May 2020

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May 2020


COUNTRY LINES HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative

2020 District Meetings Indefinitely Postponed Local Volunteers Work To Fight Hunger During Pandemic

DISTILLING COMMUNITY Michigan Distilleries Lend A Hand And Make A Difference


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May 2020 Vol. 40, No. 5



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, secretarytreasurer; Craig Borr, president and CEO.

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

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.

Michigan Country Lines, Your Communications Partner For 40 years, our co-op members have received Michigan Country Lines because it is the most effective and economical way to share information. Michigan Country Lines keeps members up-to-date about everything going on within their electric co-op. Issues contain news about co-op services, director elections, member meetings and management decisions that members need to know about as owners of the co-op. The magazine also includes legal notices that would otherwise have to be placed in local media at a substantial cost. Sending Michigan Country Lines helps the co-op fulfill one of its essential principles——to educate and communicate openly with its members. The board of directors authorizes the co-op to subscribe to Michigan Country Lines on behalf of each member at an average cost of $3.97 per year, paid as part of members’ electric bills. The current magazine cost is 49 cents per copy. Michigan Country Lines is published, at cost, by the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association in Lansing. As always, we welcome your comments at


6 A DEEP DIVE WITH CHRIS ROXBURGH. As a diver and history lover, Roxburgh has garnered online attention for his documentation of underwater wonders in Michigan waters. 10 MI CO-OP KITCHEN Go meat-free with these vegetarian recipes.

Don’t you want to take this adorable white animal home as a pet? @kelli929kelli #whitedonkey Kelli Marshall

14 DISTILLING COMMUNITY Michigan distilleries join forces to make hand sanitizer during pandemic-driven shortage.

Be featured!

18 GUEST COLUMN Tom McWhorter recalls the thrill of a ‘50s-era train ride to Grand Rapids with his mother and grandmother.


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

Contests, reader-submitted content & more!





Up Next: Kid-Friendly Cooking, Easy Recipes Share your favorite recipes.

Up Next: Campgrounds Tell us about the Michigan campgrounds you like visiting best.

Submit your fondest memories and stories.

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

Win a $50 bill credit!

Win $150 for stories published!

Win a $50 bill credit!

Visit for guidelines and submission information. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES














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 Email:

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 District 3 — Luke Pohl Chairman 15560 W. Hanses Rd., Westphalia, MI 48894 989-292-0427 District 4 — Kimber Hansen 6535 N. Wyman Rd., Edmore, MI 48829 989-506-5849 District 5 — Corinna Batora 7655 N. Watson Rd., Elsie, MI 48831 517-256-5233 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

Join us on Facebook. 4 MAY 2020

During Times Of Crisis, Co-op Network Offers Valuable Support Chris O’Neill, CEO

hen I wrote in my column last month that I wanted to hit the ground running as your new CEO, I sure wasn’t referring to this test by fire of taking over in the midst of a pandemic, but here we are. And while we are far from through with this fight, one thing it has taught me so far, amongst many other lessons, is to appreciate the strength and support of our vast cooperative network.


As a HomeWorks member, you know cooperatives are unique. Your Co-op isn’t owned by faraway Wall Street investors looking to turn a profit; it’s owned by you, our local members. As a not-for-profit utility founded and owned by the members we serve, we don’t have to make decisions based solely on the bottom line. Instead, we get to put our members first and make decisions based on what’s best for you. What that member-over-profit mentality also means is that we don’t have to compete with other cooperatives. In fact, cooperation among cooperatives is one of the seven co-op principles that help guide us in everything we do. As a member of the Michigan Electric Cooperative Association (MECA) and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), we are part of a network of eight in-state co-ops and over 900 electric co-ops nationwide working together to provide rural America with electricity and other essential services. At no time is that cooperative network more valuable than in a time of crisis. As your board of directors, your management team and I have worked together to try to make the decisions that will serve you best through this

“Ultimately, what we at the nation’s electric co-ops understand is that when we pool our resources, we are able to serve you better.”

pandemic, we have had the benefit of gaining valuable insight from our peers at electric co-ops across the state and the country who are facing the same unprecedented challenges. And when this crisis forced businesses everywhere to ponder how they’d serve their customers if a majority of their workforce became sick or quarantined, we knew we had our mutual aid agreement with the other Michigan co-ops to ensure we could keep your lights on if that were to happen to us. Ultimately, what we at the nation’s electric co-ops understand is that when we pool our resources, we are able to serve you better. And when we come out on the other side of this pandemic—and we will—the ties that bind our cooperative network will be even stronger for us having worked through this crisis together, in a true cooperative fashion.

