Experience Jackson Reflects on 2022

Even though we’re all looking ahead, ready to jump into the warmer months, Experience Jackson wants to take a look back at the successful year they had in 2022, in preparation for an equally as eventful 2023. Experience Jackson exists to support local events and festivals, as well as bring visitors to Jackson County in order to see what Jackson has to offer while supporting economic development within the community. Experience Jackson and their community partners strove to invite people to return to Jackson and see the development and evolution for themselves throughout 2022.

Experience Jackson runs multiple campaigns throughout the year, including golf, museums, and an outdoor campaign. They began with ice fishing, hoping to bring visitors from the surrounding areas to experience the sport in some of Jackson’s many lakes. As the ice thawed and spring came, so did many of Jackson’s classic events. The Rose Festival Parade made a grand return, where Experience Jackson’s own JACK the Elephant had his own shining moment.

Throughout the year, Experience Jackson was featured in a new series on JTV, titled A Visit with Experience Jackson. Where Experience Jackson’s Marketing & Development Manager, Rachel Buchanan, made her way with Andy Hawley and the rest of the JTV crew to highlight several Jackson County hotspots, like The Parlour, JAX 60, and Ella Sharp Museum.

Experience Jackson also sparked a new partnership with the Southside Summer Festival Series, celebrating and honoring Jackson’s black community with events throughout the entire summer. Some recurring partnerships also occurred, with other Jackson favorites, like the Birds, Blooms, and Butterflies Festival at the Dahlem Center, the summer Cruise-In and Concerts, the ORS Race Series, and Sandhill Crane Vineyard’s Running Between the Vines race.

Jackson also welcomed the larger events that the community has grown to love over the years. The highly anticipated Hot Air Jubilee made its return in July, where Experience Jackson served as the Hospitality Sponsor, offering guests insight into activities and attractions they can enjoy during their Jackson County Visit. At the Art, Beer, and Wine Festival, Experience Jackson sponsored the photo booth to help commemorate the day, while having a booth of their own to chat with patrons about their time at this fan-favorite festival. According to Rachel, the biggest (literally) partnership had to be with the Bright Walls Finale. Because of Experience Jackson’s partnership, the Jackson Chamber and Experience Jackson office now have a huge mural, proudly painted on the back of our building by California artist, Ricky Watts. Ricky painted a brightly colored 48-foot mural, that is a joy for the team to take in each morning as they come to work.

Summer continued with a handful of bus tours and motorcoaches and paying special attention to bringing groups from out of the area for weddings and tours. Michigan International Speedway always brings thousands of visitors to Jackson. This past year, Experience Jackson was able to sponsor a driver, Ryan Vargas in a No. 6 Chevrolet, for the NASCAR Xfinity Race Series. This exciting sponsorship allowed Experience Jackson to be advertised at high speed as Ryan zipped around the track.

The chill that brought on fall offered the opportunity for alternative ways to get outdoors, rather than NASCAR races or festivals. Jackson County welcomed the inaugural Rode to Hell gravel bike race to the Waterloo State Recreation Area in October. This race spans from Grass Lake to Hell, with a total of 100 miles, and a variety of shorter races stretching in between. They are looking forward to bringing the race back in 2023. After the race, participants enjoyed live music by the band Bombargo.

As a Community Champion level Member of the Chamber, Experience Jackson made the most of their membership in a few ways. They utilized their Chamber Membership by sponsoring new Chamber Members, like Daniel Martin’s Drinks & Deceptions, Wayland Golf Club, and Monster Box Theatre. Experience Jackson also sent one of their staffers to Leadership Jackson, a nine-month premiere professional development put on by the Chamber, where upcoming business leaders can connect with one another, and further develop their professional development skills in areas like HR, government, accounting, personal branding, and more. You may have also seen Experience Jackson at one of the many Off the Clocks the Chamber has hosted in 2023, in which Experience Jackson sponsored the bar, making the networking fun, casual, and comfortable for all in attendance.

