing, it’s important to ensure conditions are right for it. “You have to consider the safety measures,” Cwalinski said. “Go to websites and find out what ice is good. In general, three inches is safe, but just because a certain spot is three inches doesn’t mean that’s the case throughout the body of water. Ask around and look for places where people are already out on the ice.” As for when to fish, well, we are currently in what Cwalinski calls the “winter doldrums of ice fishing”—

a time where fish go into a state of “torpor,” during which they generally aren’t feeding or moving much. “The thicker you are into the meat of winter—your Februarys, your early March—the harder it is to catch anything because they’re staying still and conserving energy,” he said. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go ice fishing this month, but you may fare better when the shorelines are starting to break up and the fish are more active. Regardless of when in the year you go out, the best times of day to fish are around sunrise and sunset. Give ice fishing a try and experience for yourself why it is such a timehonored tradition in our state. With more than 11,000 Michigan lakes waiting to be explored, you don’t have to be housebound just because it’s cold outside. “Many of our Michigan recreational anglers look forward to the ice-fishing season year-round,” Cwalinski said. Though he is not a diehard ice angler, Cwalinski said he does find himself anticipating it sometimes in the off-season. “I’ll be sitting in deer stands in the fall and thinking about the blue gill fillets I’m going to catch soon,” he said.

FREE FISHING WEEKEND If you want to experience ice angling but don’t have a fishing license, there are two weekends a year you can fish without one. The first is Feb. 17 and 18. In addition to license fees being waived, you won’t need a recreation passport for entry into state parks or boating access sites. The other free fishing weekend is June 8 and 9.



Vegetation Maintenance Plans O

Here are the townships where we plan to clear our rights-of-way in 2024:

ur chief responsibility as an electric cooperative is to provide reliable and safe power, and trees present a major hazard to our electric lines. As a result, we proactively remove trees and brush within 15 feet of our power lines. This has been proven to significantly reduce the amount of time our customers spend without power, and it helps our linemen more efficiently identify and repair damage when needed. We understand the value of trees, but unfortunately, power lines and trees do not mix. If the trees on your property end up tangled in our power lines, it could result in an outage for many customers. Therefore, we remove the hazard wherever possible. You can learn more about the importance of tree trimming and vegetation management from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Southwest Michigan: Antwerp, Brady, Decatur, Fabius, Flowerfield, Leonidas, Lockport, Marcellus, Mendon, Newberg, Oshtemo, Park, city of Portage, Porter (Van Buren County), Prairie Ronde, Schoolcraft, Texas, Wakeshma Southeast Michigan: Dover, Fairfield, Franklin, Hudson, Madison, Medina, Palmyra, Rollin, Rome, Seneca We also employ a long-term spraying strategy to manage continued regrowth. It effectively controls tall-growing trees and bushes while promoting low-growing plants that are beneficial to wildlife. We will spray in the following townships: Southwest Michigan: Antwerp, Arlington, Bainbridge, Bangor, Bloomingdale, Calvin, Coloma, Constantine, Covert, Decatur, Florence, Hamilton, Hartford, Howard, Jefferson, Keeler, Lawrence, Lockport, Mason, Milton, Mottville, Ontwa, Paw Paw, Penn, Porter (Cass County), Porter (Van Buren County), Volinia, Watervliet, Waverly, White Pigeon Indiana: Harris, Oslo, Washington, York Southeast Michigan: Blissfield, Cambridge, Deerfield, Fairfield, Franklin, Hudson, Madison, Ogden, Palmyra, Raisin, Ridgeway, Riga, Rollin, Rome, Whiteford, Woodstock Ohio: Clinton, Franklin, German

For safety, plant taller trees away from overhead utility lines.

