March 2022 HomeWorks

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March 2022


COUNTRY LINES HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative

How HomeWorks Connect Benefits All Members

2021 People Fund Annual Report Inside Nominate Your Community Hero

Food Network’s Holiday Baking Champion—

Michigan’s Beth Meyer


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March 2022 Vol. 42, No. 3



6 TAKING THE LONG ROAD Long Road Distillers promises “no shortcuts” ... and the great lengths they go to in securing a gin ingredient reflect that promise. Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Italian: Crowd-pleasing recipes you’ll love. 14 FOOD NETWORK’S HOLIDAY BAKING CHAMPION— MICHIGAN’S BETH MEYER The dazzling cakes baked by Beth Meyer have done everything from help her make connections in a new community to landing her a television appearance.

EXECUTIVE EDITOR: Casey Clark EDITOR: Christine Dorr


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

Cover photo courtesy of Food Network

PUBLISHER: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association

18 GUEST COLUMN Sweet Surprises: A day of sap collecting yields not only delicious syrup, but precious memories as well.

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


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

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

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


When it’s so cold that boiling water freezes in mid-air. #mpenbaeffect @christina.b.lee (Christina Lee)

MI CO-OP COMMUNITY To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit

RECIPE CONTEST Win a $50 bill credit!

Up Next: Tomatoes, due April 1; Potatoes, due May 1 Submit your recipe at, or send it via email (include your full name and co-op) to

GUEST COLUMN Win $150 for stories published!

Submit your fondest memories and stories at

MYSTERY PHOTO Win a $50 bill credit!

Enter a drawing to identify the correct location of the photo. See page 18.



Co-op Members Impact Neighbors In Need Through People Fund / Portland office/Mail payments to: 7973 E. Grand River Ave. Portland, MI 48875 Open 8 a.m.–4 p.m. Monday–Friday

Blanchard office: 3681 Costabella Ave. Blanchard, MI 49310 Open 8 a.m.–4 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 •

District 2 — Jim Stebbins 7139 Peddler Lake Rd., Clarksville, MI 48815 616-693-2449 •

By Chris O’Neill, CEO


here are many factors that set cooperatives apart from other models of business, but to me, one of the most important distinguishing characteristics of electric co-ops is our concern for the communities we serve. Because we’re owned by our local members and not some faraway profitminded investors, we have a natural vested interest in supporting causes that benefit residents in our service territory. In fact, concern for community is one of the seven cooperative principles that have long guided electric co-ops in all that we do. Here at HomeWorks, one of the ways we embrace that principle every day is through our offering of the Tri-County People Fund. If you take a minute to look at the 2021 Tri-County People Fund annual report in this issue, you’ll see that since the charitable program was founded in 1993, we’ve been able to grant well over $2.5 million to your neighbors in need. That’s an incredible number that represents a huge impact made in our local communities, and the best part is that it was all made possible by you, our members. Our People Fund grants are entirely funded by thousands of generous HomeWorks members who opt in to our Operation Round Up program, which rounds their electric bill up to the nearest dollar each month. It costs an average of just $6 per year, per member, but that spare change adds up to make a significant difference in the lives of residents all across our service territory. As evidence of that impact, here are just a few examples of the causes your donations helped us to support in 2021:

District 3 — Luke Pohl, Chairman 15560 W. Hanses Rd., Westphalia, MI 48894 989-292-0427 •

• We granted a total of over $15,000 to seven local families in need to help them pay for housing expenses, utility and medical bills, and other immediate needs.

District 5 — Corinna Batora 7655 N. Watson Rd., Elsie, MI 48831 517-256-5233 •

• We granted $5,000 to the Helping Hands Food Pantry in Charlotte to purchase personal care items, which often are not covered by low-income assistance programs.

District 4 — Kimber Hansen 6535 N. Wyman Rd., Edmore, MI 48829 989-506-5849 •

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

• We granted $10,000 to the IM Safe Child Advocacy Center in Fenwick to support the organization’s services for abused children.