For the latest on our response to the COVID-19 pandemic, click on the COVID-19 Response menu link on the homepage of our website at

RELIABLE INTERNET IN AN UNPREDICTABLE WORLD Our world is facing an unprecedented health crisis, and as a result, many aspects of our lives have become unpredictable. In this uncertain time, HomeWorks is proud to be able to continue to offer service that you can rely on. For many of us, internet access is nearly as essential as electricity these days, so it’s important for you to know that just like our other HomeWorks services, HomeWorks Connect will continue to be here for you. If you’re currently enjoying HomeWorks Connect fiber internet in an area where the service has already been installed, rest assured that we’re going to continue doing everything necessary to keep your service reliable. We are prepared to handle increased usage, as more of our membership is working and learning from home than ever before. Keeping your connection stable is our priority. If you haven’t had HomeWorks Connect installed yet but are awaiting our presence in your area, please note that for the safety of our employees and members, we suspended in-home installations in mid-March in order to help slow the spread of COVID-19. At press time, we still were not completing in-home installations, in compliance with current CDC guidelines. We have, however, implemented a guided self-installation option in some areas. To learnYOU

HOW CAN YOU HELP INSTALLATIONS STAY ON TRACK? We are encouraging our members to follow along via email, Facebook, and our website ( for updates on our current COVID-19 protocols, including those related to our fiber internet service. We also ask those who are interested in our highspeed fiber internet service to pre-register, or sign their contract in areas where contracts are available, by visiting Completing your online order now will allow us to get things prepared on our end so that your location is ready to go as soon as construction and installation begins in your area.

more about this option or to get a current status update on our in-home installations, please visit or call us at 800-668-8413. As always, the safety and well-being of our members and employees comes first, and we will continue to monitor developments in the COVID-19 pandemic and respond accordingly. Thank you for your continued excitement for our HomeWorks Connect fiber internet services!

Pre-register today for the fastest internet around!

To pre-register, visit or call 800-668-8413. This service is not regulated by the Michigan Public Service Commission.



1979 Ford Pinto, aka the mussel car, Haserot Beach, Traverse City. Photo by Chris Roxburgh


s an electrical contractor, Chris Roxburgh spends his working days bringing light to dark areas. Perhaps it’s not all that surprising that Roxburgh spends his recreational time doing more of the same.

A few years ago, Roxburgh posted his first pictures from the depths of Grand Traverse Bay, revealing a 1979 Ford Pinto covered in zebra mussels. The photos quickly gained online recognition, and while it was the beginning of Roxburgh sharing the wonders beneath the waves, it was by no means the beginning of his love of water.


MAY 2020

Roxburgh has been obsessed with the water since he was a child growing up in Traverse City, Michigan. “Our family was always finding a way to the water,” said Roxburgh. “Every weekend we’d take out the boat and as I got older, I’d take a deep breath, and hand-overhand, I’d follow the anchor chain down as far as I could manage to hold my breath.”

Free diving, also called skin diving, is when the diver holds their breath until resurfacing. Roxburgh may not have been familiar with the distinction as a child, but that didn’t keep him from building the skill. Roxburgh’s free diving continued into adulthood and he used this method to get a closer look at the shipwrecked George Rogers tugboat, located in Grand Traverse Bay at the northern tip of Leelanau County. Roxburgh and his wife Bea had been stand-up paddle boarding when they saw the wreckage below

“I hope to shine a light on how we can all do our part.” –Chris Roxburgh

Drone footage over the Alva Bradley shipwreck, North Manitou Island. Photo by Dusty Klifman

Eber Ward shipwreck in the Straits of Mackinac. Photo by Chris Roxburgh

Chris Roxburgh with his new Sony a7 III camera with Aquatica deep dive housing. Photo by Dusty Klifman

scuba school to see if they would let him get his that winter. With a rented 7mm wetsuit, in 36-degree weather, Roxburgh spent three wintery days with instructors to complete his open water certification. It was the beginning of more than a hobby, but a passion.

