by Patrice Johnson
The parking lot at the Presbyterian Community Education building was filled to capacity 1:00 p.m., June 18 as county residents gathered for the 2019 Annual Celebration of the Ingham Substance Awareness and Prevention Coalition. Debbie Smith, Ph.D. and Stockbridge First Presbyterian Church pastor (AKA Dr. Deb), hosted the gathering. She joined Melea Bullock, ISAP Coalition coordinator, in welcoming attendees.
As part of the outgoing Executive Director of Mid-Michigan Recovery Services (Formerly National Council on Alcoholism) Jessica Lamison was recognized for her service to the community. Then Kristi Pretzer, acting ISAP Coalition chair, introduced Village President Molly Howlett.
Howlett thanked attendees for traveling to Stockbridge. “Like other small communities in Michigan, our population has changed,” she said. “The World War II generation is nearly gone, and young people are moving in. So many young couples with little children are coming here!”
Howlett attributed Stockbridge’s growth to several factors, first citing its affordable real estate with “lovely old homes for far less than other areas.” Next, she credited its central location between Lansing, Jackson and Ann Arbor “with easy access to I-94 and I-96.”
“The other key component to attracting young families is our schools,” she said and touched on the national award-winning achievements of its robotics and journalism programs.
Last, she credited the area’s culture of coming together to help one another. “Volunteers are what make our community thrive,” she said and spoke of cemetery cleanups with people showing up with rakes and trowels. Selfless individuals, she said, worked together to build playgrounds and basketball courts and to hold fundraisers. “People show up to help and to donate time and money.”H
As another example, Howlett referenced the formation of the Stockbridge Community News. “This town needed a newspaper,” she said, and a group organized to found one. “They started dividing up the work.” She ticked off writing, editing, advertising, invoicing, mailing, posting online, and graphics design. “In November of 2016, the first edition of four pages was published and mailed to 8,900 homes.”
Howlett then held up the June edition for the audience. “It is 32 pages long. It’s huge,” she said. “It’s volunteers pulling our community together, being positive about what we have going for us.”
She, like everyone, misses the businesses that used to line the streets, she said. “However, Stockbridge is not dying. We are quietly thriving. We adapt. Life is good here. Kids play outside and ride their bikes here. I am perfectly safe walking my dog at night.”
As far as the future, Howlett spoke with optimism about the Mike Levine Lakelands Trail. Stockbridge “is the hub of five major trail systems in Michigan coming from all over the state,” she stated, adding that last year the village applied for and received more than $800,000 in grant monies from the Ingham County Parks and Recreation. Funds are being used to resurface the trail, and build new parking lots for cars and horse trailers. “We have a lot of horses here.” She grinned.
“I’m told that people are going to ride their bikes and horses here from everywhere,” she said. “How will that affect our village and our surrounding communities? I know it means change. I’m excited to find out what the changes will be.”
The group was also provided an excellent training session for suicide prevention sponsored by the Gratiot County Substance Abuse Prevention Coalition.
The QPR model, an acronym for Question, Persuade and Refer persons suspected of contemplating suicide, has proven highly successful in reducing suicide attempts.
According to Pastor Smith, the gathering “offered a powerful training in that it was for those without any clinical background. This is a great skill for any family member, friend, teacher, coach or pastor who believes that a person close to them is thinking about killing themselves.”
“The greatest joy of having ISAP visit Stockbridge was their patronage of local services,” Smith said. C & J Pizza, home of the now famous Pickle Pizza provided the lunch, members were directed to stop by the local ice cream stores to get ice cream on the way out of town, and Country Petals provided beautiful table floral displays.
Dr. Deb gave the final blessing. After the event, attendees were invited to see the Michigan Registered stained glass windows inside the church.