Nov/Dec 2020 HomeWorks

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November/December 2020


COUNTRY LINES HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative

Get In The Giving Spirit With The People Fund

Mary Jane Hoppes Retires Hunting Safety Tips





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Contents Michigan’s Electric Cooperatives

November/December 2020 Vol. 40, No. 10



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.

Statement of Ownership, Management and Circulation

(Required by U.S.C. 3685) 1. Publication: Michigan Country Lines. 2. Publication No.: 591-710. 3. Filing date: 10/1/20. 4. Issue frequency: monthly, except Aug. and Dec. 5. No. of issues published annually: 10. 6. Complete mailing address of office of publication: Michigan Electric Cooperative Association, 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 7. Complete mailing address of headquarters of publisher: 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 8. Full names and complete mailing address of publisher, editors, and executive editor: Craig Borr, Christine Dorr, Casey Clark, 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 9. Owner: Michigan Electric Cooperative Assoc., 201 Townsend St., Ste. 900, Lansing, MI 48933. 10. Known bondholders, mortgagees, and other security holders owning or holding 1% or more of total amount of bonds, mortgages, or other securities: None. 11. Tax status: has not been changed. 12. Issue date for circulation data: Sept. 2020. 13. Extent and nature of circulation: Avg # of copies Actual # of copies of single issues each issue during preceding 12 mo. published nearest to filing date A) Total No. of copies................................. 243,264 ...................... 243,312 B) Paid and requested circulation ............ 243,264 ...................... 242,882 C) Total paid and requested circulation ... 243,264 ...................... 242,882 D) 1) Free distribution by mail.......................... 160 .............................. 160 2) Free distribution outside mail ................. 809 .............................. 887 E) Total free distribution ................................... 969 ...........................1,047 F) Total distribution................................... 244,233 ...................... 244,359 G) Copies not distributed.......................................0 ...................................0 H) Total ....................................................... 244,233 ...................... 244,359 I) Percent paid and/or requested circ.......... 98.7% .......................... 99.7%

16. Publication of statement of ownership: November 2020 17. Signature and title of editor: Christine Dorr, editor


These member-suggested restaurants pair a scenic Michigan view with quality cuisine.


Dips & Dressings—Jazz up your salads and appetizers with these zesty recipes.

Fall is officially in the air. (Destiny Lopez)


Colon, Michigan, resident Rick Fisher helps ensure the town continues to be the “Magic Capital of the World.”


Be featured!

For those struggling to pay their bills this winter, there are many places to turn to for help.


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

To enter contests, submit reader content & more, visit





Up Next: Stir Fry Favorites, Soup, Tacos Share your favorite recipes.

Up Next: Winter Fun! Tell us about your favorite winter activity location (downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, biking, ice skating, etc.)

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! See page 7


3 / 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.

During Season Of Giving, Consider Rounding Up For The People Fund

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 • 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

By Michelle Huhn, Executive Assistant and Tri-County People Fund Program Administrator


bout a month ago, I got to make the type of phone call that makes me especially proud to work at a place like HomeWorks Tri-County Electric Cooperative. As HomeWorks’ executive assistant and the program administrator for the Tri-County People Fund, I’m the lucky employee who gets to call our People Fund grant recipients to let them know that we’re going to be able to help them in their time of need. All of those calls are special, and even though I’ve placed dozens of them in my time in this position, this particular call last month still touched my heart and made me think about the impact our People Fund is able to make in our local communities. Due to extenuating circumstances, the woman on the other end of the line had been struggling for some time to make ends meet for her family. When I told her that we were going to be able to grant her request for financial assistance, she immediately started crying tears of joy, relief, and pure gratitude. I just sat there in contented silence, feeling so good about the work we are able to do through the People Fund. The reason I’m writing about this experience here is that I want you to know that we’re only able to make a difference in the lives of your neighbors in need because of you, our members. When you volunteer to round up your bill to the nearest dollar each month for the People Fund, that spare change, which adds up to an average of just $6 a year for you, goes entirely to our grant recipients. You might not believe it, but in the 27 years since the People Fund was founded, that $6 per year per participating member has added up to well over $2.3 million granted to local organizations and families throughout our service area. The holiday season is a time for giving, and if you haven’t opted in to round your bill up for the People Fund yet, I hope you’ll consider doing so now. That $6 that might have bought you a cup of coffee or rattled around in the middle console of your car could go toward helping a local food bank purchase supplies to stock its shelves, or to help an area mother buy a winter coat for her child. I can promise you that our volunteer People Fund board of directors and I will make sure to put your spare change to good use. With your help, we’ll make sure more grant recipients on the other end of the line can cry out with joy when I call to give them the good news, the very best part of my job. Opt in to round your bill up for the People Fund via our SmartHub app, or by calling us at 800-421-8956, ext. 1272.


