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Above, the building which housed Sears, located at 6375 M-72 West, will soon serve as a thrift store for the River House Shelter, Inc.

River House Shelter, Inc. Accomplishes Goal By Finding A Building To House A Thrift Store

After years of planning and raising funds, the River House Shelter, Inc. has found a building to house a resale shop that will support its mission of providing housing for domestic violence and sexual assault victims and supporting other services offered.
Over the last several years, shelter officials have been searching for a site for a  resale shop to help financially support operations and services. There was a deal to convert the former laundromat located adjacent to the Grayling Mini Mall into a store, but renovations turned out to be cost-prohibitive. Another location also fell through.
In November, the River House Shelter, Inc. purchased the building that housed the Sears store in Grayling, located at 6375 M-72 West,  from owner Randy Crocker.
“It’s a perfect location and perfect size,” said Carla Ott, development director for River House Shelter, Inc. “Once we get it renovated, it’s going to great there.”
Shelter officials tried to obtain a United States Secretary of Agriculture loan for the building but learned they would need to go through conventional lending sources.
An anonymous donor provided $50,000 for a down payment on the building.
“The anonymous donor found out we needed the down payment, and so they donated specifically for that reason to get the store,” Ott said.
Shelter volunteers will make the necessary renovation to house the store and bring it up to building codes.
“It’s an older building, but overall it’s in decent shape,” Ott said.
The thrift store committee’s next meeting, scheduled to be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Jan. 12, will be work and clean-up day at the store.
Items currently stored in the shelter’s basement will be moved to the store. Other goods, which have been kept in storage units, are already in the store.
“We’ve got a bunch of guys that are coming over to help us. We have a basement full of stuff that can go over there,” Ott said. “Basically, we going to get it cleaned up so we know where we’re going from there.”
The tentative opening of the store is scheduled between March and April if all goes as planned.
“The fact that we have a building now is incredible and we’re very excited because we’ve been working on this for a long time,” Ott said.
Clients who seek housing and services from the shelter can obtain vouchers to get items at the store.
“We will hold basic essentials here, but if they’re going to be moving out to their own place, there may be furniture over there for them, basic kitchen utensils, things like that,” Ott said.
The goal of the store is to make it and the shelter, which relies on government grants and donations, self-sufficient.
The store will have a manager and will rely on volunteers.
The store is working in collaboration with St. Francis Thrift Store located nearby on the voucher system.
“If we don’t have something they may need, they may have it,” Ott said.
Both stores will bring people into the community for those who like to make a day of finding bargains as thrift stores.
“With thrift stores, there’s kind of a thrift store circuit,” Ott said. “People that go to them go through the circuit, so being near them will bring customers into both businesses as well.”
August 10, 2018


Groups Paddle Homemade Canoes During Annual River Festival Event

In an event that tests competitors’ abilities to keep “H.U.P.” with the competition, the Grayling Chamber of Commerce’s annual Hurry Up and Paddle event was a success on Wednesday, July 25, during the AuSable River Festival, drawing a large amount of teams and spectators and raising hundreds of dollars for the Chamber.
The event encourages local businesses and organizations to purchase canoe kits and to form teams that will compete for head to head against other groups. The competition not only tests boat durability but the time in which it takes for a team to finish the short looped course.
Perhaps one of the most unique parts of the event is that the judges of the event are members of the Circuit Court in Grayling, aided by a guest judge who has happily volunteered his time over the years.
Monte Burmeister, Circuit Court judge, and H.U.P. Race judge, says that his favorite part of the H.U.P. Race is “the dancing on stage by the paddlers.”
Colin Hunter, another Crawford County judge, said, “I love watching people capsize. It’s always a crowd favorite.”
“I think my favorite part of the whole event is that a lot of the ‘paddlers’ can’t actually paddle, and a lot of them just sit there and struggle but don’t move anywhere. And as a result, the other team ends up beating them pretty badly,” said Joe Smock, the special guest judge of the event.
“We search for penalties. A lot of them lie in the way the boats were made. If we find screws in there or there is extra wood, we have to punish them,” said Burmeister.
Of all of the punishments the judges give, Judge Burmeister says that “drilling holes in the boats” is his favorite.
In a slight turn of events this year, the drill came up missing, and as a result, the judges had to get a little bit creative, opting to use a pocket knife to carve holes in the boats.
“The chicken dance is my favorite punishment. I love seeing teams get nervous and goof around on stage,” said Smock.
“Our favorite part of doing this is getting to be out in the community and having fun. Seeing everybody enjoy such a wonderful event that is both fun and is one that donates a lot of money to the community,” said Smock. “It’s pretty cool to see the imagination and different designs and paint jobs.”
Judge Burmeister, Judge Hunter, and Smock offer a token of wisdom to any and all future participants in the event: “Start training in January, paddle every week. Never use a builder to craft your boat, as those always tend to sink. And last but not least, we always accept bribes.”
The winner of this year’s race was the Grayling Firefighters Association, with rookie team Arauco snagging second place. The Sinker award went to Forest of Fear, with the judges finding their sink to be the most memorable. The Best Costume Award went to Grayling Physician Network, even though McLean’s ACE Hardware came in close second with their Macho Man costume. Perhaps one of the judge’s favorite awards to give out – the “Haven’t Got a Clue” award – was given to McLean’s ACE Hardware for their memorable sink and inability to paddle to the finish.
Rounding out the awards, the People’s Choice Award went to Rolling Oak Brewing Co., and the last award of the night, the Judge’s award, went to River House Inc. for their beautiful steamboat design.
August 10, 2018