With that, Experience Jackson is looking forward to another, not only successful but busy year! Like in 2022, Experience Jackson is, once again, excited to be partnering with statewide entities like Pure Michigan, MLive, and Under the Radar. As always, it’s an honor for Experience Jackson to be working with the Jackson County hotels, in order to bring new visitors to the community, and expose more and more people to all that the community has to offer. Stay up-to-date on what’s next for Experience Jackson here.

If you’re interested in partnering with Experience Jackson on an upcoming event, fill out the form here.

Capturing Jackson’s Memories Since 2009

Picture This…Jackson has been a cornerstone of the Jackson community for decades. Some may remember a small photo store in the Westwood Mall, where Kyle Hockley, co-owner of Picture This…Jackson got his start in the community. In 2009, Kyle and his business partner, David Hood, got word from Ritz Camera that their store was next to be closed, due to the upcoming recession. Before opening at the bottom of the recession, attending conferences and conventions, people in the industry wondered, “Who would open a photo store right now?”

Years later, Picture This…Jackson has grown to be an internationally recognized photo imaging store. What they found as an old office space ended up being the store they now call home, located on Wisner Street. Their store has seen plenty of evolution over time, including doubling its size by 2016. The reason Picture This…Jackson is so successful and is as widely recognized as it is, especially after opening at such an uncertain time, is because it’s not your typical photography store.

Picture This…Jackson offers a wide variety of products and services. They are an imaging store, not limited to just prints.  They take advantage of opportunities through national buying groups IPI (Independent Photo Imagers) and Pro. Pro offers high-quality cameras and photography equipment. These associations allow Picture This…Jackson to compete in camera sales and in photo products compared to the national competition.

They can print up to 42” on most materials and 12”x18” on glass or metal. If you’re serious about printing your pictures, Picture This…Jackson is the place to do so. Whether it’s the way they’re displayed in the hall of your home or given to family members as a unique gift. They also offer gallery mounts, video and film transfers, collages, memorial presentations, yard signs, and banners. Kyle and his team can revive old video tapes and can even be trusted with restoring and scanning those vintage photos of past loved ones.

“It’s not just a picture business, it’s a memory business. It’s all about memories,” Kyle reflected, as he explained that serving not only Jackson but patrons who drive from all over the region to receive the service the team at Picture This…Jackson provides. Kyle continued that those who visit the store leave happy because they leave with a memory, whether that memory has been restored or digitally saved to enjoy for the rest of time. Neither Kyle nor David predicted how much success they would see when opening in 2009. “It kind of just happened,” Kyle said. The fact that thousands of people are thankful to have services like this in Jackson is really something special. Something Kyle hears all the time from people who drive from outside the area is along the lines of, “I wish our town had something like this.” Picture This…Jackson gets the opportunity to touch people’s lives, near and far.

Camera and film enthusiasts are thrilled to hear that Picture This…Jackson utilizes a wet lab versus a dry lab. Dry labs are often what you’ll see when printing your photos from the same places you buy your groceries, often ending up with low-quality prints. In a wet lab, laser beams expose an image on light-sensitive paper, ensuring a much clearer picture, perfect for professional photos.

When you’re not seeing the team in the store, you might find them at most local high schools photographing sports teams. You may have even seen them taking preschool pictures or even your professional headshot. They offer a wide variety of photography services, from corporate to sports leagues.

Picture This…Jackson is home to a small but mighty team. Kyle and David crossed paths a few times before working together professionally at their small shop in the mall, when David was doing photography on the side at the time. Now, David oversees all the tech and networking behind the business. He shoots leagues on the weekend and captures other events as well. Other team members include Roy, their product specialist, who “knocks it out of the park every time.” Michelle, the in-house graphic design expert. Paula manages the lab and shoots seniors. Megan works in the back room, doing the dye sublimation of products, and even fixes their machines, troubleshooting problems their equipment may have. Leo is a 75-year-old retired minister, who has always wanted to try photography. “He’s REALLY good,” Kyle shared. Craig is a former prison guard and is now an associate at the store, proving everyone has their niche. Wendy, Kyle’s wife, does the books and keeps the business in order behind the scenes. Mike teaches their ever-so-popular photography classes and is also an in-house graphic design expert.