Power line right-of-way 40 feet height or less

30 ft


Small & Medium Trees No Tree Zone Such as redbud, dogwood, No trees within & golden rain tree should 30’ of power lines be 30’ from lines


Large Trees Such as maple, oak, spruce and pine should be 60’ from lines

Continuing a Cass Family Legacy T

Austin (left) and Marty (right)

he National Future Farmers of America (FFA) Organization is committed to “growing the next generation of leaders who will change the world.” The organization is a staple in rural American, and like MEC, it helps create vibrant, relevant, sustainable rural communities. MEC Lineman Marty was a member in his youth and, as an adult, has mentored FFA kids for years. Now, he’s had the chance to watch his own children carry on the family tradition. We recently chatted with Marty and his son Austin about their experiences with FFA and the impact it has on our communities.

Looking to the Past… In keeping with the theme of heritage, Austin initially joined because of his father’s history with FFA. Marty was a member for six years during his school days and was an elected state officer. “It felt natural to get involved,” Austin said.

…to Plan for the Future Austin said in the nearly eight years since he joined, he’d had opportunities and developed skills that he wouldn’t have thought possible. These included leadership training, public speaking engagements, and agriculture workshops. In one memorable instance, the National FFA Organization, along with many of its state officers from around the country, partnered with the city of Indianapolis to eliminate invasive species of weeds and brush from a riverside. One of the officers that day was Austin, serving in an elected leadership role with a confidence he never could have imagined before joining FFA. Like his dad, Austin was elected to state office. Between March 2022 and July 2023, he served as the Region 1 State Austin conducts a safety demonstration.

Vice President, acting as an advocate for FFA by speaking with reporters and potential organization supporters at their farms. He also got to lead agricultural and leadership workshops at high schools across America. Joining the FFA community was invaluable, Austin said, not just for him, but for every other member who had honed their leadership and social skills and built a sense of community alongside him. “I’ve seen the change in almost every single student that I’ve been able to interact with,” he said. As for Marty, he said watching Austin go through the program has not only been impressive in its own right, but has helped him understand how much his own FFA experience affected his life.“When I went through, I didn’t think anything of it,” Marty said, “But watching Austin, I fully realized what the potential was.”

What’s Next? Austin’s final months with FFA will be in early 2024. Once he’s completed his time with the program, he plans to carry the skills he’s learned into his next adventure, whatever that may be. While he’s considering joining the Michigan State Police Department’s Trooper Recruit School, one thing is certain. He wants to stay in touch with his rural roots, using his skills to enrich his rural community—just like his dad before him. To join FFA, a student must be enrolled in an agricultural course at their school. Interested students can contact their school counselor or agriculture teacher to enroll in an agricultural education program and join FFA. For more information about joining, call the National FFA Organization at 888-332-2668 or email membership@ffa.org.



MI CO-OP Recipes

BEST LAYER CAKES Recipes as delicious as they are decorative


Tom Long, Midwest Energy & Communications 4 1½ ½ 1 2 1 2 1½ 2 1 1 2 1

eggs cups granulated sugar cup vegetable, almond, or walnut oil cup applesauce cups flour teaspoon salt teaspoons cinnamon teaspoons baking soda teaspoons baking powder teaspoon vanilla (16-ounce) can crushed pineapple, including juice cups grated carrots cup chopped pecans, for the sides of the baked cake

Frosting: ¾ cup unsalted butter 12 ounces cream cheese, softened 4–4½ cups powdered sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, cream together the eggs, sugar, oil, and applesauce. In a medium bowl, add the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder. Mix together until well blended. Then transfer the flour mixture into the sugar mixture and stir until just blended. Fold in the vanilla, pineapple, and grated carrots. Spray the bottom of two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the pans with wax paper cut to fit only in the bottom of the pans. Then add the cake batter evenly to both pans. Bake for 40–45 minutes, then set the cake aside to cool.

