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Top Flavors for 2019

March 2019

‘No-pressure’ soccer club

Nite Beams’ bright ideas

Meet Ron & Margaret Strzelecki

Southwest Michigan’s Magazine

Pursuing Peace A team effort to stop violence



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From the Editor

Even when life is at its hairiest and deadlines are breathing down

our necks, I am proud to say the Encore staff never wavers in its pride in producing the magazine each month. We all relish the fact that what we print every month is not only beautiful and entertaining, but important. Our work is important because we are able to introduce thousands of readers to the people and organizations that make the Kalamazoo community such a dynamic and interesting place to live. We tell the stories of those who are working diligently every day to make Kalamazoo a better place for all its residents. There is no greater evidence of this than this issue. Our cover story is about the Group Violence Intervention — a unique effort by a team of community folks from the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety, the Urban Alliance, social service agencies and others that is working to diminish violence in our city by helping those most likely to perpetrate it turn their lives around. A related piece tells of two individuals, Michael Wilder and Yafinceio Harris, who have done just that and now share their stories through GVI and through their own initiative, Peace During War. We introduce you to local entrepreneur Michael Alexander, who created Nite Beams, a company that initially designed and sold lighted safety gear for runners and dogs and now sells such gear to highway crew members and other workers. He started the company after he almost hit a group of runners early one morning — a classic case of “see a problem, create a solution.” We also have a story about the Kalamazoo TOPSoccer program, which lets kids with a variety of disabilities learn to play soccer in an unpressured environment. And, if you happen to go to this month’s St. Patrick’s Day Parade, our Back Story introduces you to the couple you can thank for that event, Margaret and Ron Strzelecki, who head the Irish American Club of Kalamazoo. Don’t you just love this town?

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Top Flavors for 2019

‘No-pressure’ soccer club

Nite Beams’ bright ideas

March 2019

Meet Ron & Margaret Strzelecki

Southwest Michigan’s Magazine

Pursuing Peace A team effort to stop violence


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Encore Magazine is published 12 times yearly. Copyright 2019, Encore Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Editorial, circulation and advertising correspondence should be sent to: 117 W. Cedar St. Suite A, Kalamazoo, MI 49007 Telephone: (269) 383-4433 Fax: (269) 383-9767 Email: The staff at Encore welcomes written comment from readers, and articles and poems for submission with no obligation to print or return them. To learn more about us or to comment, visit Encore subscription rates: one year $36, two years $70. Current single issue and newsstand $4, $10 by mail. Back issues $6, $12 by mail. Advertising rates on request. Closing date for space is 28 days prior to publication date. Final date for print-ready copy is 21 days prior to publication date. The opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by those interviewed and published here do not reflect the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints of Encore Magazine or the official policies, owners or employees of Encore Publications.

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FEATURES Pursuing Peace

Street teams target individuals in an effort to stop group violence

Making Peace

Sworn enemies now work together to help others leave violence behind

22 26

DEPARTMENTS 4 From the Editor 8 Contributors Up Front



First Things

Happenings and events in SW Michigan

Five Faves — Flavor researcher picks her top tastes


Good Works




Back Story

Having a Ball — No pressure for young players in this soccer club

Lit Up for Safety — Nite Beams’ products keep workers visible in the dark

Meet Margaret & Ron Strzelecki — They’re behind the Irish celebrations in Kalamazoo

ARTS 38 Events of Note 43 Poetry

On the cover: Among those working together to stop group violence are, from left, Yafinceio Harris of Peace During War; Brian Parsons of Urban Alliance; Michael Wilder of Peace During War; Thosha Suggs, mother of group violence victim Timothy Palmer; and Dave Boysen, Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Assistant Chief. Photo collage by Brian K. Powers.

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Lisa Mackinder For this month’s issue, Lisa spoke with Michael “Tonto” Alexander, owner and president of Nite Beams, which sells high-visibility LED safety products. “Tonto has created all of the products that he sells,” Lisa says. “And you can tell his mind is always spinning with new ideas. He’s not afraid in the least at rolling the dice, whether it’s starting a company or launching a new product. And if an idea doesn’t pan out, he simply looks at it as a lesson and a way to do better in the future.” Lisa is a Portage–based freelance writer and frequent Encore contributor.

Andrew Domino Andrew is a fan of out-of-the-ordinary sports. He has written about roller derby and horseshoes and has a story in this issue about Kalamazoo's TOPSoccer team for young athletes with mental and physical disabilities. Each player is assigned a “buddy,” a soccer player who doesn't face the same challenges, for each practice. Andrew was glad to hear that Kalamazoo’s team is one of the few teams in Michigan that doesn't struggle to find "buddies" each season. You can read more of his writing at

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Adam, who wrote this month’s cover story, first learned about the Group Violence Intervention program while watching a video recording of a 2016 Kalamazoo City Commission meeting for another project. The GVI initiative aims to prevent group-related violence by intervening with individuals. Adam says the idea and people behind the program intrigued him, especially a street outreach worker named Michael Wilder. Adam’s interview with Wilder led him to a story on another program: Peace During War, a violence-prevention effort by Wilder and Yafinceio Harris that grew out of their unlikely friendship. Adam is a native of Monroe and will graduate in April with a degree in journalism from Western Michigan University.

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First Things Something Musical

See José González at the State Swedish-Argentinian indie artist José González brings his two-decade discography to life with the Berlin-based music collective String Theory at the State Theatre on March 27. González is best known for his stripped-down cover of Massive Attack’s “Teardrop” and Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart.” String Theory is a 21-piece orchestra that “pursues a long-term experimental approach” to their performances, continually looking for new ways to perform a piece. Tickets are $32.50. Doors open at 7 p.m., and the show starts at 8. For tickets or more information, visit or call 345-6500.

Something Colorful

KIA hosts tissue-paper exhibit A small meditation room covered from top to bottom in tissue-paper quilts is just one part of an exhibit coming to the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts that features the tissue-paper art of Maya Freelon. The Feeling is Mutual: New Work by Maya Freelon runs from March 14–May 31. Freelon has created pieces on commission for Google and Cadillac, and her art has been exhibited around the world. She will be on hand at the KIA for an opening reception and to talk about her art. This event starts at 5:30 p.m. March 14. Admission to the KIA is $5, or $2 for students with valid IDs and free for members, active military personnel and children 12 and younger. For more information, visit kiarts. org or call 349-7775.

10 | ENCORE MARCH 2019


Something Literary Catch reading by poetry contest winners

Something Mysterious

Four Michigan poets, including Encore’s poetry editor, will read from and sign their award-winning chapbooks this month at the Kalamazoo Public Library. The winners of the annual Celery City Chapbook Contest, sponsored by the local group Friends of Poetry, will read their poetry at 7 p.m. March 13 in the library’s Van Deusen Room. There will also be cash sales of their books that night. The local winners are Margaret DeRitter for Fly Me to Heaven By Way of New Jersey and Scott Bade for My Favorite Thing About Desire. DeRitter is the poetry editor and copy editor of Encore and a former Kalamazoo Gazette journalist. Bade is coordinator of Western’s University Center for the Humanities and has taught creative writing at Kalamazoo College and the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts. The state winners are Sophia Rivkin, of Detroit, for River of Snow and Janice Zerfas, of Eau Claire, for Head Shot.

If you are a fan of the award-winning book The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, you’ll want to catch it in play form at Farmers Alley Theatre, in downtown Kalamazoo. Troy Hussman stars as 15-year-old Christopher, who finds himself a suspect in the death of his neighbor’s dog, Wellington. Christopher is precocious and eccentric, detesting human touch, and is exceptional at mathematics. Putting his smarts to work and against the instructions of his father, Christopher begins to unravel the mystery of who speared Wellington in his own yard. Show times are 8 p.m. March 15, 16, 22, 23, 29 and 30; 2 p.m. March 17, 24 and 31; and 7:30 p.m. March 21 and 28. Admission is free to students with valid student IDs, $30 for people 65 and older and $32 for everyone else. For tickets or more information, visit or call 343-2727.

Eccentric teen seeks culprit

Something Biting

Symphony to sink teeth into Jaws The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra will bring John Williams’ Academy Awardwinning score from Jaws to life during a screening of the blockbuster movie March 30 at Miller Auditorium. If you’ve somehow been underwater since its debut on the big screen in 1975, Jaws tells the terrifying tale of a three-man crew on the hunt for one of the ocean’s biggest and baddest predators: the great white shark. The show starts at 8 p.m., and tickets range from $10–$20. Attendees must be at least 6 years old. For tickets or more information, visit or call 349-7759. w w | 11


Something Moving

Dance festival marks 10 years In honor of its 10th year, the Midwest Regional Alternative Dance Festival (RAD Fest) is doin’ it up big March 6–10 in the Epic Center. Many performances and special events are slated for the five-day festival, a juried event featuring modern, post-modern and contemporary dancers from across the U.S. The festivities kick off with a mobile tour performance at 6:30 p.m. March 6, beginning at the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts, 314 S. Park St. Guides will lead the audience on a dancing adventure to see three different site-specific works within a four-block radius, featuring performances by local and visiting artists. The tour, which costs $5, will be followed by an opening-night celebration at the KIA. Other events that are part of the festival include long-work and shortwork performances, a youth performance, and an After-Glow Reception at 10 p.m. March 9 in the Epic Center’s second floor atrium, where you can mingle with 2019 RAD artists, hear live music and participate in a silent auction. The cost to attend a single show is $15, but discount pricing is available for attending multiple shows. For a full list of performances and special events and ticket prices, visit

Something African

WMU to stage The Dancing Granny The sounds of traditional African drumming and dance will fill Western Michigan University’s

Williams Theatre March 8–17 when University Theatre stages The Dancing Granny. The show tells one of many tales of a West African folk figure, Ananse the spider. In this tale, Ananse sets his sights on Granny Anika’s beautiful garden and uses his strengths to try to trick her into dancing away from her veggie patch. Show times are 7:30 p.m. March 8 and 15; 1 and 4 p.m. March 9 and 16; and 2 p.m. March 10 and 17. Tickets are $10. For tickets or more information, visit or call 387-3220.