Second Time’s The Charm For River House, Inc. 5280 Walk

Although the wind was blowing and temperatures were chilly, a group of nearly 20 walkers made a trek through Grayling to raise awareness regarding sexual assault.
The River House, Inc. held its third annual 5280 Walk on Friday, April 27.
The aim of the fundraiser was for men to walk the 5,280 feet – one mile – to earn pledges benefiting the women’s resource shelter.
The men had the choice of walking in high heels or pink flip-flops with ribbons tied around the straps.
Initially planned for Friday, April 13, the walk had to be postponed due to a snowstorm that pummeled the community.
The walk was part of promoting April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
“We found a day that was two weeks out and just decided to get it done,” said Rachel Robbins, an outreach client advocate for River House, Inc.
This year, the walk had the theme “Hops and Heels.” The American Legion, Spike’s Keg O’ Nails, Paddle Hard Brewing, and Rolling Oak Brewing sponsored drink specials with a share of proceeds going to the shelter.
“They were super accommodating and grateful,” said Carla Ott, the development director for River House, Inc.
While most participants were from Grayling, William Lownsberry traveled down from the Village of Wolverine in Cheboygan County for the walk.
Lownsberry, who brought his own heels, has participated in 54 similar walks throughout Michigan and Wisconsin over the last 17 years.
“We walk for the victims to let them know we care,” he said.
Lownsberry noted that big-time businessmen and celebrities are being held accountable for sexual assaults, especially through the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements.
“There’s an awful lot of this in the news. Big people and powerful people are under the gun,” he said. “They’re not getting away with the way things used to be. If you’re the perpetrator, they’re coming for you.”
Lonnie Cook, from Roscommon, took part in the walk since he is a former volunteer at River House, Inc. and still has friends that work there.
“It is fun and I like the issue of raising awareness,” said Cook, who wore a dress and a large women’s hat for the walk.  “The whole walking a mile in their shoes – it’s figurative to put these heels on – but no way could I possibly relate to some of the issues they go through. If it’s causing a little pain in my feet to bring awareness to people that are going to be seeing the signs as we walk by or checking out the dude in a dress, it’s whatever works.”
Cook was joined by his girlfriend, Angela Jensen, from Bellaire. She pulled her hair back, wore a shirt and tie and a hat since costumes were encouraged for the walk.
“She was like if you are going dress in a dress, I will dress like I’m a dude,” Cook said. “She’s a team player. I thought that was awesome.”
The walk was a fun way for the couple to kick off the weekend.
“I think that it is a great cause, so I decided I wanted to come and see him in a dress, but I  also wanted to support a good cause,” Jensen said.
The walk was a family affair for the Robbins family. Rachel’s husband, Brooks Robbins, walked and pulled their son, Capser, in a wagon that looked like a truck.
“It’s cool and I am happy to support it,” Brooks said. “It’s for a good cause, and it’s something that I believe in. I’m happy to do it.”
There was a $25 donation charged as an entry fee, which was be donated to support shelter operations. Participants were encouraged to seek financial pledges for taking part in the walk.
A total of $380 was raised.
“It’s not necessarily about the fundraising, but it’s about the awareness,” Rachel said.