• We granted $5,000 to the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Michael Church in Grand Ledge to provide utility and housing assistance for struggling families. • We granted $3,000 to the Backpacks for Bellies program in Portland to purchase food items for weekend lunches for students in need. • And so much more! (Be sure to check out the People Fund annual report for the full list of the grants you helped us to provide in 2021.) Thank you to the seven members of our People Fund board of directors who volunteer their time to read through every single grant application that we receive each month. And thank you to every single member who rounds up their bill for Operation Round Up. I marvel every day at the number of lives touched by your spare change throughout the year. To opt in to Operation Round Up, leave us a note on your next payment stub, or call us at 877-466-3957, option 1.

4 MARCH 2022

Strengthening The System

INTERNET BUILDOUT BENEFITS THE CO-OP IN MANY WAYS We’re excited to have recently begun the fifth and final phase of our HomeWorks Connect fiber internet network buildout. Already, 6,680 of our members have connected to the service, and by 2023, we plan to bring quality rural broadband access to our entire service territory. But it’s not just our members registered for HomeWorks Connect services who are benefitting from the buildout. In fact, installing fiber optic cable along our electric system is improving your Co-op and strengthening our services in ways that significantly benefit our entire membership. “Through our fiber buildout, we’re essentially creating a network of data across our electric system to serve as the backbone for advanced technology and communications that will help us make our electricity even more reliable, and allow us to respond to power outages even more efficiently,” says CEO Chris O’Neill. “We need the capability to employ these technologies in order to continue to maintain and improve our services, and many of our members need access to reliable rural broadband, so our HomeWorks Connect buildout has really been a win-win for the Cooperative.” O’Neill notes that another way the network buildout is benefitting the Co-op as a whole is through the make-ready work that has been completed to prepare HomeWorks’ electric system for the addition of fiber optic cable. In order to provide the clearance required to install fiber following the Co-op’s electric lines, thousands of old poles have been replaced with new poles that are taller, stronger, and sturdier. Some poles and lines have also been relocated closer to the road for easier access, among other upgrades. “When we were originally looking into the potential of

pursuing the fiber project, our board and staff made a strategic decision to retire aging electric infrastructure from the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, while sharing 50% of the cost of the upgrades with the fiber business and taking advantage of current record low interest rates,” says O’Neill. “This is work that would have had to have been done anyway to maintain our electric system, but the fiber buildout allowed us to take care of it now and in a more cost-effective manner.” In addition, O’Neill says, fiber make-ready work has helped the Co-op to identify areas of HomeWorks’ distribution system where investment may have been deferred due to a lack of growth. Through the upgrades being completed to prepare the whole system for the fiber buildout, those areas are now being vastly improved, resulting in electricity that is more reliable for our members. “What we’re really doing is hardening our whole system,” says O’Neill. “When storms hit, we’re already seeing a marked difference between areas where we have built out our fiber network and areas that we haven’t built out yet, with fewer outages and quicker restoration times in the areas that have fiber. That’s because of this extensive dualpurpose work that we’re completing to upgrade our aging electric equipment and ready our system for fiber at the same time.” When the fiber network buildout is complete, O’Neill says, the Co-op’s electric distribution system will be stronger, more resilient, and more reliable than ever. “I’m really happy with all the ways in which this project is strengthening our system and improving our Co-op and our services for all of our members,” he says.




LONG ROAD By Emily Haines Lloyd

f Emerson’s ethos holds true and life really is about the journey and not the destination, then the folks at Long Road Distillers are taking the scenic route for sure.

in Northport, apples from Peach Ridge Farms in Alpine Township, sunflower seeds from Paulson’s Pumpkin Patch in Belding, and perhaps the most elusive ingredient from a location stand point—juniper.

Long Road Distillers, the first distillery in Grand Rapids, has built its brand around its own moniker—No Shortcuts. It’s a nice sentiment and looks good on t-shirts, but it can be harder to commit to with invoices, payroll, and then for good measure—a pandemic staring you in the eye. But that’s what makes Long Road a special breed of business.