Jackson is lucky to have such a unique asset. Memory making is one thing, but preserving and saving those memories for a lifetime is something that Picture This…Jackson specializes in. Stop in and see for yourself; you’ll find walls lined with countless ways to preserve memories of your own.

A Look Inside the Jackson Area Career Center

Growing up and approaching college can be intimidating for young minds. What if college isn’t right for them? What if it is, but they want to practice in their field before putting thousands of dollars towards a degree? The Jackson Area Career Center offers those possibilities to high school students, along with so much more.

The Jackson Area Career Center (JACC) isn’t just a building on the outskirts of town where students slip away to for class, it is an extension of high school. The JACC is a career and technical education school (CTE), where students can enjoy hands-on learning while acquiring college credit and real-life experience. February is CTE Month, which means that the JACC will be hosting an open house on March 1, 2023, to see what career paths may be awaiting students in Jackson County. If they find one they’re interested in, they have the chance to enroll that day, with the help of their school counselor. This will be the only time the Career Center is open to the public. High school sophomores and juniors can familiarize themselves with the many programs the JACC has to offer. Those programs include:

Agriscience
Amy JROTC
Automotive Collision Repair
Automotive Technology Services
Careers in Education
Computer Information Technology
Construction
Cosmetology
Culinary Arts
Dental Health
Engineering
Firefighting
Health Technician
Law Enforcement
Manufacturing Technologies
Sales and Marketing
Visual Communications
Welding

The JACC adapts to school schedules, replacing some typical electives. All local high schools offer transportation to students who cannot drive themselves. They are accepting students in public schools, private schools, and even homeschooled students.

Each program has various focuses and options within each category. As each program is different, not all programs run the same. For example, the health technician program is a two-year program. In the first year, students learn foundational terminology used in the medical field and receive CPR, first aid, and proper PPE training. During their second year, they get to focus more on what part of their field interests them most. Recently, Health Technician students were interested in fields like labor and delivery or orthopedics. From there, they are able to hear from guest speakers in those fields and practice a bit of what they may be learning with hands-on, real-life experience, often from local businesses and organizations. In the past, the JACC has partnered with Henry Ford Health to pass on the proper resources and contacts to students. This can be enlightening, to seniors especially, because it helps them get a taste of what they want to be. Principal Dan Draper stressed that “It’s important to figure it out as you go,” as so many students are pressured to pursue a college degree, though oftentimes, students aren’t fully aware of what they’re committing to before they start college.

In the past, high schools have been known to have a college push, and the JACC strives to provide proper exploration for students. A term they use often is “Try before you buy,” because these programs can literally save students thousands.

Students in the Agriscience program learn to birth pigs, raise them, and show and sell them at the county fair. Cosmetology students can get licensed through the program that the JACC offers, and have plenty of practice, as Dan Draper pointed to his own head, sharing that a student that day had given him a haircut.

Each class can hold up to 24 students, and they receive industry experience from classically trained professionals in their field. From there, each student is helped with building a talent portfolio that they can take with them as they move on to college classes or job interviews. Though the JACC is a CTE school, it is not just for kids who don’t see college in their future. There are programs in cybersecurity, manufacturing, health, and more that offer a “13th grade,” in which students are able to graduate with an Associate degree.

The JACC takes new enrollments through March. If you don’t know a potential Career Center student, consider visiting their greenhouse for the Agriscience/FFA Plant and Flower Sale on May 6 and May 13, where you can pick up fresh flowers and more. Kaci Babineau, Marketing and Special Projects Coordinator, explained that the lines have been impressive in past years, so come early! Another upcoming event that the JACC celebrates is Signing Day, which celebrates the students who have a plan for when they leave the Career Center, whether that’s continuing to pursue a degree or those who are entering the workforce.