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Something Leisurely

Frolic with friends at Girlfriends Getaway Snow, slush and mush got you down? Grab a couple of your BFFs and head downtown March 9 for the annual Girlfriends Getaway, a day of shopping, pampering and activities just for women. Activities will include bracelet and pottery making, T-shirt screenprinting, chocolate making, mixology classes, brewery tours, wine tastings, a lunchtime fashion show and more. Costs vary for each activity. For more information or to register for activities, visit

Something Good

Fundraiser to help furry friends Show your love for animals at the Lucky Paws Dinner, set for 6–9 p.m. March 15 at Western Michigan University’s Fetzer Center. For $50, you can enjoy a dinner and entertainment, bid on auction items and feel good because you know the proceeds will benefit Kalamazoo’s Animal Rescue Project and help pay for medical procedures and other expenses that help get animals adopted. For tickets or more information, visit animalrescueproject.

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Five Faves

Flavor guru picks her top tastes for 2019 by


Every year my company, National Flavors, located in Kalamazoo, develops

hundreds of new flavors for the packaged food and beverage industry. Consumer preferences vary — represented by the flavors you see in each aisle of the grocery store — but I prefer these flavors:

Birthday cake flavor My love affair with birthday cake flavor echoes my fondness for vacation flavors. Birthdays conjure up memories of fun gatherings with friends and family, candles and presents. Birthdays usually include a light, fluffy vanilla or chocolate cake topped with sweet frosting and, if you’re lucky, confetti candies. Birthday cake flavor has taken over the grocery store — it’s in yogurt, bubblegum, popcorn, vodka, ice cream and protein powders. Now I can celebrate my birthday every day and manage my weight at the same time, getting the great taste of birthday cake without the carbs, sugar or fat of real cake.

Bourbon and whiskey flavors These

dark, grainbased flavors are often described as sweet at first taste. But the blend of grains and variations in the fermenting process create sweetness that can taste like vanilla, caramel, custard, butterscotch, maple, honey or chocolate. Since bourbons and whiskeys are aged in charred oak barrels, the sweetness often has a woody or smoky flavor. Bourbon and whiskey flavors are now spilling into foods, adding a sophisticated twist to meats, pie fillings, sauces and snack nuts. My all-time favorite use of bourbon and whiskey flavors is in luscious bourbon butter pecan ice cream. The distinctive flavor and smooth creaminess of this ice cream and the sweet crunch of nuts are simply wonderful. 14 | ENCORE MARCH 2019

Flavors that evoke great vacation memories The taste of a food or beverage can transport you back in time, making flavor and memories go together. Often a certain aroma will evoke a specific place or event in your life. When I smell mothballs, for example, I remember my nanny’s house, specifically the closet in her guest room. My favorite vacation flavor is Tropical Mango because it reminds me of traveling to Mexico and Latin America. The complex flavor of mango tastes like a peach, apricot, melon and nectarine, with a little citrus and honey too. The blend of flavors delivers a more intense taste than any one of these fruits on its own. For me, mango flavor is linked with a poolside cocktail on a sunny afternoon. Sometimes it carries memories of brain freezes or hangovers, too, but in a happy way.



Spicy fruit flavors Borrowing culinary techniques and flavor ideas from global cuisines is not new, but in 2018 we saw candy companies tapping into America’s interest in Latin American flavors. Jolly Rancher Hotties, Sweet Heat Skittles and Starburst Sweet Heat are a few spicedup options from mainstream brands. Spicy fruit flavors have fun names too, like Angry Watermelon, Flamin’ Orange and Sizzlin’ Strawberry. The heat comes from more than the cinnamon found in Red Hots or Atomic Fireballs. Spicy fruits have a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, habanero or sriracha, but at milder levels than the head-sweating flavors of authentic Mexican candies, to be more U.S.-friendly. It’s a toss-up when choosing my favorite — either spicy watermelon sour ropes or any dried fruit covered in chile spice.

Vanilla may seem like a plain, basic flavor to have as a favorite, but its distinctive sweet creaminess makes it the final pick on my list. Vanilla is a popular and versatile ingredient found in foods and beverages as well as perfumes, cosmetics and even household products. The increasing demand for a plant that takes three to five years to produce vanilla beans has caused vanilla prices to rise. The purest vanillas cost 10 times more than a gallon of gasoline. Fortunately, less expensive alternatives are available. I like Bourbonnais Vanilla, which adds a sweet, cherry note with woody undertones to the warmth of vanilla. About the Author Polly Barrett has worked in the flavor ingredient industry for approximately 20 years, most recently as director of Research & Development and Business Development for National Flavors. Prior to joining National Flavors, she worked in the research labs at Kalsec, a Kalamazoo-based company that produces spice and herb flavor extracts and other products for the food and beverage industry. She has extensive experience developing, testing and launching new flavor products. Barrett has a Ph.D. from Western Michigan University, a master’s degree in food science from Kansas State University, a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Kalamazoo College and a Sensory and Consumer Studies certificate from the University of California-Davis.

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Having a Ball

No pressure for young players in this soccer club by



players have anxiety or need wheelchairs to move around, but everyone has a chance to kick the ball at TOPSoccer. “A (traditional) soccer team is too much pressure,” says Holly Evans of Parchment, who brought her son, 6-year-old Bryce, to join his sister, 9-year-old Abby, in TOPSoccer this year. “Following the instructions, he couldn’t keep up there (on the traditional team). Here, he runs up and down and kicks the ball everywhere. He loves it.” TOPSoccer (The Outreach Program for Soccer) is designed to encourage any child with a mental or physical disability to enjoy

soccer, even though they can’t play an official game. “They have autism, they’re in wheelchairs, they have Down syndrome,” says Eieri Salivia, executive director of the Kalamazoo Soccer Club and organizer of its TOPSoccer program. The program allows the players to learn various soccer skills and participate in soccer drills. “You have to be creative,” says Salivia. “Some players will need support to stay This page: TOPSoccer participants and volunteers push a giant ball during a session. Opposite page: A young participant gets a little help standing to kick a ball.

Brian Powers

t the end of soccer practice, 4-year-old Alex Costonde of Portage was worn out. He lay down on the indoor field at SoccerZone Oshtemo and relaxed for a moment. “When we got here, he didn’t want to start,” says Alex’s mother, Tiffany Costonde. “Now all he wants is to stay.” Alex is one of the 11 new players in Kalamazoo’s TOPSoccer club, a program for children with mental and physical disabilities organized by the Kalamazoo Soccer Club. Alex has trouble staying focused on tasks, Tiffany says, and being part of the club helps him pay attention to his surroundings. Other

16 | ENCORE MARCH 2019


standing up. They can only move with the range of movement in their legs.” At one practice, players each spent most of the 45-minute session with their own ball, kicking it as far as they could, then running up to kick it again. Salivia gathered the players in the middle of the field for a “battle,” where players would try to kick all the balls to the opposite side of the field. Some participated. Others just kept kicking their own ball. One or

two needed assistance pulling a soccer jersey over their heads, to designate the team they were on. Being a buddy TOPSoccer is offered twice a year for six-week sessions, once in the spring and once in the fall, when the players meet on Wednesdays. There is no cost for players to be a part of the team because everything from

field time to coaching has been donated by SoccerZone, the Kalamazoo Soccer Club and other supporters. In 2017, when the program started, about five players participated. Twice as many had joined by spring 2018, and the third session, last fall, brought the roster to 18. Organizers expect that when TOPSoccer starts up again in April, about 20 players will fill the roster.

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“The student I worked with seemed to have more energy to play and always had a smile on his face,” Lewis says. “I would definitely do it again. I learned that even people with disabilities can improve in physical activities.” Salivia started TOPSoccer at the Kalamazoo Soccer Club, prompted by his own educational background: He has a degree in teaching children with disabilities. TOPSoccer is a national program created

Interested in TOPSoccer? For more information or to sign your child up for TOPSoccer, go to and click on the “TOPSoccer” tab.

Brian Powers

by U.S. Youth Soccer, with more than a dozen TOPSoccer groups in Michigan. Dianna Dykstra, chair of Michigan’s TOPSoccer program, says the state program has about 450 players of all ages. Most are school age, but a 54-year-old man plays on one of the suburban Detroit teams.

Above: Players and volunteer buddies watch others during a session. Bottom: Players work with their volunteer buddies.

The young players, both boys and girls, are between 5 and 15 years old. The age range and the wide variety of physical capabilities in the young players mean they don’t play a traditional soccer “match” when they meet. Instead, for the various soccer activities, the players team up with buddies: teen players in other Kalamazoo soccer leagues who volunteer their time to teach the sport. The bigger part of these volunteers’ efforts is encouraging the young players to enjoy their time on the field. Fourteen-year-old Will Lewis of Kalamazoo was a buddy for the spring 2018 TOPSoccer group, volunteering after a friend suggested it. He first worked one-on-one with players and then worked with the entire group to teach team skills like passing and shooting at the goal.

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Salivia says TOPSoccer complements the Kalamazoo Soccer Club’s other efforts to encourage the spread of soccer in Kalamazoo, such as traditional travel soccer teams for players age 6 to 19. Soccer players on other teams are told about TOPSoccer, and many say they volunteer as buddies just because they want to help others. “We’re helping them understand directions,” says Ely Post, 16, of Portage, who volunteers as a buddy along with his 14-year-old brother, Logan. “Kids aren’t always responsive to adults, but they are responsive to a buddy,” Salivia says, adding that in just a six-week session the buddies are able to develop their leadership skills by working with coaches to teach the young players. In the fall, Kalamazoo’s team had 23 buddies. Dykstra says other TOPSoccer teams often struggle to find enough volunteers, but Kalamazoo has enough that players can be paired one-on-one with a buddy. ‘Not judged’ Actually playing soccer is secondary to the young athletes getting out for some physical activity in a welcoming environment, parents say.

Brian Powers

Left: A young TOPSoccer player hugs his volunteer buddy. Right: A volunteer buddy helps a young soccer player learn ball handling skills .

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Cheryl Benko of Kalamazoo brought her 6-year-old son, Stephen, to the program after spotting a flier for the TOPSoccer program. (It’s been promoted via Kalamazoo County schools and at stores and other locations.) Stephen has severe cerebral palsy and doesn’t communicate well, but soccer is something he’s had fun with, Benko says. “(The flier) said it was available for kids of all disabilities,” she says. “It was a nice way of getting out of the house. It was great to see such a variety of kids participating.” Evans, who brought her children Abby and Bryce to TOPSoccer, told her friend Ashley Vandenberg of Kalamazoo about the club. Last fall 6-year-old Ryder Vandenberg joined the program too. Ryder has autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Ashley says, and he needs a lot of attention. “I was prepared to go on the field with him,” she says, but, thanks to the slow pace of TOPSoccer and the assistance of the buddies, there was no need. “It’s nice to not go out there,” Vandenberg says. “It’s nice to be with other parents and not feel judged.”