Most juniper for U.S.-based gin is sourced from the Pacific Northwest, where the weather and soil are perfect for the piney/woodsy-flavored berries. So, how do you keep your promise to source locally?


“Michiganders have a long history as makers,” said Jon O’Connor, co-founder of Long Road. “When Kyle and I started, we knew we wanted to make a product we could be proud of. There’s always a faster, cheaper, or easier way to do things, but that’s not why we started Long Road.” O’Connor and co-owner Kyle VanStrien took that simple premise into creating their line of spirits. Take, for instance, their MichiGin. It’s a clever name and, again, could be a nice gimmick, but not to this company. This gin is not only 6

MARCH 2022

distilled and bottled in the Great Lakes State, but each and every ingredient is sourced here. The gin’s base spirit is distilled from red winter wheat from Heffron Farms in Belding, Michigan, that was milled on-site at the distillery on Grand Rapids’ West Side. It has been redistilled with a variety of Michigan botanicals, including sumac, white pine, and goldenrod wild-foraged in Byron Center and Greenville, Galena hops from the Michigan Hop Alliance

“We were camping with family one weekend, and my wife’s cousin told me about the juniper bushes all over Beaver Island,” said VanStrien. “It took no time at all for Jon and me to set up a trip to go see for ourselves.” In 2015, VanStrien and O’Connor took their first trip to Beaver Island, the 56-square-mile island surrounded by the blue waters of Lake Michigan, to scout for the wild juniper. Locals and owners of Island Airways, Paul and Angel Welke, offered the wide field behind their house for the crew to look at. From there, word spread, and other generous folks offered their land or passed off tips on where they’d seen the juniper bushes on the island.

“We’ve been lucky to forge some great relationships with families here. They know we want to highlight Beaver Island, not take advantage of it.” Locations in Grand Rapids, Grand Haven, and Cadillac

Kyle VanStrien

“It’s a small, tight-knit community. It was important to us always to be mindful of how we approached our picks,” said VanStrien. “We’ve been lucky to forge some great relationships with families here. They know we want to highlight Beaver Island, not take advantage of it.” In 2019, 27 employees made the trip over on the ferry owned by Bill McDonough, who also owns the local grocery store and often tosses car keys to the Long Road team for them to use on the island. In 2020, just a skeleton crew of six arrived by plane, due to COVID-19. Luckily, in 2021, things rebounded a bit, and the team returned with a group of 24, who

harvested over 150 pounds of wild juniper over three days. The team stoops, squats, and sits around low, spreading juniper bushes, pulling off ripe berries, with others clinging tightly for next year’s harvest. Conversations between team members vary from cocktail recipes, cooking techniques, sports scores, or gentle ribbing of one another from their individual bushes. Nearly 200 pounds of juniper berries are harvested each trip that eventually yield just under 1,000 bottles of MichiGin. The berries have a woodsy, earthy flavor that is distinct to the terroir of Beaver Island. Unique flavors for a truly unique product.

“It just wouldn’t be reasonable for a large distillery to go out and handpick juniper. It’s costprohibitive,” said VanStrien, “But for us, it’s personal. As we grow as a company, it’s this great reminder of our mission and doing things the right way. We’re proud to be able to produce something that features the farmers and families we are able to partner with around the state.” If the most epic journeys include taking the road less traveled, then it’s clear the folks at Long Road are okay taking an uncharted course. But they know, as all good travelers do, that the company you keep and the friends you make along the way end up being the real reward. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


Downed and Dangerous If you see a downed power line, always assume it is energized and dangerous. Avoid going near it or anything in contact with the power line.

35 ft. Downed power lines can energize the ground up to 35 ft. away—so keep your distance.

Never drive over a downed line or through water that is touching the line.

!!!! If you see a downed line, notify the local authorities immediately.