Think Outside The Box This Christmas With The Unique Gift Of Energy Are you looking at the calendar and beginning to grapple with the annual question of what to buy your loved ones for Christmas? If anyone on your shopping list is a HomeWorks member or a customer of HomeWorks Tri-County Propane or HomeWorks Connect, we’ve got you covered with a gift they need but would never expect: a HomeWorks gift certificate! Now available in both of our offices or by calling us at 800-562-8232, HomeWorks gift certificates can be used by recipients to pay electric, propane or fiber internet bills. Just think how your loved ones will be thanking you come January, when their post-Christmas financial stress is eased by one less bill they have to worry about. Gift certificates are available in any amount, so you can customize your gift to your needs. Don’t have a HomeWorks member on your shopping list? You can also get in the giving spirit by purchasing a HomeWorks gift certificate and donating it to the Tri-County People Fund to help a neighbor in need cover his or her electric bill. There is always a need for such donations.

Interested? HomeWorks gift certificates are available in both of our offices, or by calling us at 800-562-8232.

‘Tis The Season For Giving Opt in to round your monthly bill up to the next dollar for the Tri-County People Fund today by calling us at 800-421-8956, ext. 1272 or by signing up via SmartHub.

MI CO-OP Community

2 3 6 4 8

Best Of Michigan




Bentwood Tavern

New Buffalo This gem of a restaurant is located in the Marina Grand Resort. There is scenic outside dining with great service and a great selection of delicious food and drinks. The atmosphere is light and airy, and you can feel a good energy. Jeff Dorr, Presque Isle





Stafford’s Pier Restaurant



Harbor Springs Dining during the summertime can be either inside or out on the terrace overlooking the municipal marina. Once a week, the Harbor Springs Concert Band plays on the lawn nearby to add to your dining experience. Stafford trains their staff well, and it shows! Mary Ennis, Great Lakes Energy

Harbor Lights Grille

Carp Lake It’s like stepping back in time. They have wonderful food for breakfast, lunch, or dinner and amazing homemade desserts. There is a beautiful lakeside view. The staff is very attentive and friendly. Rebecca Rhea, Great Lakes Energy

Knot Just A Bar

Omena There are breathtaking views of the bay whether you’re on the beautiful deck or inside. They offer a great drink and food selection with fresh flavors. Judy Skowronski, Cherryland


Tell us about your favorite winter activity location (downhill skiing, cross country skiing, snowboarding, snowshoeing, biking, ice skating, etc.) Submit your favorites at community by Jan. 25, and look for it in our February issue.



Clifford Lake Inn

Stanton They have amazing food, and their desserts are delicious! The views of Clifford Lake from the deck are gorgeous, especially during sunset. It has a relaxed vibe, and they are very friendly. Sometimes floatplanes will land or take off from the water, which is a treat to see! Jenna Irani, HomeWorks Tri-County

Where In Michigan Is This? Win a


energy bill credit!

Bistro 6 Palette Petoskey

This has a spectacular view of the bay, especially at sunset. Make sure you get a window seat to take in the unforgettable lake action while enjoying an exciting, eclectic menu. A customer favorite, the Forest Floor Soup, teeming with delectable mushrooms, never disappoints! The servers are knowledgeable and are always on point. Treat yourself to a relaxing meal overlooking Petoskey’s jewel. Mary Ennis, Great Lakes Energy

Blue Lake Tavern

Mecosta This amazing place is a historic log cabin and sits above the lake. The view never fails and the food, service and atmosphere are all A+. I take people there during all Michigan seasons. Lonna Bear, HomeWorks Tri-County

Barrel Back Restaurant


Walloon Lake There’s delicious food and a great atmosphere, and it overlooks Walloon Lake. On nice days, they open the huge garage-style doors for open air dining and incredible views! Marlene Clark , Great Lakes Energy

Identify the correct location of the photo above by November 20 and be entered into a drawing to win a $50 electric bill credit. Enter your guess at


September 2020 Winner! Our Mystery Photo winner is Courtney Thompson, HomeWorks Tri-County Cooperative member, who correctly identified the photo as Lavender Hill Farm in Boyne City. Photo by Jody Strang. Winners are announced in the following issues of Country Lines: January, March, May, July/August, September and November/ December.