Recipe Contest

To make the frosting, blend the butter and cream cheese until smooth. Gradually add the powdered sugar and vanilla; blend until smooth. When the cake is cooled, add a layer of frosting to the top of one of the cakes, then place the remaining cake layer on top. Frost the cooled cake on top and around all edges, then press the chopped pecans around the sides of the cake. If desired, use food coloring to color a small amount of frosting green and orange, and use frosting tips and a piping bag to decorate the top with small, frosted carrots.

Win a $100 energy bill credit! Quiches & Savory Tarts due March 1; Tacos & Margaritas due April 1 Submit your favorite recipe for a chance to win a $100 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. 10 FEBRUARY 2024

Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/ recipe_type/videos/

RUBY’S CARAMEL APPLE CAKE Deb Finedell, Great Lakes Energy

For the Cake: 1 (15-ounce) box spice cake mix, plus ingredients called for on box For the Ganache: 1½ cups heavy cream 3 cups chocolate chips For the Caramel Buttercream: 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened 1 cup caramel, plus more for decoration and dipping 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract 4 cups powdered sugar 2 teaspoons cinnamon 3 teaspoons heavy cream • pinch kosher salt For top of the cake: 3 apples, sliced ¹⁄ ³ cup chopped peanuts, preferably roasted Preheat oven to 350 F. Line two 8- or 9-inch cake pans. Prepare cake batter according to package directions. Divide between pans and bake according to package directions. Let cool for 10 minutes in pan, then transfer to a

cooling rack to cool completely. To make the ganache, heat heavy cream in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until bubbles begin to form around the edges. Place chocolate chips in a large heatproof bowl, then pour hot heavy cream on top. Let set for 5 minutes, then whisk until smooth. Let cool slightly. To make the buttercream, use a hand mixer to beat the butter and caramel in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add vanilla, then gradually beat in powdered sugar and cinnamon. Add heavy cream and mix until smooth. To assemble the cake, place the bottom layer on your serving platter. Spread with buttercream and pour ganache over the buttercream. Place the second layer of the cake on top, then frost cake entirely with buttercream, letting the ganache drip over the edges. Pour some of the additional caramel over ganache for decoration, letting it drip over edges (for perfect drips, use a squeeze bottle). Dunk apples in remaining caramel, then place on top. Sprinkle chopped peanuts around the apples. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Enjoy!

GWEN’S ITALIAN CREAM CAKE Victoria Hueter, Great Lakes Energy

½ cup butter ½ cup shortening (or skip shortening and use 1 cup butter if you prefer) 2 cups sugar 5 large eggs, yolks separated from whites 1 tablespoon vanilla 2 cups cake flour (all-purpose also works) 1 teaspoon baking soda 1 cup buttermilk 1 cup flaked coconut Nutty Cream Cheese Frosting: 1 cup chopped pecans + additional chopped pecans and pecan halves for garnishing cake, if desired 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened ½ cup butter, softened 1 tablespoon vanilla 1 (16-ounce) package powdered sugar, sifted Preheat oven to 350 F. In a large bowl, cream butter and shortening. Gradually add sugar, beating well. Add

egg yolks one at a time. Add vanilla and beat until blended. In a medium bowl, combine flour and baking soda. Add to butter mixture alternately with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended. Stir in coconut. In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Fold egg whites into batter. Pour into three greased and floured 9-inch cake pans. Bake for 23–25 minutes, until toothpick test is clean. Cool 10 minutes in the pans, then remove and cool completely on racks. To make frosting, bake pecans in shallow pan at 350 F for 5–10 minutes or until toasted. When you can smell the pecans, they are done. Cool completely. Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla at medium speed until blended, then beat at high speed until smooth. Stir in pecans. When the cake is cooled, between each cake layer and on top, frost with the Nutty Cream Cheese Frosting. Garnish with pecan halves and chopped pecans or pat additional coconut on the sides.



