HomeWorks July/Aug 2020

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July/August 2020


COUNTRY LINES HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative

Watch Our District Meeting Video Series And Win


2019 Annual Report Inside COVID-19 Financial Assistance Resources


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Contents countrylines.com

July/August 2020 Vol. 40, No. 7



Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr GRAPHIC DESIGNER: Karreen Bird RECIPE EDITOR: Christin McKamey 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 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.


14 RECLAIMED: THE ART OF THE BARN Former Thumb resident Jim Boyle incorporates the magic of art to transform declining Port Austin barns.

Cover Photo: Tyler Leipprandt, Michigan Sky Media

6 GLOW IN THE DARK Erik Rintamaki shares the magic of Yooperlites. 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Celebrate the growing season with these scrumptious recipes featuring farm-fresh ingredients.


18 GUEST COLUMN Carol Higgins reminisces about the simple joys of her childhood community softball games.

A gorgeous repost from @mi.explorer: “A man practices the art of adventure when he breaks the chain of routine and renews his life through reading new books, traveling to new places, making new friends, taking up new hobbies and adopting new viewpoints.” —Wilfred Peterson, @mi.explorer (Ryan Peurach)

Be featured!

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

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





Up Next: Easy Recipes; Sauces, Dips & Dressings Share your favorite recipes.

Up Next: Wineries! Which is your favorite spot amongst the vines to sip Michigan’s world-class wines?

Submit your fondest memories and stories.

Enter a drawing to identify the correct location of the photo.

Win $150 for stories published!

Win a $50 bill credit!

Win a $50 bill credit!



homeworks.org /homeworks.org tricoenergy@homeworks.org Portland office/Mail payments to: 7973 E. Grand River Ave. Portland, MI 48875 Open 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday

Blanchard office: 3681 Costabella Ave. Blanchard, MI 49310 Open 8 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday–Friday Night deposit box available at both locations. Electric bill/account questions: 517-647-7554 or 1-800-562-8232 Pay by phone, anytime: 1-877-999-3395

Service questions/outages: 517-647-7554 or 1-800-848-9333 (24 hours for emergency calls) Tri-County Propane: 1-877-574-2740

HomeWorks Connect 1-800-668-8413 BOARD OF DIRECTORS

District 1 — John Lord, Vice-Chairman 2276 Plains Rd., Leslie, MI 49251 517-974-2518 • jlord@homeworks.org

District 2 — Jim Stebbins 7139 Peddler Lake Rd., Clarksville, MI 48815 616-693-2449 • jstebbins@homeworks.org District 3 — Luke Pohl, Chairman 15560 W. Hanses Rd., Westphalia, MI 48894 989-292-0427 • lpohl@homeworks.org District 4 — Kimber Hansen 6535 N. Wyman Rd., Edmore, MI 48829 989-506-5849 • khansen@homeworks.org District 5 — Corinna Batora 7655 N. Watson Rd., Elsie, MI 48831 517-256-5233 • cbatora@homeworks.org

District 6 — Ed Oplinger, Secretary-Treasurer 10890 W. Weidman Rd., Weidman, MI 48893 989-644-3079 • eoplinger@homeworks.org District 7 — Shirley Sprague 15563 45th Ave., Barryton, MI 49305 989-382-7535 • ssprague@homeworks.org Editor: C harly Markwart, CCC

The Show Will Go On…Digitally Chris O’Neill, CEO

very spring for the 18 years that I have worked for the Cooperative, our staff has loaded up the trailer in May for a twoweek road tour of our service territory, stopping in each of our districts for our annual district membership meetings. District meetings began decades ago as a way to engage our membership and to come to you with important Cooperative updates and other matters of business.


After all those years of gathering with you in your local communities each spring, it sure felt strange to see the trailer remain parked at our office this May when we were forced to cancel our in-person district meetings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our employees always look forward to meeting with you, and we were disappointed not to be able to see you this year. Your safety and the safety of our employees is our top priority, though, and canceling to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 was the right choice. Still, having an engaged and informed membership is crucial to our Co-op, so we challenged ourselves to come up with a safe way to communicate the important updates and information we had planned to share with you at this year’s district meetings. Our answer to that challenge was our first-ever district meeting video series, released in midJune on our website, HomeWorks.org. If you haven’t had a chance to watch the brief video series yet, I hope you’ll take a few minutes to do so when you can. While this digital option didn’t allow us to replicate the great fellowship and food that we always look forward to sharing with you at our district meetings, it has allowed us to keep you up to date on important Co-op topics including: • Business meeting: Update on directors, district officers and Annual Meeting


Watch our district meeting video series at HomeWorks.org by July 20 for the chance to win big prizes, including 58-inch TVs, HomeWorks bill credits, Apple iPads and more!

