In Your Community Q&A
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 )
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 )
When a storm is coming, American energy providers stick together. We’re currently mobilizing equipment and more than 50 employees to assist New York and New England as severe winter storm, Juno, hits the East Coast.
Consumers Energy employees left Dundee, Mich. this morning to work east including:
- Utility crews
Another 100 contractors are being released from work on our electric system to help restore power. With fair weather in Michigan, this is a perfect opportunity to help out-of-state crews manage storm damage.
Blizzard conditions are forecasted for parts of New York and New England, beginning at noon today, with the potential for hurricane-force winds and up to two feet of snow. Depending on the storm damage, our crews could work on the East Coast for a week or more.
We know the importance of supporting other energy providers, as they have traveled to help our own restoration efforts during Michigan severe weather. Consumers Energy not only cares for the communities where we live and serve, but we also care for surrounding communities in times of need.
VIDEO: Consumers Energy Crews Leave Michigan to Help East Coast
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Michigan’s nonprofit organizations made a significant impact on communities around the state in 2014, helped by $10 million in contributions from Consumers Energy, its employees, retirees, Foundation and parent company CMS Energy.
Of the contributions, $4 million helped organizations that provide direct energy assistance to those in need, including The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW), TrueNorth Community Services, The Salvation Army and Michigan Community Action Agencies. These organizations will match $2 for every $1 that we contribute.
The Michigan Association of United Ways received $1.7 million. Of that, $1.1 million was made up of employee and retiree contributions to 57 United Ways.
More than 450 nonprofit organizations received $230,000 on behalf of 556 employees and retirees through the Volunteer Investment Program (VIP).
Another $105,000 went to 115 higher education institutions, community foundations, food banks, food pantries and homeless shelters through the Foundation’s Matching Gifts program, which matches employee and retiree donations.
The Caring for Our Community grant program provided $32,000 to 129 nonprofit organizations on behalf of 1,010 employees. The program recognizes the efforts of teams of employees volunteering for a nonprofit organization or event.
Highlights of 2014
Additional contributions from last year include:
- $800,000 to support Detroit’s “grand bargain,” helping protect pensions for Detroit’s retirees and preserving public art at the Detroit Institute of Arts.
- Nearly $800,000 for early childhood initiatives and basic needs programs from a CMS Energy donor-advised fund.
- More than $300,000 to provide energy assistance to Michigan residents through Walks for Warmth. 2015 Walk Schedule
- $250,000 to the Detroit Zoo, for its new Polk Penguin Conservation Center.
- $200,000 to support FIRST Robotics, including funding to help start new middle school and high school teams across the state.
- $200,000 for Grand Valley State University’s Student Academic Success Center and the Oliver Wilson Freshman Academy.
- $100,000 to the Cranbrook Institute of Science, for its Water on the Go! program, providing watershed education to upper elementary and middle school students in Midland, Bay City, Saginaw and Genesee counties.
- $100,000 to Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties, for its “Center of Hope” campaign, to create a one-stop service center for human services organizations.
For more information on Consumers Energy’s volunteer efforts, follow #CEVolunteers on Twitter.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
“We realize that schools have tight budgets,” said Tara Ragauss, Education Programs Manager. “We felt it was important to provide classrooms with up-to-date technology that will benefit the learning experience of students.”
Second through sixth grade teachers, in schools served by Consumers Energy, will automatically be entered in the drawing by signing up for the new EmPOWERed Kids program if their presentation took place before December 31, 2014.
The free interactive program is endorsed by the Michigan Department of Education and is designed to educate students about energy topics such as:
- The dangerous consequences of touching electric power lines or acting carelessly with electrical appliances.
- Learning the three Rs: recognize, react and report natural gas leaks.
- The role of utility flags and why safe digging is important.
Since launching in September we’ve done 55 EmPOWERed Kids presentations reaching about 2,500 students. In total, we have reached more than 40,000 students this school year through our educational programs.
An additional six technology grant recipients will be selected at random on May 20, 2015. Teachers who have an EmPOWERed Kids presentation in their second through sixth grade classroom between January 2015 and May 15, 2015 will also be automatically entered into that drawing.
ConsumersEnergy.com/teachers also has lessons plans, educational games and other resources for teachers.
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY: A purchase will not increase your chances of winning. Current Michigan teachers, who are legal residents of Michigan, who are Consumers Energy customers as of 9/1/14 and at least 18 years old are eligible. Void where prohibited. Sweepstakes ends 5/15/15. For Official Rules, alternate method of energy, prize descriptions and odds disclosure, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Sponsor: Consumers Energy Company.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
New Year’s Eve is a time to celebrate another chance at reaching goals and ringing in 2015 with the ones we love. Cities around the world commemorate with fireworks and bright lights, but dropping a ball on New Year’s Eve is exclusively an American tradition to count down to the next year.
