TRAVERSE CITY — Nikia Parker knows what it's like to live in poverty in rural northern Michigan.
Parker became pregnant at 19 and let go of her dream of joining the Air Force. She struggled for years as a young mother — she lived in a drafty trailer in Buckley and drove long miles to low-paying jobs. And all the time she worried about how to come up with hundreds of dollars per week to pay for day care, rent, electric and gas bills.
"I was constantly in crisis mode," Parker said. "Shut-off notices. Who do I know who has a space heater?"
Parker finally clawed her way out of poverty. She went to college, earned a nursing degree, and works as a nurse at Munson Medical Center.
But she never forgets her life back when. She's now laboring with some 20 other people, many of them veterans of poverty themselves, in a grass roots advocacy group to help the poor in the Grand Traverse region.
The group is called Progress Village.
"You can get a chance to feel like you are doing something," Parker said. "Inaction is not going to get us anywhere."
Every month, Progress Village members meet in Traverse City to talk about poverty and what they can do to help. Some in the room are in poverty. Others are on the fringes.
Their biggest mission, they said, is to change public perceptions about being poor, including myths that make them cringe the most: that poor people don't want to work, and would rather live off government assistance programs.
Some people may live their lives that way, they acknowledged, but the vast majority of northern Michigan poor are good, hard-working people who toil at multiple jobs, many of them low-paying. The poor often are buried under layers of other complex social problems.
"It's wonderful to be out there talking to people," said Progress Village member Patty Hanell, who also joined the group to change perceptions about the poor. "There's so much we can do if we just stop and think about what we are doing."
Nearly two years ago the Progress Village team held a public forum for northern Michigan government leaders to teach them about poverty myths versus realities. Many talked publicly at the forum about their own life experiences and the type of daily grind that used to grip Parker and so many others.
Progress Village members tackled politics this past election season, and tried to pin down local political candidates on their positions on issues critical to the poor.
The effort turned out to be a tough lesson in civics and politics: the group was less than successful, so Progress Village changed course and started sending group members to political candidate forums to ask questions in public about a politician's positions on poverty.
"It's advocacy," Parker said.
The origins of Progress Village are traced to the Traverse Bay Poverty Reduction Initiative, a community driven collaborative that consists of local businesses, government and concerned citizens. MSU Extension employee Ranae McCauley runs Progress Village meetings and said she's inspired by what she sees coming from the group.
"Lets fight poverty together; let's not fight the people that are in poverty," said McCauley. "We all have a horse in this race."
Progress Village aims to change perceptions of the poor
TRAVERSE CITY — Nikia Parker knows what it's like to live in poverty in rural northern Michigan.
NMC board to address OMA allegations
Northwestern Michigan College trustees on Monday will discuss allegations they violated state open meetings laws. But they might do so behind closed doors.Continued ...
Local officials: Email no way to conduct public business
Local government officials expressed surprise and concern over a newspaper report that Northwestern Michigan College trustees may have violated state law when they used email and other non-public means to deliberate and decide a proposal to videotape their meetings.Continued ...
Mancelona's story similar, unique
This Antrim County community’s story mirrors those of many small towns. Industry boomed. Franchised stores shot up, mom-and-pops struggled to compete. Industry left, commerce sufferedContinued ...
Dems drum up opposition for Leelanau seats
Republicans dominated the Leelanau County ballot for years, but they’ll have some company this year.Continued ...
Betsie River, Crystal Lake to be part of watershed management plan
It’s all about groundwater. So said Ed Hoogterp. He’s the former president of the Crystal Lake and Watershed Association who spearheads work on a watershed management plan for the area that runs east of Interlochen to the Frankfort lighthouse.Continued ...
- Saturday, April 19, 2014
Plane returns to Cherry Capital
A Delta Airlines flight returned to Cherry Capital Airport minutes after takeoff because of a problem with the plane’s landing gear.Continued ...
Theory and neighbors' sentiment collide on rezoning
TRAVERSE CITY -- City commissioners face a choice between following their housing ideology or bowing to residents who call a proposed development of four mid-priced houses both ludicrous and dangerous. Architect John Kerridge proposes to construct foContinued ...
Blair Elementary has new leader
Blair Elementary has new leader TRAVERSE CITY -- Blair Elementary School has a new leader in place for next school year. Traverse City Area Public Schools administrators selected Kirsten Jones-Morgan to replace Sharon Dionne, who will retire July 1.Continued ...
