In Your Community Q&A
David Howard is more than a Director of Gas Supply at Consumers Energy; he is a father, mentor and active volunteer in his community. For years, he has helped Big Brothers Big Sisters of Jackson County (BBBS) and the Jackson Interfaith Shelter (JIF) touch the lives of many.
Going on seven years, I have been a Big Brother to Romy. BBBS resonated with me after I experienced as a dad how hard it is to raise kids even with a stable home, family and resources. There are many kids who are not provided a stable base and upbringing so I wanted to make a difference for at least one child. I am proud to say that Romy is growing up to be a great young man.
For six years, I have helped JIF put on their “Give Me Shelter” concert series. The monthly event features a pop-up coffee shop with free coffee, dessert and live music. JIF is a place where we have the opportunity to meet those who need a hand in getting a fresh start in life. Some may not have the capability or resources to turn things around, however, I’ve learned that they all need love. That is what I strive to provide each one of them.
Why should others get involved?
I strongly encourage others to consider how they are blessed and how they can use their talents to give back. In my experience as a BBBS mentor, being present to offer hope as a role model makes a world of a difference. The reward is priceless when you see a child progress in school, have hopes of a successful career and gain a chance at a better life.
In my own journey, two things have been most rewarding thus far. First is seeing my mentee Romy, who could hardly read or maintain interest in school when we initially met, blossom into a young man who is working hard for himself to be successful. Second is when Romy told me, “I hope we stay in touch forever.”
Your impact as a mentor extends beyond a week, month or year. These kids have the opportunity to turn around their lives forever with your help.
I want to challenge everyone to participate in National Mentoring Month and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. Will your life and legacy count in such a manner that your community is better off because you were here? It’s your choice. I encourage you to take the first steps to make a difference.
We proudly support employees and retirees who work to strengthen their communities. Click to learn more about the Consumers Energy Foundation. Get involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters by visiting www.bbbs.org. Get involved in Jackson Interfaith Shelter by visiting www.fb.com/jackson.interfaith.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off on Making Your Life and Legacy Count; Guest Blog By David Howard )
The Intern Challenge has come to a close and the results are in! 150 Consumers Energy interns, organizing 33 service projects for 27 non-profit organizations, have definitely left their communities better than they found them. For judging purposes, the Intern Challenge group winners were determined based on small and large group categories.
The winner of the small group division was the Community Developers. This group took on multiple projects to improve the quality of living for all ages and beautify the community of Jackson. Their projects included:
- Picking up over 60 gallons of trash within a three and a half mile area in downtown Jackson.
- Beautifying gardens at the United Way of Jackson County and the Jackson Friendly Home, an assisted living facility for women at least 60 years of age.
The winner of the large group division was appropriately named the Gold Team. This team focused on inspiring local youth and leaving a permanent mark on their community. Their projects included:
- Building a bench located in a local park in Port Sheldon Township.
- Volunteering at the Holland Boys and Girls Club where they designed activities about wind turbines, polymers, and electromagnetism to show kids how science can be fun.
Although these two teams came out on top, all of the participants and their communities are winners this summer. The skills and experiences our interns gained throughout the Intern Challenge will stay with them far beyond their time at Consumers Energy. To see our Intern Challenge groups’ accomplishments, follow #CEVolunteers on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
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Guest Blog: Jessica Spagnuolo, Consumers Energy Sustainability Lead for Environmental Services, Discusses How Consumers Energy Continues To Go Green
Each year, about 164 million tons of solid waste goes into landfills across the country. In order to be stewards of the earth, Consumers Energy employees are taking steps to reduce the company’s environmental footprint, leaving the Great Lakes State better than we found it.
We will continue supporting sustainable efforts by saving 1 million cubic yards of landfill space through 2019 ─ the equivalent of five football fields stacked from goal line to goal line, 100 feet deep.
To accomplish this goal, our employees are encouraged to adopt an environmentally conscious culture by reducing, reusing and recycling waste. This will affect our daily work by:
- Rethinking how we manage and avoid generating waste
- Changing how we order products, how much we order and how they are packaged
- Using what we purchase and purchasing only what we need
- Altering how we demolish a building, considering “deconstruction” to repurpose the materials
- Reconsidering how we can best utilize surplus materials so that disposal is the very last option
- Updating work processes, such as deciding, “Do I really need to print this?”
