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Lansing Bike Co-op offers a shared space to keep cyclists rolling

Building on the bones of an old mechanics garage, a group of innovative bike enthusiasts are providing a space where Lansing residents can rebuild, repair and tune-up their bikes with a little help from their new-found friends.
In the works for about a year, the Lansing Bike Co-op opened for spring and summer hours, offering tools, space and knowledge for anyone wanting to learn the mechanics of their non-motorized two-wheelers.
"There are a lot of people who need to know how to fix their bikes, or have a bike that isn't worth taking to shop," says co-op president Aaron Fields. "Whatever the case, they rely on their bike for transportation. We saw that need and in the community and wanted to provide the resources."
The idea, Fields says, is for people to come to the co-op, get a diagnosis on what needs fixing, and then receive guidance on the tools and steps to follow to keep their bike rolling.
"We provide the guidance, you do the fixing," says Fields. "We're an educational resource."
The Lansing Bike Co-op received a $3,000 grant this spring from the Tri-County Bicycle Association and matching funds from the Ingham County Land Bank to renovate and equip the garage with plumbing and heat. 
"After we get those things installed we can go year round," says Fields. "For now we can only store stuff here and work in the parking lot."
The co-op is typically opened Wednesday nights until nightfall, with other hours posted on Facebook. The co-op also holds a "judgment free zone" Ladies Night on the first and third Sundays of the month.
"I learned how to fix bikes here," says Fields. "Taking a bike apart demystifies things pretty quickly. There's not as much to them as you think, and once you start messing around with them, you find out that they're pretty straight forward."
The co-op shares the two-bay building with Go Green Trikes—Greater Lansing's trike courier service. The Lansing Bike Co-op is all volunteer-based, with board members including Fields, Mike Tostoh, Emily Petz and Carrie Nelson. About 15 to 20 people on average stop in during open nights, with a donation of $10 per hour of stand time suggested but not required.
Source: Aaron Fields, President, Lansing Bike Co-op
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Mid-Michigan jobs event fills key role in new global economy

A quarterly event that connects employers and job-seekers is filling a crucial need as Michigan strives to keep pace in an ever-evolving global economy.
Now in its sixth year, the Mid-Michigan Talent Connection brings job-seekers and employers together in a low-pressure networking environment. Events take place four times a year, with the next connection slated for June 4 at Meridian Christian Church in Okemos.
Michigan’s unemployment rate has fallen steadily over the past five years and dipped to 5.4 percent in April 2015—the same as the national jobless rate. Despite the improving job market, many employers struggle to find qualified workers in an economy increasingly reliant on high-tech jobs.
“We know many companies have an increasing number of open positions for which they cannot find qualified candidates,” said event partner Edythe Hatter-Williams, CEO of Capital Area Michigan Works!. “Many job-seekers are in a position where they may need to refocus their job search and look at transferable skills they have, or even consider retraining. The Mid-Michigan Talent Connection is an ideal place to network with potential employers to see what it takes to be successful in the new global economy.”
The Talent Connection was founded in September 2010 (formerly Pink Slip Mid-Michigan) by a small group of citizens who saw a need to connect and educate job-seekers and local businesses. The event combines elements of standard job-fair with workshops and panels, as well as networking opportunities.
“What makes this different from other employment events is that there are no resumés passed at this time,” said Rick Stacy, founder of the grassroots initiative and president of Meridian Christian Community Ministries, an event partner. “There is no pressure for a job-seeker to ‘sell’ themselves, nor for an employer to hire on the spot. This time is about learning how we can help each other.”
The Mid-Michigan Talent Connection has drawn an estimated 750 job-seekers and 200 employers, ranging from Jackson National Life Insurance Co. to Dart Container Corp. Key speakers have included Bob Fish, cofounder of Biggby Coffee, and Rob Fowler, president and CEO of the Small Business Association of Michigan.
For more information and to register for the free event, click here.
Source: Rick Stacy, Founder, Mid-Michigan Talent Connect
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Arts Council of Greater Lansing expands scholarship program

