08-20-2020 Letters and Commentary

Straighten up and look up! He was bent over so that he could only look at the floor unless he twisted to one side or the other to raise his eyes to meet mine. The difficulty in even walking forward was overcome only by determination, determination learned perhaps from a life of hard work. At 93 years old he appeared to be thankful to be able to get around at all under his own power. He reminded me of another person I met many years ago in the Philippines. She was elderly as well, and years of work in the rice fields left her with an equally bent back. But what was most memorable about each of these individuals was their smile. They were not bitter. Or, perhaps more accurately, they did not allow themselves to become embittered in spite of life’s difficulties. They were bent, but not broken. After explaining some of the last days’ troubles His disciples would face as the end approached, Jesus gave this encouragement, “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:28, NASB). My dad used to tell me: “Straighten up and fly right!” – similar guidance. No need to be spiritually or emotionally bowed down. Remember the outcome – your ultimate redemption! Few of us struggle with deforming back afflictions like those mentioned above, that don’t allow us to physically look up. And none of those who have received God’s gift of eternal life through faith in Jesus Christ’s redemption for them on the cross of Calvary need stare spiritually just at the ground. David said, speaking to himself: “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, The help of my countenance and my God.” (Psalm 42:11, NASB) Good idea, David!

Back to School immunizations Back-to-school season is here and regardless of whether your student is returning to the classroom or learning virtually this fall, they are required to receive certain immunizations per Michigan state law. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many children have fallen behind on the recommended vaccine schedule putting them at risk of contracting preventable illnesses. Getting children all of the vaccines recommended by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is one of the most important things parents can do to help protect their children’s health—and that of their classmates and their community. Today’s childhood vaccines protect against serious and potentially life-threatening diseases, including polio, measles, whooping cough, and chickenpox. When children are not vaccinated, they are at increased risk of disease and can spread diseases to others in their classrooms and community—including babies who are too young to be fully vaccinated, and people with weakened immune systems due to cancer and other health conditions. Without an identified COVID-19 vaccination, it is crucial we retain the existing herd immunity against these preventable illnesses. School age children need vaccines. For example, kids who are 4 to 6 years old are due for boosters of four vaccines: DTaP (diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis, also called whooping cough), chickenpox, MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella), and polio. Older children, like pre-teens and teens, need Tdap (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis), HPV (human papillomavirus), and MenACWY (meningococcal conjugate virus) vaccines. In addition, yearly flu vaccines are recommended for all children 6 months and older. Check with your child’s doctor to find out what vaccines they need this year or call the Berrien County Health Department at 269-926-7121 for a vaccine appointment.

Return to Learn plan passed by the House As many of you know, the purpose of our special House session this past Monday was to finalize our bipartisan “Return to Learn” plan for this fall. The safety of our students and teachers is this plan’s number one priority. We know that what is safe for kids in Metro Detroit isn’t the same as what’s best for kids in towns like Hartford as COVID-19 has affected these regions in different ways. This plan does not mandate face to face instruction, but does require that school boards provide clear public access to the data that is being used to make important decisions about how to move forward. Under this plan, local school districts will consult with area health departments to work together and develop standards based on their local data that are best for their corner of the state. Other than providing a safe learning environment, schools have asked us to feature two key components in this legislation: flexibility and guidance. Our plan is centered around those features, allowing local school districts to decide whether an in-person, hybrid, or online format is best for their students and teachers. It also allows districts to quickly adapt and switch to an alternate format should conditions change. Lastly, another concern of parents is that students learning outside of the classroom will fall behind. This plan allows school districts the freedom to choose one benchmark testing format to better understand where our students are excelling and identify areas which require additional instruction. The Return to Learn plan, which is comprised of House Bills 5311-5313, passed the house and now awaits a signature from the Governor. I look forward to the Governor approving this bipartisan plan promptly which will give teachers and students the guidance they need to begin school in the coming weeks. As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns. You can reach me toll free at 1-800-577-6212, via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RepBethGriffin.