We all have the ability to help sustain Michigan economically, environmentally and socially. In doing so, we need to think about how our jobs impact the environment and our communities.
In addition to teaching individual responsibilities to employees, we have also established company “Green Teams” across the state. Their purpose is to lead local waste avoidance programs, conduct waste assessments and report on progress. Leaders of “Green Teams” enjoyed our Reduce, Reuse and Recycle It Better workshop below:
How Much Has Consumers Energy Recycled?
- 537,547 gallons of antifreeze
- 6,164,640 gallons of used oil
- 268,922 gallons of fuel
- 16,738 gallons of paint
- 644,777 pounds of batteries
- 633,923 pounds of lamps
- 112,566 pounds of lighting ballasts
- 26,969 pounds of mercury equipment
- 66,575 tons of metal
- 146,657 yards of paper
- 68,300 yards of cardboard
- 195,467 pounds of electronics
- 259,726 tons of wood and wood products
- 4,985 tons of electrical equipment
By reducing, reusing and recycling our waste, we are leaving behind a planet that our children and our grandchildren can enjoy.
Jessica Spagnuolo is the secretary for the U.S. Green Building Council West Michigan Chapter Executive Board, a communications committee member for the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program, and she also coordinates Adopt-A-Highway and the annual Grand River Clean-Up for Consumers Energy in the Jackson area. She is an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, with a degree in Sustainable Business. Spagnuolo is very passionate about nature, leadership, fitness and considers herself a crazy cat lady.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )
Each year, hundreds of accidents are caused by careless digging. From planting a tree to building a deck, many projects can result in damage to utility lines, service interruptions, property damage, financial penalties and personal injuries. Prevent damage to yourself or your neighborhood by making the call to 811. It’s the law.
Why Call 811 Before Digging?
April is Safe Digging Month, a time to reflect on safe digging practices for homes and businesses. Calling 811 will connect diggers to MISS DIG, the construction safety and utility damage prevention center for Michigan. MISS DIG prevents damage to Michigan neighborhoods in three steps:
- MISS DIG receives a request.
- Depending on the service request location, MISS DIG contacts local utility companies that provide natural gas, electricity, sewer, water, cable fiber optic and others who have lines buried underground.
- Within three business days, the local utilities will send representatives to mark the digging location with paint or colored flags.
Dig a hole– win prizes! Learn more.
5 Safe Digging Tips for Homeowners
Below are safety tips every homeowner should know before beginning a spring project:
- Call 811/MISS DIG three working days before you plan to dig.
- Make sure all utility lines are marked. Contact 811/MISS DIG to confirm.
- Respect the marks made by utility locators when using shovels or power equipment. Avoid using mechanized digging equipment near marks.
- Choose another location to begin your project if the original site is near utility lines.
- If you hired a contractor, confirm a call to 811/MISS DIG was made before they begin work on your property.
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Guest Blog: Stephanie Schiro, United Way Community Resource Associate, Explains How Michiganders Can Get Involved in Their Communities
Volunteering has long been a pillar of the United Way. Many years ago, Consumers Energy recognized the opportunity to become supporters of the United Way, not only through generous donations of money but also with time and talents.
As we celebrate National Volunteer Week, it’s important to reflect on all the ways volunteering can benefit our wonderful state. National Volunteer Week is a time for individuals to take action and get engaged in their communities. It’s a way to demonstrate nationally that communities can work together, face challenges and accomplish goals.
When individuals volunteer, they are:
- Uniting communities
- Caring about their neighborhood
- Encouraging others to become invested
- Meeting new friends
- Learning new skills
- Making lasting changes to their environment
Volunteering can also bring about understanding of community needs, leading to empathy and a better awareness of the struggle our neighbors face. Because one volunteer hour is worth roughly $23, organizations can spend more money and resources on local improvements.
Consumers Energy Employees Support Volunteerism in Michigan
There are so many ways United Way has benefited from Consumers Energy employees generously giving their time, talents and resources. Across the state, its employees:
- Sit on United Way (and a lot of other nonprofit) boards, influencing and supporting our mission to “improve lives by mobilizing the caring power of communities around the world to advance the common good.”
- Engage in our annual campaigns on an executive level (helping plan and coordinate strategies) and at a one-on-one level as ambassadors to their co-workers.
- Are members of our community solution teams, deciding how our campaign funds are allocated between programs.
I have no doubt that the future of volunteerism in Michigan will continue to thrive and grow as Consumers Energy and the United Way work together to connect our communities for the common good.