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Pursuing Peace Street teams target individuals in effort to stop group violence story by


photography by


When it comes to violent crime in Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Department

of Public Safety Assistant Chief Dave Boysen is focused on how many violent crime arrests he isn’t making. That’s because of Group Violence Intervention (GVI), a strategy KDPS has been using since 2013 to reduce violent crime in the city. It’s a strategy that emphasizes communication and human interaction with “street groups” that have the propensity to commit violent crimes. “Most of your shootings and violent crime has a group dynamic in it,” Boysen explains. “And if you can deal with that small percentage of these high-risk people that are involved in these groups, you can really make a big difference impacting (the) overall amount of violent crime in your city and shootings.” As of 2017, less than half of 1 percent of Kalamazoo’s residents were responsible for 50 percent of the homicides and nonfatal shootings in the city, according to KDPS. And many of those offenders had some sort of group affiliation. Group violence is unique in that one incident is significantly more likely to set off a cycle of retaliation that perpetuates the violence, Boysen says. “If you're in a street group and if you get shot and wounded, you're expected amongst your peers to retaliate, and if you don't, you show weakness and you look like you're weak out there,” he says. Boysen sees the first few years of the GVI program as evidence of its success. In 2014 there were 47 shootings in the city, 18 of which had a group member involved. But in 2018, the number of shootings had dropped to 18, seven of them involving group members. The years in between also showed a downward trend. Group-involved shootings rose significantly, however, in the first half of 2018, so GVI took immediate action, and the number of these shootings dropped from 18 in the first half of the year to four in the second half.

Direct communication There are two parts to the GVI strategy. The first is to figure out who the groups are and offer help to certain individual members who have been involved in violence previously. The word “group” is intentionally broad. It’s been made clear by Boysen and others involved in GVI that Kalamazoo is not dealing with gangs. The city’s groups are too small and disorganized to be considered gangs, they say. What the city does have are people who are connected by familial relationships or location and might, for

22 | ENCORE MARCH 2019

example, control a “territory” (such as a particular block or street) or deal drugs together. “And then it's just direct communication with them,” Boysen says. “That's one of the things that we didn't ever do before.” A GVI team reaches out to group members who have been involved in a violent act and have the potential to get involved in another one. The aim is to give them a way out of the cycle of violence. KDPS, for example, helps group members in getting education or employment by connecting them with specific social service organizations and community members. The second step, which is a “last resort,” involves KDPS using threats of increased enforcement to try to ensure that violent offenders don’t, for example, “pick up a gun” again, Boysen says. KDPS does this through two primary forms of communication: “custom notification letters,” which are used to reach out to a group member personally, and “call-ins,” where people on probation or parole who are members of groups involved in violence are brought in, as a condition of their parole, to hear an anti-violence message from law enforcement, social services, faith organizations and community members, which they could then spread to their respective groups. At the program’s first call-in, in June 2017, law enforcement officials told the 22 attendees that they care about them and are doing everything they can to keep them alive and safe. But they also gave them notice that the next group whose member committed a homicide in the city or was the most violent group would face enhanced law enforcement attention. “We're looking at (people at) high risk for not only being suspects, but at high risk for victimization,” Boysen says.

‘It’s not OK’ The sharp uptick in group-involved shootings in the first half of 2018 prompted GVI to have a second call-in, on July 19 of that year. During both call-ins, attendees heard from someone directly affected by group violence: Thosha Suggs, the mother of Tim Palmer, who, at 18, was shot and killed, on July 8, 2007. Palmer had graduated from Loy Norrix High School a few weeks earlier. He was the front-seat passenger in a car at the intersection of Portage Street and East Stockbridge Avenue when he was shot in the head, according to documents from the U.S. District Court. A streetside memorial at the corner of Stockbridge and Portage Avenues marks the spot where 18-year-old Timothy Palmer was shot and killed in 2007.

Brian Powers w w | 23

Rendae West, then 17, was found guilty for killing Palmer. He allegedly shot into the vehicle and then drove past it, according to witness accounts outlined in court documents. Shortly before the shooting, West had reportedly gotten into a fight with one of the car’s other passengers. Palmer died the next day. “It wasn’t even his beef,” Suggs says. “He was at the wrong place at the wrong time, hanging with his boys, when he got the bullet. It wasn’t even meant for him.” Talking about her son’s death was especially difficult for the first few years after Palmer died, and it still is hard, Suggs says. But she told her son’s story at the first GVI call-in in 2017 and returned this past summer to do it again at the second call-in. Her message is simple. “You got to realize that it's not OK when you're taking people's family,” she says. “You come out here and you bring a gun to a fistfight and think that stuff is OK.” Many of the those at the call-in were about as old as Palmer would have been were he still alive, Suggs says, and she made a point of making them think about their own families. “Y’all are somebody’s baby,” she told them. “You have to realize that you have family and you have put your mom in that predicament, or if you have a baby, put (it) in that predicament, put yourself in that predicament. Would you want this pain thrust upon your family?”

“It just made sense,” says Brian Parsons, senior director of programming at UA. “We’re already serving individuals who have gone through group violence. We’ve been active in the neighborhoods since our beginning.” Urban Alliance's outreach arm had been involved in GVI since its inception, Parsons says. After UA was given the primary social service role, its job training program, Momentum, and its case management team got involved. Momentum is a six-week program that includes 200 hours of class and “volunteer work experience,” according to the Urban

In the seven months after the first call-in, seven people sought education assistance and job training provided by GVI’s partner at the time, Goodwill Industries of Southwestern Michigan. Of those seven, only two set up follow-up meetings, one of whom has gone on to get a job at a retail distribution center with the organization’s help, according to Linda Snyder, Goodwill’s coordinator for Life Guides, education and grants. Goodwill stopped being GVI’s social service provider in June. Local nonprofit, community development organization Urban Alliance, took over the lead social services role for GVI and was present at the second call-in.

24 | ENCORE MARCH 2019

Brian Powers

Second chances

Alliance. Those who finish the program are given the opportunity to apply for jobs with about 50 local partner businesses, including Schupan & Sons, Sigma Machine, L.C. Howard Transportation, Getman Corp., Bronson Methodist Hospital and Greenleaf Hospitality. The program has a 93 percent placement rate, and 80 percent of those who are placed achieve 90 days of employment, Parsons says. “We understand that there are a lot of different roads that lead to very unfortunate situations,” Parsons says, noting that the nonprofit has three people dedicated to GVI, including himself. “Many of us on staff

The Genesis of GVI

have been in similar situations as what the individuals who are coming to us through GVI (are in).” One group member started participating in the Momentum program in January after receiving a custom notification letter, Parsons says. “We were able to assist him with a utility bill, coordinate services for him, and we connected him with resources to purchase Christmas gifts for his seven children,” Parsons says.

Fair warning Call-ins are designed to serve as a wakeup call to offenders, and Andrew Birge, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan, says he hopes he delivered that message when he spoke at the call-ins. “My role was to explain to the audience that they do not want to commit a crime that gets prosecuted federally,” Birge says. “Many federal offenses have mandatory minimum punishments. There is no parole in the federal system, so offenders will not get released early. My office wins a conviction in 90 to 96 percent of the cases we bring, so no one is likely to shake a federal charge.”

Opposite page: Thosha Suggs holds a picture of her son, Tim Palmer, who was shot and killed in 2007. This page: KDPS Assistant Chief Dave Boysen stands near a whiteboard in his office where he keeps track of the statistics showing the impact of the GVI program.

Cases of continued violence or gun crimes related to groups are considered by Birge’s office and Kalamazoo’s prosecutor for federal prosecution, he says. The threat of what might otherwise be a local prosecution being made a federal case is an added deterrent, Birge says. “We — I mean law enforcement broadly — want to send strong deterrent messages,” he says, “but we also want to be meeting with ex-offenders to tell them I would like nothing more than to not prosecute them simply because they're making the right choices.” The call-ins are an opportunity to give “fair warning” to group members while also providing opportunities, Birge says. “The effort creates collective accountability, internal social pressure that deters violence, a clear community norm against violence, an honorable exit for group members from the cycles of violence, and a support path for those willing to change,” he says. (continued on page 30)

The Group Violence Intervention program, designed to reduce street groupinvolved homicide and gun violence, was pioneered in the 1990s in Boston by National Network for Safe Communities Director David Kennedy and colleagues. In 2013, the program was brought to Kalamazoo as a partnership between law enforcement and community members. The idea was made possible, in part, because of the "support and urging" of Interfaith Strategy for Advocacy & Action in the Community, or ISAAC, says Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety Assistant Deputy Chief Dave Boysen. The faith-based organization started holding "listening sessions" as far back as 2011 to give community members a chance to address violence in the community and relationships with KDPS. When ISAAC’s Youth Violence & Drug Prevention Task Force Co-Chair Wendy Flora heard about GVI, she set out to present the idea to community members as well as law enforcement. The organization even brought Kennedy to Kalamazoo to speak about how effective the program could be for the city. "This strategy came from the community, as the community knows what is best for itself," says Charlae Davis, ISAAC's executive director. Davis currently serves on the GVI’s nine-person board of directors, which helps guide the program's efforts and interactions with the community. Addis Moore and Pastor Lenzy Bell, president and vice-president of the North Side Ministerial Alliance, respectively, and representatives from Urban Alliance, KDPS, the United States Attorney’s Office, and the prosecutor’s and parole offices of Kalamazoo County also sit on the board. Boysen says this community collaboration is critical to the program, a sentiment echoed by Davis. "As a collaboration, the goal can be expanded, to not only reducing violence and keeping our community members out of prison, but also helping to remove barriers so that all individuals can live their best purpose-filled life," Davis says. w w | 25


PEACE story by

Michael Wilder begins describing the night of his 33rd birthday by saying, “I was involved in a murder.” In May 2006, Wilder, known as “Too Short,” was celebrating his birthday with his friend Harvey Durr. During the course of the night, Wilder got into a fistfight with Scott Shaver in the parking lot of a Kalamazoo apartment complex. Shaver’s brother, Terrance Mackerel, came to the fight wielding a baseball bat. Wilder says he believed Mackerel was going to kill him with the bat; instead, Mackerel was killed when Durr shot him.