If you know a student who may be interested in kickstarting their career in a CTE setting, consider the Jackson Area Career Center. Students will be able to surround themselves with others on similar paths, ready to learn about what their future can hold. Call the Career Center today at 517-768-5100.

Southern Michigan Bank & Trust Comes to Jackson

When searching for a bank, commitment, trust, and reliability may be three of the main components of your search. John Waldron, Jackson Market President of Southern Michigan Bank & Trust (SMBT), explained that, with three new branches coming to Jackson County, their commitment to Jackson is a top priority. Though new to Jackson County, SMBT has been around for 150 years. Their brick-and-mortar locations may be new to Jackson, but this is not the first time they have done lending in the community.

SMBT extends from Kalamazoo to Jackson and south. Headquartered in Coldwater, the team at SMBT are ready to get their hands in the Jackson market. Having a commitment to downtown development, they will have a branch with full-service production on the lower level of The 200 building on North Jackson Street. They are hoping to complete that branch, come second quarter. Additionally, their loan production office will be on the fourth floor of the post office’s building on West Michigan Avenue. The team at SMBT is excited to be part of the hustle and bustle that makes downtown Jackson both unique and exciting. Outside of downtown, they will have a separate, brand-new branch on the corner of Weatherwax and Horton Road, keeping them accessible to multiple areas of the community.

Between both John Waldron and Bill Jors, Senior Vice President and Commercial Loan Officer, the two of them have 60 years of banking experience. Being local to Jackson, they look forward to making SMBT a trusted community bank. John explained it as having a “local feel,” with several community partners and a strong local team. The two of them have served Jackson in their field for several years, and they look forward to continuing with what is the eighth-largest bank headquartered in Michigan. Since the decision was made to bring SMBT to the area, the Jackson team has grown by seven new hires, and are continuing to grow their team.

“If you would like creative solutions and local decisions by financial professionals that have lived and banked here for 30 years, then we are your bank.”

John Waldron

With the plan to serve Jackson as a committed, trusted, and reliable community bank, they plan to meet the needs for whatever types of financing Jackson requires, big or small. Southern Michigan Bank & Trust handles all types of banking and lending, including commercial lending, residential, and wealth management.

Call them today: John: (517)474-2446, Bill: (517)740-2733

Big Plans Coming for JAX 60

JAX 60 has been a Jackson staple for decades. You may have once known it as Airport Lanes, maybe even back when it had just 36 lanes. Since then, it has had an additional 24 lanes added on, hosted multiple PBA tours, and has had a total refresh and update. If you haven’t stepped into JAX 60 lately, it may not be the same bowling alley you once remembered as a kid.

Airport Lanes

Airport Lanes was built in 1959, long before it was owned by David Small’s Fun Time Centers. Since then, it has been added onto twice, the last being in 1972, with a total of 60 lanes, hence, the JAX 60 name. The name shifted to JAX 60 on July 1, 2018, and is currently overseen by Josh Solomon, General Manager.

Josh grew up in a bowling town, in Youngstown, Ohio. He took his first job at 14 in a bowling center as a pin chaser. From there, he moved on to the pro shop, then managed a bowling center. Josh even grew up in a bowling family, and Youngstown was known as an industrial bowling town with local companies all having a team, much like Jackson. “Bowling’s always been my thing. It’s in my blood,” Josh stated when discussing his background.

JAX 60 Present Day
JAX 60

Since then, Josh has won state championships for bowling and even coached. When he moved to Jackson, the first thing he noticed was that Jackson reminded him of the bowling town he grew up in and that our local bowling alley had tournament potential. Over the years, there have been many conversations with owner David Small, surrounding what kind of updates could happen and what the bowling alley could be. Renovations started with new keypads, scoring system, ball returns, and more.

The original renovation, before its most recent, started the day Josh and David Small took over. New paint, new floors, and historical photos that lined the alleys made a huge impact on the bowling alley. Conversations about the most recent renovation, which has completely upgraded the entire facility, began in 2020. This upgrade happened because Josh and David wanted to give bowlers more space. When bowling alleys were designed in the 50s-70s, they were meant strictly for teams. Since then, bowling has transitioned to a family event. JAX 60 now provides Jackson locals with a place where a group of any size can have fun and enjoy themselves.

