Category: Innovation

At Home with Eastbrook Homes: Home Repair Services

Brad Mooney of Eastbrook Homes and Joel Ruiter of Home Repair Services sit down with Eric Hultgren to discuss the impactful work HRS does in the community. Learn about Home Repair Service’s mission of strengthening vulnerable Kent County homeowners to build strong communities, as well as Eastbrook Home’s tie to the non-profit. HRS offers classes, resources, financial aid, ramp building, and more to the Kent County community. One program they offer is ramp building, which Brad Mooney of Eastbrook Homes has helped with for over a decade. This podcast will delve into various community needs, HRS’ story and mission, and how corporations and individuals alike can make a difference in their community.

Learn more about Home Repair Services here: http://www.homerepairservices.org/

Learn more about Eastbrook Homes here: http://www.eastbrookhomes.com

National coffee day with Biggby

Eric Hultgren holding a Biggby coffee sitting in bed

What could you do with 200 hours? The average coffee bean’s journey from farm to coffee cup is 200 hours and mutliple stops along the way. Biggby wants to change that, and is taking steps now to be 50% farm direct by 2023 – a move which will benefit farm employees, communities and sustainability.

Check out the video below to learn more, as Eric Hultgren explains how many steps it takes for a coffee bean to become a cup of coffee on National Coffee Day.

Find out more about Biggby and farm direct coffee at: onebiggislandinspace.com

 

 

 

How a southwest Michigan event venue staged unique events through the pandemic

people watching a concert at a drive in movie theater

When the reality of COVID-19 hit, things came to a screeching halt in mid-March. For The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College, that meant the cancellation and postponement of more than 100 events and performances.

The Mendel Center, located in Benton Harbor, Michigan, features two performance stages and 12 meeting spaces. It hosts everything from weddings to business gatherings to national touring acts – but things are different this year.

“It was a good year we had to slam the brakes on,” said Mike Nadolski, executive director of The Mendel Center. “When it first started happening, there was a little disbelief. We had a kicking the can down the road mindset.”

But that mindset didn’t last long. As an event venue meant to bring in large amounts of people for a connected experience, The Mendel Center faced obvious hurdles in the midst of stay-at-home orders. Despite the difficult times, Nadolski and The Mendel Center set out to find new ways to serve its southwest Michigan communities.

“We moved from kicking the can to pivoting,” Nadolski said. “We moved to see what we could do online. We created the Remotely Interested program. We are still a community center; we are about connecting people.”

Remotely Interested is a series that features local and regional artists who will perform from the comfort of their homes or studios while the audience sits back and enjoys online. From musical performances to interviews, The Mendel Center was able to provide artists a platform.

Discover more: The Mendel Center Remotely Interested Online Events

The Mendel Center at Lake Michigan College in Benton HarborAs time progressed, The Mendel Center continually sought ways to innovate and pivot as a means to stay active in the communities as restrictions remained. They started hosting micro-weddings, where attendance is limited to fewer than 10 people and is broadcasted to everyone else to view at home.

Recently, a drive-in concert series — aptly named Drive-In Live! — was also launched.

“With almost all of the usual summertime activities in the region cancelled due to the pandemic, the Drive-in Live! concerts fill a void and create a sense of connection in our community that has been missing during these challenging times,” Nadolski said.

At the concerts, each vehicle is issued two parking spaces, one for parking and one for tailgating. An FM radio signal provides the audio, while a large projection screens shows all the action occurring on stage. Additionally, each concert features trivia contests and prize giveaways. Beer, wine and soft drinks are also available for purchase via cell phone and delivered directly to each tailgate zone.

Nadolski said precautions are in place to protect the health and safety of the concertgoers.

There are two concerts left in The Mendel Center’s Drive-In Live! series. On Saturday, September 19, Siusan O’Rourke & Zig Zeitler, Sankofa and The Big Payback perform. On Sunday, September 27, Mike Talbot, John Latini and Alex & Erin take the stage. Tickets are $10 per person with up to six people per vehicle. Gates open at 5 p.m. and the music starts at 6 p.m.

Buy tickets for Drive-In Live!

Through all the challenges of putting events on this year, Nadolski said the southwest Michigan communities and sponsors have been incredibly supportive in making it all a reality.

“I’m emotional just thinking about it,” he said. “Some of these businesses are struggling as much as we are. It’s nice to know there is a community out there that’s appreciative of what we do. It can make us come back stronger than ever.”

