The annual meeting of Advocates for Benzie County was held on Monday night, February 4, at the St. Andrews Presbyterian Church. Supporters and active leaders of the organization received valuable reports on the progress of programs which have been initiated this past year.
Kay Bond, volunteer executive, gave an up-to-date report on the START (Skilled Trades Apprenticeship ReadinessTraining) plans for 2019. Following last year’s class of seven students, it was decided to continue with three more classes of students this year. The project will include the building of a house on property in Thompsonville. Financial support is being provided by grants and contributions, but the $419,000 project will need more funding before the classes begin. John Parkin, treasurer for ABC, made clear the fact that no money would be borrowed, and that each effort needed to be self supporting before it is initiated.
The Education Task Force, led by Valerie Gerhart, is prepared to begin the Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library in March. Young children and their families will be provided books each month for children to read or be read to. Money for this program has been raised, and families with young children, birth through 5 years, are being identified. In addition, the Task Force is promoting a mentoring program for children at the Crystal Lake Elementary School. Valerie mentioned two other schools, Betsie Valley School and Lake Ann School, which have been “adopted” for mentoring by Blaine Christian Church and Advent Lutheran Church.
The Advocates, through a Community Centers Task Force led by Ingemar Johannson, has been working to develop the Platte River School for uses by the community. It was announced that Benzie Senior Resources is seriously interested in providing its services through the building. This would go a long way in facilitating effective use of the old school for the community.
The Advocates have also been wanting to make a difference in the matters of employment, low income housing, and child care. These three challenges are interrelated. Reports were given about the work that has been done so far in these areas. The organization is grateful for the efforts being made to cope with these problems. Conversations are being held with local government agencies to determine what role they may have in confronting these important concerns.
Appreciation was expressed for the leadership of Jack Harnish, the President of ABC, for Ric Robb for the years of his being an important part of the development of the whole program, and for Kay Bond, who has led the organization as a volunteer Executive Director since the middle of 2018. All in all, this young organization has involved the volunteer services amounting to over 7,000 hours of men and women who care about supporting a better Benzie County.
New Board members were elected before the meeting adjourned. Those elected were: Brooke Haase, Class of 2020; Keith Schaub, Class of 2021; and Bryan Langenpfeffer, Jean Bowers and Jennifer Adkins, Class of 2022.