Within weeks of announcing the 2015 summer-time recipients of scholarships through the Young Creatives Program, the Arts Council of Greater Lansing unveiled plans to expand the seasonal program to one that will run year-round.
The Young Creatives program provides grants of up to $1,500 that support arts scholarships or free arts educational programming for underserved youth. Awards are competitive and provided to selected organizations. The program is funded by the Arts Council through the Arts Endowment Fund and Michigan State University Federal Credit Union.
"Expanding the program gives organizations more opportunity to be creative in what they do," says Josh Holliday, program manager for the Arts Council of Greater Lansing. "It also provides opportunities for organizations that don't have summer camps."
Grant applications became available June 1 for the expanded program that will run on an October 1 through September 30 cycle. Applications are due August 1, with full or partial awards provided to about five organizations.
"We've been fortunate to be able to expand the program with the support of the MSU Federal Credit Union," Holliday says. "They've made it possible for us to provide more opportunities than we have in the past."
The Young Creatives program has awarded grants in support of summer programming for four years. Selected organizations provide scholarships for youth ages 5-17 with financial need to attend arts-related classes and programs. Recipients of the 2015 summer grants include All-of-us Express Children's Theatre, the Lansing Art Gallery, MSU Community Music School, and REACH Studio Arts Center.
Holliday says that increasing access to arts and culture through a year-round program can help better communities in the short- and long-term.
"These dollars are helping organizations that are already doing great work," Holliday says. "They're making arts and culture accessible to youth who will be our future leaders."
Source: Joshua Holliday, Program Manager, Arts Council of Greater Lansing
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Painted public pianos provide "Keys in the Cities" to passersby

Everyone loves the piano.
Larry Grudt wants to share that love by bringing painted pianos to public spaces.
Beginning May 30, about a dozen artfully-painted pianos will premiere in outdoor spaces around East Lansing and Lansing through "Keys in the Cities"—a program spearheaded by Grudt and a committee of five. The outdoor pianos, Grudt says, are for anyone who wants to pull up the bench and play, and are intended to create an engaging street atmosphere for passersby.
"Pianos are a strong draw for people," says Grudt. "And painted pianos are so inviting. No one who sees one ever questions if they're good enough. They just sit down and play."
"Keys in the Cities" will feature uprights and spinets painted by local artists and community groups in outdoor locations from May through Halloween. Grudt says artists have brought a diverse array of colorful works to their "canvases," with many reflecting landmarks in Lansing and East Lansing.
Grudt got the idea for "Keys in the Cities" from a similar program in Fort Collins, Colo. Posts of painted pianos he had seen online and at ArtPrize also captured his imagination.
Two Men and a Truck donated moving services for all pianos, and will store the pianos over the winter months. Grudt says the average life expectancy of the outdoor pianos is one to three years, with artwork weathering before the instrument.
All pianos are sourced from private donations, while sponsors and individual donations cover artist stipends, liability insurance, paint and materials, and tarps for pianos and benches. The estimated cost for the program's inaugural year is around $15,000. Contributions are welcome the current and upcoming years.
"For me, the program is about what it does for individuals and people passing by," Grudt says. "When you see a piano, it affects how you perceive a location. You don't even have to hear the music to feel a deeper relationship with your community."
Lansing piano installations include the Lansing Art Gallery by Brendan Romero Martin, Midtown Brewing Co. by Elisa Schmidt, REO Town by Marissa Thaler, REO Town Pub by Alison Alfredson, South Lansing by Broad Art Museum and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Community Development Association and Farmers Market, Turner Mini Park by Debbie Fehrenbach, and Sparrow Hospital by Tiffany Klein. Pianos in East Lansing include the "no name park" at Abbot and Albert by Broad Art Museum and Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Fountain Plaza by Jennifer Medler, the Bailey Street Plaza 500 block by Joy Schroeder, and the Wharton Center by Liz Wylegala.
Grudt says the group is also seeking funds for piano installations at the Old Town General Store and the Lansing Mall.
Source: Larry Grudt, Program Director, Keys in the Cities
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Volunteerism powers dental service for the underinsured