Do You Believe In Energy Savings? he holiday season is upon us and with it comes shopping, cooking, decorating, etc. With so many festive activities, who can think about home heating and cooling? A Wi-Fi enabled or smart thermostat might be the answer.


Standard programmable thermostats are great for setting schedules that raise and lower the temperature at specific times on certain days. But unless you remember ahead of time to change the schedule, your heat or A/C will kick in as programmed—wasting energy and money.

Taking Control Thanks to new advancements in technology, Wi-Fi enabled thermostats allow homeowners to remotely control their home’s temperature 24/7—whether you’re at work, shopping, or traveling to Grandma’s. Simply log in online or use the thermostat’s app on your phone to adjust your settings.

Smart Thermostats Smart thermostats are currently the most advanced residential devices available. Not only are they Wi-Fi enabled, allowing you to adjust the temperature from your

mobile device or tablet (as long as you’re connected to the Internet)—they can program themselves as they “learn” your behavior patterns and desired temperatures for certain days and times during the week. It is important to do your research before investing in a new gadget. Remember, not all “Wi-Fi enabled thermostats” are smart thermostats. Only true smart thermostats can sense when you are home and program themselves. Additionally, not all aftermarket thermostats are compatible with all heating and cooling systems. Make sure the one you choose will work properly with your system.

REBATES AVAILABLE! The Energy Optimization program provides cash incentives toward the purchase of qualifying Wi-Fi enabled and smart thermostats. Start saving energy and money today! Visit or call 877.296.4319 for additional energy-saving information and incentives.

HOME ENERGY S AV I N G S I S R E A L Give the gift of savings on home heating and cooling with a Wi-Fi enabled or smart thermostat. • control home temperatures remotely 24/7 • a smart thermostat learns home temperature patterns for optimal performance • save money on energy


Phone: 877.296.4319

Energy Optimization programs and incentives are applicable to Michigan electric service locations only. Incentive applies to qualified items purchased and installed between January 1, 2020 and December 31 2020. Other restrictions may apply. For complete program details, visit


Cutest Pets 1. Mark Brecht of Riverdale says, “This is Stark posing in his dad’s favorite football team apparel.” 2. Sandy Miller Keeler of Stanton submitted this photo of her yellow lab, Princess Jessalyn. “She enjoys sitting with me on the bench at our goldfish pond,” she says. 3. Penny Palmer of Vestaburg submitted this snap shot of her 8-week-old kitten, Mya, climbing on a pine stump behind her house. 4. Cory Curtis of Barryton says, “Mr. Forrest, a Cardigan Welsh corgi, believes that at 17 years old, he should not have to suffer having his picture taken.” 5. Sue Mills of DeWitt says, “This is Peaches playing with Mom. I adopted them both last year.” 6. Courtney Thompson of Evart says, “Our youngest of six, Diana, is always giving our 11/2-year-old black lab, Trucky, hugs, and quite often she gets a big wet kiss in return! This is just a snap shot of the love they have for each other.”


4 Enter to win a


energy bill credit!





Upcoming Snap Shot Contest Topics and Deadlines “Magic Of Winter,” Deadline: Nov. 16 (January issue) “Cutest Couple,” Deadline: Dec. 16 (February issue) “Wild Animals,” Deadline: Jan. 15 (March issue)

Go to and select Country Lines under the Electric tab to submit your photos and see all of the 2021 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 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

DIPS & DRESSINGS Complement your meals with these unique recipes.


RASPBERRY VINAIGRETTE Tracy Fisher, Thumb Electric

1 cup frozen raspberries, thawed ¹⁄ ³ cup olive or canola oil 2 tablespoons lemon juice ¼ cup white vinegar 1 tablespoon honey ½ cup sugar (add to taste) 1 tablespoon poppy seeds Win a


energy bill credit!