A new leaf Fast forward 12 years. Dressed in a black security guard uniform, 41-yearold Yafinceio Harris sits at a small table in a classroom inside of the Barclay Hills Education Center, an alternative high school in the Parchment School District. At 6 feet and 370 pounds, Harris manages to make the relatively spacious room and everything in it look small by comparison. Harris grew up in Osceola, Arkansas, where he remembers being involved in crime at 15. “(I would) go to the clubs thinking people love me, but they was using me up to run bags (of contraband, like drugs) and hold guns, and I loved that shit,” he says. He came to Michigan and started dealing drugs in Kalamazoo around 2002. “I was only hustling because of my ‘criteria’— my background with my violent history and everything,” says Harris. “It was difficult for me to get the jobs that I felt like I was qualified for and deserved, you know? I was denied that.”

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Sworn enemies work together to help others


When he describes his life on the streets, Harris’ voice has a pained, almost disappointed tone. He describes “demons and visions” of his life that came and sometimes still come to haunt him, including the night his cousin Terrance Mackerel was killed.

"They shot P, B." A neighbor near the fight called Harris that night and told him about the shooting. Harris rushed to the scene in a “panicked rage.” “When I got there, I seen Scott (Shaver) in the back of the police car,” he says. “And then I see my cousin 'P' (Mackerel) laying on the ground, bleeding out the back of the head. You know what I'm saying? He was just lifeless.” Harris, known as “Big Beast,” or “B” for short, says he set out to kill Wilder that night. “If you don't get back at that person (who wronged you or someone close to you), you lose a lot of respect,” he says. “You lose your respect, you lose money. You lose money, you lose status. Now you went from a somebody in the hood to a nobody in the hood.” Harris never caught Wilder, but he ended up going to Michigan State Prison in Jackson from 2006 to 2008 for being a felon in possession of a weapon. Before the death of Terrance Mackerel, Wilder had been working as a drug dealer in Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties for 20 years. “I really didn’t know anything else,” admits Wilder, who spent most of his early years on the South Side of Chicago. “Where I’m from, my heroes were high-ranking gang members and drug dealers.” Wilder had been to prison three times, including a stint in the state prison, which

he describes as “the belly of the beast.” Like Harris, Wilder’s last visit to prison (for a cocaine charge) began in 2006 and ended 2008.

The obituary After getting out, Wilder stumbled upon a copy of Terrance Mackerel’s obituary at a friend's house. “It was on my mind every day for two months,” he says. He couldn't figure out why it was particularly striking, until he realized the month and date of Mackerel's death was Wilder's own birthday. “Usually, if your birthday is on an obituary, you’d be dead,” he says. “You don’t get to see your own birthday on an obituary, you’d be gone.” He saw that obituary as a challenge, believing it was God’s way of asking him what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He decided to re-enroll at Kalamazoo Valley Community College, which he had dropped out of in 1993. “Prison is like college for criminals,” Wilder says, noting that inmates have conversations about things like making money from selling drugs the way college students discuss how to most effectively use their majors. “For that reason, I went ahead and enrolled in college, because I just wanted to be around different people,” he says. “I wanted to do something different.”

He graduated in 2014 with an associate’s degree in applied sciences. “It’s like a master’s degree to me,” Wilder says. “I never could have imagined graduating from college.”

Peacemaking Something else came from Wilder’s time in college, something totally unexpected: Wilder met Harris. Even though they had been in the same prison at the same time, Wilder hadn’t encountered Harris there. But a few years later, they were enrolled in the same College Success Strategies course at KVCC.

“I’d been off the streets so long (since 2006), I didn’t know who he was,” Wilder says. Wilder says the feud between himself and Harris had been at a “kill-on-sight” level of hatred, but despite wanting revenge for his cousin, Harris just patiently observed Wilder at KVCC. Wilder even tried to sell Harris on He Reigns Gospel Magazine (a publication of which Wilder is a part owner), completely oblivious to his identity. Eventually, Harris confronted him. Wilder thought he was going to die when Harris introduced himself. “In our culture,

Once sworn enemies, Michael Wilder, left, and Yafincieo Harris, right, now run the youth mentoring program Peace During War and are part of the GVI street team.

if my buddy killed your friend or family member, then you have to retaliate and kill him,” Wilder says. “It goes back and forth.” But when Harris found that they were both working to turn their lives around, he offered Wilder a truce. Wilder accepted, but he turned down Harris’ offer to get to know each other over a game of pool. Still scared, Wilder told the course instructor, Sam Bailey, about the history

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he and Harris shared, only to discover that Harris had already told Bailey. “I let my guard down and went to pool with him,” Wilder says. “And we clicked. Mortal enemies, and we clicked.” With Bailey’s help, their story ended up on American Public Media’s podcast The Story, in a 40-minute segment called “A Classroom in Michigan,” in 2011. That spurred Wilder and Harris to use their story to make a difference, and in 2013 they formed an anti-violence youth and adult mentoring program called Peace During War. “I named it Peace During War because during this war me and him (Wilder and Harris) brought peace, but the family (of Terrance Mackerel) still wants war,” Wilder says. The “war” part is particularly difficult for Harris: Some of his family haven't spoken to him since he and Wilder struck their truce. “I miss my family. I miss them, man,” Harris says. “I used to go to barbecues, cookouts. You know what I'm saying? I got memories. I got visions. I got pictures of this shit. Ever since I started this thing with Mike, it's like I gained the crowd that needed me, and I lost the crowd that used me.” KVCC instructor Bailey also helped Wilder and Harris write a proposal for collaboration and funding from the Fetzer Institute, which awarded Peace During War $30,000 in 2013 to support and evaluate the organization’s activities. “They (Wilder and Harris) recognized the transformation they went through, and they wanted immediately to take that message to other people, particularly at-risk youth, to help shift their potential destructive cycle and path,” says Gillian Gonda, Fetzer’s program director for engagement. It was that transformation, Gonda says, that matched the Fetzer Institute’s search for examples of community-changing “love and forgiveness” and violence prevention efforts during that time.

Telling the story In their Peace During War roles, Wilder and Harris visit students at area schools, telling their story and mentoring them. “I tell them about all the gruesome shit first, and then I tell them about what's going 28 | ENCORE MARCH 2019

on with me now mentally and physically so they could see,” Harris says. “And once they see that, the only thing I can hope for off of that is that I got the attention of one of them and they want better.” Harris describes telling student basketball players about the impact that having a friend involved in criminal activity can have on their athletic futures. He also warns them about the risks of letting a romantic or sexual relationship get in the way of their education. “Go over there and get your friends (and tell them), ‘Get your ass up, we got to go

inspiring, and I think people have a lot to learn from them.” Harris and Wilder also help others in their daily jobs. Harris, who was working at Barclay Hills Education Center when this interview was conducted, has left there and now works in outreach with Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, working to find and provide support to homeless people in Kalamazoo. Wilder works as a full-time support staff member at Kalamazoo Covenant Academy, a charter school for students who have

“We don't got (anything) to offer them. No money. They don't care. All they care is that we got love for them. All they care is that they can come to us and be they-self without being judged, without dealing with the egos we was dealing with. Without people judging you because they feel like you ain't so rough.” – Yafinceio Harris to school,’” he says, imitating what he tells students. “I try to let them know, like, ‘Y’all need each other, too.’” Harris and Wilder have met with students at the Youth Advancement Academy, an alternative school of the Kalamazoo Regional Educational Service Agency, and at Lakeside Academy, a facility in Kalamazoo for kids ages 11 to 17 who have been in trouble with the law. Last month, the pair wrapped up a four-month stint visiting monthly with students at Outlook Academy, an Allegan Area Educational Service Agency facility that works with troubled kids. Bailey also helps Harris and Wilder connect with people like Colleagues International’s executive director, Jodi Michaels. Colleagues International runs professional and youth leader exchange programs that bring people from all over the world to various cities in the United States, including Kalamazoo. CI often has guests who are trying to tackle violence in their home countries meet with Wilder and Harris. So far, the pair has spoken to groups from Iraq, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Brazil and Iran. “People who have lived something are the best people to be involved in solutions and in next steps for the future,” Michaels says. “I think it doesn’t matter where someone is from, they (Wilder and Harris) are very

previously dropped out or are at risk of not graduating on time. Wilder's and Harris’ former instructor, Bailey, now teaches at the Alternative Learning Program middle school in Kalamazoo and hopes to bring Peace During War to his school as well. “What Michael and Yafinceio do which is really unique and really powerful is say, ‘Here’s who we are, here’s who we were, and then we found it within ourselves to forgive each other,’” Bailey says. “And they don’t preach so much as they listen.” It’s that listening, Bailey says, that has the most impact. “They (the young people) sit around and just talk, with Michael and Yafinceio just listening,” he says. “It really helps the kids feel safe and protected and take a lot of the lessons that (Harris and Wilder) are trying to give to heart.” Harris says the important thing is making sure kids know they are loved, not judged. “We don't got (anything) to offer them. No money,” Harris says. “They don't care. All they care is that we got love for them. All they care is that they can come to us and be theyself without being judged, without dealing with the egos we was dealing with. Without people judging you because they feel like you ain't so rough.”

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Adding to this message, KDPS informed call-in attendees that their groups risked facing “enhanced attention” if the violence didn’t stop, Boysen says. “We had a group that was involved in a shooting after (the 2017 call-in) and then a homicide,” he says. “So we dropped what we were doing and went after this particular group.” That included arresting members of the group who had warrants out for their arrest, making sure members on probation adhered to their curfews, and getting search warrants for places related to the group that were suspected to contain drugs. “We want them to know, ‘Hey, your group is a target because you guys commit violence, and you better tell your buddies to put the guns down because we're not going to stop until they do,’” Boysen says. “Nobody wants special attention from law enforcement. They want to operate kind of behind the scenes, and if they're getting special attention, they want it to cool off.” In 2018, KDPS followed through on its enforcement threat twice, resulting in 20 arrests and six firearm seizures. Boysen makes it clear that GVI’s goal isn’t to remove these people or even groups from Kalamazoo.

Brian Powers

Pursuing Peace (continued from page 25)

Urban Alliance staff members who work with the GVI program include, from left to right, Chris Pompey, supports supervisor; Brian Parsons, director of programming; and Esteven Juarez, director of outreach.