Strengthening Schools Grants Recipients

In December 2023, we awarded local teachers, administrators, and school officials with Strengthening Schools Grants to help them bring new and exciting learning opportunities to students throughout our service territory. The program is funded by partnership dollars through our power supplier, Wolverine Power Cooperative. We’re proud to offer these grants each year to those who share our vision of creating vibrant, relevant, and sustainable rural communities. A team of MEC customers evaluates all applications without knowledge of the applicants, districts, or communities. Take a look at this year’s winners and their projects:

• Bloomingdale Middle and High School: Solar energy kit • Bloomingdale Middle and High School: Woodshop tools • Brandywine Merritt Elementary School: Blast Foundations Student Kit • Brandywine Middle/Senior School: One-year online subscription to Oxford English Dictionary • Cassopolis Middle School: Indoor hydroponics automated tower/system • Cassopolis Ross Beatty Junior/Senior High School: Individual small whiteboards and markers for students • Cassopolis Ross Beatty Junior/Senior High School: New appliances for home economics classroom • Clinton Elementary School: Rebuild a theater program • Colon Elementary School: Math intervention program • Colon Elementary School: Math manipulatives • Decatur Davis Elementary School: Art class ceramic/ clay supplies • Decatur Davis Elementary School: Books for a fourthgrade literacy program

12 FEBRUARY 2024

• Edwardsburg Eagle Lake Elementary School: Student nature club • Hartford Redwood Elementary School: Large interactive smart whiteboard w/ touch screen • Hartford Redwood Elementary School: Social and emotional learning library • Heritage Southwest Intermediate School District/ Brookside Learning Center: Alternative classroom seating • Morenci Elementary School: Digital force meters and scales • Morenci Elementary School: New library books • Onsted Middle School: Art supplies • Paw Paw High School: Texas Instruments TI-Nspire CX II CAS teacher kits • Paw Paw Public Schools: Chromebooks • Volinia Outcomes School: Podium and screen • Watervliet High School: Saltwater aquarium • White Pigeon Central Elementary School: Books



We sponsored the Cass Council on Aging’s Thanksgiving Luncheon, allowing area seniors to enjoy a holiday meal for free. Some MECers also volunteered to help serve and wait tables at the Lowe Center location.


We donated food items to help feed 300 people at the Morenci Sportsman’s Club. MEC employee Patty also volunteered an afternoon to help prepare the food.


We volunteered to help Marcellus Elementary students shop for their families for Christmas. No child was denied the opportunity to shop, and our volunteers helped wrap all the presents so the students could take home their gifts and put them under the tree.


We collected Toys for Tots donations at our Cass, Tecumseh, and Paw Paw service centers. MECers in Tecumseh also spent a day shopping for donations.

We adopted five Van Buren County families for Christmas, making sure there would be presents under the tree for each family member, as well as a food basket with a ham for Christmas dinner. In Tecumseh, MEC employees Sherri and Kim shopped for a family of four to purchase gifts, groceries, and a gift certificate for a complete prepared holiday meal.



Michigan Tech’s Broomball Craze By Emily Haines Lloyd

Wait. Duct tape? Statistics are a part of most athletics. But there’s nothing average about the stats coming out of Michigan Tech’s intramural sport of choice—broomball.

3 rinks. 224 games. 2,000 student-athletes. 404,235 linear feet of duct tape each year.

14 FEBRUARY 2024

Let us explain. The Essence of Broomball: Duct Tape and Bristles The name “broomball” is derived from the unique construction of the brooms used in the game. While contemporary brooms are now manufactured, original enthusiasts would insist brooms should have straw bristles with duct tape wrapping all but a few inches at the end. These brooms, akin to hockey sticks, are used to propel a small round ball into the opponent’s goal. Played both indoors and outdoors on an ice rink, broomball features two teams of six players each, with a goaltender and five field players. Unlike traditional ice hockey, players do not wear ice skates, opting instead for rubber-soled shoes, typically their everyday sneakers.