• A word from your board of directors • A Cooperative update • An update on HomeWorks Connect • An update on our People Fund and other community outreach programs And we can’t forget the prizes! Giveaways are always a popular draw at our district meetings, so we’re offering you the chance to win big prizes just for watching our video series. Instructions on how to enter to win prizes are available on the district meeting video series page of our website, HomeWorks.org. Watch the series by July 20 to enter. I hope you’ll take advantage of the opportunity to watch our brief video series for updates on the exciting things that have been happening at your Co-op over the past year. We hope you enjoy the series, and we look forward to the day when we can meet with you in person again. Good luck in the prize drawings! Read more on page 12.


WITH A 911-ONLY PHONE LINE! Safety always comes first at HomeWorks. That’s why HomeWorks Connect is offering a 911-only landline phone option for our internet subscribers: Talk-911. Talk-911’s location feature ensures that your phone line comes pre-programmed with your address, so any calls made to 911 will be automatically traced to your location. Because it’s a landline phone option, you won’t have to worry about spotty connections or dropped calls. Talk-911 provides a line that allows you to make calls only to 911. This is a perfect option for homes that need a reilable way to contact help in the case of an emergency. In addition, the location feature gives you the peace of mind of knowing that your young children or elderly family members will be able to be located during an emergency, even if they can’t give an address over the phone. Interested in this service? If you’re already an internet subscriber, give our office a call at 800-668-8413 and we’ll be happy to add this to your package selection. If you don’t have our internet service yet, pre-register today at Join.HomeWorksConnect.org by inputting your address. Find out which zone you’re in and what stage of construction your location is in. You’ll also be able to select the Talk-911 package and any of our other internet or phone packages. Have questions? Please call us at 800-668-8413!


$ 14.95 /mo.

with auto-pay savings*

911 Calling Only Pre-programmed address for 911 call centers One-time $10/line activation charge not included in price

ONLY AVAILABLE FOR INTERNET SUBSCRIBERS *Non-auto-pay fee is $5/mo. per account

PREPARE YOUR FAMILY FOR THE UNPREDICTABLE Make sure your phone line and your internet speeds are able to handle whatever life throws your way.

Internet packages start at just $54.95!

The Magic of Yooperlites By Emily Haines Lloyd


rik Rintamaki has been walking the beaches of Lake Superior all of his life.

Rintamaki, now living in Brimley, grew up in the Upper Peninsula and spent pretty much every weekend or nice day on the beaches with his dad on the hunt for rocks. They spent most of their time searching for agate, a variety of quartz, popular with rock collectors or “rock hounds.” “I’ve always loved rock collecting,” said Rintamaki. “There’s something peaceful and soothing about it. Plus, spending time with my dad made it even more special.” But Rintamaki’s barometer for “special” was about to hit a whole new level. In 2017, while testing out a UV light he’d bought on eBay for eight bucks, Rintamaki noticed a few small stones lined with various patterns in bright fluorescent orange. He’d never seen anything like it, and at 4:30 a.m., he found himself racing home from Vermilion with the rocks to look them up online and see what they were.



However, he couldn’t find anything. And not just online. After Google failed him, Rintamaki started bringing his discoveries to rock and gems shows that he would attend to sell agate. “I took them to six or eight shows and showed them to probably 300 people I know there,” said Rintamaki. “And no one had any idea what they were.” A friend of Rintamaki’s in California asked for a couple of pounds of stones and finally determined that they were a variety of syenite sodalite. And it was the Michigan Mineralogy Project (MMP) that determined this was something that had never been discovered in Michigan before. In fact, the MMP credited Rintamaki with the discovery of the first verified sodalite deposits ever documented in Michigan in its May 2018 edition of The Mineral News. That was the beginning of Yooperlites. With the opportunity to name his discovery, Rintamaki was informed that most rocks were named after the location in

which they were found and had the suffix “ite.” While he considered some specific geographical names, Rintamaki finally hit on Yooperlite—a nod to the nickname for those from the Upper Peninsula. “I’m a Yooper,” laughed Rintamaki. “It just felt right.”