“The whole point of this strategy is not group eradication, because we're going to have groups in the city,” he says. “But we don't want violent groups in the city. You can call yourself ‘whatever block’ as long as you're not picking up guns and shooting people.”

‘Honorable exit’ While call-ins are a large part of GVI’s strategy, the program’s primary method of communication is the custom notification letter delivered to a group member who is

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suspected of being at risk for committing a violent crime, often because the group member or someone they know was a target of a violent act. Each letter is tailored to the individual receiving it and, whenever possible, delivered by a three-member team, including a KDPS officer, a social services representative and one of specially selected community members called “street outreach workers.� The letter tells a group member that the police know who they are and warns them that if they’re caught with a gun or in a violent act, they can end up in federal prison based on their criminal history. In 2017, KDPS delivered 16 custom notifications. In 2018, the department delivered 18. “We found that the letter gives people an out, because if you get shot and you're in a group, it's almost expected of you to retaliate,� Boysen says. “If you have that

letter and you show it to your friends, it gives you an honorable exit to stop the violence, which is all we're really trying to do — break that cycle of shooting and retaliation with another shooting or assault.�

An unlikely partnership Michael Wilder is one of the street outreach workers for GVI, but he says it’s important that people know he’s not a “snitch.� “I’ll beat guys up for saying that,� Wilder says. “My integrity is intact. I’m not a snitch. I’m helping cops keep y’all out of jail.� The now 45-year-old Wilder spent about 20 years as a drug dealer in Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties. After his third stint in prison ended in 2008, he set out to reinvent himself. He went to Kalamazoo Valley Community College, graduating in 2014 with an associate’s degree in applied sciences and starting a mentoring organization called Peace During War (see sidebar, Page 26).



When Boysen, who had “busted� Wilder on several occasions when he worked in KDPS’ drug unit, learned of Wilder’s anti-violence mentoring efforts through Peace During War, he reached out to him. Wilder was in his last year at KVCC and had a warrant for his arrest at the time for not paying child support, Wilder says. “Now (if) they would have arrested me for that warrant, I would've went to the county jail,� Wilder says. “I would've been in there for about 40 days, (and) my class at the college would have kept going. When I got out, I would've flunked those classes, which meant that I owed the college money. So when I went to go back in school, they would have said, ‘Oh, you can come back, but you got to pay us $700 first.' I (didn't) have $700, so I would have never went back to college.� To Wilder’s surprise, Boysen didn’t arrest him on the outstanding warrant. Instead, the KDPS captain pitched the GVI strategy


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to Wilder, hoping he would be willing to get involved. “I'm not going to help them put nobody in prison, and I told them that from the gate when I met them,” Wilder says. “I said, ‘But if y'all help me put something together where I can keep my people out of prison, I'm willing to work with y'all.’ And they said, 'That's exactly what we would like to do.' And so we've been working together ever since.” Wilder was one of the first street outreach workers that Boysen recruited. Wilder has done only one custom notification so far as part of the GVI team, but Boysen says he plays an important role in “breaking down” barriers between law enforcement and the communities where groups exist. “The key thing we realized is (that) it was a risk for Michael to meet with us,” Boysen says, “because his friends are saying, 'Hey, what are you doing with the cops? Are you a snitch?' But it was also a risk for us to build a relationship with someone like Michael, because our peers, our coworkers, say, 'Hey, what do you need this guy for? He's a drug dealer’ and ‘Why are talking to this guy? He's a felon.’” Wilder is one of six to eight outreach workers that KDPS works with and that Boysen is in contact with weekly. “Those people are just very valuable for us to be able to work with,” Boysen says. “They get doors opened for us that we normally wouldn't (be able to open).” In one instance, an individual was in the hospital after being shot three times and refused to talk to the police, but an outreach worker was able to convince the victim to do so. “That's one of the biggest reasons violence is down is because we have a true partnership with not just law enforcement, but community members, too,” says Boysen. The difference that not arresting Wilder for that warrant made in his life was eyeopening, Boysen says. “That was good for my team to realize what a huge impact we can have on people's lives, in both a positive and negative way.”



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Lit Up for Safety

Nite Beams’ products keep workers visible in the dark by



Alexander’s business: Nite Beams, which makes high-visibility, LED (light-emitting diode), weatherproof safety products. “Why aren’t you wearing something that’s going to light you up?” the 71-year old Alexander recalls asking the runners. One runner replied they would if something like that existed. At the time, the group was relying on reflective tape and red bicycle clips attached to their clothing. An idea popped into Alexander’s head, and for the next two weeks he did research. “I drove to every sporting goods store and every running store that I thought would sell a product that I had in my mind, and none of them had it,” he says. “So I created it.”

34 | ENCORE MARCH 2019

Brian Powers

ne evening in 2008, Michael “Tonto” Alexander was driving in his Portage neighborhood when, for the third time in as many months, he nearly hit a group of runners he couldn’t see. The next morning he met his buddies at Panera Bread in Portage, and, as fate would have it, this same group of runners also came in. He decided to talk with them, and it was a chat that ultimately launched

Above: Michael “Tonto” Alexander stands amid the many lighted safety products his company creates and sells. Left: The armbands for runners that started it all. Opposite page: A lighted and reflective safety coat and suit that protect workers in the dark.


Alexander developed a lightweight armband with LED lights that are visible for up to a quarter of a mile in the dark. After perfecting his prototype, he ordered $1,800 worth of the armbands, named his company Nite Beams, and then met with his attorney at a restaurant for dinner. With six armbands lit up on the table, he found that other diners instantly took notice. “Everybody was coming over,” Alexander says. “They all wanted to buy them right there.” Alexander then took his product to a marathon near Jacksonville, Florida, where he set up a black tent to simulate darkness

and turned on about 200 armbands. A line of runners quickly formed to make purchases. From there, demand only grew, and Alexander began selling the armbands online, through retailers across the U.S. and Costa Rica, and at expos for marathons. And armbands were only the beginning. Alexander expanded into LED dog leashes and collars for runners’ dogs, then moved on to create a line of highway safety apparel. In 2016, the company, which has three employees, set up shop on Ninth Street in Oshtemo Township and most of the manufacturing of its products is done in China. Courtesy of Bluefire Media

Saving runners’ lives

Lighting up highway workers He wasn’t content creating safety products for just runners and dogs when he knew other individuals needed to be visible at night, too: police officers, tow truck drivers and road crew workers on highways and roads. So he created a slew of products to

meet their needs, including Nite Beams’ HiViz LED Reflective Vests With LED Lights, HiViz LED Rain Jackets and Rain Bibs, and HiViz LED 50 Below Arctic Jackets, which are all powered by U.S.B. rechargeable battery packs. “People ask, ‘Are you an engineer?’ and I say, ‘No, I’m a “visioneer.”’ I just visualize things, and then I figure out how to make it.” Nite Beams’ highway safety apparel has caught on quickly — so quickly that Alexander needed to make it his focus. He sold the running portion of the business to another company in October 2017 and the pet division in October 2018 to Hyper-Pet LLC, based in Wichita, Kansas. Nite Beams’ current products are sold online and at some police supply stores and distributed by companies such as Carrier & Gable, in Farmington Hills, and Give ’Em a Brake, in Grandville. Nite Beams also works directly with highway and law enforcement agencies.

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ENTERPRISE ENCORE “Some prefer to work directly with us,” Alexander says, noting that this interaction provides great insight and feedback on the company’s products. Nite Beams’ products are being bought by law enforcement agencies across the country, such as the Michigan State Police, and in New Orleans and Minneapolis, which recently increased its order of Nite Beams’ Body Alert Flashing Lights and additional products

This page: Alexander's office includes pictures of his family and youth golf career, including one with Jack Nicklaus, below left. Opposite page: A Nite Beams safety suit; Alexander demonstrating some of his products at the company’s Oshtemo headquarters.

after an officer was struck in a hit-and-run collision, Alexander says. “What we do is proactive, not reactive,” Alexander explains. “We’re sending beams into the darkness.”

What’s with the nickname? There’s a question that people ask Nite Beams founder and owner Michael “Tonto” Alexander all the time: What’s with the nickname Tonto? It turns out the nickname relates to Alexander’s Native American heritage —

Tonto, as many people know, is the name of a fictional Native American character who was the Lone Ranger’s companion. Alexander, who was born in Roswell, New Mexico, is a member of the Apache tribe and a citizen of the Apache Nation. Black-and-white photographs of his mother, aunt and uncle as well as his grandfather’s military records from serving as an Indian scout in the U.S. Cavalry adorn the wall behind Alexander’s desk at his company’s headquarters in Oshtemo. Alexander’s nickname, which some people might not like but which he says has been good for him, came about via his golfing connections. He started caddying at the age of 7, when he lived two blocks from a municipal golf

course, and he also played golf there, winning youth tournaments by the time he was 10. He went on to win many tournaments, and a photograph in his office of him with Jack Nicklaus was shot on the course where Alexander acquired his nickname. “Forty-seven years ago one of the pros called me ‘Tonto,’” he says, and the name stuck. But it wasn’t until Alexander played in a tournament against Kalamazoo’s Don Seelye and the pair became friends that the nickname was cemented. In 1978, when Alexander went to work for Seelye Auto Group, Seelye suggested he put the name “Tonto” on his business cards because people would always remember it. “Some of the greatest advice I ever got,” Alexander says.

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ENCORE ENTERPRISE the products they latched onto was Nite Beams’ Hands-Free Wristlights. “You have total hands-free lighting when you’re working in tight spots,” Alexander says. He has more ideas in development. And if a product doesn’t work out? It’s a lesson and an opportunity to improve and do better, he says. “I will roll the dice, believe me,” he says. His gamble paid off with Nite Beams — and not only because he makes a living from the business. “Most important is, when I have passed to the spirit world, our products will still be preventing accidents and saving lives,” he says. “It doesn’t get any better.”