Broomball on a Budget Despite the university’s reputation for impressive math and engineering programs, the less serious endeavor of broomball has become a significant part of campus life, involving over a quarter of the student body each season. Wyatt Helzer, a computer science and ethics major and the current chairperson of broomball at Michigan Tech, highlights the sport’s accessibility as a key factor in its popularity. “Not only is it relatively easy to learn,” said Helzer. “But it’s affordable too. I mean, a broom, some duct tape, and 35 bucks lets you play all season.” Helzer encourages cash-strapped college students to work a few shifts at the rinks to cover their entry fees, making broomball an accessible and inclusive activity for students.

Evolution of Rules and Broomball Culture When broomball first hit Michigan Tech in the 1950s, there were only two rules: the first addressing how many inches of broom bristles needed to show below your tape and the second being that brooms couldn’t be used as a bat against other players. For a university nestled in the harsh weather of the Upper Peninsula, these seem like fairly reasonable rules for the hearty individuals who call Michigan Tech home. Over the years, broomball has evolved into its own subculture at the university, attracting fans for life. Now, three outdoor rinks are situated in the center of campus, making it nearly impossible for the student body to avoid its charms.

Nerds on Ice David Wingard, a 2008 MTU alumnus working in research and development, returns annually for the Alumni Tournament during Winter Carnival, which showcases broomball’s enduring allure. “Tech is filled with a bunch of nerds,” Wingard jokes. “But that’s the thing about broomball— you don’t have to be a serious athlete, you just have to be up for some fun.” As the sound of brooms hitting balls echoes through the icy rinks of Michigan Tech, it resonates with the laughter, friendships, and memories that make broomball an integral part of the Tech experience. Broomball is a reflection of the Upper Peninsula and Michigan Tech itself— resilient, innovative, and unapologetically unique.



• Unexpected Apps or Downloads: Malware can make an infected device download things without telling you. If you notice things on your device that you didn’t download or authorize, investigate them to find out what they are, and don’t open them until you’re sure they’re not invasive. • Unexplained Charges: Watch your bank account! If you notice charges you didn’t make, they could be the result of malware that’s stolen your payment information. • Device Overheating: Malware in the background can overwork your device, causing it to get hot even when it seems like it’s not in use. In extreme cases, this can be a fire hazard—unplug your device and shut it down if it’s getting out of hand. • Slowness or Glitching: This can be a little harder to pinpoint, but if your device isn’t running like it usually does, it’s worth looking for potential malware. Devices run worse as they age, but a sudden drop in performance isn’t normal.

Yes, Your Apple Device is Vulnerable to Malware

Viruses and Malware: Watch for the Signs Malware isn’t always easy to spot. Hackers like to hide their programs so they can continuously steal your data without being discovered. And it’s not just computers that can be infected— phones and other devices that connect to a network (even things like smart thermostats!) can all fall victim. Don’t let them. Get to know these common signs of malware.

Signs of Malware

While it’s true that lots of malware targets systems like Windows and Android, Apple users aren’t immune. If you ignore the warning signs, you’re playing with fire no matter what device you use.

What If I Get a Virus? If you suspect your device is infected, shut it down and try to find someone who can remove it. Search Google for computer repair services near you, ask tech-savvy friends or family members, or see if your local Council on Aging has any resources. You should also change all your passwords and watch your accounts for suspicious activity.

ProtectIQ Can Help If you have MEC Wi-Fi and a GigaSpire U6, U6x, or U12 router, ProtectIQ shields the devices connected to your network against hackers, viruses, malware, and other digital threats. Please note: Devices that leave the house or disconnect from your Wi-Fi will need virus protection for when they leave.

• Pop-Up Ads: This might be the easiest way to tell if your device is infected. If you have lots of pop-up ads that won’t go away, don’t click. They might be trying to get you to download even more malware, or they might link to scam offers.

Not sure which router you have?