Stir-Fry Favorites due December 1 • Soups due January 1 Tacos due February 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.


Blend all ingredients in a blender until smooth. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator. This vinaigrette goes great with a strawberry spinach salad. Watch a video of this month’s winning recipe at

BUFFALO CHICKEN DIP Laura Campbell, HomeWorks Tri-County

2 cups shredded cooked chicken (or riced cauliflower for vegetarian option) 8 ounces cream cheese ½ cup of favorite buffalo sauce (such as Frank’s Red Hot) ½ cup ranch dressing ½ cup shredded mozzarella Add all ingredients to a slow cooker. Set to high heat, stirring occasionally, until all ingredients are blended/melted (about 1–2 hours). Then set to warm heat while serving. Serve with celery and tortilla chips. You can adjust the ranch to buffalo sauce ratio depending on your preferred spiciness level.

GRANDDAUGHTER’S FAVORITE DIP June Dougherty, Great Lakes Energy

2 (8 ounce) packages cream cheese, softened 1 package ranch dressing 1 (8 ounce) can corn, drained 1 small red pepper, chopped • black olives, chopped (amount to your liking) Mix all ingredients together and enjoy!

LEMON VINAIGRETTE Laura Burke, Great Lakes Energy

¼ cup fresh lemon juice 1 teaspoon dijon mustard 1 large clove garlic, minced ¼ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper ½ cup vegetable oil Whisk together first 5 ingredients. Gradually add oil in a steady stream, whisking until blended. Toss with green salad or pasta salad.



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 06/30/20.

Comparison Of Fuel Sources Used Fuel source

Your co-op’s fuel mix

Regional average fuel mix
















Renewable Fuels












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.

Your Co-op’s Fuel Mix

“ It’s always been the employees we’ve had that have made HomeWorks such a great place to work. It’s the way they care and always strive for excellence for our members.”

Mary Jane Hoppes Retires After 43 Years With The Co-op


rior to mid-October, no one who currently works at HomeWorks Tri-County Electric could remember a time when Mary Jane Hoppes wasn’t a staple of the Cooperative. That’s because, with 43 years under her belt, Hoppes was by far the Co-op’s longest-tenured employee when she retired from her position of propane/new construction customer service supervisor on Oct. 15. And boy, does she have some stories to tell. “The light bulb had already been invented when I started; I don’t want it to sound like I’ve been around that long,” she says with a laugh. “But I was here when the first computers were brought into the office in 1979. I started just three weeks after I turned 18, right out of high school, and there has just been a world of change since then, especially when it comes to the technology we use.” The people, though, she says, have remained the same, even as the faces have changed. “It’s always been the employees we’ve had that have made HomeWorks such a great place to work,” she says. “It’s the way they care and always strive for excellence for our members.”

Regional Average Fuel Mix

According to Customer Service Manager Missy Robson, that commitment to service is a trait exemplified by Hoppes throughout her four-plus decades on the job. “Mary Jane has always been dedicated to serving our members well,” says Robson. “She should be proud of the legacy she’s leaving behind here. She is going to be dearly missed.”

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.


HomeWorks CEO Chris O’Neill agrees. “We lost a lot of history and a valuable member of the HomeWorks team when Mary Jane walked out that door to retirement,” he says. “She will always be a part of the HomeWorks family, and we are all wishing her the best in her well-deserved retirement.” Hoppes’ plan is to fill that retirement with family, friends and long-awaited freedom. “What I’m looking forward to most after 43 years is not having to ask to take a day off,” she says. “Just smelling the fresh air and being on the other side of that window when it’s a nice day outside. That’s what I’ve been waiting for.”

Your Board In Action Meeting in Portland on Sept. 28, your board of directors: • Reviewed proposed changes to power supplier Wolverine Power Cooperative’s wholesale rate schedule and accepted Wolverine’s proposed rate changes, with an effective date of Jan. 1, 2021. • Selected Director Luke Pohl as the Cooperative’s voting delegate for the upcoming National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) regional meeting, and chose Director Jim Stebbins as his alternate. • Authorized the firm of Eide Bailly, of Fargo, ND, to proceed with a regularly scheduled audit of the 2020 financial statements of the Cooperative.

