08-01-2019 Vanderlyn Community Center / Library design now finalized; Director of local food pantry


STUDENTS HELPING STUDENTS… Coloma High School National Honor Society students are shown holding backpacks that they packed with school supplies in preparation of the “Backpacks For Good” back-to-school event being held on Saturday, Aug. 10 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Midway Baptist Church in Watervliet. Volunteer packers are (from the left): Front row – Maurissa LaGrow, Kimberly Spaulding, Vanessa Crisenbery; Back row – Morgan Gruss, Madison McQuillan, Morgan Hosbein, Tyler Streu, Megan Neubecker, Marissa Sherburn, and Sara Glisson (NHS advisor).


Director of local food pantry named Parade Grand Marshal

By Annette Christie

Glad-Peach Parade Chairwoman Mary Ann Mosier said one name kept coming up in the community and among the committee when the subject of the parade Grand Marshal selection would come and so it seemed only fitting that this year it should be Coloma native Carole Sternaman.

Sternaman who grew up in Coloma, graduated from Coloma High School and found her path back to Coloma Schools for her teaching career where she continued teaching elementary students for 27 years until she retired. She has been a driving force behind what was once a food pantry helping a few to a multi-resource agency that will help many.

When Sternaman took over as director of the food pantry at the Coloma United Methodist Church 10 years ago, she said then that she had a vision for it to be something bigger. She put out feelers to other area churches to see about working together to help feed those in the North Berrien area and those feelers turned into partnerships.

Since 2017, she has been working with others to increase the use of the food pantry to a full line of resources for those in need. Hope Resources has now obtained its own non-profit status and will soon be re-located from the church into the Mason’s building on Paw Paw Street in Coloma. “We will be moving this fall,” Sternaman said. Hope Resources will not only provide food, but organizers look forward to a clothing closet, classes for budgeting skills and cooking, and counseling services.

“We have had a very supportive board and a wonderful group of volunteers who have made this happen, but we will need more volunteers to continue moving forward,” Sternaman said. She is also very grateful for all of the companies and organizations that have assisted. “Menasha, Gast Manufacturing, the Masons, Lions, Lionesses, Senior Center, and the grants from the Berrien Community Foundation and the Heart of Cook have been so helpful in raising funds and the items like toiletries and baby items that people look to us to provide,” Sternaman said.

With pride, she notes that they have set up the parameters to focus on North Berrien residents and their needs.

This past week, Sternaman was able to do the thing she loves the most, she had all her children and grandchildren home in Coloma for a visit. “This is one of the moments that a grandma looks forward to, it is very special,” Sternaman said.

Besides the food pantry, Sternaman has volunteered for the Glad-Peach Festival, the Mendel Center and the Southwest Michigan Symphony Orchestra. She and her husband Monte (who has since passed) helped to organize the Glad-Peach Festival parking project at the Church. “It has become a major fundraiser for the church,” Sternaman said. She is also in the choir and rings hand bells at the church.

In her free time, she enjoys yoga and bridge at the North Berrien Senior Center. “They are a great group of people,” Sternaman said.

Sternaman looks forward to the festival every year and seeing her returning students and the band that often finds her at the parking lot at the church during the event. This year the community of Coloma will be able to see Carole Sternaman as she leads the parade that she is so fond of in the place that she loves


Vanderlyn Community Center / Library design now finalized

In May of 2017 the Tri-City Record originally reported the exciting news of a major donation of $1 million from the Vanderlyn Trust for the purpose of creating the Art and Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center by repurposing the site of the idled Red Arrow Elementary School building. At a special meeting of the Hartford Public Library Board held Wednesday, July 24, the board gave its unanimous blessing to final architectural plans to move the project to solicit construction bids.

Greg Kil, principal architect of Kil Architecture & Planning of South Bend, presented the detailed proposal of the new 8,000 square foot facility which includes dedicated sections for literacy, teen involvement, a greatly expanded children’s area and a maker space lab; along with a 1,200 square foot Community Center with rooms which will offer the public available space for multipurpose and multimedia use for anything from a wedding shower to a conference room capable of special exhibits and public meetings. Planned to be equipped with kitchenette facilities in addition to SMART Board Interactive Displays, LCD screens and audio system, the proposed community center has already attracted the attention of the City of Hartford, seeking a move of its polling location to better serve voters.

With the design approval now secured and site demolition complete, Kil plans to complete all pertinent documentation by the end of August, setting sights to solicit construction bids in early September with a tentative bid award at the end of the month. Groundbreaking is planned for early October with the majority of construction most likely to occur in spring of 2020.

