2016-12-22 / Front Page

Playing Santa

Donations made to county groups
By Amy Hubbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Santa must have so much fun. For this edition, staff writers at the Leelanau Enterprise filled in, choosing their favorite charities for a $250 donation. We asked staff members to explain to readers what sets their nonprofit apart in stories published this week.

Leelanau County offers a long list of nonprofits for charitable giving. If you are considering offering a Christmas gift to organizations that contribute so much to the county, a list of possible recipients can be found on pages 18-20 of the Leelanau Pages community directory. The list also is available online at leelanaupages.com.

Following are our choices.

Friendship Community Center

Agnes Barrett, 96, sat Friday at the Friendship Community Center in Suttons Bay and watched as her friends played euchre.


BILL MESERVE helps prepare food baskets for the Empire Area Food Pantry. BILL MESERVE helps prepare food baskets for the Empire Area Food Pantry. She is the last surviving member of a group of women who created the center as a place for people to socialize.

“We worked our tails off,” said Barrett, who rides with Diana Roubal each week to the center to play cards and lunch. “It’s nice to see that it’s still going.”

The building, located at the corner of Broadway and St. Mary’s Ave. was constructed in 1853 and used during much of its first century of existence as a funeral home, retail shop and furniture store.

Since 1948, the facility has been occupied by the community.

The Grange, a fraternal organization advocating American agriculture, used the building a chapter office and meeting space from 1948 to 1986.


BEVERLY CLEM, Julie Nowland and Mary Ann Duperon spend some of their free time volunteering at Samaritan’s Closet in Lake Leelanau, a resale store that puts most of the money it makes right back into the community. BEVERLY CLEM, Julie Nowland and Mary Ann Duperon spend some of their free time volunteering at Samaritan’s Closet in Lake Leelanau, a resale store that puts most of the money it makes right back into the community. During that time, the hall also served as a weekly meeting spot for the Suttons Bay-Leelanau County Rotary Club with the ladies of the Grange cooking and serving lunch to Rotarians.

However, after the club moved its meeting location to a local restaurant, the building stood empty for years before a group of women, searching for their own meeting site, organized. With a bank loan and their personal financial commitments, they purchased the hall in 1988.

Barrett is one of those women.

With the loan and grants from the Michigan Office of Services to the Aging the group purchased the structure and made improvements to provide barrier-free access, office space and a kitchen.


AL CROCKER of Suttons Bay has been involved in local Pop Warner football longer than any coach or volunteer in Leelanau County. Crocker has been part of the Suttons Bay program since Pop Warner came to the region in 1995 — and he has every roster and team photo in a binder to prove it. AL CROCKER of Suttons Bay has been involved in local Pop Warner football longer than any coach or volunteer in Leelanau County. Crocker has been part of the Suttons Bay program since Pop Warner came to the region in 1995 — and he has every roster and team photo in a binder to prove it. The mission of the Friendship Community Center LLC is to provide a safe and healthy location for “interaction among all generations and cultures.”

They accomplish that with an annual budget of $15,000 to $20,000, which includes an annual mortgage payment of $4,800.

“We’ve love to burn that mortgage,” said Terry Zelenka, president of the Friendship Community Center board. “We’re down to about $21,000 or $22,000.”

Although the Friendship Center primarily focuses on the senior population with the exception of a small project here or there, it receives no moneys from the countywide millage for services. Those funds go to services provided by the Leelanau County Senior Services department.

Still, fundraisers and conservative budgeting allow the center to remain open and offering numerous activities in addition to cards and the senior meal. They include a twice-a-week exercise class and a monthly community potluck where people of all ages enjoy good food and just as important — company.

All are welcome.

Further information about the center is available at friendshipcommunitycenter.org.

Name: Friendship Community Center-Suttons Bay

When established : 1988

Annual budget: $15,000 to $20,000

Group’s mission: To provide a safe and healthy location for “interaction among all generations and cultures.”