Chris Roxburgh on the Francisco Morazan, South Manitou Island. Photo by Bea Roxburgh

the water’s surface. A couple of days later, Roxburgh came back with photographic equipment and his wetsuit to free dive the sunken treasure. “I was so excited by that dive. I became obsessed with the history,” said Roxburgh. “I knew right away that I wanted to get my scuba certification and I couldn’t wait any longer.” And Roxburgh didn’t wait. While most divers get their open water certification in the spring and summer, Roxburgh reached out to the local

Over the course of his new obsession, Roxburgh crossed paths with another Michigan diver who had a similar interest in shipwrecks and history as well. “When I met Dusty [Klifman], things really kicked off,” said Roxburgh. “We had a similar inquisitive mindset and we were gung-ho to explore more.” Klifman, who had been open water diving for 20 years, while Roxburgh had two under his belt, worked as a lineman for an electric company. Their mutual love of water and exploration has led to some epic adventures including the Alva Bradley, a schooner in the Manitou Passage; the Jane, a small freighter off the shore of Arcadia; and the Typo, a schooner that was crashed into by a steamship in Lake Huron’s Thunder Bay. The two have a massive wish list for

the coming year, including the Thomas Hume in southwest Michigan and the Newell A. Eddy in Cheboygan. In the meantime, groups like the Old Mission Peninsula Historical Society have invited Roxburgh to share his experiences. Hundreds of people have come to hear Roxburgh’s thrilling stories, as well as witness his testimony as an environmental and conservancy advocate. Roxburgh has seen how pollution, dumping, and everyday littering have impacted the Great Lakes. “I want future generations to have a chance to explore what I’ve been able to experience,” said Roxburgh. “I hope to shine a light on how we can all do our part.”

Follow Chris’s diving adventures: Visit to accompany Chris on an underwater video tour of the Eber Ward shipwreck in the Straits of Mackinac. @chris_roxburgh_



Notice Of Member Access To Rules And Rates As a member-customer (member) of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative (Cooperative), the following information is available to you from the Cooperative, upon request: 1. Complete rate schedules; 2. Clear and concise explanation of all rates that the member may be eligible to receive; and 3. Assistance from the Cooperative in determining the most appropriate rate for a member when the member is eligible to receive service under more than one rate. For more information, visit or call 800-562-8232.

Fuel Mix Report The fuel mix characteristics of HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative as required by Public Act 141 of 2000 for the 12-month period ended 12/31/19.

Comparison Of Fuel Sources Used

Your Co-op’s Fuel Mix

Regional Average Fuel Mix

Regional average fuel mix used Your co-op’s fuel mix

Fuel Source Coal 23.30% Oil




Gas 15.03%





Nuclear 42.39%


Renewable Fuels 17.19%











Solid Waste Incineration









NOTE: Biomass excludes wood; solid waste incineration includes landfill gas; and wind includes a long-term renewable purchase power contract in Wolverine’s mix.

Emissions And Waste Comparison lbs/MWh

Type Of Emission/Waste

Your Co-op

Regional Average*

Sulfur Dioxide



Carbon Dioxide



Oxides of Nitrogen High-level Nuclear Waste





*Regional average information was obtained from the MPSC website and is for the 12-month period ending 12/31/19. HomeWorks purchases 100% of its electricity from Wolverine Power Supply Cooperative, Inc., which provided this fuel mix and environmental data.

SMALL CHANGES. GREAT SAVINGS. You make the changes; we provide the savings. There are many ways to save, from appliances to lighting to maintaining the comfort of your home, with our efficient HVAC programs. Visit to learn more. ONLINE: PHONE: 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



Snap Shot Enter to win a


energy bill credit!

Upcoming Snap Shot Contest Topics And Deadlines

“Festivals & Fairs,” Deadline: May 15 (July/August issue) “Michigan’s Natural Beauty,” Deadline: July 15 (September issue) “Beautiful Birds,” Deadline: August 17 (October issue) Go to 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.

Submit Your Photos!

Contributors whose photos we publish in Country Lines in 2020 will receive a $10 bill credit the month after publication.