Never try to move a downed power line, even if you think the line is deenergized or if you’re using a nonconductive item—this will not prevent injury or death! Source:

Pet Showcase


1. Tamra Henning of Mt. Pleasant submitted this photo of Georgia and June Henning showing their pet rabbit, Binny, some love. 2. Dustin Hall of Grand Ledge submitted this snap shot of his horse, Max, waiting in the falling snow for a Thanksgiving Day sleigh ride with the family. 3. Beverly Schmitt of Fowler says, “Our cat, Panda, likes to sleep in the most interesting spots.” 4. DeLynn Rice of Stanwood says, “Dozer just wants to sit in the front seat with everyone else.” 5. Carrie Meyers of Weidman submitted this photo of her pal, Roscoe, warming up by the fire after playing in the snow. 6. Teresa Simon of Portland captured this picture of her grandson, Luka, loving on the family’s farm kitten. 7. Michelle Bryant of Bath (receiving service in Barryton) says,” This is Sarge enjoying a boat ride on Diamond Lake in Barryton.”


4 Enter to win a


energy bill credit!






Upcoming Snap Shot Contest Topics and Deadlines Antique Rides, due March 17 (May issue) Hometown Pride, due April 18 (June issue) Ice Cream, due May 17 (July/August issue) Go to, select the Energy tab, then choose Member Services>Country Lines to submit your photos and see all of the 2022 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.

Submit Your Photos! Members whose photos we publish in Country Lines in 2022 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


Crowd-pleasing recipes you’ll love.



• 1 2 2 4 1 2 1 3 4 1 • 1 • •



energy bill credit!

10 MARCH 2022

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

butter or olive oil, for sautéing large onion, chopped cups chopped celery pounds fresh or frozen sweet potatoes, cubed (around 1 inch) large carrots, sliced package Polish turkey sausage, sliced (I use Eckridge Farm Smoked) (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained (15-ounce) can Great Northern beans or butter beans, rinsed tablespoons Italian spices cups chicken or vegetable broth cup water salt and pepper, to taste bunch fresh kale (stripped from stem), chopped, or 1 package frozen or fresh spinach Parmesan/Asiago shredded cheese for serving hot sauce, for serving, optional

Sauté onion, celery, sweet potatoes, and carrots in a large saucepan with butter or olive oil. When veggies start to brown, add sausage and stir every few minutes. Transfer into a slow cooker (adding a liner makes cleanup a breeze). Add all remaining ingredients (note: depending on how large your slow cooker is, you may want to add the kale first, so the other ingredients weigh it down). Turn slow cooker on “Low” and cook for 6 hours. Serve with Parmesan/Asiago (or your favorite shredded cheese) or hot sauce, if desired, on top. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at

GRANDMA’S MEATBALLS Sharon Libich, Presque Isle • 1 ½ ½ 4 4 4 6

olive oil cooking spray pound ground chuck pound ground pork pound ground veal ounces dried breadcrumbs large eggs ounces whole milk ounces grated Romano cheese

3 ounces grated Spanish onion 2 ounces finely diced fresh garlic 2 ounces finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves 2 ounces finely chopped fresh basil leaves • salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray a baking sheet with the cooking spray. Mix all ingredients thoroughly in a large bowl. Add more breadcrumbs if the mixture feels a little loose. Using a small scoop, roll each meatball to the size of a golf ball and place on the prepared baking sheet. Cook for approximately 35–40 minutes. These meatballs can be used in sauce for a spaghetti dinner or part of a meatball sandwich. Enjoy!

TOMATOES AND LINGUINE Lois Korpalski, Great Lakes 8 2 1 1 ½

ounces linguine noodles cups chopped tomatoes tablespoon dried basil teaspoon salt teaspoon black pepper

3 2 ½ 4

green onions, sliced garlic cloves, minced cup grated Parmesan cheese tablespoons butter

Cook linguine according to package directions, to al dente. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine tomatoes, basil, salt and pepper, green onions, garlic, and Parmesan cheese. Drain linguine and add butter to it while hot. When melted, add tomato mixture and enjoy.


