Simple Sustainability Stats

Courtesy of the University of Michigan Center for Sustainable Systems

U.S. adults are overweight or obese
68%
Children 2-19 are already obese
17%
Good food wasted today
26%
Good food hauled away to landfills
15%

If you happen across a photo of people from the 1970s, you’ll notice one thing. Pretty much everyone is a normal size. Look around today and you’ll see what research proves. More of us are fatter than normal sized. In fact, 68% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese. Even more worrisome is that 17% of children 2-19 are already obese.

Bad as those numbers are, there’s a contradictory and darker side. For most of the last century, leftovers were a mainstay of the American diet. Think Great Depression and ration cards of WW II. Yet today while seven out of ten adults eat too much, we throw away more edible food than ever before! For the record 26% of good food is wasted today, fifty percent more than in 1970. i.e. We wasted less food back then, and we weighed less.

No need to mention how damaging obesity is to health because everyone knows it. So you’re thinking, ‘Isn’t it better to throw food away than to eat it?’ Not if we want a sustainable world for future generations. Good food pitched in the garbage makes up 15% of what the big trash trucks are hauling to our dumps.

So how about saving money and solving this food-wasting problem? First, buy fewer groceries and see how good yesterday’s meatloaf is warmed up. It gets better. Hauling and dumping that 15% of trash costs every single American $455 a year. Reduce your grocery bill, get acquainted with your grandparents’ fondness for leftovers, and now we’re talking some real money.

Not to mention our country is running out of room for dumps.

Mary Free Bed: 1891-2015

What could be Grand Rapids’ first fund-raiser was a bright idea a small group of women called the Union Benevolent Association came up with in 1891 to pay the ten cents a day it cost for one bed in the UBA hospital, forerunner of Blodgett. Since Mary was then the most common woman’s name, these visionary marketers asked the community for dime donations to honor someone named Mary. The newspaper quoted their request, Any man, woman or child who has now, or has ever had, a dear one with that name is asked to give. The dimes rolled in. From then on, there was always one free hospital bed available for someone sick, but too poor to pay.

Fast forward twenty years when these pioneering women realized how important their little fundraiser had become. In 1911 they formed themselves into an official entity and stuck to their origins by naming themselves the Mary Free Bed Guild. How proud these early activists would be knowing their mission of caring for the sick had been carried on for over a century by strong, independent women like themselves who continue to govern the hospital as the Mary Free Bed Guild.

The culmination of that early ten-cent campaign is now a $42 million, six-story addition that will add 190,000 square feet to the existing 115,000 square-foot building all named for that first fund drive. Mary Free Bed Hospital is now the fifth largest rehabilitation hospital in the nation. With the feel of a luxury hotel, the large, colorful private rooms bring the outdoors in with wall murals of Michigan, feature a flat-screen TV, and have sleeper couches that turn into double beds for family members.

Eight gymnasiums. Computerized prosthetic limbs. Walkable hallways using ceiling mounted harnesses. A rooftop terrace, chapel, solarium with a two-sided fireplace. And, most important, Mary Free Bed’s highly skilled staff, specialists in rehabilitating injured bodies and brains, are devoted to returning patients to functioning lives as fast and as happily as possible. All this started by asking for a dime.

Terri McCarthy, Vice President of Programs for The Wege Foundation, and Jane and Phil Godspeed at the ribbon-cutting for Mary Free Bed Hospital’s new addition.  The Wege Foundation was a major donor to the $42 million, six-story building more than doubling the size of the current MFB Hospital.
Terri McCarthy, Vice President of Programs for The Wege Foundation, and Jane and Phil Godspeed at the ribbon-cutting for Mary Free Bed Hospital’s new addition. The Wege Foundation was a major donor to the $42 million, six-story building more than doubling the size of the current MFB Hospital.
Patrick Logan, VP of Orthotics & Prosthetics, holds up one of Mary Free Bed’s more colorful prosthetic legs with the feet that spring up for running.
Patrick Logan, VP of Orthotics & Prosthetics, holds up one of Mary Free Bed’s more colorful prosthetic legs with the feet that spring up for running.
This bright-eyed, mobile model demonstrates some of the extensive prosthetics that Mary Free Bed provides their patients being rehabilitated with injuries from head to toe.
This bright-eyed, mobile model demonstrates some of the extensive prosthetics that Mary Free Bed provides their patients being rehabilitated with injuries from head to toe.