On The Farm 1. Dawn Klee of Eaton Rapids submitted this snapshot capturing the essence of the planting season. 2. Cindy Zavadil of Okemos (receiving service in Canadian Lakes) says, “The fog was just right when I shot this barn on our way out on a perfect summer morning. Although we pass by this barn often, this was a once-in-a-million opportunity to see it a little differently!” 3. Angie Martin of Westphalia submitted this photo of her basset hound, George, and her bulldog, Elmer, taking a break in the shade after a hard day’s work on the farm. 4. Jane Gepford of Mt. Pleasant says, “This is our grandson, Gage, telling Papa, ‘Wait for me; I want to go, too!’” 5. Bruce Eldred of Blanchard submitted this picture of his grandson, Wyatt Karcher, meeting his new calf.



MI CO-OP Recipes

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

VEGETARIAN Go meat-free with these healthy recipes.


SWEET POTATO AND QUINOA BURGERS Katie Schneider, Midwest Energy & Communications

2 large sweet potatoes 1 cup uncooked dry quinoa (makes 2 cups cooked) ½ medium red bell pepper, finely chopped ¼ small red onion, finely chopped ½ cup kale, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 teaspoon dried thyme 1 teaspoon black pepper 1 tablespoon oil

Win a


energy bill credit!

10 MAY 2020


Kid-Friendly Cooking due July 1 • Easy Recipes due August 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 for more information.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Bake, boil, or microwave the sweet potatoes until soft. Discard skins; then mash and allow to cool. Cook quinoa as per packet instructions; cool. In a bowl, add the mashed sweet potato, cooked quinoa, bell pepper, onion, kale, garlic, thyme, and pepper. Mix everything well. When cool enough to handle, take ½ cup each of the mixture and form into patties. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Brush the patties liberally with oil of choice, then place them on the baking sheet and bake until the patties are deeply golden on the outside, about 35–40 minutes, flipping halfway. Patties can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen for fast meals.

Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at

FALAFEL WITH FETA SAUCE Sondra Harr, Great Lakes Energy

FALAFEL: 1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed and drained 1 clove garlic 3 green onions • juice from ½ lemon 1 bunch parsley 1 teaspoon cumin ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper 1 egg ¹⁄ ³ cup flour 1½ teaspoons baking powder • flour tortillas or pita bread • oil for frying

FETA SAUCE: ½ cup feta cheese ½ cup Greek yogurt, plain 2 tablespoons milk 1 tablespoon lemon juice 2 garlic cloves, minced To make falafel, place all falafel ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth. Refrigerate for ½ hour. Roll dough into balls and lightly flatten. Fry in hot oil for 3 minutes per side. To make feta sauce, combine all ingredients and chill until ready to drizzle over falafel. Serve in a warm tortilla or pita bread with lettuce, tomato, red onion, and sliced cucumber.



Shelley Ehrenberger, Cherryland RICE CRUST 1½ cups cooked rice 2 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened 2 tablespoons onion, chopped 1 egg EGGPLANT FILLING 1 medium onion, chopped 1 large green bell pepper, chopped 3 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted 1 (8-ounce) can tomato paste 1 cup hot water 1 medium/large eggplant, quartered and sliced ½ -inch thick ½ to 1 pound mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. To make rice crust, combine rice with butter, chopped onion, and egg. Press into bottom and sides of greased 9-inch pie pan. To make eggplant filling, sauté onion and green pepper in butter until transparent. Add tomato paste and hot water, and bring to a boil. Add eggplant; simmer for 10 minutes. Spoon half of eggplant mixture into crust. Add half of cheese. Add the remaining eggplant mixture, and top with remainder of cheese. Bake for 30–35 minutes. Cool slightly before cutting.

2 teaspoons olive oil 4 cups sweet onions, thinly sliced 3 ounces goat cheese (can sub with cream cheese) ¼ cup skim milk 6 ounces uncooked farfalle (bow-tie pasta) 1 clove garlic, minced 2 tablespoons dry white wine (can sub with vegetable broth) 1½ teaspoons chopped fresh sage (or sub with ½ teaspoon dried) ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon black pepper 2 tablespoons chopped, toasted walnuts Heat oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onions and cook slowly until golden and caramelized, about 20–25 minutes. Stir occasionally. Combine goat cheese and milk in small bowl; mix until well blended. Set aside. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside. Add garlic to onions in skillet; cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add wine, sage, salt and black pepper; cook until moisture is evaporated. Remove from heat. Add pasta and goat cheese mixture, stirring to melt cheese. Sprinkle with walnuts. Serve immediately. MICHIGAN COUNTRY LINES


IMPORTANT NOTICE 2020 District Meetings Indefinitely Postponed Due To COVID-19 The safety and well-being of our members and employees is our top priority at HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative. In keeping with that commitment, and in line with current CDC public health guidelines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, your board of directors voted on March 23 to indefinitely postpone our 2020 district meetings, which had been scheduled for May. Our staff looks forward to district meetings every year for the chance to meet with you in person, update you on what your Co-op has been up to over the past year, and answer any questions you may have. As such, we’re very disappointed that we won’t be able to see you this month, but we know this is the right decision to help slow the spread of COVID-19 and to keep you and our employees healthy and safe.