Mavrix bar and lounge has an expanded menu with the homemade, freshly fired pizza customers have always loved. It has a more inviting floor plan, with more TVs for entertainment and a custom-built bar, making it the perfect place to relax and have a drink between games. If you’re at JAX 60 for more than just bowling, their newly expanded arcade, Top Gun Arcade, now has 56 games, which are all waiting for you behind lanes five and six.

Top Gun Arcade

The new design of JAX 60 offers a balance between groups looking for a fun way to spend a day and avid tournament bowlers. JAX 60’s new and improved atmosphere proves a quality product that Jackson didn’t have before for friends and families to enjoy while providing a venue for professional bowlers. Josh explained that the renovations “give Jackson a place to come that is safe, clean, and invites you to spend some time.”

JAX 60 has hosted four PBA 50 tour stops. In 2022, the PBA National Tour started at JAX 60 and is coming back in 2023 from March 6-9. Hosting tournaments, such as these, is something that both Josh and David have always wanted to do, as two people who grew up watching the PBA tour on Saturday afternoons. They want to give as much as they can back to the bowlers they’ve watched for years on TV. Josh shared that the PBA 50 tour is much different than it has been in the past. In fact, the first ever PBA 50 World Series of Bowling is going to be hosted at JAX 60, “Putting Jackson in the history books,” as Josh said.

Being from Youngstown, Ohio, I was defined by the bowling community. When we moved to Jackson, a place that was already a bowling community similar to where I grew up, I told my wife, ‘I’m home.’

If you’ve been looking for a spot your friends, coworkers, or the entire family can enjoy, consider reserving a lane at JAX 60. What seems like a fun activity will quickly become an experience worth so much more.

The City of Jackson Sponsors Six New Chamber Members

As a Community Champion Level Member of the Chamber, the City of Jackson has committed to sponsoring six Chamber Memberships for the next year. Jackson’s City Manager, Jonathan Greene, recently sat down with three of the six business owners whose Memberships they will be sponsoring. From businesses that have been with Jackson for over one hundred years, to startups that are just setting up their brick-and-mortar storefronts. Of the six, Peggy Russell (Peggy’s Custom Floral Designs), SharRonnie Garrett (SharRonnie Garrett Photography), and Latoya Smith (First Crown Hair & Beauty) met Jonathan Greene at City Hall to share a bit of background on what their businesses have to offer.

Peggy Russell, founder of Peggy’s Custom Floral Designs, specializes in silk floral arrangements. Her passion began when she created her own floral arrangements for her wedding. Then, during her 30-year career at Macy’s, she created arrangements for clients. Upon her and her husband’s retirement, Peggy decided it was finally time to pursue her longtime dream. After many thoughts and many prayers, she’s recently started her business and has even secured a spot in the Jackson Crossing Mall.

Like Peggy, SharRonnie Garrett has also been working on a storefront of her own, which she is in the process of remodeling. As the owner of SharRonnie Garrett Photography, she specializes in family and senior photos. She says kids are her niche, as she shoots a lot of milestone photos and birthdays. Some of her clients have stuck with her since their newborn shoot, continuously coming back to document each milestone. In her new studio, which she is remodeling with her husband, she is excited to have a creative space to play around. Even at public events, SharRonnie likes to pop in to shoot some photos for her portfolio. She has been spending the past couple of years continuously practicing and perfecting her art, and with the help of her mentor, Miame Jarrett, she has been able to find her own style. SharRonnie shared that her family never did any sort of photoshoots or portraits growing up, and she wished she had those photos to look back on. Now, as a business owner, she aims to reach people who can’t afford nice family photos and provide a service to them that is affordable.