Nadolski highlights southwest Michigan’s vibrant arts scene as a reason The Mendel Center managed to push through the difficult times this year.

“They trust us if we are bringing something new or different in,” he said. “They know our standards are high.”

With generous communities and supportive sponsors behind them, The Mendel Center managed to stage unique, creative events. The show goes on.

Learn more about the arts & culture scene in southwest Michigan.

In a Time of Screens and Falls in Munising, MI

Across Michigan kids are learning virtually, one of the upsides of this is that if they aren’t in a classroom – they can learn from anywhere. So why not take them to one of the most breathtaking spots in the state, Munising, MI? Munising is home to the Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, nearly 20 different waterfalls, 7 lighthouses, and did we mention incredible shipwrecks?

If this is your first time in Munising the interactive app makes it easy to navigate the area and plan some truly memorable adventures for your kids. Plan your trip today at Munising.org and create your own Michigan adventure.

 

 

 

5 incredible recipes using Michigan-made, barrel-aged food products

Foods made with Blis Gourmet barrel-aged food products

Steve Stallard has lived by the mantra “Because Life is Short” since he was a teenager, but the creation and impact of one of the most popular Michigan-made line of food products is anything but fleeting.

Stallard, who was trained at the legendary Culinary Institute of America and later worked at gourmet restaurants including Taillevent Restaurant of Paris, The Greenbrier Club, Dow and The Amway Grand Plaza, created Grand Rapids-based BLiS Gourmet in 2004.

He pioneered using barrel-aged items with the launch of domestic roes and maple syrup, following up with one-of-a-kind products such as barrel-aged vinegar, hot sauce, soy sauce, steak sauce, and fish sauce, as well as salt and spices. The ingredients were all chef-driven and developed as the finishing touches to dishes.

Stallard began dabbling in barrel aging while working professionally and using maple syrup and bourbon as his “house” cure. He wondered: “What would happen if I put syrup in a barrel?” The discovery, through trial and error, was a revelation.

He began a quest to source the best barrels and perfected the craft syrup. The barrels that hold syrup for 6 months to 1 year then get another use as roughly a gallon of the syrup is absorbed into the wood, providing an environment that boosts flavors of other ingredients used in food prepration.

“Essentially, what we’re doing is we’re adding products that would benefit from that (syrup),” Stallard said, noting the items are used in professional kitchens around the world but are equally friendly and adaptable in home kitchens by cooks of all skill levels.

DISCOVER THE STORE: The complete BLiS product line is available here

The recognition of BLiS products is long, including awards as best in show at the Bissel Maple Farm Craft Maple Syrup festival the past two years and a SOFI award from the Specialty Food Association for the best dessert topping.

The sauces, syrups, rubs and oils have also earned praise in nationally renowned magazines and food sites such as Food & Wine, Wine & Spirits and Bon Appetit as well as cooking show and media celebrities like Rachel Ray, Martha Stewart and Oprah Winfrey.

On the horizon, BLiS teases, is a limited-edition Jamaican rum that will launch at Mammoth Distilling tasting rooms Labor Day weekend.

Check out the video below to learn more about Blis Gourmet products:

 

Here are five of the favorite recipes from the BLiS creative team:

Blis Gourmet vegetarian 'BLT'

Vegetarian “BLT” (sans bacon)

Ingredients:

  • Good whole grain bread
  • The best heirloom tomatoes available
  • 2 tbsp Duke’s or homemade mayo
  • 1 tsp BLiS rye aged apple cider vinegar
  • 5 tbsp BLiS hardwood smoked soy sauce (per 3 slices of tomato)
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic leaf lettuce (Bibb, Boston, Red Leaf, etc.)
  • Cracked black pepper

Method:

  • Marinate 3 thick tomato slices in BLiS hardwood smoked soy sauce and olive oil for 45 minutes
  • Blend mayonnaise and apple cider vinegar, and apply liberally to toasted bread
  • Layer with marinated tomatoes, lettuce, and top the tomatoes with cracked black pepper

Blis Gourmet chicken wings

Chicken Wings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds meaty chicken wings
  • Frying oil (we recommend peanut oil)
  • 5 cups BLiS “Blast” hot sauce
  • 1/3 cup BLiS bourbon barrel aged maple syrup
  • 1/3 cup melted butter

Method:

  • Fry wings until crisp and done
  • Combine hot sauce and maple syrup, and then whip in the melted butter until emulsified
  • Toss wings in sauce and enjoy

Blis Gourmet Elote (Mexican street corn)

Elote (Mexican street corn)

Ingredients:

  • 6 ears fresh corn
  • 1/3 cup Duke’s or high-quality mayonnaise
  • 2 tbsp BLiS Santa Fe spice rub
  • 1 tsp lime zest
  • Mexican crumbling cheese (we recommend Cotija)
  • Cilantro

Method:

  • Grill corn in husks until tender
  • Peel back husks and liberally spread the mayonnaise on the corn
  • Sprinkle with BLiS Santa Fe seasoning
  • Top with cheese, cilantro, and lime zest

 

Blis Gourmet Green Chile Bison Burgers

Green Chile Bison Burgers

Ingredients: (makes 2 burgers)

  • 1 pound ground bison meat
  • 5 tbsp BLiS smoked soy sauce
  • ½ tsp BLiS Elixir
  • Sliced Monterrey Jack Cheese
  • 1 large onion sliced thin
  • 1 small onion diced
  • 2 cups roasted, diced, and peeled hatch peppers or green chiles
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp Adobo spice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano

Method:

  • Mix ground meat and 1.5 tbsp smoked soy thoroughly, let rest
  • Caramelize the large sliced onion, adding the maple syrup and elixir at the end to make an onion jam
  • Sauté the diced onions and garlic in olive oil until clear, add the chilies, spices and 1.5 tbsp smoked soy and cook for 15 minutes on low heat
  • Cook burger to medium rare, lightly grill the bun
  • Add heaping tablespoon of chili sauce, then sliced Monterrey cheese and melt the cheese. Add the onion jam on top of the cheese, and one more scoop of the green chilies.

 

Blis Gourmet lime glazed salmon

Lime Glazed Salmon

Ingredients:

  • Four 5-6oz Salmon fillets – skin on – scaled (cross score the skin with a razor blade or very sharp knife)
  • Olive oil or 
Grape Seed oil
  • Kosher salt
  • 2T BLiS Blast Barrel-Aged Hot Sauce

  • 2T BLiS Bourbon Barrel Aged Maple Syrup

  • Zest of one lime
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 1 small clove of minced garlic

Method:

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees
  • Prepare glaze by whisking Blast hot sauce, maple syrup, lime zest, lime juice, and garlic together in a small bowl.
  • Set aside.
  • Rub salmon with olive oil and season with salt
  • Heat a liberal amount of grape seed oil in a large oven-safe nonstick pan over high heat until very hot
  • Place salmon in the pan skin side down (making sure there is plenty of oil beneath the salmon to prevent sticking)
  • Sauté for a few minutes until a crust begins to form
  • Remove from heat, spoon/brush some of the maple syrup/Blast glaze over the salmon (reserving about half the glaze)
  • Slide the pan into the oven and continue to cook the salmon until just cooked through
  • Remove from the oven and baste with the pan sauce
  • Plate salmon and spoon the remaining lime glaze over the salmon

Nursing Facilities Must Be A Priority in Fight Against COVID-19: Testing is Key to Prevention

A nurse checks a patient

As the COVID-19 pandemic hit the state, particularly southeast Michigan, it became clear that this virus is most severe to our senior citizens. A shocking 69% of all of Michigan’s confirmed COVID-19 deaths were people over the age of 70. The average resident in our nursing facilities is 82 years old, often with multiple medical conditions. Therefore, it is no surprise that these individuals are particularly vulnerable once the virus enters a facility.

Through June, 46% of the state’s nursing facilities have reported no COVID-19 cases, and a significant number have reported fewer than 10 cases. This raises the question of what causes the spread in some nursing facilities but not others. The answer to that question will help determine proper policy going forward to prevent and curtail the spread among this highly vulnerable population in this highly vulnerable setting.

Melissa Samuel, president/CEO, Health Care Association of Michigan

Melissa Samuel, president/CEO, Health Care Association of Michigan

Research recently released by Harvard Medical School and the University of Chicago has important findings related to COVID-19 in nursing facilities that not only help explain the primary factors causing the spread, but also what does not cause it. The studies conclude that the prevalence of COVID-19 in a community is the main predictor of the virus entering a nursing facility, with larger facility size also being a factor. It further shows that no correlation exists between significant COVID-19 outbreaks in nursing facilities and various measures of overall nursing facility quality, such as the national Five Star rating system that rates all nursing facilities based on surveys, staffing levels and quality measures.

