Jan. 2023 MEC

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MUSIC TO OUR EARS Big Water Creative Arts Bringing Music Education to Northern Michigan COUNTRY LINES January 2023 MICHIGAN Midwest Energy & Communications Applications Open For NRECA Youth Tour Could Your Device Have A Virus? Introducing Arlo Security Cameras

You don’t have to lower the thermostat to control your heating bills. WaterFurnace geothermal systems use the clean, renewable energy in your own backyard to provide savings of up to 70% on heating, cooling, and hot water. And because WaterFurnace units don’t use any fossil fuels or combustion, the EPA calls it the most environmentally friendly and cost effective way to condition our homes.2 Contact your local WaterFurnace dealer to learn how WaterFurnace is good for the environment, your budget, and the feeling in your toes.

YOUR LOCAL WATERFURNACE DEALERS

Allendale

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

Bad Axe/Ubly

Cutting Edge Htg & Clg (989)551-0986

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

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

Lansing

Candor Mechanical (517)920-0890 candormechanical.comm

Mancelona

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

Michigan Center

Comfort 1/Air Serv of Southern Michigan (517)764-1500 airserv.com/southernmichigan/ Mt Pleasant Walton Htg & Clg (989)772-4822 waltonheating.com Muskegon Adams Htg & Clg (231)873-2665 adamsheatingcooling.com

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

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

Traverse City

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

Geofurnace Htg & Clg (231)943-1000 geofurnace.com

visit us at waterfurnace.com WaterFurnace is a registered trademark of WaterFurnace International, Inc. 1. 30% through 2032, 26% through 2033 and 22% through 2034

2. EPA study “Space Conditioning, The Next Frontier” (Report 430-R-93-004)

WATERFURNACE UNITS QUALIFY FOR A 30% FEDERAL TAX CREDIT THROUGH 2032

Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark

EDITOR: Christine Dorr

GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Karreen Bird

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: 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

CHANGE OF ADDRESS: Please 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.

Instagram Contest

Recipe Contest

See

Guest Column

Mystery Photo

See

Contents January 2023 Vol. 43, No. 1 /michigancountrylines /michigancountrylines countrylines.com
#micoopcommunity Instagram contest winner Upper Peninsula of Michigan @kaushik0805 (Kaushik Sur) 6 GET IN, GET OUT, GET TO WORK
now
10 MI
14 MUSIC TO OUR EARS Big
Arts bringing music
to
Alpena Community College
offers a certificate program for line-clearance arborists.
CO-OP KITCHEN Healthy Living: Feel good from the inside out.
Water Creative
education
Northern Michigan. 18 GUEST COLUMN The reluctant Boy Scout— A co-op member reflects on how his experience turned out to be one of the best things he has ever done.
enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit
MI Co-op Community To
countrylines.com/community
Win $200
stories
See details on page 18.
for
published!
credit!
details on page 10. Vegetarian due Feb. 1; Breakfast For Dinner due Mar. 1 Win a $100 bill
Use #micoopcommunity for a chance to be featured here and on our Instagram account. Win $100 for photos published!
3 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES
details on page 18. Win a $100 bill credit!

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

Erika Escue-Cadieux, Onsted 419-346-1088 erika.escue-cadieux@teammidwest.com

Fred Turk, Decatur 269-423-7762

Fred.Turk@teammidwest.com

PRESIDENT/CEO: Robert Hance

DIRECTOR, CORPORATE COMMUNICATIONS & MARKETING: Amy Pales COMMUNICATIONS SPECIALIST: Grant Zamora

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

Considering Solar? Read This.

We recently got a phone call from a solar panel financing company trying to find out the status of some residential solar arrays on our system. They wanted to know why the arrays weren’t running and they weren’t getting paid. After some research, we discovered that a solar panel company had gone out of business, leaving a handful of our customers with major headaches and solar systems that weren’t working properly.

I’m not here to rail against solar companies. However, after learning about what these, and similar, customers have been told, I’d be remiss if I didn’t try to shed some light (pun intended) on things to watch out for when considering residential solar.