Return to Learn plan approved by Legislature COVID-19 has drastically affected people’s health, our economy and the education of our children. As a new school year rapidly approaches, the coronavirus will continue to present tremendous challenges to students, parents and teachers. Throughout the summer, school leaders and families in every Southwest Michigan community have been weighing the best way to educate our children during the COVID-19 pandemic. As a mother, former teacher and your state senator, I, like you, also want what’s best for our students. To help get students safely back to school this fall and to ensure they receive a quality education no matter the mode of instruction they receive, Republicans and Democrats in the Legislature joined together recently to approve a Return to Learn plan that will help students succeed. The plan will help keep kids safe and advance their education — whether it’s in person, online, or through a blended model of instruction. Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach, the plan empowers each school district — working with their local health department — to determine what model of learning is best and safest for their students. Regardless of what mode of learning a school uses this fall, the plan requires regular two-way interaction between teachers and students. Additionally, students will receive benchmark tests to determine their education needs. The results will be shared with parents, and the cumulative data will be used by schools to set academic goals. The Return to Learn plan also gives schools greater flexibility and financial certainty. Mandates regarding the total number of instructional hours and days will be temporarily lifted, while still requiring districts to provide a full year of grade level content. And school funding will be based largely on 2019 student counts, making school districts’ budgets more reliable and predictable. Living with the coronavirus in our midst as a new school year begins understandably brings many questions and concerns. I am pleased the Legislature and governor were able to come together in bipartisan fashion to approve a plan that gives local leaders the flexibility to make the best decisions for students and families, so our children can learn safely during these unprecedented times. As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.mich igan.gov.

Countless folks rely on the USPS; Congress must act Since 1775, the United States Postal Service and our postal workers have lived up to their timeless motto: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” And even amid a global pandemic, this holds true today. The coronavirus crisis has truly opened our eyes to the unsung heroes around us, and the Postal Service is no exception. For the past several months, I have advocated for emergency USPS funding to ensure that our seniors, veterans, and every Michigander can receive their mail, prescription drugs, and a number of other materials sent via the Postal Service – and folks are calling on Congress to see it through. That’s why it is past time Congress return to Washington to work on a bipartisan COVID-19 relief package that will fund the USPS, protect jobs, safeguard our elections, and keep our country connected in this most difficult time. Last week I called on the Speaker to bring the Congress back to address this issue, and we are now scheduled to return for votes this Saturday. With 21,000 postal workers in Michigan and countless Americans relying on swift action by Congress, the time to act is now. To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or by visiting my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph/ Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

POSTAL CRISIS TRUMPED UP, as a business that depends on good postal service on its product, I’m watching the most recent USPS crisis with interest. It seems to me that President Donald Trump questioned the ability of the Postal Service to deliver a landslide of mail-in ballots when polls showed him losing the vote (and election). I’ve noticed before the President will toss out an off the wall an outrageous question, like a piece of rotten meat, and the national media jumps on it like a pack of rabid dogs. Then the President, arms akimbo, says “I dunno, I’m just saying.” He did that frequently and successfully in his 2016 election with crazy observations that kept his supporters howling for more, as the opposition scrambled to get a crumb to bite into. I did see there was some communications that warned that recent postal services cutbacks in sorting equipment and software might cause the USPS to be swamped by a largest mailing of all time. One commentator observed the USPS successfully handles huge mailings at Christmas time. And there shouldn’t be any reason to fail to deliver the mail-in ballots in time to be counted. Go figure, maybe we won’t know who won for sure for some time long after the opponents and supporters have gone home. Our founding fathers must have had a crystal ball to foresee this imbroglio when they directed the President-elect takes office in March. Back then speed of travel was the determining factor, on foot or by horseback. Ben Franklin will be scratching his wig and chuckling somewhere for sure.

