Tag Archives: Community

Graduation, freelance, and puppy love

Hi all! Sorry for having been a ghost for the entirety of the summer. Here’s a summation of what I’ve been up to since May!

I finally graduated! I received my bachelor’s degree in photojournalism from Central Michigan University. It’s been a slow and steady process, but that’s allowed me to work on my side projects and chip away at costs so I won’t have so much debt accumulated.

Even after graduation, spare time has been few and far between! In February, during my last semester of school, my 2005 Monte Carlo, a car that I bought from my father 10 years ago finally died on me. 257,000 miles and rarely any problems, I have absolutely no complaints. Even though it had an overheating problem and the auto shop quoted me $1,500 to fix, my mechanically inclined father refused to let it die. He towed it 3 hours home where he fixed it up for $150 and is loving it.

Between work and school I couldn’t be without a car, so I got my first auto loan and got a 2017 Kia Soul. #adulting

img_1451.jpg

I wanted something that I would have for a long time and would be reliable. Though it looks small, I was really surprised with how spacious the vehicle’s inside is. I also got a great deal. I bought the car through Hertz Car Sales, as a former rental car, the car had just over 17,000 and I bought it for $14,000 with half of it up front and got a loan for the rest. Highly recommend!

My partner and I have also finally taken the jump to fulfill a dream of ours-becoming dog parents!

 

This snuggly young lady Corgi pup is Nori. While she has certainly been a handful, she has been incredibly well behaved and just a total love bug. If you follow CMU’s Instagram, then those tiny feet and huge ears may look a bit familiar.

Quite recently I’ve also began doing freelance work for the Epicenter of Mt. Pleasant. This has been a really exciting opportunity for me, to do keep doing the work that I love and meeting people in and around my community and documenting all the neat things that they do.

For my first story I met small business owner Matthew Bosko who owns and operates Masterpiece Custom Kitchens in Rosebush, Michigan.

While shadowing this father of five, I thought it was so neat that he had his business in a building just behind the house so he could work at any time, but still stay so close to home and his family. I was so charmed by the children, none of whom I ever saw wearing shoes, as the rode their bicycles in and around the shop and helping their dad vacuum up the ever-present saw dust. Though that might seem like a scary visual, I assure you the children were still always cautious and quite safe in their play.

Here are some photos and if you’re interested in reading the story click here to read the published story on Epicenter. As always thanks for your support!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Advertisements

Drag Beginnings

Neal Austin Primm debuted his drag persona Lavender Hazze during her first show at the Broadway Theatre in Mount Pleasant, Michigan on Thursday, April 19, 2018.

The emerging drag queen from mid-Michigan said that drag has been interested in drag culture since he was in high school and discovered LOGOtv and RuPaul’s Drag Race.

“There’s so much creativity and art behind drag if you put your mind to it, and that is something that captivates me,” Primm said. “This is my opportunity to show people that you can do anything you put your heart into.”

The show was hosted by PowerDiva Production,  a drag-focused community organization based out of west Michigan.

I first worked with Neal about two years ago when he was still new to the drag community. We did a drag themed fashion shoot, the first for Lavender Hazze, and to be able to come full circle and document her during her first performance was such a privilege. Lavender has come from being shy and new to make-up to this confident and outgoing drag queen.

For the video some of my biggest hurdles was the audio and lighting. I recently made the jump and purchased a MOVO wireless lavalier microphone system. I thought that I might need audio that Lavender could move with and I wouldn’t have to worry about the audio if she changed the direction she was talking, like I would have to if I used a shotgun microphone which is my go to. I ended up using the lavalier mic for only the interview and I’m quite pleased with the sound.

For lighting, I was nervous because I’d never been to the Broadway Theatre downtown and had intended to find a place in the front row I could film. I ended up finding a spot in the balcony that worked perfectly and used my telephoto lens. For the performance video I had to follow focus the subjects as they walked from the stage and through the audience because I wanted to avoid the stutter and clicking the autofocus makes during the video and ended up ignoring my wide angle lens entirely.

Committed to Care

1114 W. High Street in Mount Pleasant, Michigan is a building that has worn many hats over the years. From church to homeless shelter, the building is now home to a nonprofit center where multiple organizations operate under one roof- all with the purpose of helping those in need.

On Thursday, April 5 the center hosted an open house and presentation to announce their campaign launch and reveal the center’s new name: The William Strickler Nonprofit Center.

The center is named after Mount Pleasant community member William “Bill” Strickler, who died in February. His family made a leading donation of $200,000 toward the campaign to honor his memory.