According to David Grabowski, professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School, “COVID-19 cases in nursing homes are related to facility location and size, not traditional quality metrics such as 5-star rating and prior infection control citations.”

Tamara Konetzka, professor of health services research at the University of Chicago, found “no meaningful relationship between nursing home quality and COVID cases or deaths.” Another study recently published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society reached the same conclusions.

Researchers from Genesis HealthCare, Brown University and Florida Atlantic University found that COVID-19 prevalence in the surrounding community and higher number of beds were the most significant and consistent predictors of large outbreaks and mortality rates among nursing facility residents — not a facility’s Five-Star Quality Rating or infection control citations.

At the onset of the pandemic, nursing facilities were not a top priority at either the federal or state level for adequate staffing, personal protection equipment (PPE) and testing. Attempts to control the outbreak and spread of COVID-19 in nursing facilities instead focused on identifying individuals who exhibited symptoms of COVID-19 and prohibiting their contact with residents and staff in nursing facilities. However, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now show that individuals without symptoms — “asymptomatic” and “pre-symptomatic” individuals — infect multiple people without ever showing signs of the virus themselves.

Given that the virus is often spread by individuals who are asymptomatic, the research notes that if a community has a high prevalence of COVID-19, there is simply a greater risk of new nursing facility residents or staff serving as infection sources. Larger facilities accept more admissions and have more employees, thus they encounter more movement of people to and from the community.

This research tells us that the best way to prevent and curtail the spread of COVID-19 in nursing facilities is to do whatever possible to prevent it from getting a foothold from the larger community in the first place. Providing sufficient PPE for staff and conducting more testing with immediate results are critical to this effort. Only through broad and aggressive testing that delivers immediate results can facilities identify those infected — staff and residents — and quickly take appropriate measures.

Although the state of Michigan has recently implemented short- and long-term strategies to establish universal baseline testing and ongoing testing of all nursing facility residents and staff — a measure which we support — it still takes too long to receive the results. A new testing instrument to be distributed soon by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) promises to deliver results in minutes. If this works as suggested, it will give nursing facilities the capability to screen and test both residents and staff and provide the means to swiftly mitigate the spread of the virus.

Testing with quick results is also important to allow residents to visit with friends and family in person once again. Current restrictions have proven difficult for residents, families and staff. For visits to occur in a safe manner, adequate supplies of PPE and proper testing are essential.

We didn’t create this pandemic or choose to have it come upon us. There is no blame or finger pointing. We can make an enormous difference in the outcome of the COVID-19 battle in Michigan nursing facilities with the support from the state and our healthcare partners if we focus on the correct, research-driven solutions.

Please click HERE for further details on the research referenced above.

 

Melissa Samuel
President/CEO
Health Care Association of Michigan

Michigan coffee company’s future focused on 100% farm-direct sourcing

When Bob Fish, the co-founder of Michigan-based Biggby Coffee, talks about the future of the business, some might be shocked to hear his assessment that “coffee as a product is unsustainable.”

But that’s exactly what Fish says and why Biggby is trying to change the equation.

And it starts with the goal and benefits of farm-direct sourcing 50% of Biggby’s 2 million pounds of coffee purchased each year by 2023. After that accomplishment, Biggby will set its eyes on buying 100% of its product from farmers with whom Biggby has a lasting relationship.

Here’s why that’s important and what it means both for Biggby and its farm partners:

There are more than 200 labor hours to produce a single cup of coffee, Fish explains. It includes a supply chain that involves farms, workers who are often mistreated, brokers, roasters and more middle layers that seemingly work against each other.

“Between climate change and traders driving the price down, farmers simply cannot economically survive,” Fish said. “So, what happens? The farms can’t make it and are being abandoned. This puts the whole supply chain at risk.

“We believe businesses are here to solve problems, not create problems, but that’s what’s happening in coffee, and it’s why we are focused on doing business directly with farmers that treat the planet right and treat their people right.”

The straight line from farmer to Biggby involves extensive research and travel to confirm that the grower has the same passion for social responsibility and community investment, Fish said. As part of the evaluation, Biggby requires:

  • Farmers who pay workers above the national average and employ no child labor.
  • Farms that employ sustainable and organic practices.
  • Farmers who engage others with strong and local social missions.