ITALIAN TORTELLINI SOUP Theresa Mandeville, Cherryland

1 pound Italian sausage, browned and drained 1 bag frozen cheese-filled tortellini 2–4 cloves garlic, chopped 1 sweet onion, chopped 4 cups beef broth 1 cup red wine 2 cups chopped carrots

1 teaspoon basil 1 teaspoon oregano 2 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce 1 (6-ounce) can tomato paste 2 cups quartered zucchini

Brown the sausage and set aside. Prepare the tortellini according to package directions; cool and set aside. Sauté the garlic and onion until onion begins to tenderize. Combine the broth and wine; bring to a boil. Add the carrots and simmer until desired tenderness. Add the basil, oregano, diced tomatoes, sauce, and paste; continue to simmer. Add the zucchini and simmer until just tender. Add the browned sausage, onions/garlic, and tortellini. Serve.

1 tablespoon butter, melted 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh garlic 1 (1-pound) loaf frozen bread dough, thawed ¼ pound thinly sliced deli Genoa salami

6 (1-ounce) slices mozzarella cheese, cut into strips ½ cup ricotta cheese 2 green onion stalks, diced 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning 1 large egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon water

Stir together butter and garlic in a bowl. Roll out bread dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch square. Place on lightly greased baking sheet; brush with butter mixture. Layer salami and cheese, spread ricotta, and add onions down a 3-inch strip of center of dough to within ½ inch of top and bottom, leaving 4½ inches of dough on each side of filling. Sprinkle Italian seasoning over the top of the salami and cheeses mixture. Cut twelve 3-inch-long strips, 1 inch apart, along both sides of filling. Fold strips across filling at an angle, alternating sides to give a braided effect. Pinch dough at bottom and top to seal. Cover; let rise in warm place 30–45 minutes or until almost double in size. Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine egg and water in a bowl; brush over braid. Sprinkle top of bread lightly with Italian seasoning. Bake for 25–35 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven, cool slightly, and cut into slices. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


Nominate Your HomeWorks Cares Community Hero Do you know of an individual or organization doing great nonprofit or volunteer work and making a positive impact in your community? Take a minute to nominate them for our HomeWorks Cares Community Hero award! This new award is intended to recognize the people and programs working every day to make a difference for those in need throughout our rural mid-Michigan service area. At the conclusion of the nomination period, we’ll choose seven winners, one from each of our HomeWorks districts. The winners will be announced and formally recognized at our virtual district meetings in May. The Co-op will present each winner with a plaque and a $1,000 donation to their cause. “Our mission at HomeWorks is to help enhance the quality of life of the members we serve,” says Communications

Manager Charly Markwart. “An important aspect of achieving that mission is supporting causes that benefit residents throughout our service area. There are so many people and organizations doing great work in our local communities, and we’re excited to be able to recognize some of them at this year’s district meetings. It’s going to be a fun addition to the meetings.”


To nominate a hero (or hero organization) from your community, email their name and a brief synopsis of the work they do to Nominations are due by March 31. If you have questions, please email us at or call 800-562-8232.


Learn About Your Co-op

Engage With Your Co-op

Win Big Prizes!

We hope you’ll make plans to join us for your virtual 2022 HomeWorks District Meeting! The meetings will take place on the following evenings:

Tri-County Electric Cooperative

District 1: Monday, May 9 (director election) District 2: Tuesday, May 10 District 3: Wednesday, May 18 District 4: Tuesday, May 17 District 5: Monday, May 16 (director election) District 6: Wednesday, May 11 District 7: Thursday, May 12 (director election)

Watch your mailbox and your April issue of Country Lines for more info.

Your Board In Action Meeting remotely on Jan. 17, your board of directors: • At a special open member meeting, voted in support of the Cooperative participating in a new Energy Optimization program, to be administered by Slipstream, Inc. from 2022–24, and authorized management to adopt the proposed EO surcharges, to take effect during the March 2022 billing cycle. • Reviewed the quarterly financial report of the TriCounty Electric People Fund, comparing the program’s statement of activities from December 2021 with that of December 2020. • Conducted an annual review of the Co-op’s director compensation, benefits, and other expenses. • Reviewed a tentative schedule of the Co-op’s 2022 virtual district meetings, which will take place in May, along with an outline of planned meeting content. • Decided to hold the 2022 annual meeting remotely, via Zoom Webinar, due to the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic.

