Planning for the 2nd rubber duck race and the other activities that support it is underway and going well. We really want to see this year and into the future become more and more a community event. The more of the community that gets involved, the better! If you are involved with a non-profit organization in the Blue Water area, be sure to contact us to see how you can be a part of the fun!!!
Despite the chill in the air on Thursday, October 27th, the fellowship of the folks meeting together for the BWCIL’s 30th Annual Dinner was warm. The evening’s event was held at The Bean Dock along the St. Clair River which provided a beautiful backdrop for our presenters and magical entertainment. Dinner was catered by Pompeii’s Rent-A-Chef and was absolutely delicious! The silent auction and raffles provided some fun, as well. Congratulations to all the lucky winners! A big thanks to all of our local businesses and staff who donated prizes!
When BWCIL Employment Navigator, Kathy, found that transportation was a barrier to some of our clients, she contacted Port Huron Police about their bicycle donation program. The P.D. came through for our clients in a great way by donating 6 bikes. A huge THANK-YOU to the Port Huron Police Department for donating the bikes and to Art Payne who volunteered to pick-up and deliver the bikes to our office!!!
Two of the adults looking for employment assistance received a new way to be able to travel to their new workplaces. The other four bikes were received by students in our G.E.D. prep program to help them get to our office for learning, to their jobs, and maybe a little fresh air exercise and fun. There were so many youth interested in the bikes that we decided the fairest way to distribute was to have all of those that wanted to write their name on a slip of paper and draw names. The four lucky winners will put their wheels to good use!!!
Kids and “Kids-at-Heart” took plain stuffed ducks and turned them into works of art for the Decorate-A-Duck Contest at our iCan”Ducky” Derby. Some were sporty, some flashy, and others were just plain cute, but all were a great showpiece and earned their owners a few bucks and a new friend to take home with them after the event was done.
We’ll be holding a contest at next year’s derby so start thinking about how you’ll decorate your own and be on the watch for when ducks become available to purchase.
It’s going to be a quack-tastic day to come out to watch thousands of rubber ducks race their way around the curves of the Black River. On Saturday, May 21st, we will be holding our first annual iCan”Ducky” Derby fundraiser. The race will finish at Baker’s Field Park at the end of Strawberry Lane in Port Huron Township. The first place finisher will win $1,000 cash, 2nd will win $500 and the 3rd duck to finish will win $300.
There will be lots of fun stuff going on at the park that day like voting for your favorite decorated duck, face painting & carnival games, food concessions and free bouncers for the kids. We’ll have a few other contests going on also with cash prizes so it could be well worth it to spend the day with us.
You can buy your ducks online on our Facebook page anytime by visiting www.facebook.com/bwcil/app/208195102528120/ or any of our offices during normal business hours. You will also be able to find us at various locations around town selling duck tickets. Ducks are $5 each, a Quack Pack is 6 for $25, a Quacker’s Dozen is 13 for $50, or get a Full Flock of 30 ducks for $100. Don’t miss your chance to be part of the race and then be there to cheer your duck on!
If you would like to enter the Decorate-A-Duck contest, please visit our Port Huron office during normal business hours or we should have some with us when we’re out selling duck tickets, as well. You will buy a 10″ stuffed duck from us for $10. You will take him or her home to decorate however you wish (as long as it’s suitable for a family audience). You will bring your decorated duck to the park the day of the race (May 21st) ready to display before 11:30 AM. We will put all the decorated ducks on display with a container for each. Those attending the event will vote for their favorite(s) by putting money in that duck’s container. The winner will be the duck who has the most money (by value) in their container and BWCIL will guarantee that to be at least $50.00. So encourage your friends & family to come out to the park that day to vote for your duck!
Free clothesline for warmth
Jack McPhail was riding his bike Monday afternoon when he decided to stop outside of Blue Water Center for Independent Living in Port Huron.
An assortment of colorful hats, gloves and scarves blowing in the blustery wind caught his eye.
McPhail, 59, of Port Huron, halted his bike to say thank you for the layers of warmth BWCIL is offering for free.
This is the second year that BWCIL, 1042 Griswold St., has set out a clothesline adorned with winter essentials, free for anyone who passes by.
“Really it was the mother in me who saw little kids coming through with no hats or gloves on,” said Valorie Hudgens, BWCIL independent living specialist. “So many people walk through this area on their way to Walgreens or wherever and I noticed people weren’t dressed appropriately for cold weather.”