An organization in Greater Lansing that helps bring smiles to people without dental coverage and to community groups at the same time is looking to expand in the next few months.
Pay It Forward Dental works with volunteer dentists to provide dental work to people who are 250 percent below the poverty line and lack dental coverage. In return, participants receiving dental work agree to volunteer for a certain number of hours in a community organization of their choice. The program launched in January 2014 and is a grant-funded partnership between the Central District Dental Society and Carefree Dental.
"We fill a gap for those people who can barely afford medical care and cannot afford dental coverage," says Patient Coordinator Christina Arriaga. "We find we help a lot of seniors who need more than just basic care."
While administrative services are provided through an office at 5135 S. Pennsylvania Ave., patients receive care at the offices of one of the eight participating volunteer dentists. And while the number of dentists remains steady, the number of people needing care continues to grow.
Because the program has been so well received, Pay It Forward organizers are seeking the help of at least five more dentists to accommodate up to 50 more patients. To date, the program has served 45 patients who have exchanged 1,500 community service hours for their dental care.
"The whole program is about giving back to your local community—both by our patients and by our dentists," says Arriaga. "If we can get more dentists to come on board, we can help more people, who in turn, can volunteer in the community. It's great to see how much the program helps all the way around."
Dentists interested in volunteering in the Pay It Forward Dental program can find more information here.
Sources: Christina Arriaga, Patient Coordinator, Pay It Forward Dental
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

ASK continues growth curve, solidifies focus on IT services

Mike Maddox's story of entrepreneurship started when he assumed leadership of a 10-year-old IT company in 2004. Since then, he has overseen the transformation of ASK, leading the Lansing-based company toward a path of growth and expansion that coincides with the rebirth of the Capitol City.
In 2013, ASK marked its 20th anniversary by adding 1,700-square feet onto their Lansing office on Sovereign Drive. Today, 27 people work in the 6,000-square foot facility, with six being new hires as of 2014.
In the past 11 years, ASK has evolved from a reseller of large mainframe systems to a provider of managed IT services. Sales revenue has increased 340 percent, while the number of staff has grown by 300 percent. Those numbers reflect the company's broadened focus beyond Mid-Michigan to one that serves customers statewide. And since many ASK customers have national and international operations, ASK's reach stretches overseas, providing service and expertise on several continents.
"Today's business looks completely different," says Maddox, ASK president and CEO.  "Our business is based on services and consulting, with very little based on hardware."
In the last year or two, ASK has strengthened its focus on managing, remediating and keeping IT infrastructures running for clients. ASK also boasts a fully-staffed engineering department dedicated to cyber security solutions and to reducing and managing risk.
Maddox attributes his company's success to letting the client's best interests guide every decision. That approach, he says, has led to a client retention rate of more than 95 percent, something he says is nearly unheard of in the IT business.
"Culturally, our people want to be part of building something that will last forever," says Maddox. "That motivates them more than anything, and makes ASK a really fun place to work."
Mike Maddox recently received an entrepreneurial award from the Greater Lansing Business Monthly for his ability to build camaraderie, take innovative risks, and foster growth in a Lansing-based business.   
Sources: Mike Maddox, President and CEO, ASK
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Mid-Michigan Cat Rescue readies new home in Dimondale