First and foremost, find out the actual impact on your electric bill. Some solar panel companies claim over 90% savings off your bill, but don’t go by what a salesperson tells you. They will often give you information based on maximum output in ideal conditions. Do your research to determine your average kilowatt usage per year vs. how much electricity your panels may produce. Keep in mind that solar only generates electricity when the sun shines, so you’ll be using kilowatts from an alternate source when the panels aren’t powering your home (like every night after the sun goes down). And unless you disconnect your meter and go off the grid entirely, you will still have the monthly service charge.

We’ve also heard of people being told the government will send them a check for their solar array. Not exactly. There is a federal income tax credit available. However, your exact credit depends on how much income tax you pay, and you should consult a tax professional when factoring this into your decision. The government isn’t paying you to install solar.

Also, watch out for any “no-cost solar” programs. Those programs are often power purchase or lease agreements. You

don’t pay for the panels, but you do pay for the electricity produced. You know the adage: if it sounds too good to be true…

Finally, if you don’t have thousands of dollars to invest in solar panels upfront, you will be paying off a loan. We’ve seen upwards of $30,000 with 30-year terms. Consider the impact this will have on your ability to sell your home or pay off the solar loan when you do.

Before you sign on the dotted line, get detailed information on the installation timeline and process, frequency of communication, available warranties, and follow-up work if there’s an issue. Also, find out how the roof pitch will impact generation and what direction the panels will face. They should never face north. If the panels need maintenance five, 10, or 15 years down the road, does the solar panel company help make those repairs, or is it up to you to find an electrician? Also, learn as much as you can about the solar panel company. How long has it been in business? How many customers do they have, and will they share references? Are there any consumer complaints filed against them with the attorney general’s office?

And one last, but very important, thing: Your panel installation must pass inspection, and we need to be notified of the inspection approval. We recently found one system that was backfeeding electricity onto our lines, which is extremely dangerous for our linemen. If your system does not pass inspection or we do not have a record of the inspection, we will disconnect the net metering equipment until we get the proper documentation. We must ensure the safety of our crews.

Renewable energy sources will continue to shape, even dramatically alter, the way we power our homes, and I certainly understand the motivation to be a part of the shift. However, there’s no going back after you’ve committed, so before you do, know exactly what you are signing up for.

BUREN KALAMAZOO
ST JOSEPH LENAWEE MONROE
VAN
CASS
4 JANUARY 2023

MEC NEWS OF NOTE

Attention High School Seniors

Answer this video challenge, and you could earn $1,000 toward your college education!

Pick a job from one of the descriptions listed at teammidwest.com/scholarship. Then envision a future version of yourself with the experience needed to qualify. What have you accomplished that would make you the perfect candidate?

Create a video resume to tell us about yourself and why we should choose you for the job, along with anything else you think would make us pick you.

To help you out, we’ve included tips on how to make a great resume at teammidwest.com/scholarship

More about the scholarship

High school seniors whose families receive monthly service from MEC at their primary residence can apply. Children of MEC employees and board members are not eligible to apply.

Scholarship applications must be submitted by Monday, March 13, 2023, and awards will be announced in April. Selection for the scholarship is based on the video submission along with academic performance, extracurricular activities, involvement and employment, and honors and awards.

Submit your video online at teammidwest.com/scholarship by Monday, March 13.

Please note: Children of MEC employees and board members are not eligible to apply.

NEW YEAR, NEW SMARTHUB

SmartHub has a new look and feel! After the update, the My Services menu is no longer available. To make changes or add new services, go to Contact Us in SmartHub and click the appropriate icon.

Not seeing the new look on your app? You may need to open your phone’s app store and search for SmartHub to download the update manually.

A minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0 on a fourpoint scale is required, and an official transcript must be submitted for final approval.

Get creative and have fun. Your unique, funny, or even quirky video might just be worth $1,000 toward your education!

Get In, Get Out, Get to Work

Tornados in Michigan are unexpected and rare—but they can, and will, happen. Proof is the EF-3 class tornado that tore through Gaylord, Michigan, in May of 2022, leaving a swath of destruction and claiming two lives.

After the tornado, area residents were left without power. That is when the utility lineworkers and line-clearance arborists rolled in to begin the massive restoration process.

