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11-21-2019 Letter and Commentary

The power of encouragement

There is a saying: “You will be the same person five years from now as you are today, except for the people you meet and the books you read.” I don’t know who originated it, but I can see how it could well be true. People in our lives have a tremendous influence on us. Books are a means of meeting people as well. Through books we learn to understand others’ thoughts and perspectives. Our parents have the most significant early influence on us. For the most part, adult influences can be helpful, but degrading comments from parents can be the most remembered and worst debilitating inputs we receive as children. In later life, they can be the hardest to overcome. On the positive side however, I’ve discovered that there are also encouragers sent our way. I remember teachers that were encouragers. There was a high school art teacher, and a history teacher and a Phys Ed teacher who was also the soccer coach. They were very helpful, and I am thankful for them even today – 52 years after graduation. They have all passed on now, but if I could I would tell them that I was not only thinking of them, but thankful for them too. What can we do to encourage those around us this Thanksgiving season? Especially the young people that cross our paths. Well, we can be non-judgmental, but rather find something that deserves compliment. Verbal encouragement will be remembered a long time, and it can be very empowering for the receiver. We can invite to participation with our family. We can smile. We can engage in conversation. We can give deference in lines. And we can pray for them. We can do a lot if we set our minds to it. And why not? Others have made us thankful. We can do the same.

Seasonal work while getting Social Security

Many people pick up side jobs when the holiday shopping season comes around. It’s a good way for you to make some extra income during the busy season or ease back into working if you have been out of the labor force for a while. We’re here to help you navigate working seasonally if you get Social Security. You can get Social Security retirement or survivors benefits and work at the same time. But if you’re younger than full retirement age and earn more than certain amounts, your benefits will be reduced, although not dollar for dollar. Your benefits may increase when you reach full retirement age. You can read more about working while retired at www.socialsecu- If you receive Social Security disability benefits or Supplemental Security Income (SSI), special rules also make it possible for people to work and still receive monthly payments. If you want to try working again, seasonal work may help you ease back into the work force. Read Working While Disabled at pubs/EN-05-10095.pdf or visit our Ticket to Work website at for more information. We also have an easy-to-share video introducing people to Ticket to Work at Keep in mind that you must report all earnings, including your seasonal earnings, to Social Security. Your earnings also count toward your future benefits. You earn Social Security credits when you work in a job and pay Social Security taxes. We use your total yearly earnings to figure your Social Security credits. You can learn more at pubs/EN-05-10072.pdf. Having a job can bring positive change to your life in a number of ways, providing independence, fulfillment, and community involvement. Social Security is here to help. Please share this information with friends and family. Vonda Van Til is the Public Affairs Specialist for West Michigan. You can write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email at

STILL TIME… there’s still time for you to enter our Thanksgiving Turkey giveaway. The bird entry forms are on the back page of this issue. You can also stop in the Record office for more free entries. The rules are also on the back page.

WINTER WONDERLAND… There’s little left of the Veterans Day weekend snow storm but for some melting piles. Even those will be gone by the end of this week and leaving room for more (sometime in the distant future).

REMEMBERING THE ASSASSINATION… Where were you when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, November 22, 1963? I was in Sociology class; Father Murphy was making some point to us seniors to make sense of the cultural clashes stirred by the ending of WWII and the cold war already churning in its place. The Shrine High School Principal came on the PA system with an announcement. She told us that President Kennedy had just been shot in Texas and he was in emergency surgery. We should all pray for his rapid recovery, she said. You could hear the scrapping and clunks of the desks being pushed aside, as the entire school population went down to its knees to pray for our wounded president. The praying didn’t last long as the Principal came on the PA again and announced that the teachers in classrooms with television sets should turn them on as there was a special news bulletin coming on with the latest news on the President, who had been shot in Dallas. Our classroom had a television set and Fr. Murphy switched it on. We saw and heard newsman Walter Cronkite intones; President John F. Kennedy is dead. I can hear the words and see the scene in our classroom. On any occasion when visitors to any classroom would cause a stir, some jostling and teasing and talking. While we were watching the news bulletin, our classroom had swelled well beyond its capacity with students and teachers. There wasn’t a foot of available space. There was also absolute silence. Even the air was subdued. Cronkite was passing on details as he received them. In the pauses, the silence was deafening. It was if we were all holding our breath, not really understanding all that just has happened, we were afraid to break the spell. The Principal broke the spell with a final announcement that the rest of the school day was cancelled and we should all go home and pray for Mrs. Kennedy and her children. As well as I remember those moments, I remember nothing more. I don’t remember how I got home, most days I hitchhiked home, others I caught a ride with friends, on others drove my mother’s car. I don’t recall if I worked that Friday and Saturday night delivering pizza. It was as if there was a fog of disbelief and grief that blanketed everything. Sunday morning my family was getting ready to go to Mass. The youngsters went to 9:15, the rest to 11 o’clock. I was watching the news waiting for the live coverage of taking the accused assassin Lee Oswald to his arraignment. By luck, or design, the television cameramen were in perfect position to capture the routine transfer of a police prisoner from his jail to the court. There was Oswald, dead center, being escorted by deputies out the door, almost grinning, relishing being the cause of it all. Just before he left the camera view, a figure came at him, there was a gunshot and the grin on his face became a grimace and he doubled over in pain. That was the last view of Oswald alive. My own last vivid memory is JFK’s funeral and the scene of his son John saluting his daddy’s casket as it rolled by. What sparked my memory is but for those highlights of one of the most awful weeks in our history is that all the other events of that time that are overshadowed by JFK’s death. My last image is our Thanksgiving Dinner. After leading “grace” my dad said, “Let’s all pray for our president and his family.”