“A few weeks before he died, I asked him how he would like to be remembered if he did pass away,” said Janet Strickler, Bill’s widow, who spoke at the presentation. “His answer came swiftly. He said he would like to be remembered for lifting people up and for his friendships. He spent his life giving a lift to people who were struggling and needed a hand. Bill would be so happy to have his name attached to this center that is lifting people up every day. It is also giving our family the opportunity to take a negative and turn it into something totally positive.”

IMG_9171.JPG

A picture of the nonprofit center hangs over the fireplace in the newly named William Strickler Nonprofit Center located at 1114 W. High Street in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

The $1 million campaign aims to purchase the building outright from Victory Church who owns the building and leases it under a lease-to purchase agreement to the United Way of Gratiot and Isabella Counties.

“We want to foster strong collaboration among key social service agencies by developing a shared physical space and cooperative interactions,” said Amanda Schafer, Executive Director of the Mt. Pleasant Area Community Foundation (MPACF) during her announcement at the open house. “First we want to address the most pressing needs of a large proportion of citizens in Isabella County living in or near poverty. Second we want to create synergies throughout the community so that we can reduce the poverty levels in Isabella County over time. We want to take it to that next level- how do we move people out of needing the services provided here at the center?  We need to continue our short-term support but also effectively implement programs to reduce poverty levels.”

The U.S. Census Bureau’s 2016 report states that in Isabella County, 23.4% of the 71,282 residents are living in poverty.

According to Schafer, as of Tuesday, April 10, the campaign has raised over $647,000 toward this $1 million goal.

The William Strickler Nonprofit Center is home to the Isabella County Restoration House (ICRH), Community Compassion Network (CCN), Clothing INC, and The Care Store.

IMG_9177

Renee Benner, a guest at the Isabella County Restoration House (ICRH), greets visitors as they arrive for the open house at the William Strickler Nonprofit Center on Thursday, April 5, 2018.

The center offers access to groceries through CCN, clothing through Clothing, INC., home supplies and hygiene products through The Care Store, and day shelter services through the ICRH.

 

Ryan Griffus is the Executive Director for ICRH and has noticed a significant difference in efficiency since the organizations came together under one roof.

“Last year I’d come in at intake, ask everybody what they need for clothing, take down these lists, drive down to the clothing closet across town, fill bags and bags of clothes and deliver them,” said Griffus. “It was labor intensive and cumbersome. That’s one example of how the creation of the center we have is so efficient. You get somebody in who has multiple needs and we can start to chip away within minutes we are addressing very emergent needs. What’s good about that is that it takes that initial worry off of the person who’s coming in, which is the most important, it makes them feel comfortable and cared for immediately, but also frees up our staff to be able to do different things now.”

For information on how to donate visit the MPACF’s website here.

Student Circus Celestial Bodies perform charity show at The Eastern in Detroit

10 years ago former circus performer and yoga instructor Micha Adams Buss sought to create a place where people could come to learn circus arts in a friendly, supportive, and inclusive atmosphere. She and her partner opened the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School in Detroit, Michigan and today offers classes ranging from acrobatics to fire dancing, and contortion by highly trained instructors.

Recently the Flyhouse hosted the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. The show had two performance sets beginning with a family friendly show at 6 p.m. and an adult-only performance at 8:15 p.m. The show aimed to raise money for the Cascades Humane Society’s Pet Pantry, a program that assists pet owners that are struggling financially to care for their pet. Micha’s husband and head coach at the flyhouse, Matt Buss, said the performances raised $400 of monetary, food, and toy donations for the Pet Pantry.

The Flyhouse hosts four shows per year. The next performance is scheduled for July 10 at The Eastern in Detroit. Check out their Facebook page closer to the performance date for updates.

IMG_9834.jpg

Tonya Ross stretches on a yoga mat before her performance on the straight silks at the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Ross has been with the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for six years. “It’s a great community of amazing people,” said Ross. “I only wish I lived closer because I want to be there everyday.” Ross joined the Flyhouse with no experience after going through a divorce. “I wanted to stay busy and try something new,” said Ross. “I really wanted to get back into gymnastics but I couldn’t find any place that offered adult gymnastic classes. I watched a movie that had a trapeze act in it, and wondered if there were any places that offer that. I found the Flyhouse and I’ve been going ever since.”

IMG_9851

Britt Webb performs on the straight silks during the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Webb has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for nearly four years and has been an instructor for the last two. “My full-time day job is as a social worker specializing in substance abuse and mental health,” said Webb. “I have a pretty emotionally demanding job and aerial has helped me find balance in my life. It’s really easy to get burnt out working in the field that I do so I needed something that brought that balance to my life while also being meaningful at the same time.”