What is the difference between lineworkers and line-clearance arborists? While the lineworker focuses on the equipment related to the electrical conductor, line-clearance arborists focus on the vegetation surrounding energized systems. Neither can function properly without the other.

Utility companies and line-clearance contractors both constantly scrutinize weather forecasts and right-of-way maintenance in anticipation of events. When an outage occurs, the power company is dispatched to assess the damage while line-clearance arborists are alerted to clear the trees and vegetation from the damaged power lines after the utility company de-energizes them. It is a true team effort.

The second significant difference between the two job titles is training. Traditionally, if someone wanted to become a line-clearance arborist, they would apply at a tree service company, go through their orientation, and then complete close to one year’s worth of on-the-job training. Conversely, lineworkers often undergo substantial classroom and field training, over an extended period.

Tree service workers in general face many hazards in the course of their work. Those hazards increase further

for line-clearance arborists whose work involves electrical lines. That’s why proper training is so important. Alpena Community College (ACC) has taken its mastery of training lineworkers and expanded it to offer a safety-centric certificate program for line-clearance arborists. This new, noncredit, one-semester Utility Arborist Line Clearance Program is designed for those interested in working in this industry, allowing students to complete the required training and have the potential for job offers in just four months. Work in the program is coordinated with the established Utility Technology Certificate Program and allows the Utility Line Clearance students to build skills around de-energized primary wires, which is not offered by similar programs at other institutions.

Making a living as a line-clearance arborist has many of the same draws as a utility lineworker: excellent compensation, opportunities to grow, the freedom to work outside, a team environment, the ability to help people—and the thrill of climbing. The ACC program is built for those who like to work outside, are adventure seekers, are up for a challenge, are able to work in a team, and do not want to sit in an office.

For more information on how to become a line-clearance arborist or to register for the training program, contact Program Director Walter Wiltse at 989-358-7284 or wiltsew@alpenacc.edu, or visit https://discover.alpenacc.edu/ programs/degrees_and_programs/ utility_arborist.php.

WHO WHAT WHERE WHY

• Anyone 18+ who likes to work outside

• Thrill/adventure seekers

• Up for a challenge

• Physically fi t

• Able to work in a team

• Doesn’t want to sit in an offi ce

• All training required to be a utility arborist

• Chainsaw safety

• OSHA 10

• First Aid/CPR certifi cate

• Knowledge to pass pesticide application test

• Preparation for CDL training

• Electrical Hazard Awareness Program training

• Aerial rescue training

• Highly qualifi ed instructors

• Alpena Community College, Alpena, Michigan

• After program completion, job opportunities anywhere in Michigan

• Many career options such as management, equipment operator, right-away operator, and leadership opportunities

• First cohort of program— all students were offered a job with at least $40k annual salary plus benefi ts

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Winter Energy-Saving Tips

Winter’s cool temps driving your heating costs up? Try these tips to help save energy.

Find and Seal Leaks

• Find and seal air leaks in your home. Common sources include utility cut-throughs and plumbing penetrations, gaps around chimneys and recessed lights, unfinished spaces behind cupboards and closets, window and door frames, and outlets and light switches.

Maintain Your Fireplace

• Keep the damper closed when not in use. Otherwise, warm air will escape up the chimney.

• When in use, lower the thermostat and open the nearest window slightly.

• Install tempered glass doors and a heat-air exchange system that blows warmed air back into the room.

• Check the seal on the fireplace flue damper and make it as snug as possible. Also, add caulking around the hearth.

Maintain Your Heating System

• Replace your filter every month.

• Have your furnace inspected by a professional every year. They will ensure everything is working as it should and can alert you to potential problems before they become an emergency.

• If you use a pellet or wood stove, clean the flue regularly.

• When it’s time to replace your system, select an energy-efficient model.

• Vacuum your vents and registers regularly, and ensure that vents aren’t blocked by drapery and furniture.

Use Ceiling Fans

• Set your fan to a low speed with the blades rotating in a clockwise direction. This will push the warm air collected at the ceiling around the room.

Lower Your Thermostat

• Turn down your thermostat by 10 degrees for eight hours, and you could save up to 10% on your heating costs. Consider investing in a smart thermostat that will automatically adjust temperatures for you.