Sarah Vicary has helped thousands of cats, but each one is more than a number.
As the director of the Mid-Michigan Cat Rescue, Vicary personally commits to each and every kitty in her care. And sometimes, that can be up to 300 cats fostered on-site and in the homes of volunteers.
"We believe that all cats should be valued as individuals," says Vicary. "We make a lifetime commitment to always love them no matter what happens."
Established in 2003, the volunteer-run Mid-Michigan Cat Rescue has placed more than 6,000 cats with adoptive families. Now, Vicary says, it's time for the rescue itself to find a new home.
In early 2015, Vicary and her husband purchased a farm with 20 acres and a 2,000-square foot house in Dimondale. Her hopes are to build as many as 11 new buildings at the site on Michigan Road, and to offer on-site adoptions, vaccine clinics, and special and group events with other animal welcome organizations. Eventually, she would like to add a veterinary clinic, facilities for hospice and special needs care, a retail store and training center.
"We purchased the property for the cats," says Vicary of the property zoned commercial. "We believe in providing a colony setting and do not feel leaving cats in cages long-term is healthy for their mental and physical state."
Vicary is readying to move from her main base of operations and cat foster home on Tulip Street in Grand Ledge. She says volunteers have already packed up and moved some things, and that donations are helping to fund some of the minor repairs and renovations. She hopes to have everything up and running at the new Dimondale location by early- to mid-summer.
As a non-profit, the Mid-Michigan Cat Rescue is funded solely by donations and is run by Vicary and about 200 volunteers. The rescue maintains a "no-kill" policy, and fosters cats for life. All cats and kittens receive basic veterinary care such as neuter, shots and medications. Other services include hospice and specialty care related to particular feline diseases or conditions.
The rescue partners with Petco and PetSmart for once-a-month adoption events, and adopts out between 500 and 600 cats a year. The organization maintains a feral colony of more than 80 cats and practices trap, neuter and release when possible.
Source: Sarah Vicary, Founder, Mid-Michigan Cat Rescue
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

New academy for high schoolers peaks interest in insurance careers

High school students in Ingham County can prepare for careers in the growing insurance industry and earn college credit through a new one-year program unveiled by the Ingham Intermediate School District, Lansing School District, Accident Fund Insurance of America, and the Insuring MI Future Coalition.
Available to high school juniors and seniors, the Insurance Leadership Academy provides students the chance to learn about the insurance industry by attending classes three days a week at the Capital Area Career Center or Lansing Eastern High School. Students will also spend two days a week at Accident Fund Insurance where they will job shadow, participate in presentations, and learn job skills.
"The insurance industry is facing a future crisis since nearly 40 percent of our workforce in Michigan is 55 or older," says Lori Conartan, communications director for the Insurance Institute of Michigan. "We see a big need to attract young people to our industry."
One of the bigger challenges in building that future workforce, Conartan says, is changing the perception of insurance careers as boring or "last resort."
"But when they're able to look at it closer, they see the challenges and opportunities," says Conartan. "Jobs in insurance are rewarding because you're helping people. There are a wide variety of jobs, too, likes sales, accounting, IT and marketing."
Attorneys, fraud investigators and web masters also find employment within the industry. Mid-Michigan boasts about 6,800 jobs in insurance, as well as a 17 percent job growth in Eaton, Clinton and Ingham counties from 2010 to 2014. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 7.4 percent growth for insurance-related jobs in Greater Lansing from 2010 to 2020, while Michigan Labor Market Information reports an average annual wage of $55,000 for the tri-country area.
Conartan says the new Insurance Leadership Academy is a win all the way around.
"It's a win for students who are exposed to a great career," she says. "It's a win for the industry since students at a younger age are getting to know about careers in insurance. And it's a win for parents since the program provides nine free credits toward college."
The program is modeled after an Eaton County collaboration between Eaton RESA and Farm Bureau insurance. The Insuring MI Future Coalition members are the Insurance Institute of Michigan, Michigan Association of Insurance Agents, Michigan Association of Health Plans, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Life Insurance Association of Michigan, and Department of Insurance and Financial Services.
Sources: Lori Conarton, Communications Director, Insurance Institute of America
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Cuts and Convos provides haircuts and hope to Lansing homeless