What sets it apart: “We’re the only community group in Suttons Bay that has a building of its own.”

Empire Area Food Pantry

By Alan Campbell
Of The Enterprise staff

Bill Meserve’s title, if he were to claim such a thing, is “food manager.” But how he’s addressed is not Meserve’s concern.

Getting food into the mouths of people is Meserve’s priority, which is shared by a small legion of volunteers who gather Mondays and Tuesdays at the Glen Lake Community Church.

Meserve says he has been food manager of the Empire Area Food Pantry for the past “ten or 12 years, call it 11.” He assumed the role from former Glen Arbor Township Supervisor John Soderholm, whose time grew too occupied by township business after being elected to continue both roles.

As food manager, Meserve lines up volunteers and ensures that goods from food rescue organizations are available and distributed to folks who need it. The pantry buys some perishable food, such as hamburger, from local groceries. It’s all stored and sorted in space provided by Glen Lake Community Church.

The group’s concern on Tuesday morning was getting food boxes ready for Christmas pick-up that same day.

“Today is our regular pantry. We’ve already filled the boxes for 76 families except for adding the ham or turkey. We bought the turkeys for Thanksgiving and we had some left over. The families are coming in for them,” Meserve said.

He and other volunteers have come to know many beneficiaries of the pantry’s work. Some have become friends. As such, food baskets are made to fit their individual needs.

And then there’s the potpourri of food stuffs that aren’t normal parts of food orders. They’re put out on tables with the hope that they’ll find good homes.

Most do.

The Empire Area Food Pantry represents a throwback to the world of modern nonprofits. It has no fundraising arm, no executive director, no offices — not even a website. Five churches are official sponsors of the pantry, with the responsibility for keeping pantry books passed among them. The churches are Glen Lake Community Church; Bethleham Lutheran Church in Glen Arbor; First Church of Christ, Scientist, Glen Arbor; Empire United Methodist Church; and St. Philip Neri Catholic Church in Empire, which this year is keeping books for the pantry.

A member of each church serves as the board of director for the pantry, but again, the organization is loose. “We get together infrequently when we feel like it,” Meserve explained. “But basically we focus on getting food out to people who need it.”

The entire pantry operates on a budget of about $30,000.

That’s an efficient use of money, in my opinion. It’s one reason my choice for the Enterprise Christmas donation project is Empire Area Food Pantry.

I like the idea of helping an organization that does so much with such little fanfare. Thank you.

Name: Empire Area Food Pantry

When established: “Fifteen years ago,” said food manager Bill Meserve.

Annual budget: About $30,000.

Group’s mission: “Our goal is to have all that food that came in Monday gone by the end of Tuesday,” Meserve said.

What sets this group apart: The Empire Area Food Pantry is loosely organized with no paid staff, and runs its books through one of five churches. Still, through a dedicated core of volunteers, the nonprofit fills the food needs of the Glen Lake area.

Inland Seas Education Association

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

What will the Inland Seas Education Association (ISEA) do with a $250 donation?

The answer can be quite simple, according to Fred Sitkins, ISEA executive director.

“The first priority for donations directed to ISEA is to offset the cost of the Schoolship experience so that all students have the opportunity to participate in this important program,” Sitkins said.

Since its founding in 1989, ISEA has accommodated more than 100,000 students aboard its “schoolship,” providing one of the most unique learning platforms anywhere in the U.S. Every year, students from schools all over Michigan, the U.S., and beyond, travel to Suttons Bay for a day aboard the schooner “Inland Seas” where they learn about Great Lakes ecology and history.

“When off-setting the cost isn’t enough, we provide scholarships to over 60-percent of the schools participating in the Schoolship program,” Sitkins said. “We believe our work is important and we want to provide this experience to as many students as possible, necessitating the removal of the cost barrier whenever possible.”

