BY LORAINE ANDERSON
— Last Sunday I wrote a Northern Living story about Joe VanderMeulen, executive director of Land Information Access Association, a nonprofit he founded in 1993.
LIAA is not an easy nonprofit to describe because it does so many different things and plays an important role in something I’ve long been interested in — community building. In fact, people who work in community planning circles say LIAA is a one-of-a-kind nonprofit for its diversity in programs and projects.
The story included a sidebar, or related story, that listed a sampling of LIAA’s many activities. Unfortunately, the sidebar never ran.
Here it is, with apologies to VanderMeulen and LIAA staff:
LIAA probably is best known locally for its management of UpNorthTV, northern Michigan’s only community-access cablecast television, which films and broadcasts government meetings for Traverse City, and for East Bay, Elmwood and Garfield townships as well as for Traverse Area District Library on Government TV Channels 99 and 994. The local governments contracted with LIAA in 2008 to take over management and improvement of public access TV.
UpNorthTV Channels 97 and 992 also air locally produced shows that focus on topics ranging from community resilience, local history, current events and local churches, to the Cherryland Humane Society ‘pet of the week,’ local documentaries and film shorts.
Recent and ongoing LIAA projects in this region include:
n Partnerships for Change, an ongoing program to assist development of sustainable and resilient communities by providing professional services and technical assistance to municipalities willing to work across government boundaries. A local example is the joint Village of Suttons Bay and Suttons Bay Township Planning Commission formed in 2009 to develop a joint zoning ordinance and master plan.
n Northern Trails Initiative to build a web site and interconnections with about 20 trail groups across northern Michigan.
n Website building and hosting for 12 townships, 10 counties and the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians.
n Fiduciary management of the Fresh Food Partnership, a coalition of nonprofit helping organizations formed in 2003 under LIAA’s umbrella. The partnership purchases locally grown fresh food from farmers at fair market prices and distributes it to 30 area pantries, shelters and community meals programs within the five-county Grand Traverse region. It has distributed nearly 70,000 pounds of fresh food to people in need while reinvesting almost $53,000 back into the local farming economy since its founding.
n The 10th Annual Empty Bowls Event on April 14 at the Hagerty Center. Proceeds help support the work of the Fresh Food Partnership. All food is donated by local restaurants and bowls are handmade by local artists and students.