Volunteering has taught me how to give back in creative and new ways, appreciate the uniqueness of my community, and how to step outside of my comfort zone to grasp the hand of a neighbor in need. Volunteering is also a proven stress reliever, which I have found to be very true in my life. When I am volunteering, I can let the stressors of daily life slide away and focus on the project I am working on. It puts my problems into perspective and reminds me to let the little things go and focus on the big picture.
One of my favorite volunteer experiences was when I helped with the Downtown Development Authority’s Spring Beautification in Downtown Jackson. There were so many different types of people coming together to clean up downtown. From young professionals to families with young children to individuals that were physically and mentally disabled, there was a job for every single person that wanted to help. We were able to come together on a gorgeous spring afternoon and create a beautiful park that everyone could enjoy.
Where Should You Volunteer?
For Michigan residents that are looking to get involved with their community, I would recommend finding your local volunteer center. Local volunteer centers will have a comprehensive view of what projects are available in your area. For example, here in Jackson County, our volunteer portal has over 40 opportunities ranging from one time projects to weekly commitments. You can also check out the state volunteer portal.
If you have an idea for a volunteer project, don’t be afraid to reach out to your local nonprofits! There are so many instances where nonprofits want to begin a new project but don’t have the right people to initiate it. If you have specific skills and the time to volunteer, make a call and see who could benefit from your expertise.
Stephanie Schiro is the Community Resource Associate at the United Way of Jackson County in Jackson, Michigan. She is a Jackson native, having graduated from Western High School, Jackson Community College and Spring Arbor University with a Bachelor’s degree in Social Work. Stephanie is actively involved with the Jackson Young Professionals, the Women’s Leadership Council, the Jackson County Freedom Coalition and Energizing Education.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off on Guest Blog: Stephanie Schiro, United Way Community Resource Associate, Explains How Michiganders Can Get Involved in Their Communities )
In 2014, bald eagles reached a record 750 breeding pairs in Michigan thanks to Consumers Energy’s effort to enhance habitats. Michigan dams, including a number of Consumers Energy’s hydros, create backwater habitats where eagles can find secluded nesting sites and plenty of fish that are safe for them to eat.
The 750 bald eagle breeding pairs estimated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the highest number since their census has been taken.
In the 1970s, chemicals like PCB and DDT were banned because they caused eagles’ eggshells to thin and break during the bird’s incubation. This severely reduced the eagle population across Michigan and the continental U.S.
The areas around our hydro reservoirs provided refuge for eagles and other wildlife, since the dams block toxins transported by migrating Great Lakes fish. Consumers Energy’s bald eagle management plan includes:
- Protecting old growth white pines
- Establishing a protection zone to minimize disturbance for each nest
- Protecting the eagles’ food supply
- Contributing to eagle productivity census flights
- Successfully exceeding productivity goal of 1.0 eagles fledged per nest
- Successfully added new breeding territories which increased annual eagle productivity on the hydros by more than 50 percent
Bald Eagle Fun Facts
There’s more to a bald eagle than being known as the United States’ national bird. Get the facts below:
- The bald eagle isn’t actually bald. Its white head only appears bald from a distance.
- The bird can only be found in North America.
- Bald eagles choose one mate for the rest of their lives—unless they become widowed.
- The bird can’t swim—but will sit in the water and row itself with its wings.
- Bald eagles have no sense of smell. They can only sense if their food is spoiled after tasting.
Consumers Energy is proud to support Michigan engineering and technical talent.
On Friday, Michigan State University celebrated a recent contribution of $200,000 from the Consumers Energy Foundation, which includes a redesigned lobby in MSU’s East Wilson Hall and support to students in the College of Engineering’s Cornerstone and Residential Experience Program (CoRe).
CoRe is a first-year academic program that prepares students for a future career in engineering with activities including mock interviews.
Students like James McCormick, senior electrical engineering major at Michigan State University, are sought after by Consumers Energy to keep Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) talent in the Great Lakes State. McCormick has worked as a Consumers Energy Cooperative Assistant for two years, experiencing real, in-the-field work he’s been able to take back to the classroom.
McCormick has accepted a full-time position with Consumers Energy, officially joining our company when he graduates December 2015.
We are pleased to work with Michigan State University to provide exciting career-building opportunities to Michigan students. Last summer, Consumers Energy hired more than 50 MSU students as interns, and we currently employ over 400 MSU graduates.