Unlike Peggy, who started her business after retirement, or SharRonnie, whose hobby turned into her career, Latoya Smith founded her business when she was homeless. First Crown Hair & Beauty consists of all-natural skin and hair care products that Latoya makes herself. Many of the everyday products we use contain harsh chemicals and toxins, which, in the long run, can be harmful to our health. She uses a variety of natural ingredients, like avocado and coconut oil, all of which she uses on herself and her kids to ensure that she feels safe giving it to a customer. Some of her products include calming agents, like lavender, which help calm and relax your senses. She even shared that her lavender products help her kids sleep. She currently works the occasional pop-up shop and hopes to have a website to sell her products online soon.

In addition to those three businesses, the City of Jackson is also sponsoring one year of Chamber Membership for Isaiah’s Hub, Blue Julep, and Gilbert Chocolates.

In response to talking with each business owner, Jonathan explained that in his role as City Manager that, “We want to improve people’s lives. The City belongs to the people; I get to make it happen.” Investing in local businesses and helping new business owners get their businesses off the ground is a great way for the City to play a part in Jackson’s economic development. Both the Chamber and the City of Jackson are excited for what’s to come for these businesses in the coming year.

Meet CNB’s New President & CEO, Joe Williams

On October 10 2022, the board of County National Bank instated a new President and CEO, Joe Williams. Joe has 40 years of banking experience under his belt, starting when he was in high school. In fact, about a week before signing the paperwork to join the marines, the bank Joe had been working at offered a position for him to stay while getting a finance degree. From there, Joe proceeded to stay in banking, working within organizations such as United Banking Trust of Lenawee, and eventually joining the CNB Board of Directors in August 2020.

When CNB was in search of a new President earlier this year, Joe was not the one who initially thought to have his name be considered. It was members of the board and the Chairman who asked Joe to put his name into consideration. As someone who has been a very active community member and in many leadership roles, Joe was the perfect fit to lead an organization like CNB.

When asked what being President & CEO of CNB meant to Joe, he referred to a card with a statement that he has carried with him every day for 25 years. A reminder to choose your attitude every day, and tell yourself, “It’s not about me.”

When I don’t make it about me, it’s about whoever I’m in front of that day. An associate, a client, or someone in the community. – I come in every day and serve every associate. They are not here to serve me; I’m here to serve them.

Joe strives for those within CNB and outside of CNB to understand their “why.” He shared that CNB does not exist to grow revenue, he truly believes that their “why” is to improve the lives of associates, clients, and the community, and ultimately have a positive impact.

There are three things Joe finds most important when it comes to leading the future of CNB:

  • People matter (Creating a career path or positive work environment for CNB associates)
  • Clients matter (Giving clients the best experience)
  • Community matters (Being active and giving back)

Joe is extremely value-driven and wants his values to align with his company and community values. Hoping that, if they all align, they can come alive, and make CNB an attractive place for people to work and bank. He sees his position as one to come in each day and inspire those around him to do their job and do it well, thinking that if he creates a great work environment, his employees are going to be inspired to come back to work tomorrow. No matter what position, Joe wants them to feel as if they can lead from wherever they are.

On Joe’s first day, he gave action cards to each of the approximately 200 employees. On the front, it had an acronym:

C – Choose a positive attitude every day
N – Never settle. Always do the right thing.
B – Believe in one another. Be an encourager.

On the back, there was a quote that Joe sees as his “life quote.” He passed it on to his employees in order to be a mantra for every associate, especially those who are client-facing:

People won’t remember what you said. People won’t remember what you did. People will always, always remember how you made them feel.

Maya Angelou

Joe explained that his family and his faith serve as his moral compass. “It’s not about me,” he repeated, “but what I’m doing for others. – I’ve discovered what my purpose is, and it’s the be the best encourager on planet earth.”

Homelessness Awareness Week with the Interfaith Shelter

Homelessness is a sensitive topic; it’s something we know is out there, but to what degree? It may be something that comes more to the surface during the colder months, or perhaps when you see a person in need on the street. At the Interfaith Shelter, they average about 65 clients per night. The Interfaith Shelter is not just a place for the homeless to rest their head for the night, they provide temporary shelter and other essential resources to people experiencing homelessness or poverty. Clients can stay at the shelter as long as they are making positive progress toward their goals. For some, this could be a week or two, while others need a few months to secure housing.