Here’s What You Need To Know: •

We are working on alternate plans for this year’s district meetings, including the possibility of a remote online platform and/or a video series in place of the in-person sessions. We will notify all members via mail to provide details once final plans are in place.

This year’s director elections in districts 2 and 4 were held entirely via mail-in ballot. (Our membership voted in 2017 to institute a mail-in ballot option to supplement in-person voting at district meetings.) The election process ran smoothly. Results will be posted at and on our Facebook page by May 8.

We will contact all current district officers to ask if they are willing to remain in their current posts until the next district officer elections are held (which is in line with our bylaws).

As of now, our 2020 annual meeting is still scheduled to go on as planned on August 15 at the Comfort Inn & Suites Conference Center in Mt. Pleasant.

We plan to invite all 2019 annual meeting delegates to attend the annual meeting as delegates again this year. If a member who was not a delegate in 2019 would like to be a delegate in 2020, he or she can contact Michelle Huhn at 517-647-1272 or for an invitation.

More details to follow via mail! If you have additional questions, please feel free to call us at 800-562-8232. 12 MAY 2020

Your Board In Action Meeting remotely on March 23, your board of directors: • Voted to indefinitely postpone the Cooperative’s 2020 district meetings, due to the COVID-19 pandemic and current CDC recommendations to avoid large gatherings.

• Reviewed contingency plans for the 2020 district meeting director election process in districts 2 and 4, as well as for the process to elect district officers and assign annual meeting delegates.

• Learned about the results of a recent third-party cybersecurity penetration test of the Cooperative’s external and internal networks. • Approved Cooperative management to enter $250,000 into a 36-month certificate of deposit (CD) in order to allow for a daily automated clearing house (ACH) limit of $500,000.

• Learned about progress made by HomeWorks Connect in building a highspeed fiber-optic internet network. • Learned there were 83 new members in February.

• Acknowledged the February safety report, listing employee training as well as minor employee and 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 Monday, May 18, and Monday, June 22, at Portland. At the time of this printing, however, 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.

Offices Closed Memorial Day Please note that our offices will be closed on Monday, May 25, in honor of Memorial Day. While we are closed, you will still be able to reach us at 800-848-9333 to report an outage, or at 877-999-3395 to pay your bill via phone.

People Fund Grants $5,000 To Support Local Food Pantries Meeting remotely April 15, the Tri-County Electric People Fund board made two grants totaling $5,389, including: • $5,000 to Feeding America West Michigan, Comstock Park, to purchase food for mobile food pantries; and • $389 to a Montcalm County family to help cover a utility bill and car payment.

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 Note: Applications must be received by May 19 for the May meeting or by June 30 for the July meeting.

Congratulations, Class Of 2020! We know your senior year didn’t end quite as you had planned, but don’t let that take away from your pride in all that you’ve accomplished so far, or your excitement for the great adventures ahead of you. We’re proud of you! ~ Your Friends At HomeWorks




“Craft distilling in the U.S. is actually quite a tight-knit community.” –Chad Munger

“As a small business, we’re used to pivoting and adapting quickly.” –Kent Rabish

DISTILLING COMMUNITY Michigan Distilleries Lend A Hand And Make A Difference By Emily Haines Lloyd


“We started hearing stories of distilleries in the northwest of the United States who were starting to make hand sanitizer on their stills.”

flattening the curve of the impact of the virus. They noted that in lieu of soap and water, hand sanitizer was also effective.

“Craft distilling in the U.S. is actually quite a tight-knit community,” said Chad Munger of Mammoth Distilling.