“It’s like unlocking a secret with these stones. They may look like nothing special, but under just the right conditions—magic!”

Rintamaki, who is also a lapidarist (rock artisan), started taking his Yooperlite findings and grinding them into shapes and spheres and selling them to rock collectors. But it was when he struck on the idea to take other people out on rock collecting tours that his joy of identifying Yooperlites hit another level. “It was only my second tour and as I was showing everyone how to shine the lights and look for Yooperlites that I asked if folks would let me know if they saw something, so I could record it.” It was Shirley Klemmer who shouted out first and Rintamaki ran over to take some video. He posted it online that evening when he got home. By the time he woke up the next day, the video had gone viral. Rintamaki’s rock tour Yooperlites Facebook page, which had only 26 likes prior, had since propelled to more than 14,000. “People were just so excited by the Yooperlites,” said Rintamaki. “All of a sudden I’m doing tours weekly, taking out hundreds of folks from all over the world.” Tour groups from as far away as Japan have come to take Yooperlite tours and bring home the unique rocks for their collections. Rintamaki jokes that each tour is the same, where people slowly find one rock, then another and by the end, Rintamaki has to tear them away from the beach in the search for “just one more.” What is it about these plain grey rocks that are really nothing special until you shine a UV light on them? “It’s awesome to watch people discover Yooperlites,” said Rintamaki. “It’s like unlocking a secret with these stones. They may look like nothing special, but under just the right conditions—magic!”

Visit yooperlites.com to check out Rintamaki’s web store and sign up for the newsletter to get updates on tours. You can also follow Yooperlites on Facebook and Instagram.



Out With The Old; Spring For The New t’s time to start planning that summer yard sale you’ve been talking about, which means numerous trips to the basement and garage to sort through boxes of clothes, dishes, and paperback books. While you ponder over those old bowling trophies, take a closer look at the “extra” refrigerator standing in the corner. It’s been great for storing the overflow of soda cans, water bottles, and holiday leftovers over the years, but if it’s older than 15 years, it may be costing you more than $300 per year to run it!


Cash incentives are available for the following: Appliance Type

Pick-up or Ride-Along Item

Incentive Amount

Refrigerator (Full-size, 10 cubic feet or larger)



Chest Freezer (10 cubic feet or larger)



• An older refrigerator uses twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR® refrigerator.

Window Air Conditioner



• Recycling old refrigerators prevents refrigerants and foam from entering the environment, preventing 10,000 pounds of carbon pollution.




Cold, Hard Facts • More than 60 million refrigerators and refrigeratorfreezers in the U.S. are over 10 years old, costing consumers $4.4 billion a year in energy costs.

Money In Your Pocket Ready to save? Recycle your old refrigerator. Schedule a free pick-up for your outdated, functioning appliances and earn some cool cash incentives from the Energy Optimization program.


Replacing your refrigerator or freezer with a new efficient ENERGY STAR appliance might also qualify you for additional rebates. Visit michigan-energy.org or call 877-296-4319 for additional energy-saving information and incentives.

RECYCLE THAT OLD REFRIGERATOR. An outdated refrigerator uses nearly twice as much energy as a new ENERGY STAR® certified model. Recycle it and earn cash incentives!







SCHEDULE A FREE PICK-UP. V I S I T: michigan-energy.org C A L L : 877.296.4319

Energy Optimization programs and incentives are applicable to Michigan electric service locations only. Other restrictions may apply. For a complete list of participating utilities, visit michigan-energy.org.