Leelanau Peninsula Chamber to get new website
Leelanau Chamber to get new website TRAVERSE CITY -- It's time for a makeover for the Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce's website. Leelanau County Commissioners voted to allocate up to $10,000 in 2 percent grant money earmarked for economic devContinued ...
19th century skull returned to Band for ceremony
TRAVERSE CITY -- One Leelanau County family heirloom will no longer be passed down to the next generation. Sheriff Mike Borkovich said a family who did not want to be named gave his office a human skull that had been in the family for years. An elderContinued ...
- Friday, April 18, 2014
Flight returns to Cherry Capital
TRAVERSE CITY — A Delta Airlines flight returned to Cherry Capital Airport minutes after takeoff because of a problem with the plane's landing gear.Continued ...
Attorney files for reorganization
TRAVERSE CITY -- A prominent Traverse City attorney's law practice remains open after he sought bankruptcy protection amid a lengthy and potentially costly legal battle with a former client. Clarence Gomery, of Gomery Law Offices, said his April 2 baContinued ...
Kalkaska fire destroys rentals
TRAVERSE CITY -- Fire tore through an apartment building in the south end of the Village of Kalkaska. Kalkaska County Sheriff David Israel said he didn't think anyone was seriously injured or killed in the Thursday afternoon blaze, but the entire buiContinued ...
Kalkaska County Board Chair to resign
TRAVERSE CITY -- Kalkaska County's longest-serving commissioner will resign at the end of the month. Debra Kimball, who represents Kalkaska Township, but not the village, stepped down from her position as board chair at a meeting Tuesday night. She mContinued ...
Caldwell sentenced in woman's death
TRAVERSE CITY -- A Traverse City man who said he accidentally shot his girlfriend to death in a failed suicide attempt will serve a sentence of about 11.5 to 19 years, the maximum sentence. Robert Lee-Allen Caldwell, 33, plead guilty to involuntary mContinued ...
Acme decision: Lovett or leave it
TRAVERSE CITY -- Lyle Lovett concert posters decorate bulletin boards throughout Traverse City, but that may be as close as the country music artist and actor gets to town, if promoters can't swing a zoning permit. Lovett and His Large Band are schedContinued ...
GT board picks Gourdie-Fraser as engineer firm for county
TRAVERSE CITY -- Grand Traverse County's Board of Public Works selected the local firm that designed and built the county's long-troubled septage treatment plant to serve as its engineer of record for the next three years. Gourdie-Fraser Inc. beat ouContinued ...
Second NMC stabbing suspect pleads guilty
BY SARAH ELMS email@example.com Second NMC stabbing suspect pleads guiltyContinued ...
- Thursday, April 17, 2014
Emails show NMC leaders made decisions outside public meetings
Northwestern Michigan College’s elected officials debated in a flurry of emails whether to televise their monthly board meetings, a behind-the-scenes decision-making process that altered some trustees’ public opposition and occurred outside the public eye.Continued ...
NMC president's email to college staff
Northwestern Michigan College President Tim Nelson sent the following email to college employees Tuesday afternoon:Continued ...
Michigan's Open Meetings Act
State lawmakers created Michigan’s Open Meetings Act to strengthen citizens’ ability to know what goes on in government, according to an OMA guide published by Michigan’s attorney general.Continued ...
Consultant: Architecture great, traffic a problem
Heads shook and shoulders drooped as the group approached one of the last stops on a tour of Eighth Street in Traverse City: the brick and barn-red sheet metal walls of an auto parts warehouse.Continued ...
Division Street residents stuck in sewer limbo
Division Street residents Bill Greene and James Begeman might live in Traverse City’s most unfortunate place for a sewer, as evidenced by a possible repair bill of more than $60,000 to fix their collapsed line.Continued ...
Millage to go on ballot at same rate
Leelanau County commissioners unanimously agreed to put a senior services millage on the August ballot. They approved language for a 4-year renewal at .275 mills.Continued ...
Man faces arson and insurance fraud charges
An Antrim County man faces felony charges of conspiracy to commit arson and insurance fraud after investigators received information that an April 2013 house fire may have been intentionally set.Continued ...
- NMC board to address OMA allegations