“Consumers Energy is committed to attracting Michigan’s next generation of talented college graduates to work with us,” said John Butler, senior vice president of Human Resources and Shared Services at Consumers Energy.
We also support the “Get into Energy” campaign, inspiring and educating college students and future employees about the energy industry.
Interested in an exciting career with Consumers Energy? Learn more!Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off on Consumers Energy, Michigan State University Prepare Students for Future Careers in Michigan )
there’s buzz about the best movies and top actors in Hollywood. Lucky for us, we can experience the best entertainment has to offer by visiting the many theaters right here in Michigan. From motion picture theaters to live performance venues, there are many opportunities to enjoy the arts with friends and family.
In the last two decades, Consumers Energy and the Consumers Energy Foundation contributed $725,000 to theaters and theatre organizations
across Michigan. The support comes from a large mix of company donations and grants.
The renovation of The Vogue Theatre in Manistee is a heartwarming example of how Consumers Energy has made a cultural and economic
impact to many Michigan cities. With help from the Consumers Energy Foundation, the theater was renovated in 2012 after the community rallied together to restore the vacant building. The Vogue Theatre’s restoration has become a catalyst for downtown redevelopment in Manistee.
Consumers Energy Employees Support the Arts
Consumers Energy employees have dedicated years of volunteer service to the arts and many theaters across Michigan.
Chuck Sartorius, Consumers Energy Lead Business Architect, has had many roles at the Mid-Michigan Family Theatre and Riverwalk Theatre in the Lansing area. After years of work in the arts, Sartorius believes the theater allows creative thinking for many Michiganders — especially youth.
“Getting youth involved and exposed to theater yields not only an appreciation for the arts, but exposes them to ways to express creativity and become more confident,” said Sartorius.
Doug Meyers, Consumers Energy Senior Engineer Lead, agrees it’s essential to introduce our youth to the arts. For more than 24 years, he has held many community theater roles, including Chairman of Youth Theater for Center Stage Jackson.
“In a lot of cases, the arts are being pulled from schools’ budgets, and theater is a great opportunity for kids to participate,” said Meyers. “We’re filling a niche that used to be provided to kids for no cost.”Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off on Shining the Spotlight on Michigan Theaters; Consumers Energy Supports the Arts )
Guest Blog: Carrie Schneider, Consumers Energy Community Programs Manager, Urges Michiganders to Participate in Walks for Warmth
Anne Frank once said, “No one has ever become poor by giving.” The history of Community Action Agencies is embedded in this philosophy and the humanitarian principles that say we all have a responsibility for helping people overcome the obstacles that would prevent them from sharing in the benefits of living in the United States of America.
In 1964, the U.S. Congress passed the Economic Opportunity Act (EOA). This Act was meant to guarantee equal opportunity for everyone and for all practical purposes; this Act commenced the “War on Poverty”. More than 1,000 community-based organizations called Community Action Agencies (CAAs) were created across the country to:
- Coordinate federal funds and other resources
- Engage citizens to educate and train impoverished residents
- Help residents achieve economic stability and prosperity
The 29 Community Action Agencies that serve 83 Michigan counties have been successful at what they were originally charged to do. They have:
- Brought diverse resources and talents together
- Leveraged public and private supporters like Consumers Energy
- Enlisted volunteers
- Involved clients and non-service users alike in problem solving initiatives
The Bitter Truth in Michigan
One of the many challenges that CAA offices confront is the face of poverty in this country, and likewise Michigan, has changed quite a bit from the “Appalachian poor” to the “working poor”. And the face of poverty in each community is unique, which compounds the issue. Today:
- Nearly one out of every three families in the United States is considered to be “low income”
- Almost half of U.S. households live one crisis away from the breadline
- Of the 17 percent of Michigan residents who experience poverty in Michigan, over 23 percent of them are children.
I had an opportunity last year to spend some time at the Jackson CAA office. While I didn’t know what to expect, it didn’t take me long to realize that my understanding of those in need was skewed. The line was clear out the door and nearly every person standing in line had at least one child with him or her.
This was not an atypical day for the staff. The hours ticked by but the line remained steadfast. I witnessed middle class families having to ask for help for the first time. The fear and embarrassment that they relayed brought me to tears. One could never imagine having to literally scrape change together, walk many blocks to a bus stop (children in tow), wait for hours in line at the CAA office, only to be told that their services for the day have concluded before you ever get to the front of the line. And, sadly they had to get back on a bus with the realization that they had to do it all over again the next day. The despair these households face day in and day out is heart wrenching, but their courage and fortitude is inspiring.