Kil detailed several energy saving features of the structure, including motion sensing LED lighting combined with an emphasis on the use of natural lighting along with a 4-zone heating and air condition system and optimal use of the most modern insulation materials to maximize future energy costs. Bloomingdale Communications will provide the fiber optic installation of what is promised be the fastest Internet service in Southwest Michigan.

Described by Hartford Public Library Director Stephanie Daniels as, “More than just a library, but a 21st century community humanities center,” the facility will in addition be the new home of the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society, whose president Joyce Beedie attended the meeting to announce a yet unnamed contributor has stepped up to pledge $100,000 to enlarge and furnish the genealogy space. The original design had planned 260 square feet, now nearly doubled to over 400 square feet to house and provide access to hundreds of mixed media records of the colorful history of Van Buren County.

A $1.3 million philanthropic contribution from the Art & Bonna Vanderlyn Trust served as the catalyst for the project, combined with $400,000 matching grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the $100,000 from the VBRGS and some $9,000 raised from salvaged sales from the former school before demolition. Director Daniels reminds that an additional $300,000 must be acquired through a capital fundraising campaign to outfit and complete the facility’s interior needs such as new shelving, furniture, children’s room, maker space lab, etc. All donations will be acknowledged on a donor wall in the entry hall. Those wishing to participate in the necessary support may do so by calling the library directly at (269) 621-3408 or contribute online by visiting www.hartfordpl.michlibrary.org.

As with any major undertaking of such a project, unforeseen delays may have protracted the process, but now on the heels of Bonna’s recent 88th birthday, the Art and Bonna Vanderlyn Community Center will soon become a reality to the betterment of Hartford, driven by the generosity of the Vanderlyns to the community they dearly love and appreciate.

Berrien Community Foundation announces Coloma Watervliet Area Back-to-School events

Help is on the way for students and teachers! A school supply drive for teachers to provide needed items for their classrooms will be followed by Backpacks For Good – a backpack giveaway and back-to-school event for students. Supply Drive for Teachers School supply drive boxes are popping up at businesses all over Coloma and Watervliet thanks to the efforts of the Berrien Community Foundation. Through August 18, BCF will be coordinating these drop-off sites for donated school supplies that will be given directly to the teachers at Coloma, Watervliet and Hagar #6 schools. Requested supplies include pens, pencils, paper, notebooks, markers and highlighters. “We know teachers reach into their own pockets to buy things for their classrooms,” said BCF President Lisa Cripps-Downey. “We also know that everyone in the community would like to help support the teachers. By coordinating the supply drive, everyone in Coloma and Watervliet can pitch in to make back-to-school a little easier for our teachers.” Those wishing to donate school supplies can drop them off at any of the following area businesses: B&B Discount Grocery Outlet, Coloma Public Library, Coloma United Methodist Church, North Berrien Historical Museum, Riverside United Methodist Church, Robert Michael Salon, SPI Blow Molding, Watervliet District Library and Watervliet Free Methodist Church. Blackbird Waterhouse will also be running a promotion on August 18 to encourage donations as well. If your organization would like to host a supply box or have a special supply drive, call Susan Matheny at 269-983-3304 x2 or email at susanmatheny@berriencommunity.org. Backpacks For Good On Saturday, August 10, the Berrien Community Foundation sponsors will host “Backpacks For Good,” a back-to-school readiness event for students at Coloma, Watervliet and Hagar #6 schools. “Backpacks For Good” will feature over 750 backpacks with school supplies, a mobile food pantry, free vaccinations from the Berrien County Health Department, and much more. The August 10 event will be held at Midway Baptist Church, 7517 Red Arrow Hwy in Watervliet from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

“As a resident of Coloma and an alumnus of Watervliet Schools, I am so happy that we are able to lead this community effort to support our students” said BCF Program Manager Susan Matheny. “Backpacks For Good” is sponsored by Berrien Community Foundation, Coloma Lioness Lion Club, DeGroot Family Foundation, Darlene Getz Dentistry, Regal Finishing and John Withrow Excavating. Anyone wishing to learn more or to volunteer can contact the Berrien Community Foundation at 269-983-3304. For more than 65 years, the Berrien Community Foundation has helped concerned individuals establish their own charitable giving legacy and achieve their charitable goals. If you would like to develop a fund or endowment to impact your charitable interests, visit www.berriencommunity.org or call 269-983-3304 and ask for Lisa Cripps-Downey, BCF President.

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