Holiday Hours

• Approved the renewal of the Co-op’s line of credit with CoBank, a national cooperative bank serving vital industries across America.

Please note that our offices will be closed on the following days of the holiday season:

• Reviewed the upcoming construction plan for HomeWorks Connect fiber internet, along with an updated 10-year financial forecast for the project. • Discussed and accepted Policy 112 – Strategic Planning. • Learned there were 147 new members in August. • Acknowledged the August 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 Nov. 23 at Portland and 9 a.m. on Dec. 21 at Blanchard. 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 have items considered on the board agenda should call 517-647-7554.

Thanksgiving Holiday Thursday, Nov. 26 Friday, Nov. 27

Christmas Holiday Thursday, Dec. 24 Friday, Dec. 25

New Year’s Day Friday, Jan. 1, 2021

People Fund Supports Two Local Libraries And A Family In Need Meeting remotely Sept. 28, the Tri-County Electric People Fund board made three grants totaling $4,640, including: • $3,640 to a Montcalm County family to help with household expenses; • $500 to the Ionia Community Library for the construction of special safety panels to allow for reopening during the COVID-19 pandemic; and • $500 to the Richland Township Library to purchase books and other supplies.

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 Dec. 15 for the December meeting.

Apply Today For Classroom Grants, College Scholarships The application deadline for our Classroom S.T.E.A.M. Grants of up to $2,000 is coming up on Dec. 16, and the deadline to apply for one of our $1,000 college scholarships is March 16, 2021. Apply at!



MIT E H T EETS By Emily Haines Lloyd



any small towns in rural Michigan are quaintly magical. But in the tiny hamlet of Colon (population 1,100-ish), magical is more than an adjective, it’s a way of life.

The history of Colon’s relationship with magic goes back to the Roaring ‘20s, when famed magician Harry Blackstone Sr. (who was on par with Houdini and Thurston) did as many Chicago entertainers did in the sweltering city summers—escaped to cooler climates, like Michigan’s lake communities. Blackstone’s wife was the one who happened upon the 220-acre plot of land that they would eventually call home. The entire Blackstone troupe traveled to the other side of Lake Michigan and settled on what the magician called Blackstone Island (though not technically an island) on Sturgeon Lake to work up the coming year’s act. “It was in the late ‘20s that Blackstone met an Australian magician, Percy Abbott, and invited him to visit Colon,” recalls FAB Magic Company owner Rick Fisher. “The two built the Blackstone Magic Co. Eventually, Abbott met a local girl, got married, and stayed behind and tended to the business.” The partnership was beset with drama equal to their own acts, and the two magicians parted ways as business partners, though both remained in Colon—rumored never to have spoken to one another again. Abbott renamed the magic shop Abbott Magic Novelty Co. in 1933 and the draw kept magicians, and those with magic addictions, coming to explore its wonders, with many of them staying on themselves. Lester Lake, also known as The Great Marvello, was one of them. He was known for his wild escapes, including one from chains while engulfed in flames in the middle of the road in downtown Colon. With so many folks visiting from the industry and many of them sticking


around, Lake coined Colon “The Magic Capital of the World.” It was in 1991 that the small town was finally recognized officially by former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin. Decades later, it was Fisher’s turn to fall in love with the magic of Colon. “My family owned a lake cottage in Columbus City, and we visited Abbott’s when I was 7,” recalls Fisher. “I was hooked.” Each summer, Fisher would save money from mowing lawns, beg for a ride to the magic shop, and buy a new trick. His mother was given some leftover fabric and sewed the first tuxedo for her precocious son.

Fisher has high hopes to keep the magic alive in the future too, even as the industry itself faces difficult times. One of the largest magic manufacturers out of California actually closed its doors recently. A looming sadness that Fisher hopes the Magic Capital of the World can avoid. “I’m lucky to see the faces of the families and especially the youngsters as they look around the shop. There’s so much possibility. So much excitement,” said Fisher. “I want to keep that excitement going for as long as I’m able. Because if we don’t take care of the magic—it really could disappear.” For more information, visit or call 269-432-4017.