Brian Powers

In 2016, the Nite Beams HiViz Reflective Vest With LED Lights won the Innovation Award from the American Traffic Safety Services Association in recognition of product innovation for road safety. The vest stays lit 30 hours in flashing mode and 15 hours in constantly on mode. “It will get them through a couple of shifts and they’ll plug it in for an hour and, boom, they’re good to go,” Alexander says. The U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, National Guard and NASA are also Nite Beams customers, and the U.S. Air Force and NASA officials invited Alexander to Edwards Air Force Base, in California, to give a presentation. Among

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PERFORMING ARTS THEATER Plays The Dancing Granny — A family-friendly play about Ananse, the clever spider from West African folklore, who tries to trick Granny Anika, featuring African drumming and dance, 7:30 p.m. March 8 & 15, 1 & 4 p.m. March 9 & 16, 2 p.m. March 10 & 17, Williams Theatre, WMU, 387-6222. Samuel Hill, Private Detective: The No Talent Agency — All Ears Theatre radio theater production, 6 p.m. March 9, First Baptist Church, 315 W. Michigan Ave., 342-5059. John & Abigail: An American Love Story — 8 p.m. Fri. & Sat., through March 9, New Vic Theatre, 134 E. Vine St., 381-3328. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the NightTime — A brilliant teenager tries to solve a mystery that takes him on a journey that upturns his world, 8 p.m. March 15, 16, 22, 23, 29 & 30; 2 p.m. March 17, 24 & 31; 7:30 p.m. March 21 & 28, Farmers Alley Theatre, 221 Farmers Alley, 343-2727. Tony & Tina's Wedding — WMU Theatre invites you to this big, fat Italian wedding, 7 p.m. March 22, 23, 28, 29, 30, April 4, 5 & 6; 5 p.m. March 24 & 31, April 7, Cityscape Events, 125 S. Kalamazoo Mall, 387-6222.

Ripcord — Comedy about the tenacity of two elderly women and their dangerous game of oneupmanship, 7:30 p.m. March 22, 23, 29 & 30; 2 p.m. March 24 & 31, Carver Center Studio, 426 S. Park St., 343-1313. Peter and Wendy (2-Part Show) — All Ears Theatre radio theater production, 6 p.m. March 23, First Baptist Church, 342-5059. Gaslight — A suspenseful thriller, 8 p.m. Fri. & Sat., March 29–April 20, New Vic Theatre, 381-3328. Musicals Once on This Island — A peasant girl finds love more powerful than prejudice, hatred and death, 7:30 p.m. March 1, 2, 8 & 9; 2 p.m. March 3 & 10, Parish Theatre, 405 W. Lovell St., 343-1313. Madagascar Jr. — A musical about animals that escape from New York's Central Park Zoo and journey to Madagascar, 7:30 p.m. March 8 & 15, 1 & 4 p.m. March 9, 2 p.m. March 10, 9:30 a.m. & noon March 13 & 14, 10 a.m. March 16, Civic Auditorium, 329 S. Park St., 343-1313. The Wizard of Oz — A Kansas farm girl travels over the rainbow to discover the magical power of home, 7 p.m. March 16 & 23, 2 p.m. March 17 & 24, Vicksburg Performing Arts Center, 501 E. Highway St., 321-1192. Beautiful: The Carole King Musical — The inspiring true story of King's rise to stardom, 7:30 p.m. March 19–23, 2 p.m. March 23, 1 & 6:30 p.m. March 24, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-2300. PJ Masks Live: Save the Day — Live musical show featuring the heroic trio from the TV show, 7 p.m. March 26, Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Drive, 345-1125.

MUSIC Bands & Solo Artists Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival — Instrument designers, workshops and live performances, 5–9 p.m. March 1, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. March 2, Kalamazoo Valley Museum, 230 N. Rose St., 373-7990. Ben Rector — Nashville-based singer/songwriter, 8 p.m. March 1, State Theatre, 404 S. Burdick St., 345-6500. All American Funk Parade — Kalamazoo funk, R&B and soul band, 9 p.m. March 2, Bell's Eccentric Café, 355 E. Kalamazoo Ave., 382-2332. The Legendary Trainhoppers — Six-piece Americana band, 8:30 p.m. March 8, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Second Sundays Live: Whiskey Before Breakfast — Celtic and Irish music, 2 p.m. March 10, Parchment Community Library, 401 S. Riverview Drive, 343-7747. Bronze Radio Return — Indie, blues and rock band, 8 p.m. March 13, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Electric Six — Rock, alternative and electronic band, 8 p.m. March 15, Bell's Eccentric Café, 3822332. Tab Benoit — Grammy-nominated Delta blues guitarist, 8 p.m. March 15, State Theatre, 345-6500. Blackberry Smoke — Southern rock/country band, 8 p.m. March 16, State Theatre, 345-6500. Mustard Plug — Ska, punk and pop band, 8:30 p.m. March 16, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. The Mainstays and Nashon Holloway Band — Funk and soul band, 9 p.m. March 23, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332.

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Gary Allan — Country music singer, 7 p.m. March 24, State Theatre, 345-6500. Trevor Hall — Acoustic, indie and pop singer/ songwriter, 7:15 p.m. March 24, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. José González and String Theory — SwedishArgentinian indie folk singer/songwriter and string orchestra, 8 p.m. March 27, State Theatre, 345-6500. Old Shoe — Americana roots rock band, 8:30 p.m. March 29, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Mdou Moctar — Folk/psychedelic rock guitarist, 8 p.m. March 31, Bell's Eccentric Café, 382-2332. Orchestra, Chamber, Jazz, Vocal & More Crybaby Concert — Whiskey Before Breakfast performs in this mini-concert for children under the age of 5 and their families, 11 a.m. March 2, Friendship Village, 1400 N. Drake Road, 382-7774. Mahler's 5th — The Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra (KSO) performs Mahler's Symphony No. 5, 8 p.m. March 9, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-2300. A Festival Song — Kalamazoo Singers perform songs from Michigan school choral festivals, 3 p.m. March 10, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, 1747 W. Milham Ave., 373-1769. Seraph Brass Quintet and Western Brass Quintet — Bullock Performance Institute concert, 7:30 p.m. March 13, with pre-concert talk at 7 p.m., Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300. Southwestern Michigan Vocal Festival Concert — 7 p.m. March 14, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-4667. Pianist Lori Sims — 7:30 p.m. March 14, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-4667. Arcadia Woodwind Quintet — Classic chamber music, 7:30 p.m. March 15, Ladies' Library Association, 333 S. Park St., 344-3710. Juilliard String Quartet — Fontana presents this quartet performing works of Haydn, Bartok and Beethoven, 7:30 p.m. March 16, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 382-7774. Gilmore Rising Star Daniel Hsu — The American pianist performs, 4 p.m. March 17, Wellspring Theater, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall, 342-1166.

Burdick-Thorne String Quartet — The quartet plays works of Beethoven and Debussy, 7 p.m. March 19, First Presbyterian Church, 321 W. South St., 349-7759. Lafayette String Quartet — Bullock Performance Institute concert, 7:30 p.m. March 20, with preconcert talk at 7 p.m., Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300. Lamb of God — A sacred music retelling of the final days of the life of Jesus Christ, 7 p.m. March 22, 7:30 p.m. March 23, Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave., 387-2300. Western Invitational Jazz Festival Opening Concert — Featuring saxophonist David Binney, 8 p.m. March 22, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300. Western Invitational Jazz Festival Closing Concert — Featuring the University Jazz Orchestra, 7:30 p.m. March 23, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300. University Percussion Ensemble — 7:30 p.m. March 25, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 3874667. Andrew Rathbun CD Release Concert — Bullock Performance Institute concert, 7:30 p.m. March 27, with pre-concert talk at 7 p.m., Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300. Gold Company Vocal Jazz Invitational Opening Concert — Featuring vocalist Johnaye Kendrick, 8 p.m. March 29, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300. Gold Company Vocal Jazz Invitational Closing Concert — Featuring WMU's vocal jazz ensemble, 8 p.m. March 30, Dalton Center Recital Hall, WMU, 387-2300. Jaws in Concert — The KSO plays the iconic score as the film is projected on a big screen, 8 p.m. March 30, Miller Auditorium, WMU, 387-2300. DANCE Midwest Regional Alternative Dance Festival — A juried event featuring modern, post-modern and contemporary dance, March 6-10, Wellspring Theatre and other local venues. See schedule at Spring Concert: Classical to Contemporary — Ballet Arts Ensemble performs, 2 & 7 p.m. March

16, Chenery Auditorium, 714 S. Westnedge Ave., 387-2300. COMEDY Crawlspace Eviction: French Onion — Improv/ sketch comedy show inspired by soup, 8 p.m. March 15 & 16, Crawlspace Comedy Theatre, 315 W. Michigan Ave., 599-7390. VISUAL ARTS Kalamazoo Institute of Arts 314 S. Park St., 349-7775 Exhibits do it — An exhibition where the community responds to instructions by artists, through March 3. Watanabe: Japanese Print Envoy — Prints that combine Japanese techniques with Westerninfluenced style, through March 10. The Expressionist Figure — Mid-20th-century Expressionist paintings, through May 5. The Feeling is Mutual: New Work by Maya Freelon — This new exhibit features tissue paper sculptures, March 14–May 31, with reception March 14 at 5:30 p.m. and talk by Freelon at 6:30 p.m. Young Artists of Kalamazoo County — Creative, colorful, whimsical art by students in grades K–8, March 16–April 14. Rewards of Wisdom: Contemporary Chinese Ink Painting — Distinguished artists and rising stars express virtue, peace, wisdom, beauty, meditation, science, knowledge and philosophy through their brushwork, March 23–June 16. Events ARTbreak — Weekly program about art, artists and exhibitions: Art School Residents, Part 1, talk by artists Dan Fianscaspro and Aoi Fukuyama, March 5; The Expressionist Figure, talk by co-curators Don Desmett and Fari Nzinga, March 12; Art School Residents, Part 2, talk by artists Lauren Cummings, Hannah Mabie and April Seybold, March 19; The Jean Freeman Gallery Does Not Exist, talk by author Chris Howard, March 26; sessions begin at noon, KIA Auditorium. Sunday Tour — Docent-led tours: The Expressionist Figure, March 10; Young Artists of Kalamazoo County,

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EVENTS ENCORE March 17; Rewards of Wisdom: Contemporary Chinese Ink Painting, March 24; tours begin at 2 p.m. Art League Lecture: Creating the Voice of a Community — Muralist and educator Hubert Massey speaks, 10 a.m. March 13. Book Discussion: The Hate U Give — Discussion of the Reading Together book by Angie Thomas, 2 p.m. March 20. Artist's Talk: Patrick Stannard — The animator speaks about contemporary trends in animation, 6:30 p.m. March 21. (See also Kalamazoo Valley Museum, March 23.) Film Screening: Nosferatu Re-Animated — Fran Blackwood's reanimation of the classic 1922 film, 6:30–8 p.m. March 28.