Fish and his wife, Michelle, visit farms and stay for days at a time, and at different times – during the growing, harvesting and off-seasons – to assess the commitment, he said. Biggby can be a stabilizing force for the growers, providing a premium payment by eliminating the broker/middleman and granting the farmer financial safety and security for their coffee. That allows for future investment in the farm and the community. It also ensures Biggby a sustainable pipeline of coffee for the future.

Follow the journey: Bob and Michelle Fish blog about farm-direct sourcing and local heroes

Leana Ferrey, left, with her daughter, Miriam Morales, in the African drying beds at the El Recreo Coffee Estate

Leana Ferrey, left, with her daughter, Miriam Morales, in the African drying beds at the El Recreo Coffee Estate

One of Biggby’s farm partners is the El Recreo Cofffee Estate in Nicaragua, the second poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. There, Leanna Ferrey and her family have an established farm that pays its workers fairly, shares a quest for growing a quality product and displays a care for its people that goes above and beyond.

Ferrey established an on-site school for the workers’ children to attend through the fourth grade, and she does not allow youth to work on the farm. Each child earns a scholarship and transportation to attend school in a nearby town through high school. She helps them find a way to go to college, if they choose, Fish said. She’s also helped educate the workers, many of whom were illiterate, provide basic health care and provide certainty that there is food for three meals a day.

“It’s really just amazing what she and her family have done,” Fish said. “And this wasn’t because of us but because it’s what they believed in and how they think people should be treated. She is making a difference now and for future generations.

“It’s exactly what we want, and it fits with our belief that you should feel good about doing business with people. And to take that to the next step, we hope a consumer can feel good about doing business with us because they know what our establishment stands for.”

Biggby has a second relationship with a Zambian farm that supports an orphanage. Fish and his team are cultivating more partnerships that create an impact abroad and reflect the coffee company’s values.

“We could go out and get the cheapest coffee and continue to pressure the fragile coffee economy, but we’d rather put money directly in the hands of the farmers who are doing their best,” Fish said. “We want to be involved with people who care for and are engaged with their community just as we are with ours.”

How you can build new, whether you have lots of time or just a few months

Candie and Dustin Sentz in front of their Eastbrook Homes built home

Having searched a while for a larger home to meet the needs of their newly blended family, Dustin and Candie Sentz know it isn’t easy in this market to find just the right house in just the right place. That’s why the Jenison couple ended up building a new home in Lowing Woods.

The neighborhood of gorgeous new homes west of Grand Rapids not only is the ideal location for the Sentz family, it’s also a great place for any family as it features a community swimming pool, playground, walking trails and winding streets lined with trees and sidewalks.

Plus, because Lowing Woods is an Eastbrook Homes community, Dustin and Candie could build their new home exactly how they wanted.

“We toured some of the houses in here and liked the workmanship and quality of it,” said Dustin, a former builder. “We liked the ability to go on Eastbrook’s web site and look through their plans.

“We went with a lot of the upgrades they offered and we’re thankful we built it the way we wanted because we’re going to be here a long time.”

Dustin and Candie Sentz

Candie and Dustin Sentz chose a Ready-to-Build option that offered complete personalization of the interior and exterior of their new home in Lowing Woods, an Eastbrook Homes community west of Grand Rapids. Eastbrook also partners with clients on building Move-in-Ready and YourCanvas homes.

Dustin and Candie knew they wanted a main-floor master bedroom, so they filtered through the plans on the Eastbrook site and narrowed the options down to a handful. They also wanted a large basement so they could have a sizeable living space on that level of the house, too.

After browsing photographs of existing Eastbrook homes in dozens of communities around the state, Dustin and Candie ended up choosing a plan with an exterior look that’s unique to their new neighborhood. And they were able to partner with Eastbrook to accommodate personal touches such as custom handrails and a lower-level bar.

The couple chose paint colors, fixtures, trim and other features with the help of Eastbrook’s Home Creations Studio. They also selected certain upgrades including a larger garage.

“We were on that web site daily,” Candie said. “For me, it was fun. I had every plan printed out with all the different elevations and brought them to our families and said ‘What do you think about this?’ It was very organized.”

Dustin and Candie chose a Ready-to-Build Home, which is one of three great ways to partner with Eastbrook on building the home of your dreams:

Ready-to-Build

  • offers complete personalization of the exterior and interior of your home
  • takes 7 to 9 months with assistance from Eastbrook’s Home Creation Studio
  • benefits from the streamlined building process Eastbrook has honed over the past 50 years

Check out plans for Ready-to-Build homes and read what it’s like to build with Eastbrook.