Hudgens decided to put the clothesline up outside of the BWCIL building for the first time last year.
The clothesline has new scarves and hats with the price tags still attached as well as hand-knitted baby mittens.
BWCIL provides services and case management for people with disabilities from birth through death. Services can range from teaching independent living skills to peer support for anyone from youth to veterans.
The organizations talks to about 7,500 people each year and provides in-depth services to about 600 people a year.
Hudgens said she fills the clothesline each day throughout the winter, Monday through Friday. She started about two weeks ago and will continue until the cold weather subsides.
“We don’t monitor who takes the items but they are always gone, so we keep hanging more up every day,” she said. “We hang about eight to 10 items up each day.”
While BWCIL has taken the initiative to provide the gloves, hats and scarves, many others have stepped up to donate as well.
“We get anonymous donations, too,” Hudgens said. “We come in and the clothesline is filled. People just come and hang up their own donations and others drop off items to us.”
Hudgens said while she has focused on providing hats, gloves and scarves, she would be open to any cold-weather donations including coats and blankets.
“We always have room for more donations,” she said.
McPhail said while he took gloves for himself last year, he also likes to pick things up for others who might need them as well.
“This is my third time stopping here but first time this year,” McPhail said. “At the soup kitchen on the wall there is a place for people to bring in their used clothes and people can take and pick what they need. So I like to stop and grab some things for people on my way to the soup kitchen.”
On Monday, McPhail grabbed a scarf and dropped it into his bicycle basket.
“I’ve been seeing kids come in (to Mid-City Nutrition) recently since it’s Christmas season and school was out,” he said. “So thank you again for the service you provide.”
Contact Nicole Hayden at (810) 989-6279 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @NicoleHayden_TH.
Give or take warmth
- The Blue Water Center for Independent Living is located at 1042 Griswold St., Port Huron.
- For more information call (810) 987-9337
What started as an idea by the National Honor Society Students at St. Augustine School in Richmond, MI became a project the whole school got involved in doing. This is a small school with a big heart that wanted to share how thankful they are for our American Soldiers and Veterans this Thanksgiving. Students ranging from pre-school thru 8th grade gathered all kinds of snacks, personal care items, and more to fill care packages for our country’s service men and women overseas. Sending the packages to the troops is being done with the help of Operation Care Package.
BWCIL’s Project Home, a program for homeless and at-risk veterans, is operated out of the Lapeer office by our case manager, Brianna. Her mom is a teacher at St. Augustine. The project to collect donations started as an honor society project but when Brianna was asked by the teacher how they could do something for veterans and active duty military it didn’t take long for the whole school to get involved. Soon her living room was full of donations of cards, letters, hats, gloves, personal care items, DVDs, snacks, and candy. The students even made laundry soap!
Shown here is some of the items being delivered to Operation Care Package Michigan, with a volunteer member of the organization in her “camouflage angels” t-shirt. They greatly appreciated everything donated, but were very touched by the letters and cards by the kids, and said that the soldiers favorite thing to get is letters from kids.
The Operation Care Package Michigan, a non-profit group, has 170 of these packages being sent out this week. It costs $15 per package to ship, so the donations of items to fill them was greatly appreciated. The group supports their mission with donations and the profits from their newly opened Resale Store in Lapeer, MI. You can find their shop at 606 N. Saginaw or check them out online at ocpmi.com.
Some of the collected items were given to a local transitional housing site for homeless veterans, as well as a few veterans being assisted by the Project Home program at the Lapeer, MI office of the Blue Water Center for Independent Living. The picture shown here is from Brianna’s visit at the Anka Akron Veteran Transitional Housing in Akron, Michigan where 12 homeless veteran currently reside. They were in awe that the kids cared enough about them to collect these things for them. They were also amazed that the kids made homemade laundry soap for them. They said thank you many times.
Brianna was also able to sort out a few needed items to help some of the homeless veterans that she works with through the Project Home program at BWCIL. Overall, a lot of good is being done for many of the people who have fought for, and continue to defend, our country through this project. The students at St. Augustine have done a great job in showing our military heroes just how much they are appreciated this Thanksgiving season!
We at BWCIL would like to echo the appreciation of our military service people and veterans shared by the students of St. Augustine. Thank-you from the bottom of our hearts!