Richmond Center for Visual Arts Western Michigan University, 387-2436 Carolyn Case: Second Thoughts — The painter premieres work featuring a process of layering and erasure, through March 17, Netzorg and Kerr Gallery. Christina Quarles: Yew Jumped Too Deep, Yew Buried the Lead — Abstract paintings depicting racial and sexual identities, through March 17, Monroe-Brown Gallery. Only the Shallow Know Themselves: Kaylon Khorsheed, Sophie Lane Dennis and Audrey Mills — Exhibition in sculpture, ceramics, painting and video installation, through March 17, MonroeBrown Gallery.




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17 Days (Volume 11) — One artist's video work per day is played on 50-inch plasma screens, through May 1, Atrium Gallery. Fari Nzinga — Lecture by the juror for the Annual Student Exhibition, which runs April 4-21, 5:30 p.m. March 21, Room 2008. William P. Davis — Visiting artist lecture, 5:30 p.m. March 28, Room 2008. Other Venues Solo Artist: Ranja Friedman — Acrylic on canvas art, March 3 through April, Portage District Library, 300 Library Lane, 329-4544. Art Hop — Art at locations in Kalamazoo, 5–8 p.m. March 1, 342-5059. Posters on the Wall — Colorful and typographically driven posters by printmaker Amos P. Kennedy Jr., March 1–April 26, with Art Hop reception, 6-9 p.m. March 1, Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave., Suite 103A, 373-4938. Blue Heat: Glass Art Gala and Auction — Live and silent auctions of one-of-a-kind glass art pieces, 7–10 p.m. March 9, Glass Art Kalamazoo, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave., Suite 100, 552-9802. LIBRARY & LITERARY EVENTS Kalamazoo Public Library Reading Race Book Group — Discussion of The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, 6:30 p.m. March 12, Boardroom, Central Library, 315 S. Rose St., 342-9837. Poetry Reading: Celery City Chapbook Contest Winners — Margaret DeRitter, Scott Bade, Sophia Rivkin and Janice Zerfas read their poetry in this Friends of Poetry event, 7 p.m. March 13, Van Deusen Room, Central Library, 342-9837. Classics Revisited — Discussion of Invisible Man, by Ralph Ellison, 7 p.m. March 21, Boardroom, Central Library, 342-9837. Parchment Community Library 401 S. Riverview Drive, 343-774 Parchment Book Group — Discussion of The Zookeeper's Wife, by Diane Ackerman, 6:30 p.m. March 4. Yum's the Word: The Art of Making Scones — Maria Brennan, owner of Victorian Bakery, shows how to make savory and sweet scones, 6:30 p.m. March 6; registration required. Front Page: Donuts & Discussion — Discussion of the history of protest music, in conjunction with Reading Together book The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, 10:30 a.m.–noon March 16. Mystery Book Club — Discussion of The Alice Network, by Kate Quinn, 6:30 p.m. March 18. Turn Your Memories into Treasure — Judy Sima shows how to use cherished memories as a springboard to writing a memoir, 6–8 p.m. March 25; registration required. Portage District Library 300 Library Lane, 329-4544 The Testing: An Escape Room Experience — Teams test their wits and strength in an escape room, 5–8 p.m. March 6; registration required. Japanese Folklore/Mythology — Discussion by Stephen Covell, 7 p.m. March 12.

ENCORE EVENTS International Mystery Book Discussion: — Buried in a Bog, by Sheila Connolly, 7 p.m. March 14. Open for Discussion — Discussion of The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, 10:30 a.m. March 19. Leona Carter: How to Talk to Your Teens in Difficult Times — Six strategies to support teenagers, 7 p.m. March 19. Joelle Charbonneau and The Testing — Feature event of the 2019 Portage CommuniTeen Read, 6:30–8:30 p.m. March 20, Portage Central High School, 8135 S. Westnedge Ave., 329-4544. Other Venues Jacqueline Goldfinger — The playwright speaks as part of the Gwen Frostic Reading Series, 7 p.m. March 14, 157–159 Bernhard Center, WMU, 387-2572. Poets in Print — Marcus Jackson and Sara Henning read from their works, 7 p.m. March 16, Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, 326 W. Kalamazoo Ave., Suite 103A, 373-4938. Bonnie Jo Campbell — The novelist speaks as part of the KVCC Visiting Writer Series, 10 a.m. craft talk, 2:15 p.m. reading, March 19 & 20, Room 4240, Kalamazoo Valley Community College, 6767 West O Ave., 488-4821. Bang! Boom! Pop! The History of Classic Radio Theater — All Ears Theatre's Don Ramlow tells stories about radio's golden age and demonstrates sound-effects equipment, 7 p.m. March 28, Richland Community Library, 8951 Park St., 6299085. MUSEUMS Air Zoo 6151 Portage Road, Portage, 382-6555 Game Changers — Interactive exhibit exploring how innovation has shaped game play, through mid-May. Memories and Milestones: Forty Years of the Air Zoo — A celebration of four decades of flight, spacecraft, science and education, opening March 28. Gilmore Car Museum 6865 Hickory Road, Hickory Corners, 671-5089 Duesenberg: Celebrating an American Classic — This exhibition showcases up to 20 rare Duesenbergs in rotation, through fall 2019. Under the Hood Weekend — Take a sneak peak under the hoods of dozens of cars on display, March 1–3. Lecture Series — Concept and Production, Patrick Schiavone, March 3; When Rockets Flew from the Great Lakes State: Michigan's Contributions to America's Space Program, Glen Swanson, March 10; Titanic: Michigan Connections, Jay Follis, March 17; Designing a Museum Book: Beyond the Content, David Lyon, March 24; all lectures begin at 3 p.m. Kalamazoo Valley Museum 230 N. Rose St., 373-7990 Kalamazoo Fretboard Festival — See description under Music: Bands & Solo Artists. Your Kalamazoo Wings! The First 45 Years — The history and culture of Kalamazoo's oldest professional sports franchise, through March 31. What We Carried: Fragments and Memories from Iraq and Syria — Refugees' journeys to

America through images of their personal carried objects, through April 15. Math Moves: Experiencing Ratio and Proportion — A multi-sensory, interactive exhibit to set up, measure, describe and compare ratios and proportions in a fun approach to problem solving, through June 2. Sunday Series — Unraveling the Mysteries, Dr. Deborah Coates explains mysteries of space, March 10; Words that Damage the Sisterhood, discussion of how words can be oppressive and victimizing, March 24; sessions begin at 1:30 p.m., Stryker Theater. ThinkTank Demonstration: Art of Animation Panel — A panel discussion on animation, 10 a.m. March 23.

NATURE Kalamazoo Nature Center 7000 N. Westnedge Ave., 381-1574 From Sap to Syrup — Learn about maple sugaring on a hike to the sugar shack, 1:30 & 3:30 p.m. March 2 & 3. Maple Sugar Festival — Experience the maple sugaring process up close, March 9 & 10. Owl Prowl — Take a night hike and listen for owl calls, 7:30 p.m. March 14 & 28. Pioneer Maple Sugaring — Learn how native people and early pioneers made their sugar, 2 p.m. March 17, DeLano Farms, 555 West E Ave.

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Kalamazoo Poetry Festival Body language Workshops, Open Mic, Guest Poets

April 11-13 Guest Poets featured in Festival Finale

Sally Wen Mao • Siaara Freeman April 13, 7 p.m., Civic Auditorium 269.343.2776

MARK YOUR 2019 CALENDAR SATURDAY, JANUARY 26, 8 PM 2018 Gold Medalist Charlotte Marckx, violin Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Miller Auditorium FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 10 AM AND 8 PM 2017 Gold Medalist William McGregor, double bass Grand Rapids Symphony, St. Cecilia Music Center THURSDAY, MARCH 14, 7 PM BRAVO! Jolliffe Theatre, Epic Center SATURDAY & SUNDAY, MAY 18 – 19 44th Stulberg Competition & Master Classes Judges Paul Coletti, Emilio Colón, Jennifer Frautschi, Dalton Center, WMU

42STU4520 | ENCORE MARCH 2019 2019 Encore Ad.indd 1

11/29/18 2:09 PM

Discover the Source Pond Trail — Take a guided hike to the headwaters of Trout Run Stream, 2 p.m. March 24, DeLano Farms. Boomers and Beyond: All About Owls — Learn to identify owls by sight and call, 11 a.m.–1 p.m. March 26. Kellogg Biological Station and Bird Sanctuary 3700 E. Gull Lake Dr., 671-5117 Maple Syrup Open House — Kids' activities, wagon rides and tours of the sugarbush, noon–5 p.m. March 9, W.K. Kellogg Experimental Forest, 7060 N. 42nd St., Augusta, 731-4597. Birds and Coffee Walk — A morning bird walk and discussion over coffee, 9–10:30 a.m. March 13, Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, 12685 East C Ave., Augusta, 671-2510. Dessert with Discussion: The Last Butterflies — MSU Professor Nick Haddad discusses butterfly decline and recovery and the search for the rarest species, 7–9 p.m. March 25, Kellogg Biological Station, 3700 E. Gull Lake Drive, Hickory Corners, 671-5117. Other Venues Audubon Society of Kalamazoo — Rick Brigham speaks on "Birding Down Under: Eastern Australia," 7:30 p.m. March 25, People's Church, 1758 N. 10th St., 375-7210. MISCELLANEOUS Downtown Kalamazoo Restaurant Week — Participating restaurants highlight specials with a fixed-price menu, through March 3, 344-0795. Walking Tour of Downtown Kalamazoo Breweries — Learn about the local beer culture, noon–4:15 p.m. March 2 & 23 starting at Old Burdick's Bar & Grill, 100 W. Michigan Ave.; March 9, starting at Central City Tap House, 359 S. Kalamazoo Mall; March 16, starting at HopCat Kalamazoo, 300 E. Water St.; March 30, starting at Shakespeare's Pub, 241 E. Kalamazoo Ave., 350-4598. Girlfriends Getaway — A day of pampering, shopping and activities just for women, March 9, downtown Kalamazoo, girlfriendsgetawaykzoo. com. Healing Body, Mind & Spirit Expo — Psychics and mediums, stones, crystals, aromatherapy and holistic products, 10 a.m.–7 p.m. March 9, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. March 10, Wings Event Center, 3600 Vanrick Drive, 312-8956. Country Dancing in Kalamazoo — Contra and square dancing to live music, 7:30–10:30 p.m. March 9 & 23, with beginner's workshop at 7 p.m., Oshtemo Grange Hall, 3234 N. Third St., Lucky Paws Dinner — Benefit dinner for Kalamazoo's Animal Rescue Project, 6–9 p.m. March 15, Fetzer Center, WMU, animalrescueproject. Kalamazoo Living History Show — Re-enactments, craftspeople, dealers and history buffs, 9 a.m.–5 p.m. March 16, 9 a.m.–4 p.m. March 17, Kalamazoo County Expo Center, 2900 Lake St., 765-563-6792. Kalamazoo Dance — Monthly ballroom dancing at 8 p.m., with rumba lesson at 7 p.m., March 16, The Point Community Center, 2595 N. 10th St., Spring Craft Show — Unique crafts, artists and vendors, 9 a.m.–3 p.m. March 23, Kalamazoo County Expo Center South, 903-5820.