Let the Sunshine In

• Open curtains or blinds on sunny days to let the sun help warm your rooms.

• Close blinds and curtains at night to prevent heat from escaping.

Visit energy.gov/energysaver for more tips on improving your home’s efficiency all year long.

8 JANUARY 2023

When you hear the words “computer virus,” do you picture something like this?

Does My Computer Have A Virus?

Malware isn’t always easy to spot. Hackers 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.

Signs of Malware

1. Pop-Up Ads: 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.

2. 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 you didn’t send, change your passwords immediately (visit teammidwest.com/passwords for tips) and look for any strange downloads or software on your device. Speaking of which…

3. Unexpected Apps or Downloads: Malware can make an infected device download things without telling you. If you notice items 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.

4. Unexplained Charges: Watch your bank account! If you notice charges you didn’t make, they could result from malware that’s stolen your payment information.

5. 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.

6. Slowness or Glitching: This can be a little harder to pinpoint, but it’s worth looking for potential malware if your device isn’t running like it usually does. Devices run worse as they age, but a sudden drop in performance isn’t normal.

Yes, Your Apple Device Is Vulnerable To Malware

Somewhere along the line, you’ve probably been told that Apple devices can’t get viruses or malware. This is a myth.

While it’s true that lots of malware targets systems like Windows and Android, Apple users aren’t immune. Don’t ignore the signs.

What If I Get A Virus?

If you suspect your device is infected, 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. Change all your passwords and watch your accounts for suspicious activity.

ProtectIQ Can Help

If you have MEC Wi-Fi, the free CommandIQ app, and a GigaSpire U6, U6x, or U12 router, the devices connected to your network are protected against hackers, viruses, malware, and other digital threats. Once you set up CommandIQ, your network is automatically protected, including smart home devices that don’t have access to other virus protection software.

Not sure which router you have?

Visit teammidwest.com/which-router to find out. If you don’t have a GigaSpire, we’ll give you a free upgrade at teammidwest.com/router-swap.

Please note: ProtectIQ works for your in-home network. Any devices that leave the house will need virus protection for when you leave.

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WINNING RECIPE!

OVERNIGHT OATS

Kerri Hanson, Great Lakes Energy

2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats (not quick-cooking oats)

2 cups almond milk or milk of choice

1 cup plain Greek or nondairy yogurt ¼ cup chia seeds

¼ cup pure maple syrup or honey

Topping Options:

• Blueberry: blueberries (fresh, frozen, or dried) and chopped walnuts

• Pina Colada: pineapple tidbits, 1 tablespoon coconut, ½ teaspoon vanilla

• PB&J: jam on bottom, peanut butter on top

• Pear: diced pear, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, and chopped pecans

• Caramel Apple: diced apple, caramel sauce, and chopped peanuts

• Chocolate Raspberry: raspberries (fresh or frozen), 1–2 teaspoons cocoa powder, mini chocolate chips

To make the base, in a medium bowl, mix together the oats, milk, yogurt, chia seeds, and maple syrup/honey. Stir until combined. Portion 1-cup servings into 4 wide-mouth, 16-ounce canning jars (or another airtight container) and top with any additional toppings as desired.

These toppings can be stirred into the base recipe, or customize each jar by putting them separately in the bottom of the jar before filling. The possibilities are endless. Place lids on and refrigerate overnight. When refrigerated, these overnight oats can last for up to 5 days.

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

MI
Photos by Robert Bruce Photography || Recipes submitted by MCL readers and tested by recipe editor Christin McKamey
CO-OP Recipes
Recipe Contest Win a $100 energy bill credit! Vegetarian due Feb. 1, Breakfast For Dinner due Mar. 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 HEALTHY LIVING Feel good from the inside out. 10 JANUARY 2023

QUINOA SALAD

GREEK CHICKEN

1 cup quinoa

2 cups low-sodium chicken broth or water

1 can drained medium ripe olives, or 1 cup pitted kalamata olives

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

½ cup green bell pepper, diced

½ cup diced celery

1 cup feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

½ cup walnuts, halved

Dressing:

½ cup olive oil

½ cup red wine vinegar

1 shallot, diced

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon dried oregano

Cook quinoa in broth according to package directions. Combine dressing ingredients and add to the cooked quinoa while still warm. Add the rest of the salad ingredients and stir until combined. Enjoy!