Festivals & Fairs


1. Kristy Moralez of Lake Odessa submitted this photo of her daughter, Makenna, with her pig at the Kent County Youth Fair last summer. 2. Doug Schlappi of Sunfield submitted this photo of the annual Sunfield Farmers Picnic Parade held every August. 3. Jamie Pifer of Blanchard says, “This is our daughter, Kylie, with her Himalayan rabbit, Hershey. Kylie is a 4-H member, and this was part of the Isabella County Fair.” 4. Carol Brown of Stockbridge submitted this photo of Jim Brown enjoying a ride on the Ferris wheel with his grandsons Bronson and Brevick at the Ingham County Fair. 5. Darla Schoner of Weidman says, “My husband and I hadn’t been to the fair in years. The weather was perfect on July 26, 2018, so we walked around the Isabella County Fair. We enjoyed a fun day, with lots of activities and colors to enjoy!”


3 Enter to win a


energy bill credit!



Upcoming Snap Shot Contest Topics And Deadlines

“Michigan’s Natural Beauty,” Deadline: July 15 (September issue) “Beautiful Birds,” Deadline: August 17 (October issue) “Pets,” Deadline: September 15 (November/December issue) Go to HomeWorks.org and select Country Lines under the Electric tab to submit your photos and see all of the 2020 Snap Shot themes. It’s fast and easy. To send by mail: Include your name, address, phone number, photographer’s name, and details about your photo. Mail to Attn: Country Lines Snap Shots, 7973 E. Grand River Ave., Portland, MI 48875. Photos will not be returned. Do not send color laser prints or professional studio photos.

5 Submit Your Photos! Members whose photos we publish in Country Lines in 2020 will receive a $10 bill credit the month after publication.



MI CO-OP Recipes

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


TABLE Farm-Fresh Seasonal Recipes


TERRIFIC TOMATO SOUP Deb Finedell, Great Lakes Energy

3 4 ½ ½ 2 • ½ ½ 2 2 • ½ ¼ •

pounds fresh, ripe tomatoes cloves garlic, peeled onion, diced red bell pepper, diced tablespoons olive oil salt and pepper to taste teaspoon dried basil teaspoon dried oregano cups chicken or vegetable broth tablespoons fresh herbs (basil, parsley and/or oregano) fresh basil & parsley for serving cup heavy cream, optional cup parmesan cheese, optional for garnish croutons, optional

Preheat oven to 450 F. Wash and cut tomatoes. For smaller, apricot-sized tomatoes, cut in half. For larger tomatoes, cut into quarters or eighths. Place tomatoes, garlic, onion, bell pepper, olive oil, salt, pepper and dried herbs on a large sheet pan. Roast 25 minutes, stirring after 15 minutes. Turn oven to broil and broil 3–4 minutes or until some of the tomatoes get a little bit of char color on them. Bring broth to a boil; add tomatoes and fresh herbs. Using a hand blender or immersion blender, blend mixture until smooth and creamy. Add heavy cream if using and stir. Top with parmesan cheese, croutons, or a drizzle of heavy cream. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at micoopkitchen.com/videos


Win a


energy bill credit!


Easy Recipes due August 1 Sauces, Dips & Dressings due September 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. Go to micoopkitchen.com for more information.

GARDEN GRILLED CHEESE SANDWICH Deb Finedell, Great Lakes Energy 1 1 • 2

fresh egg, any size tablespoon canola oil cracked black pepper, as desired slices artisan-style bread (or one of your choice) 2 tablespoons butter, room temperature 1–4 ounces sliced or shredded Gruyere cheese (or cheese of your choice) 1 cup fresh arugula, rinsed and dried Fry the egg in a preheated (medium heat) nonstick skillet with the oil, breaking the yolk after the whites have

begun to set, if desired. Cook to desired opaqueness. Set aside and sprinkle with pepper. In the same skillet, with the heat slightly reduced, place a slice of bread with one side buttered (butter side down). Top with two or three slices, or about an ounce and a half, of cheese. Top the cheese with the arugula and cooked egg. Add more cheese if desired. Top with the remaining slice of bread; one side buttered and facing up. When the bottom slice of bread is browned to your liking, gently press down on the sandwich. Gently flip the sandwich, careful not to allow the fillings to spill out.