The childhood hobby became a lifelong obsession. While always keeping magic near and performing on the road, Fisher also lived your average life as a sales representative, father of four, and loving husband. However, after a hospital stay in 2002 due to a blocked artery, Fisher found himself with time to think and came to the realization that the future isn’t promised. He told his wife Cheryl he wanted to start a magic shop in Colon. “I told Cheryl we should do it. Buy a shop. Luckily, she agreed,” Fisher said. “I mean, it’s never been easy, but we’ve never looked back.” FAB Magic Shop and Abbott’s Magic Co., as well as Sterlini Magic Mfg. and Theater, are all still in business and participate in an annual magic festival the first week of August each year. Even COVID-19 was no match for the ultimate illusion of normalcy, as a socially-distanced flea market with booths and shows still made its way to Colon’s streets. Over 150 people turned out, not sure if the magic would show up at all. But the community is always up for the next trick. That’s what Fisher loves about his adopted hometown. Colon is as quirky as it is quaint, with banners along Main Street calling it the “Magic Capital of the World” and the high school giving its mascot—a rabbit—the name of “Hare E. Blackstone.” There’s also the Magic Walk of Fame along East State Street and over 35 magicians buried in the town’s cemetery. The town’s history is rooted in magic. “Magic has put Colon on the map,” said Fisher. “You can talk to almost anyone in the magic industry from anywhere in the world and they’ve heard of Colon.”



ELECTRICAL SAFETY TIPS FOR HUNTERS This hunting season, we encourage all members to be aware of electrical equipment and take necessary precautions while hunting. Keep these safety tips in mind as you enjoy the great outdoors.

Take notice of posted warning signs and keep clear of electrical equipment.

Do not shoot at or near power lines or insulators.

Know where power lines and equipment are located on the land where you hunt.

Be especially careful in wooded areas where power lines may not be as visible.

Do not place deer stands on utility poles or climb poles. Energized lines and equipment can conduct electricity to anyone who comes in contact with them, causing shock or electrocution.

Do not place decoys on power lines or other utility equipment. Any nonelectrical equipment attached to a pole can pose an obstruction and serious hazard to our line crews. 16 NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2020

founded in 1867

Several members of the Kebler family of Grand Ledge were on hand recently to celebrate their family farm’s official certification as a Michigan Sesquicentennial Farm. The 120acre farm, which produces hay, corn, beans and wheat, has been in the family since 1867, when it was founded by Frederic Richard. Today, the farm is owned by Frederic’s great-grandson, James Kebler, and his sister-in-law, Jane Kebler, widow of James’ deceased brother, Jeff. In the photo above, James and Jane are shown holding their farm’s certification signs. They are surrounded by family members (l-r) Jarrod, Jenny, Daniel, Justin, Kyle, Braylin and Geneva. Missing from the photo are close family members Missy, Angela, Brandon, Kassey, Alyssa and Wayne.


Home Heating Assistance Programs 2020-2021 Season Winter Protection Plan

Contact: Your Local Utility Company

Income Guidelines 2019–2020 # in Household 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

150% Poverty Guide Maximum Income $19,140 25,860 32,580 39,300 46,020 52,740 59,460 66,180

Add $6,720 for each additional member.

Home Heating Credit

The Winter Protection Plan (WPP) protects enrolled seniors and low-income customers from service shut-offs and high utility bill payments during the winter months. If you are eligible, your utility service will remain on (or restored with the WPP) from Nov. 1 through March 31, if you: • pay at least 7% of your estimated annual bill each month, and • make equal monthly payments between the date you apply and the start of the next heating season on any past due bills. When the protection period ends (March 31), you must begin to pay the full monthly bill, plus part of the amount you owe from the winter months when you did not pay the full bill. Participation does not relieve customers from the responsibility of paying for electricity and natural gas usage, but does prevent shut-off during winter months. You qualify for the plan if you meet at least one of the

following requirements: • are age 65 or older, • receive Dept. of Health and Human Services cash assistance, including SSI, • receive Food Assistance, • receive Medicaid, or • household income is at or below the 150% of poverty level shown in the Income Guidelines chart at left. Senior citizen customers who participate in the WPP are not required to make specific payments to ensure that their service will not be shut off between Nov. 1 and March 31. Service for seniors can be restored without any payments. Note: All customers 65+ are eligible regardless of income. Customers are responsible for all electricity and natural gas used. At the end of the protection period, participants must make arrangements with their utility company to pay off any money owed before the next heating season.