HOPE Resources grateful for community support

Dear Tri-City community,

The members of the board of HOPE Resources want to thank all of our community residents for their generosity in supporting our work. We are especially grateful to Harding’s Market in Coloma. Their customers’ rounding up initiative provided us with nearly $2,500. Since $5 fills a grocery cart at the food pantry, Harding’s support will help feed 500 local families.

Coloma Family Dollar donated 200 cartons of cookies, a special treat for the people we serve. In addition, Loma Theatre had a canned food drive in the spring to help stock the shelves.

United Way of Berrien County has shared Christmas in July donations to food pantries. The generosity of our churches, Riverside United Methodist, St. Paul’s United Church of Christ, Coloma United Methodist Church, Coloma 1st Congregational United Church of Christ, and Midway Baptist Church is amazing.

The Country Store at Watervliet Fruit Exchange provided seed and start up plants for the Community Garden, which supplies fresh produce to the pantry. This community support through monetary donations, volunteers, Community Garden produce and shelving for the clothing bank is proof of our community pulling together in these difficult times.

While the Food Pantry has operated throughout this pandemic, the clothing closet, classes in nutrition, finance and sewing, WIC visits and other services will be available as soon as safely possible. (To those who would like to add their contributions to HOPE, please contact us at 269-202-6050, hoperesourcesberrien@gmail.com or PO Box 985, Coloma, MI 49038.)

Meanwhile we want to thank our supporters publicly. We are lucky to live in such a generous and caring community!


The Members and Director of HOPE Resources in Coloma

Name withheld commentary

Dear Editor,

Good morning. I want to voice my opinion on the August 6 edition commentary that was allowed to be posted as ‘name withheld by request’.

Everyone is afforded their right of free speech but to do so anonymously is unacceptable. To toss complaints ‘on the public table’ and not have the courage to stand behind their opinion reads to me that they do not want any rebuttal nor be part of any solution. There are so many statements in the opinion that are in error and while I could address them each individually, the writer, in my opinion, does not want to hear anything contrary to their opinion. I would ask them if they have contacted City Hall or talked to any commissioner and voiced their concerns.

I have lived in three other areas of Michigan and the local newspapers do not allow opinion pieces without names.

This is MY opinion.

Jennifer Helms

Peters leads colleagues to demand answers from Postmaster General on mail service delays

(Press Release) U.S. Senator Gary Peters (D-MI), Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, led the entire Senate Democratic caucus on Monday, Aug. 17, 2020 to demand answers from Postmaster General Louis DeJoy on significant operational changes he directed that have caused serious delays for postal customers in Michigan and across the country. In a letter, the Senators called on DeJoy to testify before Congress and provide clear, transparent answers on service delays that have caused seniors and veterans to miss their prescription medications, small businesses to lose money and customers over delayed packages, and other serious disruptions that affect communities across the country who count on the Postal Service for timely delivery.

“In the weeks since you began to implement these changes, we have seen a steep increase in constituent concerns about mail delays, including restricted mail movement, limitations on carriers’ abilities to timely deliver mail, and most concerning, risks to receipt of critical mail involving life-saving medication and ballots for the upcoming general election,” wrote the Senators. “The Postal Service is a public institution that both serves and belongs to every person in our nation. As a result, we call on you to testify before Congress about all changes you have made and plan to make as Postmaster General. The lack of transparency so far regarding the intent, scope, and responsibility for changes at the Postal Service is unacceptable.”

As Ranking Member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, Peters has fought to protect the Postal Service and its 245-year tradition of reliable, timely delivery. Earlier this week, he launched an investigation into DeJoy’s operational changes and the slowdowns, delays and backlogs they are triggering in communities across the country after USPS provided misleading statements about the causes of the delays. Since launching his investigation, Peters has received more than 7,000 complaints from people in Michigan and across the country who have seen significant and harmful mail delays under DeJoy’s tenure. Peters has also pressed DeJoy on how these changes are preventing veterans from receiving their prescription medications through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ mail-order pharmacy service. Earlier this week, Peters introduced legislation to block the Postmaster General from making any changes that would disrupt service for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency


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