CARAMEL APPLE CHEESECAKE Erica England-Hoffman, Great Lakes Energy Crust: 2 cups flour ½ cup packed brown sugar 1 cup butter, softened Filling: 3 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened ¾ cup sugar 3 large eggs 1½ teaspoon vanilla Apples: 3 apples, peeled, cored & finely chopped ½ teaspoon cinnamon

Topping: 1 cup packed brown sugar 1 cup flour ½ cup oats ½ cup butter, softened • jar caramel sauce Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 9x13 pan with aluminum foil, then spray with cooking spray. In large bowl, combine all crust ingredients and press into pan. Bake for 15 minutes. Combine filling ingredients and pour over warm crust. Combine apple ingredients and pour on top of cheesecake filling. Combine topping ingredients, except caramel sauce, and sprinkle over apples. Bake for 40–45 minutes, until filling is set. Drizzle with caramel sauce and let cool.

“CURRY UP” 2 ALARM PORK ROAST Mike Lavens, Presque Isle

3–3.5 pound boneless pork sirloin tip roast/boneless pork loin roast 2 tablespoons garlic powder, divided 4 tablespoons curry hot spices (Kashat)* 2 tablespoons poultry seasoning 1 teaspoon cayenne red pepper* • salt and white pepper 2–3 tablespoons olive oil ½ large sweet white onion, diced 12+ baby carrots, cut in half 1 jalapeño pepper, cut to liking (slice in half, then cut up)* 2 stalks celery, cut into small chunks • jar of beef gravy Preheat oven to 230 F. Sprinkle pork with 1 tablespoon garlic powder. Combine the curry, poultry seasoning, and cayenne in a small bowl and mix. Sprinkle mixture onto all sides of the pork. Season with salt and white pepper. Pat meat to gently rub everything in. Wash hands. Heat oil in a 9- to 10-inch cast iron (or ovenproof)

skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown roast on all sides, then remove to a plate and set aside. Add onion, carrots, jalapeño, and celery to pan and sauté, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to brown. Add remaining 1 tablespoon garlic powder and beef gravy. Deglaze pan by adding splash of water to empty beef gravy jar and pour into pan. Cook 2 more minutes. Place roast on top of vegetable/gravy mixture. Insert an oven-safe, instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the meat and place in center of oven (or check temperature after 2 hours). Cook until instant-read thermometer’s internal temperature reaches 145 F (about 2.5 hours). Bump up oven temperature to 260 F if meat is not at 145 F after 2 hours for 10 minutes and recheck temperature. Remove roast from oven when temp reaches 145 F and tent with foil. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving with vegetables and gravy over top. Serve immediately with carrots and gravy. *Adjust spices/heat to individual preference. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES



Our in-person district meetings, scheduled for May, had to be canceled this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In their place, we developed our first-ever district meeting video series to keep you up to date on your Cooperative. Every year, we look forward to meeting with our members at our district meetings. It’s a chance to conduct important Co-op business, like electing directors and district officers, but also to update you on the electric co-op you own. Unfortunately, we couldn’t hold in-person meetings this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were disappointed not to be able to meet with you this spring, but of course your safety and the safety of our employees is our top priority. We still wanted be able to share important Co-op updates with you, though, so we developed our first-ever district meeting video series. The brief series, available to watch at HomeWorks.org and on our Facebook page, covers information we had planned to share with you at this year’s district meetings. Topics include: • Co-op business meeting • A word from your board of directors • General Co-op update • HomeWorks Connect update • People Fund/community outreach update


Prize Giveaways If you’ve attended one of our district meetings in the past, you know that our prize giveaways are always a big draw. We didn’t want you to miss out on that excitement this year, so each video in our district meeting video series offers the opportunity to win big prizes, just for watching! Prizes include 58-inch smart TVs, $50 and $25 HomeWorks bill credits, Apple iPads, Echo Show devices and more! Watch the series for information on how to enter. Every video has its own prizes and drawing, so each video you watch gives you more chances to win! Prize giveaways are open to HomeWorks members only, and the prize entry deadline is July 20, 2020. We hope you’ll take a few minutes to watch our 2020 district meeting video series. HomeWorks is YOUR Cooperative, and we are committed to keeping you informed on the services that you count on us to provide.

WATCH AND WIN! Watch our brief 2020 district meeting video series at HomeWorks.org or Facebook.com/ HomeWorks.org by July 20 and follow the simple instructions provided with the videos to enter to win big prizes!