Honoring our veteran

Dear Editor,

On Veterans Day the North Berrien Historical Museum in Coloma chose to honor all veterans by posting a photo from their files of all area veterans with their message on their Facebook page.

To our complete surprise, the photo they used was of our veteran, George Wooley. The photo is not dated but his signature at the top matches his handwriting. We believe that this photo was taken in 1945 before he went overseas.

George served in the army from July 1945 until February 1947. He was trained as a teletype operator and also played football and baseball all over Germany during the occupation.

Our family sincerely thanks the North Berrien Museum for honoring our veteran in this way.


The Wooley family

Yes we were there

Dear Editor,

A few Coloma residents asked me if we canceled the Veterans Day ceremony in Baker Park due to the poor weather. I said no and asked why they thought we did.

They said they didn’t see anything mentioned in the paper. I assured them that we did drudge through the snow to be standing tall with our flags fluttering in the wind at the 11th hour. I offered prayer, Past Commander Richard Keleman gave a rousing speech and military rites were performed.

Big thanks to all who braved the weather to attend our service.

Pete Petruk, Chaplain

Coloma American Legion 362

Veteran homelessness declines in Michigan by nearly 14 percent

Veteran homelessness in the U.S. continues to decline according to a new national estimate announced by U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson. HUD’s Annual Homeless Assessment Report finds the total number of reported veterans experiencing homelessness in 2019 decreased 2.1 percent since last year. View local estimates of veteran homelessness.

“Our nation’s veterans have sacrificed so much for our country and now it’s our duty to make certain they have a home to call their own,” said Secretary Carson. “We’ve made great progress in our efforts to end veteran homelessness, but we still have a lot of work to do to ensure our heroes have access to affordable housing.”

“In Michigan, the reduction in veterans experiencing homelessness indicates that our collaborative efforts to help them gain housing stability are working,” said HUD Midwest Regional Administrator Joseph P. Galvan. “This is great news particularly for those who put their lives on the line so we could remain the land of the free and home of the brave.”

Each year, thousands of local communities around the country conduct one-night “Point-in-Time” estimates of the number of persons experiencing homelessness—in emergency shelters, transitional housing programs and in unsheltered locations. This year’s estimate finds 37,085 veterans experienced homelessness in January 2019, compared to 37,878 reported in January 2018.

HUD estimates among the total number of reported veterans experiencing homelessness in 2019, 22,740 veterans were found in sheltered settings while volunteers counted 14,345 veterans living in places not meant for human habitation.

These declines are the result of intense planning and targeted interventions, including the close collaboration between HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Both agencies jointly administer the HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, which combines permanent HUD rental assistance with case management and clinical services provided by the VA.

HUD-VASH is complemented by a continuum of VA programs that use modern tools and technology to identify the most vulnerable veterans and rapidly connect them to the appropriate interventions to become and remain stably housed. This year to date, more than 11,000 veterans, many experiencing chronic forms of homelessness, found permanent housing and critically needed support services through the HUD-VASH program.

HUD and VA have a wide range of programs that prevent and end homelessness among veterans, including health care, housing solutions, job training and education. More information about VA’s homeless programs is available at

Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless should contact their local VA Medical Center and ask to speak to a homeless coordinator or call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET.