You can apply for a Home Heating Credit for the 2019 tax year if you meet the income guidelines listed at left (110% of poverty level) or you qualify based on alternate guidelines including household income, exemptions, and heating costs. Additional exemptions are available for seniors, disabled claimants, or claimants with 5% or more of their income from unemployment compensation.

If you qualify, you may receive assistance to help pay for your winter heating bills. Forms are available mid-to-late January wherever tax forms are provided or from the Michigan Dept. of Treasury (517-636-4486 or The Home Heating Credit claim form must be filed with the Michigan Dept. of Treasury no later than Sept. 30 each year.

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a refundable federal income tax credit for low-income working individuals and families who meet certain requirements and file a tax return. Those who qualify will owe less in taxes and may get a refund. Even a person who does not generally owe income tax may qualify for the EITC, but must file a tax return to do so. If

married, you must file jointly to qualify. File Form 1040 or 1040A and attach the EITC.

State Emergency Relief Program (SER)

You do not have to be a DHHS client to apply for help with a past due bill, shut-off notice, or the need for deliverable fuel through the SER. This program, available Nov. 1–May 31, provides most of its utility assistance during this crisis season. However, limited assistance is available outside the crisis season.

If you receive a DHHS cash grant, you may use part of it toward heat and electric bills. Contact your local DHHS or call the Home Heating Hotline, 855-275-6424.

Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program

You may be able to receive help with weatherizing your home to reduce energy use if you meet low-income eligibility guidelines (200% of poverty guidelines) or if you participate in the Dept. of Health and Human Services Family Independence

Program or receive SSI. Weatherization may include caulking, weatherstripping, and insulation. Contact your local Community Action Agency for details. Visit to find one in your area.

United Way

2-1-1 is a free phone service operating 24 hours daily to provide information about help that may be available in a

particular area with utilities and other needs. Dial 2-1-1 or visit to find available services.

Medical Emergency Protection Contact: Local Utility Company

You are protected from service shut-off for nonpayment of your natural gas and/or electric bill for up to 21 days, possibly extending to 63 days, if you have a proven medical emergency.

You must provide written proof from a doctor or a public health or social services official that a medical condition exists. Contact your gas or electric utility for details.

Shut-off Protection For Military Active Duty

If you or your spouse has been called into active military duty, you may apply for shut-off protection from your electric or natural gas service for up to 90 days. You may request

extensions. You must still pay, but contact your utility company and they will help you set up a payment plan.

Michigan Veterans Trust Fund Emergency Grant Program

The Trust Fund provides temporary assistance to veterans and their families facing a financial emergency or hardship,

including the need for energy assistance. Contact the Michigan Veterans Trust Fund at 517-284-5299 or

Michigan Energy Assistance Program (MEAP) includes services that will enable participants to become self-sufficient, including assisting participants in paying their energy bills on time, budgeting for and contributing to their ability to provide for energy expenses, and being energy efficient. Shut-off protection is provided Nov. 1–April 15 for all residential

customers. The MEAP is supported by the state’s Low Income Energy Assistance Fund (LIEAF). An electric utility that chooses not to collect for the LIEAF shall not shut off service to customers for nonpayment between Nov. 1 and April 15. For a list of electric providers that opt out of collecting the LIEAF, go to

Contact: Michigan Dept. of Treasury # Exemp.

0–1 2 3

Max. Income

$14,036 18,964 23,892

# Exemp.

Max. Income

4 5 6

$28,820 33,748 38,676

Add $4,928 for each exemption over 6.

Earned Income Credit

Contact: • U.S. Treasury Dept., Internal Revenue Service, • Michigan Dept. of Treasury,

Contact: Local Michigan Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS),

Contact: Local Community Action Agency

Contact: Call 2-1-1 or

Contact: Local Utility Company

You may claim a Michigan earned income tax credit for tax year 2020 equal to a percentage of the federal earned income tax credit for which you are eligible.

Contact: MI Veterans Trust Fund

MI Energy Assistance Program Contact: Utility or 2-1-1 in late November


Dial 2-1-1 for more information on heating and other human services programs.

Well-Connect has SAVED RURAL MICHIGANDERS MORE THAN $1 MILLION on energy bills.


control your COMFORT There’s a lot you can’t control, but you can


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