6–8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

• olive oil or butter

• salt and pepper, to season

1 onion, thinly sliced

2–4 garlic cloves, minced

2 cans chopped Italian-style tomatoes

½ teaspoon oregano

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ –½ cup feta cheese

1 can black olives

2 cans quartered artichokes

Preheat oven to 350 F. Brown chicken breasts in oil or butter in frying pan. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to baking dish. Add more oil or butter to pan; sauté the sliced onions and garlic. Add the canned tomatoes and blend the spices in with the onions and garlic. Bring the tomato mixture to a simmer, then pour over chicken breasts in baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove baking dish from oven and sprinkle feta cheese, olives, and artichokes over the top. Put back in oven and bake for another 15 minutes. Serve with orzo, couscous, or rice.

HEAVENLY CABBAGE SOUP

Deb

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium white onion, chopped

3 stalks celery, chopped

4 large carrots, peeled and chopped

3 medium Yukon gold potatoes, cut into ¼ -inch cubes

3 cloves garlic, minced

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth

1 cup tomato juice

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained

1 head green cabbage, cored and chopped

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon sugar

½ teaspoon dried thyme

¼

teaspoon celery salt

1 bay leaf

Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Once simmering, add onion, celery, carrots, and potatoes. Sauté until the vegetables start to soften, about 5–7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant. Pour in broth and tomato juice and stir. Add the diced tomatoes, cabbage, salt, black pepper, sugar, thyme, celery salt, and bay leaf. Bring contents to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 30–40 minutes, until the cabbage is wilted and the vegetables are soft. Remove bay leaf. Enjoy!

GRILLED CAULIFLOWER

Judy Bergeski, Presque Isle

1 tablespoon brown sugar

2 tablespoons seasoned salt (Lawry’s) or homemade seasoning mix (below)

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 head of cauliflower, leaves removed, cut into 1-inch thick slices *cut from top down, so the slices look like cauliflower “trees”

• fresh parsley, for garnish

Homemade Seasoning Mix:

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon dried dill

Mix together the brown sugar and seasoned salt (or homemade seasoning mix). Preheat grill to medium-high heat (can also use a panini maker) and lightly oil/spray the grill. Brush olive oil on one side of each cauliflower slice. Then sprinkle the sugar/seasoning mix over top. Repeat on other side. Save leftover spices for the next time. Place on grill or in panini maker and close lid. Cook 2–3 minutes per side. Check for doneness; should be forktender, but not mushy. Transfer to plate and sprinkle with fresh parsley (optional). Serve with ranch dressing for dipping, or balsamic glaze. Goes well with diced tomatoes and some crusty bread.

Joan Bissonette, Great Lakes Energy Virginia Czarnecki, HomeWorks Tri-County Finedell, Great Lakes Energy
11 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

MEC Rakes A Difference

Twelve MEC employees joined forces Thursday, Nov. 10, to clear leaves out of five yards for local seniors. United Way’s Rake a Difference event assists homeowners who need help raking due to physical or financial limitations.

Matt rolls a leaf blower through a backyard.

A group of employees bags a large pile of leaves.

Arell stands on a ladder to sweep leaves off a roof.

Bob (L) and Amber (R) use leaf blowers to clean up a yard.

Our jobs were just a small part of the efforts that took place across all United Way events:

Number of teams: 133 Number of volunteers: 1,249 Number of volunteer hours: 6,834

Value of volunteer time: $204,678.30

Online Applications Are Open For NRECA Youth Tour!

Up to two students will be selected for this all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., in June 2023. Youth Tour is an opportunity to explore our nation’s capital, meet with members of Congress, and build leadership skills.

Our top applicants will participate in a hands-on educational experience with MEC employees on Friday, March 17, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The day will start at our headquarters in Cassopolis, where attendees will learn about MEC, hear about careers in the industry, and see firsthand what it means to be part of an electric cooperative. After getting to know participants during MEC Day, we will select up to two students to go on Youth Tour.

Students must be high school sophomores or juniors, and their families must receive electric service from MEC. Please note that children of MEC employees and board members are not eligible to apply.