MDHHS announces new efforts to find children forever homes more quickly

As the state celebrates Adoption Month, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) is preparing to kick off two new projects to find adoptive homes more quickly for children in foster care who can’t safely return home.

One initiative, which begins in November, assigns 21 child welfare staff from MDHHS called permanency resource monitors to remove barriers to finalizing pending adoptions that have been on hold more than six months. Barriers such as concerns about the child’s behavior and incomplete documents can delay adoptions even when a family has been identified.

The second initiative is being planned for mid-2020. MDHHS is working with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s Wendy’s Wonderful Kids program, which pays for recruiters to help find loving adoptive homes for children in foster care. Research has shown the Wendy’s Wonderful Kids model to be more effective at serving children who have been in foster care the longest – including teenagers, sibling groups and children with special needs.

“Every child deserves the opportunity to have a loving, permanent home,” said JooYeun Chang, executive director of the MDHHS Children’s Services Agency. “MDHHS is committed to finding families for all children who are legally free for adoption – and doing this in a timely fashion. Our staff and partners will continue to work together to better accomplish these goals that are so important for our children and families.”

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has declared November to be Adoption Month in Michigan. Courts statewide, in partnership with MDHHS, hold special Adoption Month ceremonies this month at which children officially become permanent members of their new forever families. Included is a Nov. 26 event at the Michigan Supreme Court Hall of Justice in Lansing. A list of Adoption Day events and profiles of adoptive families can be found on the Michigan Adoption Resource exchange Adoption Day webpage.

Anyone interested in adopting from foster care can contact the Michigan Adoption Resource Exchange at 800-589-6273, or see biographies and photos of children available for adoption at

In fiscal year 2019, 2,038 children were adopted from the Michigan foster care system, according to preliminary data that will be updated in January. There are about 13,100 children in the foster care system, but the goal for most is reunification with their families.

For more information about adoption in Michigan, visit

Secretary of State creating a Transgender-

Inclusive Driver’s License Policy in Michigan

Michigan Secretary of State announced it is streamlining the process for a person to change their sex designation on their state driver’s license or identification card. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) applauds this inclusive move that respects the transgender community, and enables members to match their IDs with how they live their lives.

While sex designation policies have been in Michigan since the 90s, this simplified process requires residents to provide their: Driver’s license or state ID; completed Secretary of State sex designation form, available at and SOS offices; and, $9 fee.

Dave Noble, executive director of the ACLU of Michigan, and Jay Kaplan, LGBT Project staff attorney for the ACLU of Michigan who served as a consultant for this policy change, have the following reactions:

“This policy is long overdue and common sense,” said Noble, “Thank you, Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson and your team, for recognizing the transgender community and ensuring that people in Michigan can have accessible and accurate identification.”

“A driver’s license or ID matching a person’s true identity is not a luxury, it’s a necessity,” said Kaplan. “It is also a necessity that we have a law in Michigan that explicitly protects people from being fired for who they are. It is way past time for the legislature to amend the Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.”

MI Treasury: Two collection contractors beginning operations this fall

Michiganders with past-due tax debts or other state debts may receive a call this fall from one of two contractors operating on behalf of the Michigan Department of Treasury.

Beginning on Nov. 15, taxpayers who have been referred to collections due to outstanding state debts may receive a call from either GC Services or Harris and Harris to inquire about payment options.

“Working together with taxpayers is our first and foremost objective,” said Deputy State Treasurer Ann Good, who oversees Treasury’s Financial and Administrative Services programs. “If you have an outstanding state tax debt or other state debt, please contact the state Treasury Department immediately so we can walk through your options.”

The state Treasury Department corresponds with taxpayers through official letters sent through the U.S. Postal Service, providing options to resolve an outstanding debt and information outlining taxpayer rights. Unresolved state debts may be referred to a collection contractor to assist the state Treasury Department’s collection efforts.

Taxpayers who have questions about their state debts should call state Treasury Department’s Collection Service Center at 517-636-5265. A customer service representative can verify outstanding state debts and provide flexible payment options.

Previously, individuals who were referred to collections received calls from the Michigan Accounts Receivable Collections System, simply known as “MARCS.” Under the new system with two contractors, Harris and Harris or GC Services will be contacting individuals with past-due state debts directly.

To learn more about Michigan’s taxes and the collection process, go to or follow the state Treasury Department on Twitter at @MITreasury.


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