Your Board In Action Meeting remotely on May 18, your board of directors: • Unanimously approved a proposed bylaw amendment giving the board reasonable authority to adjourn regularly scheduled district and annual meetings of the Co-op, if the meetings are affected by public safety and/or emergency declarations issued by government officials.

• Discussed and accepted Board Policy 108— Indemnification of Directors and Others.

• Voted unanimously not to apply for a loan from the Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Program at this time, but to table the issue for further discussion at a later date, if such funding becomes necessary to the Co-op in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Acknowledged the April safety report, listing employee training as well as minor employee and public incidents involving electric, propane, or fiber optic.

• Reviewed plans for an online video series to replace this year’s in-person district meetings, which were indefinitely postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. • Nominated the seven members of the HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative Board of Directors for re-election to the board of the Co-op’s subsidiary, Tri-Co Services, Inc. • Held the annual meeting of Tri-Co Services, Inc., at which Director Luke Pohl was re-elected chairman of the Tri-Co board, Director John Lord was re-elected vice chair, and Director Ed Oplinger was re-elected secretary.

People Fund Update Meeting remotely May 27, the Tri-County Electric People Fund board made two grants totaling $2,409, including: • $2,000 to the Community Christian Action Group of Eaton Rapids, for Christmas baskets for families in need; and • $409 to a Montcalm County family to help cover utility bills.

How to Apply for a Tri-County Electric People Fund Grant The Tri-County Electric People Fund provides grants to individuals and organizations in the Co-op’s service area for food, shelter, clothing, health and other humane needs, or for programs or services that benefit a significant segment of a community. Write to 7973 E. Grand River Ave., Portland, MI 48875, for an application form and grant guidelines, or visit the People Fund tab at HomeWorks.org. Note: Applications must be received by Aug. 11 for the August meeting or by Sept. 18 for the September meeting.

• Learned about progress made by HomeWorks Connect in building a high-speed fiber-optic internet network. • Learned there were 56 new members in April.

Time Set Aside for Members to Comment Before Cooperative Board Meetings The first 15 minutes of every board meeting are available for members who wish to address the board of directors on any subject. The next meetings are scheduled for 9 a.m. on July 27 at Blanchard and 9 a.m. on Aug. 24 at Portland. However, at the time of this printing, our meetings are temporarily being conducted remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members who wish to have items considered on the board agenda should call 517-647-7554.

Information For All Customers Of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Your Cooperative offers a program called the Tri-County Electric People Fund, which is funded through the voluntary rounding up of your monthly utility bill to the next whole dollar amount. An all-volunteer board of directors appointed by the member-elected board of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative is charged with distributing the funds throughout the Cooperative’s service area. Grants support charitable efforts in and around the communities we serve. Funds from the People Fund have been distributed to educational programs, fire departments, medical emergency groups, recreational organizations, senior organizations, numerous local charities, and many local families and individuals. A copy of the People Fund’s annual report detailing contributions is available and was highlighted in our March issue of Country Lines magazine. All grants made are also listed at our website, HomeWorks.org. Your participation in the Tri-County Electric People Fund is VOLUNTARY. If you are participating and decide at any time that you wish to discontinue participation in the People Fund, please let us know and we will be happy to remove your account. If you are participating, your monthly bill is rounded up to the next whole dollar amount. If your bill is $78.42, it would be rounded up to $79. The 58 cents would then be contributed by HomeWorks on your behalf to the People Fund, to be used as explained above. A customer’s average annual contribution is approximately $6. Your annual contribution to the People Fund is tax-deductible and is reported on your monthly statement in January of the following year. For additional information regarding the Tri-County Electric People Fund, you can contact the Cooperative office by mail, or call 877-466-3957, ext. 1272.