• Received a monthly progress update on the HomeWorks Connect fiber internet business. • Discussed and accepted Policy 201 – Safety, as revised. • Learned there were 106 new members in December. • Acknowledged the December safety report, listing employee training as well as minor public incidents involving electric, propane, or fiber optic.

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 March 28 in Blanchard and 9 a.m. on April 25 in Portland. However, at the time of this printing, some of our meetings are temporarily being conducted remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Members who wish to attend and/or have items considered on the board agenda should call 517-647-7554 at least one week in advance of the meeting date.

Save Energy And Money Via HomeWorks’ New EO Program re you looking to implement energy efficient or clean energy measures in your home or business? If so, you’ll want to check out HomeWorks’ new Energy Optimization (EO) program, which officially launched March 1 after being approved by the Co-op’s board of directors in January. The member-focused program will extend, modify, and build upon the offerings of HomeWorks’ previous EO program, which expired Dec. 31, 2021.


“For several years, our EO program has been a source of significant satisfaction for our members,” says HomeWorks Energy Advisor Brandon Trierweiler. “For that reason, we’re really excited to be able to continue to offer rebates and incentives for our members who are interested in investing in energy efficiency and beneficial electrification. And the best part is that this program is fully customizable, so we can continually tweak and adapt it to the unique needs of our members.”

incentives and saving energy to the tune of nearly 21.5 million kWh. The new program will present opportunities to achieve similar results, offering appliance recycling, LED lightbulb discounts, and rebates for high-efficiency appliances, energy efficient HVAC technology, agricultural measures, new business electrification, and more. The new program also includes rebates for electric vehicle (EV) purchases, including $1,500 for a new EV, $750 for a used EV, and $600 for a Level II charger (subject to change).

From 2016–21, 8,072 HomeWorks members participated in the Co-op’s EO program, receiving over $1.8 million in

To learn more about our EO program or to apply for a rebate, visit or call us at 800-562-8232.


Photo courtesy of Food Network

Food Network’s Holiday Baking Champion—

Michigan’s Beth Meyer By Emily Haines Lloyd


here is a scientific precision that goes into baking, with a combination of chemistry, biology, and physics at play. For those who decorate cakes, there’s another equally important part, which is the creativity, whimsy, and joy. Baker Beth Meyer shows there is a vital third ingredient to a successful creation, and that is the love and care she puts into each cake she bakes that truly turns each one into a work of heart. Meyer, who recently found herself on the Food Network’s Holiday Baking Championship: Gingerbread Showdown, began her love of baking on a much smaller stage—her mother’s kitchen. While she would dutifully crack eggs or fry doughnuts, she marveled at how her mother would take sheet cakes and cut them into shapes to create delightful showstoppers for birthdays and special occasions. “They weren’t exactly masterpieces,” said Meyer. “But the care my mother

14 MARCH 2022

took to make these cakes the centerpiece of an event made them feel extra special.” Following her mother’s lead, Meyer would lovingly make cakes for her own children’s parties. As she grew in her skill and creativity, her cakes quickly became the talk of the party. While living in Texas, Meyer threw her son’s birthday party with a Southwest theme, including both Texas Longhorn and cactus cakes covered in fondant, as well as specialty cookies decorated as snakes and other animals as party favors. Soon, Meyer was flooded with requests from other parents asking if she could make a cake for their upcoming celebrations. Even in the Texas heat, things snowballed. “Then one day, my husband told me his company was sending us on an overseas assignment,” said Meyer. “In some ways, it made it difficult to even dream about baking for a living, but the cakes actually helped us connect with our new communities.”

“Cakes have always been about helping people celebrate their big moments in their lives, to make memories. That day reminded me life is worth celebrating. Every moment of it.” While on an assignment in Africa, Meyer was definitely feeling disconnected. She brought one of her cakes to a party where the United States ambassador and his wife were in attendance. The ambassador’s wife reached out later and asked Meyer if she would create one for their upcoming anniversary. She ended up making several more in her time there.