Make a Difference with Consumers Energy
What the CAA staff members do on a daily basis is nothing short of heroic. It is through similar compassion and the guilt of having to turn people away due to lack of funds that an annual fundraiser was born. The CAAs developed the Walk for Warmth more than 25 years ago. It was organized to promote public awareness concerning low-income individuals and families experiencing home heat-related utility emergencies.
This is Consumers Energy’s fourth year participating in Walks for Warmth. Our employees will be supporting 34 Walks covering 35 counties. Last year, we collectively raised over $300,000 to support the cause.
The need for help this year is just as high as it was last year, even without the polar vortex. The needs of Michigan residents have become far greater than service agencies and churches can handle without additional financial resources such as the Walks for Warmth.
At Consumers Energy we continue to work towards leaving it better than we found it and caring for the Michigan communities we serve. I can’t think of a more impactful, or gratifying way than to move our feet to give others heat. I hope that you and your family and friends will decide to participate in at least one of the Walks throughout the state. I promise that you will instantly understand the “why” we do the Walks and you will leave feeling blessed for what you have.
I am thankful to work for a company that believes the same as Edward Everett Hale, “I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.”
Carrie Schneider is the Community Programs Manager at Consumers Energy in Jackson, Mich. She has worked for Consumers Energy for almost 18 years. She volunteers for many organizations in her community including Women’s Leadership Council, Junior Achievement, United Way and Big Brothers Big Sisters. She is a graduate of Michigan State University with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Psychology. Both she and her husband Steve are proud Jacksonians and are raising their three children (ages 17, 14 and 11) there. Carrie is passionate about servant leadership and is grateful to work for a company that supports her volunteerism.
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Guest Blog: Rosanna Kallio, Consumers Energy Senior Engineer, Mentors Michigan Students at 2015 Robotics Fair
Consumers Energy sponsored the 2015 CE Robotics Fair in support of the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Robotics program. The fair attracted about 200 attendees to cheer on teams and support the initiative including:
- 9 Schools
- 14 teams
- 140 students
- Consumers Energy employees, vice presidents and volunteers
- Michigan media
- FIRST employees
- Michigan government leaders
Every year, the robotics fair is organized by Consumers Energy’s WEN (Women in Engineering Network) to bring in new mentors from Consumers Energy to help FIRST FTC student teams compete. Mentoring robotics teams is very rewarding for the mentor—you get a real sense of satisfaction in helping a team learn and grow.
The event demonstrates the importance of robotics programs for the future of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) careers. It’s also a great opportunity for the teams to show off what they have accomplished during the past year.
The 14 teams who attended the 2015 Robotics Fair consisted of:
- 11 FIRST FTC (First Tech Challenge) teams that compete at the Middle School level
- 1 FIRST FRC (First Robotics Competition) team that competes at the High School level
- 1 FIRST FLL (First Lego League) team that competes at the Elementary School level
- 1 Robofest team that competes at both Middle and High School levels
Bringing Michigan Students of STEM Together
During the robotics fair, the FTC teams rotated through four activities:
1. Presenting to a small panel of judges as they competed for three awards including:
- Best Presentation
- Most Creative
- Most Complete Design
2. Showing off their robots on the FTC practice field
3. Collaborating with Consumers Energy employees and other teams
4. Enjoying a networking lunch
The practice field was a new addition this year and the robotics teams really enjoyed it. Each year our teams get more and more innovative, and the progress they have made is just amazing.
I believe kids need to see that they can make a difference in the world. Our children are our future, and any help we can offer to make that future better is important.
Rosanna Kallio is a Senior Engineer II at Consumers Energy. She is a co-lead for the First Tech Challenge (FTC) program sponsored by Consumers Energy and Women’s Engineering Network. Kallio assists in the mentoring process for all of the local FTC teams. She also supports Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) education with the Society of Women Engineers, Michigan Technological University and by teaching a local STEM class to Jackson area homeschoolers. She is a graduate of Michigan Technological University and enjoys working with children.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off on Guest Blog: Rosanna Kallio, Consumers Energy Senior Engineer, Mentors Michigan Students at 2015 Robotics Fair )
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