When you look good you feel good. Most everyone has heard that. Jonathan Arias took it to heart.
In November, Arias founded Cuts and Convos, a Lansing nonprofit that offers beauty and barber services to low-income residents. Arias also provides legal, health and spiritual information to the people he serves—all during or immediately following their hair cut and styling.
In just four months, Arias and a cadre of volunteers have cut and styled hair for nearly 70 people through the Lansing City Rescue Mission, Cristo Rey Community Center, Haven House and Homeless Angels. Services are scheduled every-other-week or once a month. On occasion, speakers from local nonprofits or pastors provide the "convos."
"Many of the people we meet haven't received any tender loving care in a while," says Arias. "That's the beauty of what we do."
Arias says he came up with the idea for Cuts and Convos by combining his passion for justice with his long-time hobby of cutting and styling hair. After discussing the project with classmates and instructors through the MSU College of Law, Arias realized the value his blended service could bring to both individuals and the community.
"Sometimes the biggest barrier to employment is not being clean-cut and well-groomed," says Arias. "Our services can help give someone a shot at getting their foot in the door."
Arias says his greatest reward is hearing how the services of Cuts and Convos have changed someone's life or perceptions. A high school student, for instance, received compliments instead of taunts after Arias and other volunteers cut and styled her hair. And two men told him how their job interviews had led to employment after Cuts and Convos helped them prep with a shave, hair cut and coaching.
"We cut people's hair and we listen to their stories," says Arias. "We feel it gives them hope to know that regardless of where you've been, someone cares about you and wants you to feel good about yourself."
Sources: Jonathan Arias, Founder, Cuts and Convos
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

YMCA of Lansing receives grant from Consumers Energy Foundation

A $30,000 grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation will help fund facility improvements to two branches of the YMCA of Lansing, and enable the nonprofit to continue expanding services that focus on health, wellness, and special needs of children, teens and adults.
 "Youth development, social responsibility and healthy living are part of our mission," says Cheri Schimmel, development director of the YMCA of Lansing. "We're grateful for support of the Consumer Energy Foundation in helping us reach our goals through our ongoing Capital Campaign."
Renovations to the Oak Park branch in South Lansing will include improvements to the childcare center and kids' gym. The Consumers Energy Foundation grant will also be used toward the creation of a recreational outdoor sports park on the branch's backgrounds.
The Oak Park YMCA opened in 1982 and provides childcare and recreational programs for the community. Estimates are that 82 children each week will be served by the branch's improved childcare center. About 250 children a week currently use the kids' gym, and will continue to use the improved facilities. The YMCA projects that about 3,000 youth will find a safe, controlled place to play through the new recreational outdoor sports park each year. 
At the Parkwood branch, funds will be applied toward extensive renovations to the wellness center and improvements of the indoor track. The Parkwood YMCA was established in 1961 and serves 13,000 people each month. About 750 scholarships are awarded each year to enable qualifying families and individuals to participate in programs and activities.
"The Lansing Y has been here for 137 years," says Schimmel. "We reflect the needs of the community and work to serve those needs."
The YMCA of Metropolitan Lansing has six operating units, including Mystic Lake Camp near Clare, and branches downtown, on Lansing's west side, in the Oak Park area to the south, in East Lansing, and DeWitt. The YMCA employs nearly 500 individuals, and serves nearly 16,000 memberships throughout the community.
Sources: Cheri Schimmel, Development Director, YMCA of Lansing
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Collaborative design project celebrates Lansing, raises funds for art education

From T-shirts, to stickers, to tongue-in-cheek humor, Lansing's grittiest, grassroots, art-driven promo company has ventured into fundraising—forever empowered by the #LoveLansing movement.
JiveOne5even—a collaborative art project started by Paul Vetne and Marcus Cottom—recently held it's very first fundraiser in the form of a #LoveLansing party at the Green Door. The event was organized to raise dollars for elementary art programs in the Lansing School District. After an afternoon of live music and activities involving local vendors, Cottom says the event pulled in about $3,600 to purchase art materials and fund scholarships for places like REACH and MSU SmART.
"We're going to try to do this on an annual basis," says Cottom, a Lansing native. "Both Paul and I are artists, so it was something we felt strongly about."
Cottom and Vetne launched JiveOne5even in the spring of 2014. The two came up with a handful of original designs, printed them on T-shirts, and ventured out to test the appeal through local festivals. The T-shirts caught hold, leading them to branch into stickers, buttons and other items that pay homage to the city.
While not Versace or Nike, Cottom says the JiveOne5even label projects a certain cache, and celebrates Lansing through an ironic, urban and respectful sensibility. Designs are created using elements from existing concepts—similar to how a rapper or DJ would build music from samples.
"Sometimes I think Lansing has a bad reputation," says Cottom. "You can look at it from the outside and say one thing, but when you live here, you see there's a lot of good going on. It's not just potholes and a big cement parking lot where GM used to be. It's a place full of people starting businesses and making music and art—all kinds of things."
JiveOne5even currently has eight designs that can be printed on T-shirts, stickers, buttons, and other small novelty items. Most are available through local stores on the East Side, East Lansing and near downtown.
Source: Marcus Cottom, Co-Owner, JiveOne5seven
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