All images from the Jackson Interfaith Shelter on Facebook

The Interfaith Shelter is able to provide a variety of resources to get clients back on track. They recognize that the homeless may need assistance with furthering their education, bettering their mental health, or becoming job-ready. Local organizations and churches within Jackson often come to the Interfaith Shelter to share their resources. Some include mental health screenings by LifeWays. Likewise, the Community Action Agency screens clients for housing and offers a weekly finance class. The College and Career Access Center provides help with resumes, GED preparation, and job hunting. Other talents that are shared with the shelter come from chiropractors, barbers, and even weekly job fairs. What the Interfaith Shelter calls Dinner Church occurs every Wednesday, where eight churches rotate and offer a service right at the shelter, and these services are open to anyone.

On average monthly, the shelter has seen 60 out of 76 beds filled per night, 22 of those being children, this year. The Interfaith Shelter has served about 4,707 meals per month, which are open to anyone who needs them, homeless or not.

Homelessness Awareness Week is November 13-19.

There are many ways to get involved, big and small. The Interfaith Shelter is hosting a fundraiser through the Jackson Culver’s located on O’Neil Drive. You can help by stopping by Culver’s on Tuesday, November 15 from 4-8pm to order a meal, dine-in or drive-thru. A portion of the proceeds made in that time will support the Jackson Interfaith Shelter. While you’re there, you may see some familiar faces from the Interfaith Shelter delivering meals to your table.

Dinner Church

Outside of Homelessness Awareness Week, the Interfaith Shelter is always looking for volunteers and donations. Volunteers can be utilized as meal servers and front desk help, which allows the staff to have more one-on-one time with clients. Donations that are always appreciated include blankets, food, scarves, and hats. Clothing is not accepted at the shelter.

Think of the holiday parties you are hosting or attending within the next few months. The Interfaith Shelter would greatly appreciate any leftover dishes that went uneaten. Maybe you bought one extra bag of chips for the tailgate you attended last weekend. They will surely be enjoyed at the shelter.

There are often questions and clarifications needed surrounding the homeless population. A lot of those questions can be answered on the Interfaith Shelter’s podcast, Shelter Together. On the podcast, they host guests and talk about the reality of homelessness in Jackson County.

For more ways to engage with and stay up to date with what’s happening at the shelter, sign up for their weekly emails here. Otherwise, be sure to follow the Interfaith Shelter on Facebook and Instagram to stay informed.

A Conversation with Former Embezzler, Barry Webne, and Peak Manufacturing President, Amanda Hutchings

Barry Webne was once your average employee, facing financial trouble, something most of us experience at some point in our lifetime. With an MBA in accounting, he was titled as the Controller within his company, in charge of all accounting systems. He had reached a point in his life where he felt as if he had his back against the wall financially and was in a position where there was no internal control over him. In 1992, Barry saw an opportunity and took it.

Barry Webne

For four years, Barry embezzled over one million dollars from his company. He described his crime as a sort of addiction, starting small with a thousand dollars here, two thousand there, nothing anyone would ever notice. However, after realizing he could get away with it, it only continued. “Once you start, you can’t stop,” Barry explained, “I was a model employee, everyone was telling their colleagues to be more like Barry.”

After serving six months in prison, he found another accounting job, thinking his crimes were over before he saw the opportunity to steal again. His next crime lasted from 2001 to 2006, when he, once again, embezzled over a million dollars. As a result, aside from spending 63 months in jail, he lost everything, including his family and friends.

Barry is just an example of a crime that occurs all too often. Jackson’s own Peak Manufacturing just experienced a similar situation. A model employee had been embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars at the company for years. She was a close friend of Peak Manufacturing President, Amanda Hutchings. Amanda reflects back on the discovery she found in January of 2021 and stated that it felt like a movie; embezzlement is never something you think can happen to you, but after the story came out, a number of companies reached out sharing that they had experienced a similar situation.