IMG_9192.jpg

Iris Schuster (left) paints an audience member’s face at the Student Celestial Bodies performance at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.  “I gave one beautiful girl a reminder not to forget that space is not the limit,” said Schuster. Schuster, who is a originally from Germany, does face painting for the Detroit Circus and has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for three years. She takes aerial and acrobatic classes. “You can’t find this kind of school in Germany,” said Schuster. “If there were I would probably would have run away with the circus a long time ago.”

IMG_9188

Willow Bigham chats with audience members before her performance on the aerial silks during the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Bigham has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for almost two years. The freshman in high school lives in Lansing, Michigan, and drives to Detroit for classes (an hour and a half drive one way) up to three times a week. Bigham was inspired to learn after seeing a circus show during a vacation in the Dominican Republic and by her cousin who does aerial acrobatics. Bigham’s dream is to join the Cirque du Soleil. “I love seeing how the audience reacts and the adrenaline that comes with it,” said Bigham. “I was always shy when I was little so when I put my makeup on I feel like a completely different and free person!”

IMG_9675.jpg

Courtney Wilcox performs on the straight silks during the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Wilcox has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for four years. Wilcox said she’s always loved dance, gymnastics, and the circus. “My dad used to ride a unicycle and juggle,” said Wilcox. ” He hand-made my sister and me stilts when we were kids that we walked around on like it was no big thing!” Following a Cirque Du Soleil performance during a trip to Disney World, Wilcox’s 10-year-old daughter voiced interest in the activity so they began taking classes at the Flyhouse upon returning home. “We both fell in love,” said Wilcox. “Not only with aerial, but with the community Micha’s built. Besides being ridiculously talented and dedicated to what they do, Micha and every single instructor I’ve met at Flyhouse are the most supportive, patient and genuinely encouraging people I’ve ever met. I continue to do aerial because it’s such a perfect combination of artistry and athleticism. Class is always fun and a guaranteed stress reliever and I’m 43 and it’s the best way for me to stay in shape.”

IMG_9458.jpg

Jason Melko high fives his performance partner after their routine in the Celestial Bodies Circus Show at The Eastern in Detroit on Tuesday, March 20, 2018. Melko’s routine included partner acrobatics, straight silk, aerial hammock, and the aerial hoop (also referred to as the lyra). Melko has been a student at the Detroit Flyhouse Circus School for five years. “I really enjoy it and the people there are the best,” said Melko. “I just love life when I’m able to get a reaction out of the people watching.”

For this assignment, we were to tell a story through a series of images. For the Detroit Flyhouse’s performance I aimed to capture not just the show but the camaraderie and the passion the students have for the performance art.

My biggest challenge for this assignment was lighting. The performance, at The Eastern in Detroit, had beautiful lighting in person but it wasn’t conducive to photography. I tried dropping my shutter speed as low as I could at 1/60th of a second to allow for more light but even paired with a f-stop of 5.6 or lower, the images were still too dark. I compensated that with a speedlite that I was able to bounce off of either the ceiling, which was metallic, or a wall. I was incredibly hesitant to do this because I was nervous of exposing the performers to the danger of them accidentally being blinded by a flash aimed at a ceiling, near where they are, but no one said that it was an issue. Some of the performers routines were quite fast and that shutter speed wasn’t sufficient to capturing sharp images so for the first time I put my ISO up to 12,000 so that I could bump up my shutter speed. There is noise in the images but I feel adamant that it is a suitable compromise for having a moderate flash. Turning my flash up on full power was too risky for the performers. It was a learning curve trying to find that happy medium on my camera settings and the flash power and instead of shooting a ton I waited for moments to conserve my flash battery and minimize the amount of times the flash fired. Something that helped a lot was my telephoto lens. I had my wide angle and that helped with more light in images but it was too distant and I’d have to get in incredibly close to get strong images so in using my long lens I could get stronger images and by keeping it zoomed out still allow for the most amount of light in the photographs.

Smart, Sexy, and SASSy

Allie Baster, of SASS Burlesque, is a burlesque dancer and now burlesque teacher.

Allie Baster, who requested only her stage name be used, is a member of SASS Burlesque Revue, a burlesque troupe in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

Recently she taught her first ever workshop on the sultry attitude and choreography of burlesque. Workshop participants learned the history of burlesque, common moves, choreography, and even how to chair dance.

BTP Fitness and Health Club in Lake Isabella, Michigan, hosted the workshop on Saturday, March 24, 2018.

“The point of doing it is to empower women to feel comfortable with themselves, their own body,” said Allie. “Some of them do that with ballet, some of them do that with Zumba, and some of them want to do it in a bolder way- and burlesque fits that bill. It’s a confidence booster. It’s sexy and it makes you feel okay with being sexy, with being powerful, with being sensual. It’s really something that gets you in touch with your own body and builds confidence. Confidence is the sexiest thing around.”