The Errand Man helps busy professionals reclaim leisure time

While everyone talks about the secret to work-life balance, it can sometimes be the little everyday tasks that threaten to tip the scales.
Enter The Errand Man—a man with a mission to help people reclaim and transform otherwise hectic hours into sensible leisure time.
"I know what's it like to be juggling so many things that you feel there's just not enough hours in the day," says Skip Lare, a retired career Coast Guard officer and human resource executive. "I used to feel that way, but now I'm here to help people with those everyday tasks that can eat up all your spare time."
Lare started his personal concierge service in August. His goal? To be the extra hands people sometimes need to keep up with the pace of modern life. He's there to pick up that bike at the repair shop, deliver garden mulch, and do weekly grocery shopping. No task or errand is too small or too large. He'll find a way, he says, to make it work.
"Wouldn't it be nice to be able to shoot me a text asking me to pick up eggs, bread and milk so you can avoid yet another trip to the store on your way home?" Lare asks. "I can do that."
Lare got the idea for The Errand Man from his daughter, and set out to model his business after concierge services he had seen in metropolitan areas like Detroit, St. Louis and D.C. He runs errands, shops, and provides pick-up and delivery services for both individuals and businesses. He's also there to help transport or do everyday things for the elderly. Lare is licensed, insured and bonded, and a mobile notary. Above all, he says, he's among one of the fastest growing groups of entrepreneurs: senior citizens.
"I like helping people out because now I have the time to do that," says Lare. "I can do things last minute or at a scheduled time. If you need something done, I can help."
Source: Skip Lare, Owner, The Errand Man
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Lettuce Live Well weighs in with free nutritional programs

Kelly Zielinski has a losing proposition that promises to be a winner for Greater Lansing.
As the co-founder and president of Lettuce Live Well, Zielinski and her business partner Ashley Logan got Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero to "weigh in" and launch Lansing Loses a Million at his recent State of the City address.
The free initiative, Zielinski explains, is modeled after a program in Oklahoma City in which city residents pledge to lose a combined 1 million pounds. Participants can log into a website to track food and calorie intake, fitness, blood pressure, body measurements and other wellness indicators. The Lansing program also offers participants the chance join online groups or community activities for additional support.
"We're looking to get as many people signed up as possible," says Zielinski, mentioning that more than 400 people are already on board. "It's ongoing, so there's no end date. We figure it will take a few years at least to lose a million."
Lansing Loses a Million is just one part of Zielinski's efforts to provide free community resources focused on nutrition and wellness. She and Logan founded Lettuce Live Well in July 2014 to provide nutritional and fitness coaching to groups and individuals through pre-arranged sessions at community centers, businesses and other public sites.
Lettuce Live Well also holds educational grocery store tours that provide advice on how to buy healthy foods on a budget. Each participant receives a $10 gift card to spend toward a meal that includes all five food groups. The program is supported through the national Cooking Matters at the Store Program, with tours conducted at local ValuLand, Meijer, Wal-Mart and Aldi stores.
"I'm just incredibly passionate about nutrition and want to help people," says Zielinski who learned about nutrition from volunteering at food banks and interning with dieticians. "There's not a lot of free nutritional resources out there. But more important, eating is the most important thing we do every day, and sometimes no one shows us how to do it properly."
Lettuce Live Well is a volunteer organization supported by sponsors. As programs and initiatives grow, Zielinski hopes to move into a brick-and-mortar location by late spring, and to add to her roster of more than a dozen volunteers and business interns.
Source: Kelly Zielinski, Co-founder and President, Lettuce Live Well
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