American Gothic and Walden

Hygienic Dress League | Steve and Dorota Coy Unlike the other installations in the project, the Ziel Barn is still a working structure. Owners Hank and Jeannette Ziel donated their barn for Hygienic Dress League (HDL) to paint. In nostalgic barn advertising style, including a take on Grant Wood’s famous ”American Gothic,” HDL created two sides of ads for an imaginary corporation that produces nothing. It is a commentary piece that sparked plenty of conversations, like any provocative art. Left: American Gothic. Photo by Tyler Leipprandt. Right: Walden. Photo by Justin Schnettler

An art scene is emerging in the small, waterfront town of Port Austin in Lower Michigan’s Thumb area. And it’s emerging in a way that is totally unexpected and larger than life. While driving the meandering roads of the Thumb, you can’t help but notice the many barns peppering the landscape. Most of them look like relics from a bygone era, which in some ways they are. Jim Boyle, a former Port Austin resident, now works for a foundation in the Detroit area and has been deeply involved in the city’s art scene. His parents still live in the Thumb, and while visiting them years ago, he noticed the turn-of-the-century barns starting to lose in the undeclared war with nature. As the traditional family farm saw a decline, the story of struggle and hanging on by a thread, or rather a beam, was all too metaphoric in the barns. Once majestic, utilitarian structures, these barns were beginning to look all too often like abandoned dreams or livelihoods. “You can’t help but make the connection to these beautiful barns and how just over a hundred miles away, Detroit has 14 JULY/AUGUST 2020

seen similar structural loss,” said Boyle. As a member of the arts community, Boyle had intimate knowledge of how art has the ability to transform what might otherwise be forgotten. After 10 years with the Detroit Institute of Art and as the co-founder of a gallery— Public Pool—Boyle understood how art could help build up a community. It started with a lofty goal—artistically modify 10 barns in the Port Austin area in 10 years. Boyle reached out to the art community in Detroit, and the farm and local community in Port Austin. He made the connections and hoped to watch the magic happen. “Like any large installation project, it is a million moving pieces and gets away from you fast,” said Boyle. The project, which started seven years ago, has artfully transformed three barns in Port Austin. While the number of projects shrunk, the scope and scale of these installations have had a big impact both in the community and on the visual landscape. Boyle urges those both local in Port Austin and beyond to take the drive and prepare to marvel.

Celestial Ship of the North Scott Hocking

The second barn, donated by Bill and Lorraine Goretski, was likely one big storm from coming down. Ultimately, it was the artist/storm of Scott Hocking who came in, dismantled the 1890s barn and re-raised it in a totally new form. The ship-like “ark” stands over 55 feet tall in the fields of M-53 and begs viewers to stare and ponder if anything is ever just one thing. Photo by Justin Schnettler

Secret Sky Catie Newell

Catie Newell is an architect by day and artist by night. She revamped her barn, donated by Michael Schoenhals, using her architectural knowledge. By creating a unique “cut-out” through the barn’s center and shoring it up with beams and tension rods, Newell essentially saved the structure, while creating an artistic peek into the soul of these architectural giants. Wonderfully complicated by day and lit majestically by night, Newell’s barn blends the practical with the magical. Photo by Tyler Leipprandt

Ultimately, Boyle notes that there is no shortage in interest from Detroit artists. With three projects to reference, Boyle hopes that the community organizers can now point to these installations to encourage additional involvement, fundraising, and more barn projects. It’s a lofty mission with big dreams for future growth. However—for a project of this scope—“lofty” seems just about the perfect size.

For information visit portaustinart.com or facebook.com/portaustinart. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


Three Local Students Named HomeWorks’ 2020 Electric Cooperative Youth Tour Representatives Each year, HomeWorks sponsors three high school students from within our service area to participate in the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour. Youth Tour is a once-in-a-lifetime, all-expenses-paid leadership travel opportunity to Washington, D.C. Unfortunately, this year’s event, scheduled for June, had to be canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but not before we chose three exceptional students to represent us on the tour. Even though they didn’t get the chance to take the trip this year, we wanted to recognize these students for earning the distinction of being chosen as our 2020 Youth Tour representatives. We have offered each of them a $1,500 college scholarship in place of the trip. Congratulations Jenden, Miguel and Mary!

Jenden McVeigh

Central Montcalm High School

Miguel Pilar

Lakewood High School

Mary Sopocy

Ovid-Elsie High School

Do you know a high school student in our service area who would enjoy the opportunity to participate in next year’s Youth Tour? Watch Country Lines or HomeWorks.org this fall for information on how to apply!

Get excited!

Digging this summer? Think safety and call 811 first!