The deadline to apply is Feb. 28, 2023. To learn more and fill out an application, visit cooperativeyouthtour.com

Cathy rakes near the edge of a yard.
12 JANUARY 2023

5.

6.

DAY OF ACTION 2022

In October, MEC crews in southwest and southeast Michigan gave back to our communities. Check out what we did for Day of Action in 2022.

1. & 2. In the Village of Cassopolis, we decorated the downtown area with bales of hay, mums, pumpkins, lights, and flags for the holidays to come.

3. Once we completed that, we headed down to Animal Control to give love by walking and playing with all the furry friends waiting to be adopted.

4. In Dowagiac, we cleaned and painted as many of the fire hydrants as time would allow. The fresh paint makes the hydrants much easier for firefighters to see.

5. At the Lenawee Humane Society, we replaced the sand in the outdoor dog runs with two inches of pea gravel. The sand was “less than clean” and tended to cut the dogs’ pads when they walked on it, making it even more of a health risk.

6. Removing years of sand proved to be a far bigger task than we first thought. It was a foot deep at the front of the kennels and more than two feet deep at the back. It took four hours to remove the sand using shovels, a dingo, and a skid steer before spreading 25 tons of pea gravel. In order to get the equipment in, much of the kennel fencing had to be removed as well.

A vet told us the pea gravel will help in a significant way with disease prevention and control, as well as site drainage. It can also be bleached. The dogs and shelter will be much cleaner now.

Thank you to all those who helped out.

1. Kelli strings tree lights in downtown Cassopolis. 3. Kathryn gives a dog some exercise at Cass County Animal Control. 4. Amy and Randi paint a fire hydrant in Dowagiac. Several years’ worth of sand is removed from the kennels at Lenawee Humane Society. A team spreads fresh pea gravel at Lenawee Humane Society.
13 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES
2. Lexie sets up fall decorations in downtown Cassopolis.

Big Water Creative Arts Bringing Music Education

To Northern Michigan

So many of us have fond memories of art and music classes in our school days. So often, it was a chance to decompress from math, science, English, or history, but the arts in learning have always been about a bit more. Studies have shown improvements in math, reading, and critical thinking can all be linked to engagement in artistic or creative endeavors.* So, it is not just a sense of melancholy that makes it upsetting that so many school systems have had to decrease funding for art programs and sometimes eliminate them altogether.

It’s this reality that spurred Michelle Chenard and Pete Kehoe of Big Water Creative Arts to turn their passion for music into a bigger purpose.

“Music has always given Michelle and me so much,” said Kehoe, director of the board at Big Water Creative Arts. “It felt like time for us to return the favor.”

Chenard and Kehoe are longtime friends and sometimes creative partners who have enjoyed their own lives as musicians. Chenard, originally from the Upper Peninsula, took her talent on the road working the music circuit in the southern United States and finally back to Michigan. Kehoe, from Gladwin, has been in Petoskey since 1999. While they’ve worked on songs together and played in Michigan for decades, it was a songwriting workshop they were holding on Mackinac Island that was the first step in creating Big Water Creative Arts.

MU SI C TO OU R E AR S
14 JANUARY 2023

“We had been doing this threeday songwriting workshop for a few years, but never quite got in the black,” said Kehoe. “Then we started talking and realizing we wanted to also do something that had a more far-reaching impact.”

The two were keenly aware that school music programs had been losing funding year after year, with many rural communities in their own backyard with no programming at all.

It started with a songwriting workshop for Mancelona Public Schools. Music programming spread to Petoskey, Pellston, Gaylord, Cheboygan, and so on. Today, Big Water Creative Arts offers multiple programs for arts education for elementary and middle school students, as well as senior and adult special education programs.

While BWCA offers these music classes free to all students, they depend on grants, donations, and fundraising from their

annual event in September. As interest grows amongst students and school administrators, the strain on the nonprofit’s budget increases.

“We are always looking for community partners who want to help bring music education to Northern Michigan,” said Kehoe. “We want to take the cost barrier out of the equation so it can be available to all.”

This is what the folks at Big Water Creative Arts do. They see a need, look at their resources, and make musical magic happen in their community.