• Strange Messages from “You”: Some malware can take control of your messaging apps, email, or social media. If your friends are receiving messages or links that you didn’t send, change your passwords right away (click here for tips) and look for any strange downloads or software on your device. Speaking of which…

The free CommandIQ app sends you an alert whenever it blocks something suspicious. Download it today from the Apple App Store or Google Play.

16 FEBRUARY 2024

Visit teammidwest.com/which-router. If you don’t have any of our GigaSpire routers, we’ll give you a free upgrade.

Breaking Barriers and Building Strength

Lake Agnes


n Sept. 5, 2023, Tom Becker flew into Denver, Colorado. A few days later, he and his companions were taking in the view from atop nearby mountain summit Eagles Nest, having forged a bond that would last a lifetime. No Barriers helps Michigan veterans overcome mental and physical obstacles through a five-day expedition in Colorado. Becker first heard about the program from a few No Barriers alumni he was teaching at the Sam Beauford Woodworking Tom Becker at Lake Agnes

Veterans conquer the climbing wall

Institute in Adrian, Michigan. He said deciding to sign up was a pivotal moment for him. “It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” Becker said. After flying in, veterans are transported from the airport to “base camp” about an hour away. “Base camp is incredible,” Becker said. “The tents are extremely comfortable. Almost houses.” After meeting veterans from all service branches and all regions of the country, participants fill their next days with activities like a challenge course, hikes, and rock climbing. Becker said the final day, a hike up to Lake Agnes, was especially important. “Along the way, you talk about what’s bothering you, what’s in your past that you want to get rid of,” he said. “Up at Lake Agnes, you have a rock that represents what you want to get rid of, and you throw it away into the lake.”

Becker said the friends he made became more like family members, talking as a group every night on Facebook after the trip was over thanks to their shared life experiences. “You lose all anger and frustration, because you’re with a group who understands you and where you came from,” he said. The expedition pushed Becker beyond what he thought he was capable of. By the end of the trip, he had a new outlook on life and on himself. “It makes you realize your physical limitations aren’t actual limitations if you don’t allow them to be,” he said. Becker wanted to thank everyone at No Barriers for the program, and hopes to return in 2024, this time as a coach. He had one piece of advice for anyone considering going. “It’s more fun than you can ever imagine,” he said. “Just go for it.”

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, watch future issues for more information.


MI CO-OP Guest Column

Memories Of An Ice Fisherman

By Rick Fowler, a Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member

1958…the earliest memories of being on the ice would probably spark the flames of many of us who had dads, granddads, uncles, etc., who led us on our first journeys onto the hard water. I was 6 when my dad and grandfather included me in their plans, which involved spearing sturgeon from their fishing shanty on Mullett Lake. My grandparents lived in Indian River, Michigan, and since the lake was only a couple of miles away, we had ample time, a place to get to quickly if we needed to warm up (meaning me), and we could get home and eat. My dad and grandfather had speared a sturgeon before and loved to talk about their experiences to anyone who would listen. This morning had been slow, and we had seen nothing swimming by in the clearcut hole of the shanty. Dad and Grandpa decided to visit another shack nearby to talk to them, no doubt about how they had speared their sturgeons, and it had taken at least 20 minutes to land the monsters (every year, the pounds, length, and battle times seemed to get longer). While they were gone, they instructed me to watch for any fish that swam by and to holler if it was really big. Now, I had never seen a sturgeon before and therefore could not envision how massive they were. Within minutes of their departure, I got down on my hands and knees to get a clearer picture of the world below me. At that exact moment, the dinosaur fish decided to make his presence known and swam by the hole without a care in the world.



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Little did that fish know that up above, a 6-year-old kid screamed at the top of his lungs, busted down the thinskinned door to escape the monster, and ran to his father. They never let me forget that moment!

Rick taught high school English in Boyne City for 34 years. For the past 25 years, he has been an outdoor freelance writer.

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18 FEBRUARY 2024






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MARCH 18, 2024

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