We also want to give our thanks to the students that worked so hard to make this giving project a great success… Fantastic Job!!!
Kickball tourney aims to change attitudes
They encouraged each other, they joked with each other, and they even heckled each other — something that Jim Whalen, executive director at the Blue Water Center for Independent Living, said onlookers may not have at first expected.
“When we have events like this where we have a lot of participants, that’s a symbolic thing that really helps people understand that people with disabilities can participate and do participate in the community,” Whalen said. “That attitudinal thing is the big thing.”
The annual event Kickball For All pitted four teams of 10 against each other with two teams playing in the first and second games and the winners and losers of each bout subsequently facing off.
BWCIL Deputy Director Laura Steele emphasized the “all-inclusive” roster of participants, which included both players with different disabilities and abilities.
Organized by BWCIL and The Arc, the event also combined the tournament with a small informational fair representing multiple local health and nonprofit agencies as well as bouncy houses and music for kids.
Steele and Whalen said an important component to the event this year was that it fell within a few days of the 25th anniversary of the July 26, 1990, signing of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In that span of time, Whalen said while physical access to public facilities has improved in communities nationwide, general attitudes about people with disabilities still have room to improve.
“It’s been a great turnout. We’re still hoping for more people to show up,” Steele said Friday before the final games occurred. “It’s a great mix of people with different disabilities or no disabilities. It proves to everybody that anybody can participate.”
Scott Shine, executive director at The Arc, and Becky McFarlane, who’s been a team captain for the last four years, mingled with participants as they readied for another game late Friday morning.
Shine said that all the players are “extremely competitive.”
“At the end of the game, you can tell they’re all still friends,” he said. “When they’re on the field, it’s pretty intense.”
McFarlane, of Blue Water Development Housing, attested to the competitive nature of the game among its participants.
But she added it’s also what helps keep them coming back to the annual event.
“So we have some regulars that like to come back each year,” McFarlane said. “And there’s a little bit of competitiveness with that too — the who gets to play with who.”
Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or email@example.com. Follow on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.
In 2013, BWCIL was awarded a Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Since then, BWCIL, with its sub-grantees Disability Network Wayne Co.- Detroit, and Disability Network Oakland Macomb, have had the opportunity to assist over 400 veteran families that are experiencing a housing crisis in the counties of Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, St. Clair, Lapeer, Sanilac, Tuscola, and Huron.
The SSVF grant awarded to BWCIL assist veterans that are experiencing homelessness or are having difficulty maintaining their housing. Other eligibility criteria includes: low income and having at least one day of active military service with an other than dishonorable discharge.
How did BWCIL, a disability organization, find itself providing veteran services?
Well, if we look at statistics provided by the National Alliance to End Homelessness, we can see that 45% of the veterans that are experiencing homelessness are suffering from a mental illness, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Not to mention that one in ten veterans obtain injuries sustained in combat. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness reports that 70% of veterans that are homeless also suffer from substance abuse problems.
But the veteran population makes up such a small number of our overall population, there can’t be that many homeless veterans, right? Actually, veterans are more at risk of becoming homeless than non-veterans. 33% of homeless males in the US are veterans. On any given night over 300,000 veterans are living on the streets or in shelters in the U.S.
What is the Department of Veterans Affairs doing to address this issue?
Over three hundred agencies across the United States were awarded Supportive Services for Veteran Families Grants last year. These grants allow for temporary financial assistance for rental assistance, security deposits, utility assistance, and other items needed for general housing stability. VA is also focused on Priority 1 areas, cities that have a high population of homeless veterans (ie. Detroit with 1,500 homeless veterans a year) and has provided additional funding for those areas. With the agencies focused on ending veteran homelessness progress is being made. Cities through out the country (like New Orleans) have already reached functional zero. Which means that no veteran is forced to live on the street and that when homeless does occur it is brief.
What can you do to help?
If you are a veteran or you know of a veteran that is in need of housing assistance, please contact BWCIL. 810-987-9337 or see our website at http://bwcil.org.
If you are interested and qualify for Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher, following is the website in which to apply and get on the waiting list. Some waitlists in the state are open for application. Check out the website to see if yours is one of them.
We are excited to be adding a blog feature to our new website, it will allow us to share all current and upcoming news with you! Please stay tuned for updates.