Move-in-Ready

  • brand new homes already built and ready for you to move in as soon as 30 days after closing
  • perfect if you need a home right now, or if you’re sick of bidding wars on existing homes
  • beautiful, energy-efficient homes that come with new home warranties

Take a look at Eastbrook’s Move-in-Ready homes and read about how easy it is to get into a new home fast.

YourCanvas

  • homes are partially built with the foundation, structural and exterior selections already finalized
  • you get to choose and personalize interior features and finishes including paint colors, countertops, trim, lighting, fixtures, wall details and more
  • takes about 90 days from start of construction and is ideal for getting into your new home quickly with a flexible budget

RELATED: Want to build a new home in around 90 days from start of construction? Here’s how

Dustin and Candie visited their new home in Lowing Woods almost daily while it was being built. Just as it was fun to look through Eastbrook’s home plans, it was fun to pop in and see the progress on their own custom home.

Then, after closing on the home in summer 2019, the couple popped the cork on some champagne to celebrate. They moved in last July, hosted family for the holidays and this Fourth of July enjoyed a golf cart parade through their new neighborhood.

“We were attracted to the community feel they have here and thought it would be a great place to raise a family,” Dustin said. “We’d do it all over again. We’re just so happy with the house.”

Find our more about partnering with Eastbrook Homes in the video below:

 

Temp workers going from unemployment to frontline ‘hero’ in battle against COVID-19

Thank you sign in front of MediLodge

COVID-19 cost Rachel Schwartz her job. Now, she’s working to keep the coronavirus from costing other people their lives.

Several weeks ago, the 25-year-old Sterling Heights native was working for the U.S. Peace Corps in Africa. Then she and thousands of other volunteers were evacuated as the pandemic spread.

Back home in Michigan and ineligible for unemployment compensation, Schwartz decided to look for a job. What she found has given her a first-hand experience of Michigan’s essential medical heroes responding to COVID-19.

“I instantly sensed the additional burden that COVID-19 was placing amongst the workers and was eager to provide any relief that I could,” said Schwartz, who started working last month as a waiver care aide at MediLodge of Shoreline, a skilled nursing facility in Sterling Heights. “Every individual has been affected by this crisis, but all of these frontline workers are experiencing an intensifying effect.”

The waiver care aide positions are temporary, non-clinical roles that were created by MediLodge’s network of 50 skilled nursing facilities statewide to have extra hands in care centers at a time of need. The jobs, which do not require prior health care experience, are also a response to community residents in the wake of pandemic-related layoffs, furloughs or hour reductions in other industries.

With a background in social work and a desire to help others any way she can, Schwartz was immediately drawn to MediLodge when she came across it during an online career search. She applied for the job and became one of many newly hired team members who are providing facility support in a variety of ways.

The daily to-do list for Schwartz includes making sure all employees are wearing a mask and documenting the results of COVID-19 screenings that employees undergo each day. She also helps residents at mealtime and with their daily hygiene, while also providing emotional support.

Handmade masks donated to MediLodge

From sewing homemade face masks to joining the MediLodge team as an employee, there are many ways to support skilled nursing care during the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a few weeks on the job, Schwartz has alligator-skin hands from constant handwashing and also a new appreciation for nurses who have readily adapted to an environment of COVID precautions including visitor restrictions and personal protective equipment.

“I am both amazed and appreciative of the strength and commitment that I witness within my new co-workers,” she said. “They continue to maintain positive attitudes, to support one another and to provide optimal service.

 

“We are strong, we are dedicated, and we are constantly adapting. We are the service workers and we are all in this together.”

Of course, support isn’t only coming from within MediLodge skilled nursing facilities these days. Across the state there are stories of heroic acts by family members of residents and the community at large who have rallied around MediLodge facilities to affirm and support the quality nursing care happening inside.

The list of examples is endless:

 

How can you support your local skilled nursing facility during the COVID-19 pandemic? By donating lunch? Delivering snacks or treats? Sewing masks? Sending cards of encouragement or putting signs in the lawn?

Or maybe by joining the team at a MediLodge facility as Schwartz did. MediLodge logoTemporary job opportunities are available across the state under 30-, 60- and 90-day contracts for positions in activities, dietary and facility support, as well as for certified and licensed staff such as CNAs, LPNs, and RNs. People who’ve lost their jobs or had their hours reduced, retirees and college students home from school are all among the workers hired in recent weeks.