The whirlwind of meeting television producers over Zoom, being selected, and flying out to Tennessee to shoot the show on a soundstage would be enough to spin a person’s head. However, there was still baking left to do. Meyer and Dowling created a gorgeous holiday window vignette that impressed judges and eventually won them the $10,000 grand prize.

“There’s nothing quite like the Secret Service coming to your door to pick up a cake,” said Meyer. “It also drove me to keep wanting to get better.”

Meyer knew exactly what she wanted to do with her winnings—make her dream of a brick and mortar bakery come true. Meyer located a perfect spot in her hometown of Mattawan to open The Cake Boutique by Beth Meyer and got back to the work she loves—creating cakes that dazzle and elevate any celebration. One look at her gallery of cakes on her website and you see how special her gift is and how much care she puts into each one. So, when asked if she could possibly pick a favorite, it was surprising that she knew right away which one held the most meaning.

Once the family returned stateside— first Texas and then Michigan, Meyer went back to her profession of teaching while remaining a student, as she would take cake decorating, sugar flower, or isomalt classes on weekends. It was at a cake show in Arkansas that she met MaryJo Dowling from Pittsburgh. MaryJo, or MJ, was equally enthusiastic about baking and decorating, and while the two lived nearly 400 miles apart, they maintained their friendship. Just a couple years later, Dowling reached out to Meyer with an interesting proposition. Dowling had been selected to interview for a Food Network competition show. While COVID-19 had initially put it on hold, they were now moving forward— quickly. And Dowling needed a partner. “When MJ called, I didn’t even need to think about it,” said Meyer. “I simply told her ‘I’m in.’”

“Without a doubt, the heart cake,” said Meyer. The cake, an anatomically accurate heart, was commissioned in October, and without asking many questions about the event, Meyer assumed it was for Halloween and asked how gory of a cake the client was looking for. The client said that just a plain heart would be fine. So, when Meyer went to deliver the cake the day of the event, she was

If you’re looking to commission Meyer for one of her masterpieces, make sure to give yourself at least two weeks to order, and more if you’re smart. Meyer’s cakes are in high demand and just the thing to bring special occasions to the next level.

both surprised and touched to find out her cake was the centerpiece of a party to celebrate a young man’s one-year anniversary of his heart transplant. The young man hugged Meyer and left an impression that seems unlikely to fade. “Cakes have always been about helping people celebrate their big moments in their lives, to make memories,” said Meyer. “That day reminded me life is worth celebrating. Every moment of it.”

56300 City Center Circle, Mattawan 281-387-0640



Last chance to apply for our 2022 classroom grants and college scholarships! For Teachers:

We offer grants of up to $2,000 to help teachers in our service area provide S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math) education in their classrooms.

Application deadline extended to March 15

For Students:

Current high school seniors living on our electric lines could be eligible for one of our one-time $1,000 scholarships to help with 2022-23 college expenses!

Application deadline: March 18

For more info or to apply, visit or call 517-647-1210.

Co-op Launches Community Engagement Program A unique aspect of rural electric cooperatives like HomeWorks is that our employees all live and work in the local communities we serve. The same person you see restoring your power or delivering your propane on Friday might show up on the sidelines as your son’s little league baseball coach on Saturday or as an usher at your church on Sunday. We’re proud of our employees’ investment in the people and places that make up our service territory. That’s why, in an effort to promote an even deeper connection between the Coop and the areas we serve, we recently launched the HomeWorks Employee Community Engagement Program. The program will provide employee volunteer opportunities throughout the year and recognize and reward Co-op team members who spend time making a difference in their community. “The intent of this program is to encourage our employees to engage with our service area through impactful volunteer work, and to recognize those who do good work that benefits residents within our electric footprint and beyond,” says Human Resources Manager Angel McCliggott. “Concern for community is one of the seven cooperative principles, and this program fits in very well with that. We’re excited to see the work our employees are already doing throughout our service footprint, and to give them opportunities to do even more.” The first HomeWorks staffer recognized by the Employee Community Engagement Program with a feature in the Co-op’s employee newsletter was Network Engineer David Brinks, who has volunteered for the past 10+ years as the audio/visual technician at Strickland Baptist Church in Shepherd. “I like to help people in any way that I can,” says Brinks. “When I’m able to use technology to help the church body have a better experience, participate more easily, and enjoy the worship service, that makes it all worth it for me.” HomeWorks’ Employee Community Engagement Program will reward volunteers like Brinks with small prizes throughout the year, culminating with a formal recognition and prize ceremony each October. If your organization is in need of volunteers for a good cause benefitting residents in our service area, let us know at volunteer@