In addition to offering a variety of programs on the boat to students and others, ISEA also offers a boat building program, an education center and museum located at 100 Dame Street near the Suttons Bay waterfront. The schooner itself is berthed at the Suttons Bay Marina on an old coal dock. ISEA also offers schoolship programs on a schooner based in Greilickville and operates several other smaller vessels.

Although offsetting the cost of the Schoolship experience is currently the top fundraising priority for ISEA, Sitkins explained that yet another opportunity for donors will be unveiled in the years ahead.

In September, ISEA officials announced a five-year project to build a new biological station on the ISEA property in Suttons Bay that will be named after ISEA’s founder, Thomas M. Kelly, who died earlier this year.

ISEA has not launched a capital campaign for the new biological station yet, Sitkins said, “however, we have already collected $813,000 towards the project and currently focused on working to secure additional funding connected with a wide variety of naming opportunities.”

Sitkins said ISEA will begin what would traditionally be viewed as a capital campaign in 2018.

In the meantime, the schoolship program and other efforts remain a main focus for ISEA.

“Our schoolship program plants an important seed and is attended by nearly 5,000 students a year,” Sitkins said. “ISEA is a dedicated and caring community for many volunteers working daily to make our world, the lives of young people and the lakes we cherish better.”

Name: Inland Seas Education Association

When established: 1989

Annual budget: Usually around $700,000. Of that, about $370,000 comes in the form of grants, $260,000 from donations, and about $70,000 in program revenues.

Mission: ISEA is dedicated to helping people of all ages experience the Great Lakes through hands-on, experiential learning activities aboard a traditionally-rigged tall ship schooner. Inland Seas ignites the passion, sparks the curiosity, and provides the information needed for the long-term stewardship of our Great Lakes.

What sets ISEA apart: ISEA is working daily to protect the most important natural resource in North America and provide an experience that can’t be replicated anywhere.

Samaritan’s Closet

By Patti Brandt Burgess
Of The Enterprise staff

Ask a Samaritan’s Closet board member where the non-profit organization’s money goes and who is helped by it and you’re likely to get a list that will rival Santa’s.

If you need a nice outfit to wear to a job interview, a tank of gas to get there, or new tires to keep you from going in a ditch, Samaritan’s can help.

If your propane tank is low, your car needs an alternator, the kids need winter coats or a medical bill is hanging over your head, Samaritan’s can help.

Located at 25 S. Lake Leelanau Dr. in Lake Leelanau, Samaritan’s is often the last resort for people who have been unable to find help elsewhere, said Molly Phinny, co-vice president of the Samaritan’s Board of Directors.

If someone needs a washer and dryer, a bed or a pair of warm boots, the organization does what it can to fill that need. The group also supports the Laundry Project that helps people wash and dry their clothes at a local laundromat.

And there’s no red tape involved, Phinny said.

“You don’t have to have a social security number, you don’t need to have government papers, you just need to come and state your need and we will try to help you,” Phinny said.

It’s also a safe, confidential and judgment free place, she said, where every- one understands that sometimes there just isn’t enough money to get from paycheck to paycheck.

The Closet is also the place to get a great deal on used clothes, furniture, dishes or other household items while supporting a great cause.

People can shop from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. on Saturday.

Samaritan’s has two paid employees — director Tricia Denton, who has been with the organization for about two years, and Claire Wilder, manager of the new furniture and Christmas store that recently opened in the back of the Connie Binsfeld building on M-204.

The rest of what keeps things going is done by more than 30 volunteers who sort through donations, man the stores and plan events such as the annual “Exclusively from the Closet” fashion show and luncheon.

“We have so many wonderful volunteers who dedicate so much time to keeping this thing going,” Phinny said. “It’s amazing what they can get done.”

Volunteers often get a little extra help from people who have been ordered to do community service as part of their District Court probation sentence.

Phinny, who has only been involved with Samaritan’s for a few months, said the board has recently become much more actively involved in the organization and have made some changes, including the second store.