Some new hires are even turning their temporary jobs into launching pads for a new career, even if they’ve never thought about working in long term care before. For example, Amanda Macias was working in childcare when the spreading coronavirus shuttered her workplace and forced her to be laid off. She applied at MediLodge of East Lansing for a job as a temporary waiver care aide, doing things such as taking employee temperatures at the door, sanitizing surfaces and wiping down wheelchairs.

About an hour into her first shift, Macias was asked by a resident for some assistance. But because she’s not a certified nursing assistant, she had to find another staff member to help.

Macias realized right then that she wanted to pursue her CNA certification. She’s looking forward to taking the certification class, at MediLodge’s expense, and becoming a permanent part of the team. She’s even planning to pursue a nursing license and will start taking classes in the fall.

“I love it so much!” Macias said. “It is physically demanding, but so rewarding to know when I leave work that I made a difference in someone’s life.”

How coffee is a ‘note of optimism’ in returning to normal from pandemic

Masked Biggby barista hands out coffee carrier

Since founding Biggby Coffee in 1995 and building the Michigan-based business into the fastest-growing coffee chain in the U.S., Bob Fish has taken pride in its hands-on, next-to-you interaction with customers in store lobbies and drive-thru lanes. Biggby coffee location

The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged, but not broken that spirit.

“Now, it’s more than twice arms-length to get the same job done,” Fish said while recording a podcast with MLive’s Eric Hultgren. “Biggby has always been a place where you go to get a smile and a cup of coffee, and we can’t ignore the fact that people are getting a dopamine rush because they’re seeing people…who are smiling, engaging, happy and excited to see you.

“Our values remain grounded in supporting people and building a life they love. We have to keep a positive attitude regardless of what we’re doing (while dealing with the virus).”

Michigan’s stay-at-home order transitioned Biggby’s business to carry-out and drive-thru service only effective March 17. Some of the 200-plus stores temporarily closed while others changed hours. All the owner-operators are eagerly awaiting the ability to re-engage with comfortable spaces in coffeehouses and breaking out the patio furniture and allowing people to talk, celebrate friendships and share a cup of coffee.

The priority is to keep the health and safety of staff and customers at the forefront, said Fish, Biggby’s co-CEO. Masked Biggby barista working drive thru

“Biggby has been at the leading edge of doing everything proper from a safety and sanitation standpoint,” Fish said, noting that new protocols with everything from masks to social distancing in stores have been instituted and followed.

Despite the differences in daily routines, Biggby has bucked national trends by increasing its overall sales and hiring staff rather than reducing its workforce. The coffeeshops have been a bellwether of the economy and Michigan’s overall mood.

“I think Biggby is just a note of optimism in what returning to normal looks like,” Fish said. “The fact that sales are back to normal already and we’re in a hiring mode is pretty cool.”

The other shift that Biggby leaders have observed during the pandemic is the care and concern customers have had for staff during uncertain times. People are being “hyper-generous” with tipping baristas and expressing appreciation, Fish said.

Fish also shared how scheduling daily walks has helped keep him remain centered under different life circumstances. He recommends scheduling time for yourself outdoors to all.

“Something really special happens out there,” he said. “You can start sorting through things in your head and getting aligned. Listen to nature, the wind, the trees, the animals, the birds, all that has a really positive impact on your mind and mindspace.”

Coffee as cocktail?

Fish also virtually visited with MLive’s Amy Sherman to talk about coffee-based cocktails and to share his signature recipe for a creamy Tiramisu Latte that is a cool pick-me-up as Michigan enters the summer season. Biggby tiramisu drink

The ingredients are below, but watch the video with Amy and Bob for more tips, including why to make your coffee stronger and how to properly prepare the drink.

“This one is an absolute winner,” Fish said. “It’s magic.”

Bob Fish’s Tiramisu Latte

  • 4 oz Biggby coffee, brewed, and chilled
  • 2 oz Jagermeister Cold Brew liquor
  • 4 oz whole milk
  • 1 oz brandy
  • 1 oz Godiva chocolate liquor
  • coffee ice cubes
  • softly whipped cream, sweetened if you like
  • cocoa powder

Find a Biggby near you to grab a coffee or ingredients for a cocktail.