Val Wohlscheid Promoted To System Engineer When Val Wohlscheid was working in customer service at the beginning of her HomeWorks career, she set a goal to one day become a Co-op engineer. On Feb. 4, she officially achieved that goal when she was promoted to system engineer after recently earning her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering technology from Excelsior College. “It’s challenging to go back to school as a working adult, but it’s also very rewarding to go through that process,” says Wohlscheid. “The one thing I really learned from this is that there is significant value in an education. I find myself applying things I learned in school every day now on the job.” Wohlscheid, who started her career in the HomeWorks call center in 2000 and eventually transitioned to the engineering and dispatch department as a technician, took advantage of the Co-op’s tuition reimbursement program to attend online courses toward her degree. Now, she’s excited to embrace some of the opportunities her degree and her new position have opened up for her. “I’m really looking forward to delving into some of the technological advancements that we’re looking at for the Co-op,” she says. “Good data and communications benefit our members and HomeWorks as a whole, so I’m excited to take advantage of technologies that move us forward in those areas. It will be fun to see what’s ahead.”


Guest Column

Sweet Surprises

By Paige Hutter, Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member


t’s 7 a.m. and I sit up in bed, dreading the bitter cold waiting outside. I rub my eyes, get out of bed, and fumble my way downstairs. In the kitchen, my Grandma is busy cooking waffles. I perk up at the smell wafting from the waffle iron. After I eat, I get my snow clothes on. It is officially sap season, and we are busy collecting sap to make maple syrup. Since my sister, Lexi, is the only one ready, she is the only one that comes along for morning sap collection. When we get out into the woods, I start hauling sap that dripped from the trees overnight. I look into several buckets, hanging from the maple trees, but they are empty. The sap is barely running this morning. We pour the sap we did collect into the giant bin that’s on the trailer, which is hooked to the quad. Then, we all climb on the trailer and drive to the next cluster of maple trees. I hop off the trailer and race to the best tree. JACKPOT! A sap icicle hangs down from the tree. I snap it off and start sucking on the slightly sweet ice. Just then, Lexi runs over to me, waving an even bigger sapscicle! I laugh and return to my work. I pour the slushy sap into the big bin and return the bucket to the tree, hoping the tree will give us even more sap at the next collection. Finally, we get to the last cluster of trees. There’s just a little sap in the bucket beneath each of these trees. I sigh and once again pour the sweet sap into the big bin on the trailer. Just then, Grandma comes up behind me. She points to the top of the trees, and I gasp. A huge barred owl is sitting in the branches of an oak tree. Usually, the syrup is my sweet treat for helping with sap, but this was even sweeter! Paige is a homeschool student in the sixth grade. She loves reading, drawing, and horseback riding. Paige enjoys being outdoors in nature. Sap collecting is one of her favorite times of the year because she gets to make memories with her family.

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Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo to the left by March 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at January 2022 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Dallas Bond, an Ontonagon County REA Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as the 45th parallel marker on U.S. 31 in Kewadin, Michigan, just north of Elk Rapids. It is constructed in honor of Hugh Gray, the former Michigan Dean of Tourism. The crypt contains information from each of Michigan’s 83 counties and engraved stone from each county. Photo courtesy of Judy Gasco. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September, and November/December.

18 MARCH 2022

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