The country began to prepare for an anticipated influx of people contracting the virus and the pressure that would be put on the health care and first responder communities. Gaps began to appear in supply chains. Protective gear like face masks and gloves was in short supply. Medical professionals, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO) all noted that hand washing was a critical step in

“You don’t realize just how much sanitizer is needed in health care and for first responders,” said Kent Rabish of Grand Traverse Distillery. “From reception areas, to disinfecting each exam room, to having on ambulance rigs for each call. And now suddenly, the country realizes, we are going to need even more.”

raft spirits in Michigan is an industry that speaks often about creativity, a sense of community, and of course, good times and fellowship. After the nationwide outbreak of COVID-19, Michigan distilleries, along with the bulk of their hospitality brethren, found themselves displaced, with dining and tasting rooms closed and the bulk of their workforce suddenly without income or purpose. It seemed like the good times were becoming a distant memory.

14 MAY 2020

Michigan distilleries quickly launched into action. Initially, they delivered or



“We rolled up our sleeves and got to work. I think that’s what our distilling community is all about.” –Chris Fredrickson

“We are here to serve our communities.” –Howard Tuthill

gave away the sanitizing runoff they had on hand, which is the byproduct of producing alcohol.

now adapting to a learning curve by distillery workforces who were grateful for a way to pitch in.

“Our employees were dropping off sanitizer to local firehouses, municipalities, and hospitals, just to support our community,” said Chris Fredrickson of Traverse City Whiskey Co. “It was a quick and easy way to step into a strange situation and find a way to help.”

“So much of our industry is about community,” said Howard Tuthill of Iron Shoe Distillery. “We are here to serve our communities. And when we suddenly weren’t able to share moments in person, it felt good to be able to reach out to our community in another way.”

Suddenly, the creativity, ingenuity, and adaptability of this craft industry kicked into high gear. Calls were made to source materials, ensuring they had the federal “recipe” for allowable sanitizer, and distilleries across the state began trading in corn and wheat for ethanol and glycerin.

Dozens of distilleries around the state and country have stepped into this space and are now producing hand sanitizer as quickly as they can acquire the supplies.

“As a small business, we’re used to pivoting and adapting quickly,” said Landis Rabish of Grand Traverse Distillery. “We stay nimble and adapt to new circumstances constantly. This is second nature to us.” Buildings that once hummed and produced handcrafted libations were

“We took the first step, simply because it was the right thing to do,” said Fredrickson. “We had the infrastructure to help people in a really unusual and weird time. This wasn’t a moment to sit back and watch things happen. That’s not who we are as a business. It’s not who we are as a team. So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. I think that’s what our distilling community is all about.”

If you are still looking for hand sanitizer, check out the American Distilling Institute website,, for the most up-to-date listing of distillers who are producing it.

For more information, please visit their websites and follow these distilleries on Facebook and Instagram.



Look For The Helpers By Charly Markwart

When he would broach the heavy subject of tragedy on his legendary PBS television show for children, Mister Rogers would often try to help his young viewers cope by telling them that in the face of scary situations, they should look for the helpers. “There will always be people helping,” he would say. A quick glance around the HomeWorks service area proves that in the face of the COVID-19 crisis, that helping spirit is alive and well in rural mid-Michigan. Across our local communities, volunteers with various organizations are working tirelessly to ensure that children and families don’t go hungry as a result of the pandemic. “When the pandemic hit, we were so concerned for the kids,” said Michelle VanSlambrouck, one of three founders of the nonprofit Portland Backpacks for Bellies program, a grantee of the Tri-County People Fund. “It was like, ‘Oh my gosh; these kids have been depending on breakfast and lunch at school. What are they going to eat while schools are closed?’” So volunteers of the organization stepped in to help fill that void, stuffing hundreds of food bags, each with a week’s worth of meals for local kids. As they do during the school year, they partnered with Portland Public Schools and the Portland Community Food Bank to distribute the bags to students in need. “Families who’ve received the bags have shown an unbelievable appreciation,” said VanSlambrouck. “You can see it in their faces and hear the relief in their voices when they see that there is food. That reassures all of us that we are doing what we need to be doing right now.” The same is true for staffers at Montabella Community Schools in Blanchard, who have volunteered to package and distribute

16 MAY 2020

Volunteers at Portland Backpacks for Bellies practice social distancing while packing meals for local students and their families. (Contributed photo)

thousands of federally funded meals per week for district students in need since the pandemic caused Michigan schools to close in March. “I’d say 80% of our staff members have volunteered at least once so far,” said Montabella Community Schools Superintendent Shelly Millis. “I had to limit the number of volunteers due to social distancing guidelines, because we had so many caring