The creation of “time balls” originated in 1829 so sailors could tell time at sea. Using a telescope, sailors would find a harbor and watch for a “time ball” to drop at a certain time of day—usually noon or 1 p.m. This invention was the inspiration for the American tradition to celebrate the new year.
Ring in New Year’s Eve With Consumers Energy
We’re powering the ball drop in Calder Plaza in downtown Grand Rapids on New Year’s Eve from 6-11 p.m. We plan to turn back the clock to the 1970s with HOT FM 105.3 and a lineup of musical acts at this free event.
Visit our warming tent for free hot chocolate and photo booth fun. In celebration of recycling 100,000 refrigerators and freezers, you also can win prizes for taking pictures with our retro fridge.
In 2013, Consumers Energy replaced 450 halogen light bulbs with 450 more efficient LED bulbs to dazzle attendees in an environmentally friendly way. The Grand Rapids New Year’s Eve ball:
- Is 450 pounds, about as heavy as an upright piano
- Will stay lit for about 6 hours
- Uses a little over 24 kilowatt-hours of electricity compared to 117 kilowatt-hours in past years
- Could power 115 active video game consoles or light about 18 Michigan homes for a day with the amount of energy saved with LEDs
- Will descend 100 feet at 11:59 p.m.
Visit www.ConsumersEnergy.com/2015promise for more informationRead Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
As we say goodbye to 2014 and hello to 2015, Consumers Energy is proud to share a number of accomplishments from the past year.
We worked hard to serve our customers and improve our communities. In 2014, Consumers Energy:
- Created a severe weather assistance team that made more than 125,000 calls to help customers manage their bills during the Polar Vortex
- Launched the Slow Down and Go Around campaign to ensure a safe work environment for our crews
- Accelerated the plan to bring smart meters to homes and businesses two years early
- Raised more than $300,000 to help customers with their heating bills by participating in Walks for Warmth
- Gave $9 million in contributions to Michigan nonprofit organizations
- Recycled 100,000 refrigerators
- Increased in-state spending to $150 million to help grow Michigan’s economy
- Built a 24-mile long pipeline to transport affordable and reliable natural gas to customers
- Implemented a nationally recognized Incident Command System to improve emergency response
- Opened new LEED Certified Service Centers to better assist customers
- Completed and opened the Cross Winds Energy Park to meet the 10 percent renewable energy goal one year ahead of schedule
Thank you to all Consumers Energy employees, retirees and volunteers, and to our residential and business customers, for helping make 2014 such a successful year.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
Michigan’s nonprofit organizations are the backbone of our communities. By giving more than 115,000 hours of community service each year, Consumers Energy understands the importance of supporting organizations providing assistance to families across the state.
Through our energy efficiency efforts, Consumers Energy conducted free upgrades and energy assessments to more than 190 nonprofits in 2014. Upgrades include:
- Free LED lights
- Programmable thermostats
- Low-flow water faucets
Businesses, households and nonprofit organizations also lowered their energy bills with over 200 energy efficiency rebates and incentives.
Because of the energy efficient upgrades, groups like the Boys and Girls Clubs, homeless shelters and food pantries will pay $350,000 less for energy in 2015. Below are among a few of the cities where Consumers Energy made upgrades:
- Au Gres
- Battle Creek
- Bay City
- Birch Run
- East Lansing
- Grand Rapids
- Mount Pleasant
Manage Your Energy Bills with Assistance Programs:Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( Comments Off )
Consumers Energy knows gas. As one of the largest natural gas distribution companies in the U.S., we operate more than 27,000 miles of pipeline and serve more than 1.7 million customers in Michigan. We’re consistently increasing the reliability of our natural gas pipelines to match gas pipeline quality standards, and protecting the safety of our neighbors who live or work near our pipelines and facilities.
Natural Gas: Get the Facts
Natural gas is a low-cost, versatile industry source that when burned, produces energy in the form of heat and light. Check out these natural gas facts you need to know:
Q. What is Natural Gas?
- Layers of buried plants and animals from thousands of years ago create a fossil fuel called natural gas, that contains energy stored from the sun in the form of carbon
- When the fossil fuel is exposed to intense heat and pressure, its stored energy can be transferred into power
Q. How is Natural Gas Produced?
- Natural gas is extracted from underground storage
- It’s then treated at gas plants to remove any contaminates
- Pipelines transport the natural gas to our power plants so it can be converted to electricity
Q. What are the three ways power plants can convert natural gas to electricity?
- After burning the gas in a boiler to produce steam, it’s then used by a steam turbine to generate electricity
- By burning natural gas in a combustion turbine, it can then generate electricity
- By combining the two methods above, natural gas can be generated into electricity. The process includes burning the natural gas in a combustion turbine, using the hot combustion turbine exhaust to create steam, which drives a steam turbine.
Get energy-savings and natural gas safety tips at ConsumersEnergy.com/gascenter.
Q. What if you smell natural gas or a “rotten egg” odor?
- Leave the area immediately
- Call us toll-free at (800) 477-5050 from a safe location
- We’ll respond 24/7 at no charge
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