Our tour guide Fausto grew up near Talarin on his father’s orchard of mango trees, oranges and bananas, which of course are not trees, just large plants, he tells us. When he was in grade school, he says, the Nicaraguan civil war had forced people to remove themselves to Costa Rica, where many were housed in multi-family sheds, right across the road from his dad’s farm. Fausto saw the boys cross the creek to steal mangos and told his dad to get his gun to scare them away. His dad said, “Oh, Fausto. Imagine living so far from home and how happy they must be to bring fresh fruit to their mothers. They are not stealing, Fausto. They are collecting.”

Years later Fausto, who has been in the tourism trade for 20, 25 years, met a fellow guide, who said, “Talarin. I have fond memories of Talarin. Especially going across a creek to pick fruit. We had a lookout so we were not caught. But always, we felt bad that we were stealing.” And Fausto said, “No, my friend, you were not stealing. You were collecting.” — Elaine Seaman Seaman is a local poet who travels out of the country as time and budget allow. She encountered this lesson for life as she traveled in Costa Rica in the spring of 2018.

Meet the Author:

Wednesday, April 17, 7 pm Chenery Auditorium 714 S. Westnedge Ave. | Kalamazoo, MI 49008

PHOTO: Anissa Hidouk

Angie Thomas

Premium seating for youth will be available until 6:50 pm, after which it will be released to the general public. The author will sign her books following the event. bookbug/this is a bookstore will sell copies of The Hate You Give and On the Come Up at the event. w w | 43

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Arborist Services of Kalamazoo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 Ballet Arts Ensemble . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Better World Builders . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 Betzler Funeral Homes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 Blackberry Systems . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21 Bravo! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Burtrum Furs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 32 Carrier Law . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33 Clear Ridge Wealth Management . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Comensoli’s Italian Bistro & Bar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

Sue Edwards NMLS#435821 269.488.8868

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Cosmo’s Cucina & O’Duffy’s Pub . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

Joe Ludy NMLS # 874958 269.250.8351

Dave’s Glass Service . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37 DeHaan Remodeling Specialists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 28 DeMent and Marquardt, PLC . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 Susan Dennis, DDS . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 30

•Low down payment •Loans up to $3,000,000 •Flexible Purchase and refinance options available

Fence & Garden . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5 First National Bank . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44 Friendship Village . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 Food Dance . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2 Four Roses Café . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Gilmore Keyboard Festival . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

Together, We are First.

NMLS #435135 Downtown Kalamazoo | Kalamazoo Westside | Portage Loans are subject to borrower qualifications and final credit approval. Approvals are subject to underwriting guidelines, interest rates, program guidelines, and are subject to change without notice based on applicant’s eligibility and market conditions. Jumbo loan program is not available for investment property purchases.

Gilmore Real Estate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Halls Closets & More . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15 Heritage Community of Kalamazoo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39 Kalamazoo Institute of Arts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Kalamazoo Poetry Festival . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42 Kalamazoo Public Library . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 43 Kalamazoo Public Schools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48

Laissez Le Bon Temps Rouler.

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1116 W Centre Ave 44 | ENCORE MARCH 2019

WMUK . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 31 YMCA of Greater Kalamazoo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 41 Zooroona . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2

BACK STORY (continued from page 46)

any of their 20 trips to Ireland, “it feels like coming home.” Here, she talks with Encore Editor Marie Lee.

How did you get involved with the St. Patrick’s Day Parade? I had just become the president of the club and received a phone call from Jack Moss (former sports editor for the Kalamazoo Gazette, who died recently) and I thought, “Why is the sports editor calling me?” He said, “I think we should have a St. Patrick’s parade in Kalamazoo and I was talking to my friend Lou McGuire about it and asked him who he thought could do this and he said the Irish American Club and gave me your name and number.” Lou was a member of our club. But it was Jack Moss’s idea, because, you know, Chicago had one and New York, and he just thought Kalamazoo should, too.

Tell me about the Irish American Club of Kalamazoo. The club is around 100 members, and we meet monthly except in May, June and July. Our mission is to educate and learn about Irish culture and the Irish community in Kalamazoo. It costs $15 a year for a single membership, $25 for a family, and you get a monthly newsletter, free admission to the Irish Fest, and, of course, you can walk in the parade. Every month we have different entertainment at the meetings — anything from a lecture about Irish ancestry to bagpipes.

We’ve even had lectures on other countries like Russia and Norway. People are willing to listen, learn about anything.

Do club members have to have Irish ancestry? No. Anybody that finds it interesting can join. We had one couple who wasn't Irish at all but were going to Ireland and wanted to set up a tour, so they joined the club to learn more about it. We have a monthly newsletter that announces what that month’s program is going to be, and sometimes non-members will show up and say, “I saw this, and I was interested.” A lot of times they end up joining.

Are there other ways the club observes St. Patrick’s Day? It’s actually a series of events — we have two other events around St. Patrick’s Day in addition to the parade. We serve an Irish dinner at Ministry with Community, and we have the Hooley for Healing, which is a fundraiser to help two local people with cancer. One of the reasons why there's so many Irish in the United States is because they left during the famine in Ireland in the 1860s and came here. So, around St. Patrick's Day, the club purchases, prepares and serves a meal to Ministry with Community clients to celebrate our heritage and pay respect to the people that died during the famine. Then there’s the parade. It’s a short parade route from Michigan Avenue, down Burdick Street, on to Cedar Street, where it ends. It's

small in length, but the streets of downtown are packed. There are usually about 50 entries, from Irish dancers, bagpipers and bands to local Irish families and groups like the Sons of Norway and the local Hispanic American Council (now called El Concilio Kalamazoo) — it’s actually a multicultural event. It’s become part of what makes Kalamazoo a cool city. After the parade we have the Hooley for Healing — this year will be our ninth one. “Hooley” means Irish party. It's a fundraiser for two people in Kalamazoo who have a cancer diagnosis, because a lot of times there are a lot of expenses that come with a cancer diagnosis. We have it in Bell’s Brewery’s back room, and there’s a band, games and a silent auction. With the money we raise we are able to help out a couple of people.

Tell me about the Irish Fest. The festival is held at Old Dog Tavern in June. (It will be June 21-22 this year.) They have a really nice outdoor area, and two stages, one inside and one outside. We have bands on both stages on Friday evening and all-day Saturday. Old Dog does a nice job with the food, and there’s all kinds of drinks. It’s really celebrating the Irish for a day and a half.

When did you actually start embracing your own Irish-ness? Probably the first time we went to Ireland — we’ve been 20 times. We went and just really fell in love with it.

Legal Experience

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Contact Elliott Berlin at

Mergers and acquisitions, entity formation, asset protection Real estate sales and disputes, employment issues and regulatory compliance

Ann Arbor | Detroit | Grand Haven | Grand Rapids | Hastings | Kalamazoo | Lansing | Novi w w | 45


Margaret & Ron Strzelecki President and Treasurer, Irish American Club of Kalamazoo W

hen it comes to celebrating all things Irish in Kalamazoo, it’s a couple with a Polish last name you can thank. Margaret Strzelecki has been the president of the Irish American Club of Kalamazoo for the past 19 years, while her husband, Ron, has been the club’s treasurer. Under their leadership, the club started Kalamazoo’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade through downtown (set for March 16 this year) and the annual Irish Fest in June. But before you think the Strzeleckis are co-opting the Irish spirit to drink a little green beer (which they don’t care for, by the way), be aware that both are descendants of Irish immigrants to America. Margaret’s father is 100 percent Irish (her maiden name is Cudihy), while Ron’s grandfather was born and raised in Ireland (his parents’ surnames were Martin and O’Flynn). And, Margaret says, when the couple have taken (continued on page 45)

46 | ENCORE MARCH 2019

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The Air Zoo is a Smithsonian-affiliated aerospace & science museum with over 100 rare air & space craft, amazing interactive exhibits, flight simulators, indoor amusement park rides, science-based classes & camps, and more!

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The Gilmore Car Museum displays over 400 vehicles on a scenic 90-acre campus. Take a step back in time in vintage car dealerships, an authentic 1940s diner, and see the iconic automobiles that put America on wheels.

W.K. Kellogg W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary Bird Sanctuary & W.K. Kellogg Manor House KALAMAZOO INSTITUTE OF ARTS


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The Bird Sanctuary is a unique wildlife center offering lakeside trails where guests can see waterfowl, raptors, and gamebirds up close. Tour the historic Manor House, W.K. Kellogg’s former summer home on beautiful Gull Lake.


Kalamazoo Public Schools

are reaching higher! tion rates a u d ra g r a e -y 5 d n a  Rising 4 ool and high h sc le d id m , ry ta n e  Rising elem vement ie h c a t n e d u st l o o h sc students taking f o r e b m u n e th le b  More than dou e last 9 years th in s e rs u o c t n e m Advance Place tuition for e g e ll o c e e fr : e is m ro y)  The Kalamazoo P ce requirements appl an nd te at & cy en id KPS graduates (res e scholars is m ro P 0 70 1, n a th  More rees have completed deg 2,500 students ly te a im x ro p p a f o  Growth e last 12 years (25 percent) over th

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Profile for Encore Magazine

Encore March 2019  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine: It's a team effort to prevent group violence, sworn enemies become unlikely allies, a no-pressure youth socce...

Encore March 2019  

Southwest Michigan's Magazine: It's a team effort to prevent group violence, sworn enemies become unlikely allies, a no-pressure youth socce...