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ ~ Fred Rogers, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood

adults who wanted to help. I’m extremely proud of their commitment to our students and our community.” In a district where a high percentage of students already qualifies for free and reduced school meals, Millis says the need is even more dire now, with many parents forced out of work due to the pandemic. The strain of that increased need is being felt around the state, as a historic spike in unemployment has resulted in shortages at several Michigan food banks. HomeWorks members Andrew and Nicki Arens, owners of Double A Dairy in Portland and Farm Country Cheese House in Lakeview, are doing their part to help solve that problem. With a surplus of milk at their dairy caused by pandemic-related closures of restaurants and other businesses, the Arenses are processing thousands of pounds of Farm Country cheese to donate to local food banks in Ionia, Lakeview and Portland. HomeWorks supported this project with a $1,000 donation.

Montabella Community Schools staff members load trucks with meals to feed hundreds of students throughout their district. (Contributed photo)

“Food banks are short right now, and instead of seeing our milk go to waste, we wanted to put it to good use to help feed people in need in our communities,” said Andrew. Sometimes, Mr. Rogers would end his famous “look for the helpers” quote by adding, “When you look for the helpers, you’ll know that there is hope.” That lasting sentiment resonates across HomeWorks’ service territory today, where generous volunteers have stepped up everywhere to provide that needed ray of hope in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis. If you are in need of food for your child(ren) while schools are closed, visit the Michigan Department of Education’s Food Service Program site locator at: www.mcgi.state.

Andrew Arens, right, of Farm Country Cheese in Lakeview, makes the first of several planned donations of Farm Country cheese to support local food banks during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Contributed photo)


MI CO-OP Community Guest Column

Last Train Ride

Lake Odessa to Grand Rapids, Circa 1956 By Tom McWhorter, Cherryland Electric Cooperative member

y grandmother lived in Lake Odessa and sometime in the mid-’50s, she took a train to Grand Rapids. She needed to see a medical specialist and wanted our mother to accompany her. My mom took me, as she wanted me to experience a train ride. She said that I could tell my children about it one day, as she did not think passenger trains would be around much longer.


Lake Odessa was on the Pere Marquette Railway (PMR) line. PMR was sold to Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) and is now operated by CSX. Passenger service was, in fact, discontinued from Lake Odessa in 1971. We went down to the depot, purchased our tickets and waited for the train to arrive. I was excited, I had seen trains from a distance but had no idea of how big and powerful the engine was up close. I am sure that I was filled with both amazement and fear! Unfortunately, I do not remember anything specific about the ride itself. We would have arrived at the old Grand Rapids Central Station, which was demolished in 1961 in order to make way for the construction of U.S. 131. After my grandmother’s appointment, we walked around downtown Grand Rapids. Grand Rapids was for sure the biggest city that I had ever been to, large buildings and department stores with strange names such as Herpolsheimer’s and Steketee’s. After some shopping, we went back to Lake Odessa. So, thank you to my mom and grandmother for giving me this story to tell a mere 64 years later! Tom McWhorter is a retired state employee who grew up in rural Eaton County and now lives with his wife Wendy in Leelanau County. He is a graduate of Michigan State University and his interests include history, writing and traveling.

Win a


energy bill credit!

Where In Michigan Is This? Identify the correct location of the photo on the left by May 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at March 2020 Winner! Our Mystery Photo contest winner from the March issue is Aaron Wiers, a Great Lakes Energy Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as the Silverdale school building in Ogontz, located on the Stonington Peninsula in Delta County. Photo courtesy of Kelli Marshall Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September and November/December.

18 MAY 2020

Hybrid Geothermal

CALL FOR A FREE HOME VISIT (989) 356-2113 989-356-2113 Report Outages: 1-800-848-9333


Frontline workers, we tip our hats to you. The COVID-19 crisis has brought out the true heroes in our local communities. To those listed below and so many others, thank you for putting your lives on the line to save others and to provide essential services during this pandemic. • • • • • •

Health care workers First responders Pharmacists Grocery store clerks Farmers Truckers

• • • • • •

Military personnel Public service workers Mail carriers Delivery drivers Sanitary workers Bank employees

• • • • • •

School employees Child care providers Food service workers Factory workers Nonprofit workers Utility workers

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