Area partners invests in kids with innovative education savings initiative

Families of kindergarteners in Lansing are getting a boost toward saving for their future education thanks to a new financial program unveiled in mid-January through the City of Lansing, the Lansing School District, and the MSU Federal Credit Union.
Lansing SAVE—or Student Accounts Valuing Education—involves opening up an MSUFCU savings account for 357 kindergarten students at five schools to help families save for their child's post-secondary education. Students at Cumberland, Lyon, Reo, Riddle and Willow schools were enrolled in the first phase of the program. Other schools and groups of elementary students will join over the next four years, with the end goal being an MSUFCU savings account for every kindergartener in the Lansing School District.
"We all have the same goal to see our children be successful in life and be a positive contributing member of the community," says April Clobes, MSUFCU executive vice president and chief operating officer. "That ultimately leads to a better community for everyone."
The MSUFCU provided the initial funds to open up the individual accounts for students. Lansing SAVE will seek private sponsors to contribute to accounts, while family members and friends are encouraged to make regular contributions. The credit union has also committed to provide a $100 graduation gift to students that complete the program, graduate from high school, and go to college.
Lansing SAVE account holders will also receive in-school financial education from the MSUFCU in cooperation with the Lansing School District. The programs will include teaching children about money through a progression of age-appropriate courses. Subjects will include how to save, spend and donate, as well as future lessons on budgeting and understanding credit. All the lessons are paired with activities children can do at home with their family.
"Our children are our future," says Clobes. "They're our future employees, parents and elected officials. Investing in children and helping them to be successful is how we continue to have a vibrant and successful community."
Source: April Clobes, Executive Director and Chief Financial Officer, MSU Federal Credit Union
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor
Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.

ALIVE expands fitness center, increases membership and jobs

An inventive expansion of one of mid-Michigan's premiere fitness centers will ensure community members have even more space to make good on their New Year's resolutions.
In mid-January, the Charlotte-based ALIVE unveiled a new, reconfigured area in the MOVE fitness center that creates more areas for stretching, building strength, and working cardio routines. ALIVE invested $30,000 to upgrade training equipment, install a cardio theater sound system, and add several new programs like CrossFit, POUND, PiYo and high intensity interval training—or H.I.T.T.
Patrick Sustrich, CEO of ALIVE, comments that the 1,5000-square foot expansion of the fitness center represents ALIVE's commitment to be an experienced-based destination health park, operated by Hayes Green Beach Memorial Hospital.
"Back in 2009 when we were looking to expand key clinical areas of our hospital, it forced us to reflect on our role in the community," says Sustrich. "We realized our bigger purpose was to enhance the overall vitality of the community in addition to treating sick people."
Nearly 19,000 people visit Alive annually for various services and activities. By expanding MOVE, Sustrich says, the in-house fitness center can accommodate up to 250 people at a time. MOVE currently has 2,000 members.
"We are now the correct size for the volume of people using our facility," says Sustrich. "And we still have more than 13,000 unfinished square feet we can expand into overtime."
Located at 800 W. Lawrence Ave. in Charlotte, ALIVE draws guests and visitors from Charlotte, Eaton Rapids, South Lansing, Nashville, Potterville and Olivet. In total, he says, the health-focused destination attracts people from nearly 100 ZIP codes statewide.
"We're excited," says Sustrich. "Having so much group exercise space allows us to change with the trends in the fitness industry. As new, innovative classes come up, we can bring them here. It keeps things fun, mixes things up, and keeps things fresh."
ALIVE and MOVE are currently hiring full- and part-time fitness staff. Additional jobs are also being filled at ALIVE's cornerstone restaurant: The Big Salad.
Source: Patrick Sustrich, Executive Director, ALIVE
Writer: Ann Kammerer, News Editor

Got a story idea for Innovation News? Email Ann Kammerer here.
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