“We’re feeling good about where we are,” Phinny said. “We’ve had a lot of changes this year and I’m sure we’ll have more and they’re all good.”

Samaritan’s takes donations of used items at its Lake Leelanau Drive store, and cash donations are always welcome. If someone has a larger item to donate, a volunteer will come and pick it up.

Name: Samaritan’s Closet, 25 S. Lake Leelanau Dr., Lake Leelanau

When established: 2009

Annual budget: $100,000 to $140,000 in sales, donations; at least $70,000 of that goes back to the community.

Group’s mission: To operate a resale business that returns aid to the community, to organize special projects and events to fulfill unmet community needs, and to offer service to all who need it without regard to race, religion, citizenship or status.

What sets this group apart: It’s a last resort for those who haven’t been able to find help elsewhere.

Pop Warner Football program

By Jay Bushen
Of The Enterprise staff

The future of Suttons Bay football is in the hands of a man far more familiar with working behind the scenes than under the lights.

Fortunately for Norsemen nation, those hands have proven to be more than capable over the past two decades.

Al Crocker has spent 21 years manning the Pop Warner football program in Suttons Bay, longer than any other coach or volunteer in Leelanau County. In fact, Crocker has been involved with the program since Northwest Conference coaches brought it to northwest Michigan in 1995.

Crocker hasn’t coached in a couple years, but he’s still the man responsible for putting Pop Warner players on the field. To his knowledge, he and Barb Beckett of the Grand Traverse Bay YMCA are the only pioneering members still involved.

“My oldest is 32. He was on the first team,” Crocker said of his son, Josh Crocker, who has since become the head varsity coach at Mesick.

It’s safe to say 8-man football has been a recent topic of discussion for the Crockers. Declining enrollment in Mesick and Suttons Bay has led both varsity programs to make the switch from 11-man football in 2017.

Al Crocker said that, according to a season-capping email from Beckett, one of the questions on the Pop Warner agenda in 2017 is whether or not to assemble an 8-man division.

Crocker isn’t opposed.

“This year we probably had only 13 or 14 kids,” he said of the Suttons Bay program, which could only field one team in 2015 and 2016. “In our heyday, we had probably close to 45.” After original Suttons Bay Pop Warner players made their way into the varsity ranks, the Norsemen made the playoffs in 11 straight seasons starting in 2000, going 98-25 in that span.

To Crocker, that’s no coincidence.

“The reason varsity coaches established

Pop Warner was two-fold,” he said. “One was to establish and maintain an interest in the game so we had numbers — because all these other sports were competing for our athletes — but I think more than that, they were tired of going to the playoffs and getting knocked out in the first round. All these teams downstate, whether it was Pop Warner or Rockets, we always seemed to be a little less prepared than they were. Our kids didn’t start playing ball until we got into maybe middle school. The proof is in the pudding.”

The height of the heyday came in 2004 when Joe Trudeau led Suttons Bay to a 12-2 season and an appearance in the Division 6 championship.

Enrollment at Suttons Bay has since been sliced in half, however, and wins have been harder to come by at the varsity level. The program has gone 19-35 since 2010, but still qualified for the postseason on two occasions.

In an era marked by concussion concerns and declining participation, Suttons Bay football needs its Pop Warner program more than ever.

Fortunately for Norsemen nation, Crocker isn’t going anywhere.

“My biggest thrill, or what I got out of it, was to see these kids in high school excel, then see me on the street and call me ‘coach,’” Crocker said. “It’s been really rewarding in that way, to see the difference we’ve made in the program collectively, but I’ve done nothing different than these other communities — other than I’ve been part of it the whole time.”

Name: Suttons Bay Pop Warner

When established: 1995

Annual budget: $1,000-$1,500

Group’s mission: Teach young players the fundamentals of football.

What sets the group apart: An overwhelming desire to inspire a love for the game of football.

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