Reaching Out In Time Of Need

Financial assistance is available for those who are struggling as a result of COVID-19, but at times like this, it can be difficult to know where to start. To help, we’ve gathered information on some of the resources we think might be most beneficial to our members. At HomeWorks, we understand that the COVID-19 crisis has affected our members in many ways. If you are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic, we want you to know that we are here to help. If you are concerned about your ability to pay your HomeWorks bill, please contact us in advance of your due date so we can work with you. You can reach us at 800-562-8232. We also want our members to know that there are several financial assistance resources available to help those who are struggling during this unprecedented time. Some of the resources that might be most helpful include: Tri-County People Fund: Our own Tri-County People Fund is always available to help individuals, families and organizations

in our service area in their time of need. Visit the People Fund page on our website, HomeWorks.org, to apply for a grant. Michigan 2-1-1: Michigan 2-1-1 provides information on appropriate local agencies that can help with energy payments and other bills during times of financial hardship. Dial 2-1-1 on your phone or visit MI211.org to get started. State Emergency Relief: If you have an urgent need for assistance with housing and/or utility bills, you can apply for State Emergency Relief through the Michigan Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS). DHHS has changed its application process to allow for faster processing of emergency requests and to make access to benefits easier for Michigan’s most vulnerable households in the face of the pandemic. Visit Michigan.gov/mdhhs or call DHHS at 517-241-3740 to apply. Home Heating Credit: Income-qualified households can apply for a Michigan home heating credit to help with their energy bills. Apply online at Michigan.gov/taxes or by calling 517-636-4486. To stay up to date on pandemic-related financial assistance programs, watch the COVID-19 financial assistance page on our website. We will post current information there as additional state and local resources become available. We are a cooperative, and that means we truly are in this together. If there is anything we can do to help you through this difficult time, please reach out to us. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES 17

MI CO-OP Community

Guest Column

The Old Ball Games

By Carol Higgins, Midwest Energy & Communications member


was born in 1954, the oldest of eight. We didn’t go many places together, but my parents taught us the value of hard work. Our farm family lived over five miles from the nearest town, but only a quarter of a mile from our community church. It was the center of my social life. I took advantage of the fact that I could usually get out of chores if there was something going on at church. On Sunday evenings in the summer, we’d go to the “drive-in” church where the slogan was, “Come as you are and worship in your car.” But my favorite summer activity was Monday night softball at the drive-in church field which was complete with a backstop and bases.

score, but that wasn’t the main focus. We all left feeling like winners.

The tomboy in me couldn’t wait to finish supper on Mondays, grab my ball glove, and ride my bike to the church field. Up to two dozen neighbors might gather to play, plus a few spectators. We’d quickly form teams and play until dusk. Our Monday night games were multigenerational and coed. Everyone from five to over 50 played. Everyone got to bat. No one under 10 was allowed to strike out! What a boost to my confidence and self-esteem.

Those games and some softball at recess were all I had since schools didn’t offer the sport for girls until after I graduated from high school. Now, over five decades later, I’ve watched grandchildren move from tee-ball to little league, and on to middle and high school teams competing for top place in their league. I cheer them on from the sidelines. It’s all very structured and competitive. But I’m not convinced it’s as much fun as the informal, Monday night games in the farming community where I grew up.

Neighbor Bill would often pitch and had the patience of a saint. Some young batters would swing and miss multiple times. When those of us under 10 swung and finally made contact with the ball, everyone cheered. “Safe!” cried the spectators who served collectively as the unofficial umpire. Getting to first base was a major feeling of success even if it was sometimes “rigged” by slow fielding, wild throws, or dropped balls. We usually kept

Win a


energy bill credit!

Carol is a retired teacher, coach, and B&B operator. She still substitutes and serves on several boards. She enjoys gardening, biking, kayaking, walking, reading, singing, environmental activism, volunteering, and working on becoming a wiser naturalist. A fun fact about Carol is that she and her husband, Larry, once sang “Ode to Joy” with an international choir in Carnegie Hall, New York.

Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo on the left by July 30 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at countrylines.com. May 2020 Winner! Our Mystery Photo contest winner from the May issue is Carol Knight, a Thumb Electric Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as the Fayette Historic Townsite near Garden, Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula. It’s a great place to see and learn the history of the iron-smelting days. Photo courtesy of Kelli Marshall. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September and November/December.

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