Allie didn’t start her dancing career with burlesque.

“I’ve been a dancer since I was a kid in more traditional ways,” said Allie. “I had planned after I graduated high school to go into dance. I had a knee injury in my junior year of high school and had to make a completely different life plan, because I was going to be a dancer.”

Years later she started taking belly dance classes and one of her instructors was a member of a former burlesque troupe in Mount Pleasant called The Pleasant Ladies.

“That was my first real introduction to burlesque. I saw some of her shows and thought it looked like a lot of fun,” said Allie. “I was at a place with myself where I wasn’t feeling as confident about myself. I had put on some weight, I’d been out of dancing for a long time, I didn’t feel like me. Belly dancing helped a lot. And then I took that next step and I auditioned for The Pleasant Ladies and I made it in. That troupe has since dissolved but some of the former members of that troupe got together and made SASS And we’re still going strong.”

“We didn’t want to be The Pleasant Ladies because we didn’t feel like we could own that name,” said Allie. “Others had established it and they weren’t part of it anymore. We came up with the Smart and Sexy Sirens- SASS burlesque. The more we thought of that name the more we loved it. We are smart and sexy. Smart comes first. Sexy comes after smart. Sexy comes because of smart.”

Allie said that burlesque has had a positive impact on her life and has increased her confidence.

“Dancing burlesque and hearing the audience love what you’re doing it’s a little bit of a rush, it makes you feel good,” said Allie. “You’re like I still got it. I’m not as young as I used to be, I’m not as thin as I used to be, but I still go it. And that carries over in my life. Having that self-confidence on stage lets me be a little more confident in, say, a professional meeting.”

The troupe’s next scheduled show will be Saturday, April 28, 2018 at Rubble’s Bar on W. Michigan Street in Mount Pleasant, Michigan. SASS is hosting “Smash the Patriarchy Variety Show” and proceeds will go to Women’s Aid Service and SAPA (Sexual Aggression Peer Advocates).

Coffee With Excellence

Barista for Twelve17 Coffee Roasters in Mount Pleasant, Michigan Anna Flanders talks about the shop in a brief video made as part of a video project for a class at Central Michigan University.

Dalis: Rescue Mom

Whittemore_PP1_LayoutFINAL

Animal advocate Dalis Hitchcock, 39, has been a pet groomer for 16 years.

Eight years ago she opened up D Tails Dog & Cat Grooming in her hometown of St. Louis, Michigan. Five years later Hitchcock started a non-profit animal rescue organization called Dalis to the Rescue where she rescues almost 600 animals on average each year.

“Gratiot County is a poor county so a lot of times people get animals and then can’t take care of them any longer. We have a high kill shelter here in Gratiot County and that was the only place that you could really take your animals before I started,” said Hitchcock.

Dalis to the Rescue is the only rescue organization in Gratiot County that rescues every species.

“We have cat and dog rescues, but I rescue anything and everything from bunnies to rats, from birds to lizards and snakes. You name it, I’ll rescue it,” said Hitchcock. “I get them all spayed and neutered and then find them homes.”

Aside from her grooming business and the rescue organization, Hitchcock works with local schools to educate children on the importance of neutering and spaying animals, saying that vet bills for a single rescue cat can cost over $100 and that 99 percent of cats that go to local rescue end up being euthanized, which can be avoided by spaying and neutering.

For more information or questions visit Dalis to the Rescue.

IMG_8766.jpg

Dalis Hitchcock grooms a client’s dog in her shop D Tails Dog & Cat Grooming located on Mill Street in St. Louis on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. 

IMG_8539.jpg

A rescued cat lies down inside a cage of D Tails Dog & Cat Grooming on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018.

IMG_8736.jpg

Cups hold pens next to the answering machine inside D Tails Dog & Cat Grooming on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018.

IMG_8730.jpg

Jurnie Hitchcock, 18, holds an iguana inside D Tails Dog & Cat
Grooming on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018.

Dalis and David (1 of 1).jpg

Dalis Hitchcock and her partner David Garza talk at D Tails Dog & Cat Grooming on Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2018. Garza holds a male puppy that was released to the shelter that morning.

This post was part of a picture package assignment for my JRN 320 class. I chose to do an assignment on an animal rescue organization because of my love for animals and to localize the need for more education about taking care of animals and being responsible.

This story was physically difficult for me because I do have an allergy to cats so I had to leave once I started having difficulty breathing and developing hives on my arms, but the owner Dalis Hitchcock really inspired me with her intense commitment. She has a family and works overtime, completely committed to rescuing and caring for these animals to whom it doesn’t matter if it’s her birthday, Christmas, or if she’s sick. And she does it almost single-handedly just because she’s passionate about it and I really admire that.