“It’s our dream that every kid who wants to play, sing, or express themselves musically can do that without worrying about economics or funding,” said Kehoe. “Music is a right for everyone. It makes for more engaged, confident, and happy people. And that just makes the world better.”

If you’d like to help support Big Water Creative Arts, here’s how:

To donate: bigwatercreativearts.org smile.amazon.com (BWCA) bigwatercreativearts@gmail.com Big Water Creative Arts, Inc. P.O. Box 124, Petoskey, MI 49770

For more information: /bigwatercreativearts /bigwatercreativeartsinc

bigwatercreativearts.org

*Source: President’s Committee on Arts and the Humanities, 2011

“Music is a right for everyone. It makes for more engaged, confident, and happy people. And that just makes the world better.”
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Photos by: Jessica Wynder Photography (top of page 14), Johnny Ulibarri (left), and Alex Childress (cover and top right)

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ADD A PERSON TO YOUR BILL ALERTS

Did you know we can send bill alerts to more than one person?

If you’re concerned about a loved one and need to be added to their bills, please call us at 800-492-5989 or email us at info@teammidwest.com. We’ll work with you to make sure you receive the same information they do.

If you’d like to add someone else to your bill alerts, follow the steps below.

Desktop or Laptop

1. Log into your account at teammidwest.com.

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SmartHub Mobile App

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Data Privacy Tariff

The Member-Customer Data Privacy Tariff details how and why we collect and use your personal information and account data, as well as your rights and responsibilities related to that information. The tariff addresses circumstances under which we can disclose your data to cooperative agents and contractors and their responsibility to provide the same level of confidentiality, privacy, and security practices and procedures that we employ; your right to access, share, and amend your personal information and account data; and notification requirements. You can view the Member-Customer Data Privacy Tariff in full at teammidwest.com. If you have questions or would like a printed copy, please contact us by telephone at 800.492.5989 or email at info@teammidwest.com.

17 MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES

Where In Michigan Is This?

The Reluctant Boy Scout

Inever considered Scouting until my father told me I was going to become one. My younger brother decided he wanted to be a Cub Scout and my dad figured I could be very useful keeping tabs on him. I really didn’t think it was for me, but I dutifully joined Troop 57 at the local school. This turned out to be one of the best things I have ever done.

I was a year older than most of the “Tenderfoot” Scouts, but I quickly qualified for 2nd and then 1st class scout and eventually became den chief for my brother’s pack. Our family was already into camping, and the Scouts camped several times a year at Rota-Kiwan in Texas Corners. There were canoe trips, jamborees, the Klondike Derby, and plenty of other events that I loved.

My best friend, Rod, was my assistant when I became the leader of Hawk Patrol. Eventually, my brother joined us, along with several other boys. Our Scoutmaster, Mr. Brown, was an outstanding leader, and several other parents were great mentors and teachers for all of us. In less than three years, I was a Life Scout working on Eagle when I was chosen to join The Order of the Arrow.

Scouting opened so many doors for my brother and me. Our record score and time in the 1964 Klondike Derby still stands! I was big for my age, and soon the other boys began to call me “Hoss” after the Bonanza character played by Dan Blocker. To this day, some of them still greet me that way when I see them. The camping, boating, swimming, crafting, first aid, and other skills I learned during those years still serve me well. I am so grateful that my parents decided to help me on my way to an experience I will never forget.

About The Author: James is retired from a career in the audio/video business. He was also a DJ for more than 40 years. He and his wife enjoy gardening, reading, listening to music, and spending time with their children and grandchildren.

Winners
They have performed recorded music at nearly 500 wedding receptions and parties, beginning in 1973. Nov./Dec.
2022 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Leslie Miller, a Thumb Electric Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as Hartwick Pines Chapel in Grayling.
are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/ August, September, and November/December.
MI CO-OP Guest Column Guest Column Win $200 for stories published! Share your fondest memories and stories. Win $200 for stories published. Visit countrylines.com/community to submit. Mystery Photo Win a $100 energy bill credit!
Identify the correct
the
and
to win a $100 electric bill credit. Enter
18 JANUARY 2023
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be entered into a drawing
your guess at countrylines.com/community
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