River House, Inc. Stands United With New Flags

Leaders at the River House, Inc. showed a united front and highlighted the resources it has to serve battered women and families to kick off April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The staff for the women’s resource shelter raised a flag, which was flown over the Michigan Capitol in Lansing, at the shelter on Thursday, April 5. Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, presented the flag to shelter staff.
“It’s really incredible and it’s really a great honor for us,” said Aimee Sandula, the executive director for the River House, Inc.
James Mueller, a retired commander from the Houghton Lake Post of the Michigan State Police, recently donated a U.S. Flag to the shelter to fly on its flagpole to replace a tattered flag. A former member of the shelter’s board of directors, Mueller still handles maintenance duties at the shelter to help keep operating costs down.
In that light, Carla Ott, the development director for the shelter, and Chris Huntington, the office manager, contacted Rendon’s office in hopes of getting a new State of Michigan flag to display.
“We run on a very limited budget and we run on a deficit every year, so every donation that we get helps,” Sandula said. “We don’t have the funds to purchase new flags and things like that, but we’re honored to fly the flag and want to be part of the state and the country. We’re very grateful for the support.”
Before the new state flag  was raised with the shelter staff on hand, Rendon said  the shelter is an oasis for women and children, and is a place of hope.
“So many people need new beginnings and you do a great job of getting people started on the right track,” she said.
River House, Inc. is a non-profit agency that serves victims and survivors of domestic and sexual abuse in Crawford, Ogemaw, Oscoda and Roscommon counties.
During her visit, Rendon learned about the resources the shelter provides.
“I’m really impressed by everything they have to offer here to women and families who are in crisis,” she said. “It’s a very homey atmosphere. They have gone above and beyond to make it that way. It’s welcoming.”
River House, Inc. was founded in 1986 and was first located by the hospital overlooking the AuSable River.
Rendon praised the shelter staff for being agents of change for women and families and seeking assistance.
“When women have to make a decision to change their lives in such a dramatic fashion, they need all the support they can get, and I can see that they have it here,” Rendon said. “They have a beautiful facility. The security here is very comprehensive.”
Rendon toured the shelter with Sandula.
“There is all kinds of playground equipment for children, so they don’t have to feel like they are so displaced. They have a kitchen that allows them to cook,” Rendon said. “There are places to learn how to do things and to contemplate their future in an area where  they can take the time and make the right kind  of decisions. I think that is so very important for women today.”
Dude looks like a lady? 5280 Walk slated for Friday
Grayling men are urged to walk a mile in her shoes this Friday – or more specifically – the high heels of a woman who has been the victim of domestic violence and sexual assault.
The River House, Inc. is holding the 5280 Walk starting at 4:30 p.m. on Friday, April 13.
The aim for the fundraiser is for the man to walk the 5,280 feet (one mile) to earn pledges benefiting the women’s resource shelter.
Walkers can wear their own heels or heels provided by River House, Inc. The event is part of promoting April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
This year, the walk is being dubbed as “Hops and Heels.” The American Legion, Spike’s Keg O’ Nails, Paddle Hard Brewing, and Rolling Oak Brewing are sponsoring drink specials with a share of proceeds going to the shelter.
“This year, we’re kind of partnering with the community and they’re going to raise funds on their end,” said Rachel Robbins, an outreach client advocate for River House, Inc.
There is a $25 donation charged as an entry fee, which will be donated to support shelter operations. Participants are encouraged to seek financial pledges for taking part in the walk.
The walk will begin and end at the American Legion.
Awards will  be given for “Best Dressed” and “Most Money Raised.”
“We’re hoping to get a lot of people involved,”  Robbins “Mostly, it’s just going to be a fun way to raise awareness for sexual assault and raise funds for victims of sexual assault.”
For more information, call Robbins or Carla Ott at (989) 348-3619.