Amanda Hutchings, Peak Manufacturing President

The Jackson County Chamber is hosting a Lunch & Learn on November 7 where Amanda will not only be recounting the story of how Peak Manufacturing was embezzled from but talking about specific accounting procedures and policies your business can implement. Barry Webne will also be speaking, sharing the red flags you can spot before the problem gets out of control.

“It could’ve been stopped. It should’ve been stopped,” Amanda continued, “Embezzlement is preventable. You just have to learn all the tricks and tools to prevent it.”

Amanda’s story is truly a microcosm of what is happening more often than business owners believe to be true. Embezzlement, fraud, and theft is happening now and is happening locally. To learn how you can detect and prevent embezzlement from happening within your own organization, join the Jackson Chamber for a Lunch and Learn on November 7, where both Barry and Amanda will be sharing their experiences.

Barry shared that employers are hesitant to ask questions, and he encourages employers and business owners to ask the hard questions, no matter how uncomfortable it may seem. Your business will thank you later.

I think business owners just need a little encouragement; they just can’t trust all their employees. Ask questions.

Barry Webne

This event is made possible by Comerica Bank.

Reach Higher with U.S. Airforce Recruiter, John Riggs

Have you ever thought of the U.S. Airforce to be more than just a branch of the military that flies planes or reminds you of your favorite movie? The Airforce is also an institution that provides education, makes connections, and builds relationships.

Master Sergeant John Riggs, Enlisted Accessions Recruiter has been in the U.S. Airforce since 2008. In 2020, Riggs came to Jackson to begin recruiting for the Airforce. His job is to visit schools throughout southern Michigan to attend class talks, career fairs, and events in order to find eligible recruits that may be interested in joining the Airforce. Riggs is the main recruiter in Jackson County and is constantly reminded of the good the Airforce has done for his life.

Riggs is originally from Atlantic City and determined at a young age that he wanted to be part of the U.S. Military. He even shared that his mom recently sent him a picture of one of his second-grade school projects where he answered the classic prompt “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with “Army man.” 15 days after his high school graduation, he joined the Airforce.

When going through the process of gaining a recruit, Riggs explained that it all starts with a simple phone call. From there, the recruit starts with MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station). All before basic training, a recruit has to pass a series of pre-screenings, as well as armed service, aptitude, battery, and physical tests. This may sound daunting, but it all takes an average of three months before they can move on to basic training.

The Airforce has given Riggs opportunities he had never had before. Education, health benefits, real-world experience, relationships, and lifelong friendships are all something the Airforce made possible for him. As he recruits, he sees himself in the young airmen who are new to the Airforce but is able to give back and provide opportunities to young people who are in the same place that Riggs once was. Riggs has been in the Airforce for 14 years, and now being a recruiter himself, he often reflects on his recruiter when he began his process. He enjoys being a part of the reason former recruits return to their community and come back disciplined, educated, and better overall.

Working for an employer that has several veterans within its own walls, Ron O’Rourke is extremely proud that Monster Motors is sponsoring Jackson County’s recruiting office. Giving back in this way is something that goes beyond a business-to-business relationship. Riggs exchanged an Airforce coin to show respect and thanks for their budding partnership. In the Airforce, the exchange of a coin typically signifies appreciation for a job well done.

Participating in community events has been a large component of recruiting. You may have seen Riggs flying on Aviation Day at the Jackson County Airport, or even volunteering at a local event. If you’re a school looking to have Riggs speak, hosting a career fair or an assembly, he is excited to hear from you.

If you or someone you know may be interested in joining the Airforce, Master Sergeant Riggs is most accessible by phone. Give him a call at 517-945-4218 to set up an appointment to discuss next steps, or simply to see if the military is right for you.

Sign Up

Sign up for Chamber updates.

Contact

134 W Michigan Ave.
Jackson, MI 49201
517.782.8221

Website Powered by M3 Group