 

Collaboration at Its Miraculous Best

Born four years ago, pretty blue-eyed Harmony Taylor was perfect except for missing her right hand. She used her toddler-sized prosthetic until she outgrew it last fall and the insurance company wouldn’t pay for a bigger hand. Enter the teenagers who belong to West Catholic High’s robotics team, funded by The Wege Foundation. Working with the experts at Mary Free Bed who deal with prosthetic limbs every day, these bright West Catholic teenagers gave Harmony the best Christmas present ever.

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Harmony Taylor, 4, tries on her new hand built by the West Catholic robotics team at Cedar Trails Elementary School in Cedar Springs on Thursday, December 19, 2013. Taylor has a condition called Limb Difference and was born without a hand. (Lauren Petracca | MLive.com)
cedarspringgirlsparts
Pieces of equipment that were used to build a new hand by the West Catholic robotics team

**Top photo – Tim Liu, 18, helps Harmony readjust her new hand built by the West Catholic robotics team.

 

History Behind the Gift to Clark Home

There is family history behind The Wege Foundation’s recent gift to Clark Home. When Peter M. Wege’s widowed mother, Sophia Louise Dubridge Wege, was in failing health physically and mentally, her only child found the best nursing home he could to care for her.  Peter spent as much time as possible visiting Lou – as his dad had called her – tending to her needs, and reminding her how much he loved her.

At age 93, Peter’s own life has been enriched by the same kind of devoted caregivers as those who tend to Clark Home’s residents. By supporting Clark, both Peter and the family foundation demonstrate their shared respect for the good people who are called to enrich the lives of the elderly.

Two parts of Clark’s campaign have special meaning for Peter and The Wege Foundation.  The Benevolent Fund that provides for residents after they can no longer pay speaks directly to Peter’s compassion for those in need. Few people know the extent of his generosity to the underserved people of Grand Rapids.

(What is believed to be the nation’s first LipDub performed solely by residents of a retirement community is getting rave reviews. Clark Retirement Community and Grand Valley State University combined efforts for this “Feelin’ Good” video! )

The other pieces of this campaign that resonate with Peter and The Wege Foundation’s mission are the outdoor improvements at Keller on the Lake. Peter and The Wege Foundation are synonomous with environmental stewardship. The Shared Garden and Lakeside Pavilion offer new green space to Clark’s residents where they can be refreshed and restored in what Peter calls “God’s great gift to us of Mother Nature.”

Peter believed in healing the mind, body, and spirit as a sacred unity. Clark Home’s progressive work in treating residents’ Alzheimer’s, their professional medical care for their physical needs, and Clark’s respect for their community’s spiritual wellbeing honor Peter M. Wege’s faith in holistic health.
Peter believed in healing the mind, body, and spirit as a sacred unity. Clark Home’s progressive work in treating residents’ Alzheimer’s, their professional medical care for their physical needs, and Clark’s respect for their community’s spiritual wellbeing honor Peter M. Wege’s faith in holistic health.
It´s been said that, "the heart that loves is always young." That being the case, Clark is a virtual fountain of youth.
It´s been said that, “the heart that loves is always young.” That being the case, Clark is a virtual fountain of youth.
Clark's missions it to create a community of dignity, compassion and respect centered on the lives of older adults and those who care for them.
Clark’s missions it to create a community of dignity, compassion and respect centered on the lives of older adults and those who care for them.

U of M Dean Delivers Aquinas’s Annual Wege Lecture

In a talk titled Math to Maps to Moms, Dr. Marie Lynn Miranda gave the 17th Wege Foundation Lecture at Aquinas College April 18.  The dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources & Environment is a leading authority on how environmental toxins are poisoning our children’s health—especially children whose families live in poverty.

Babies are not small people, Dr. Miranda explained, which puts them at the highest risk for ingesting toxins like lead.  They crawl on the ground where cleaning chemicals are concentrated and put everything in their mouths.  Even worse, because their metabolisms operate faster than in adults, babies are more apt to suffer brain damage from lead than their parents.  Faster metabolisms mean babies take in more food and water per pound and breathe more air than adults making them more vulnerable to environmental toxins including lead.

Visible symptoms of lead poisoning include colic and wrist drop.  But the worst consequences can’t be seen. Lead damages babies’ and children’s central nervous systems, hearing ability, and attention spans. Dr. Miranda’s research is directed at locating neighborhoods with the highest number of lead-poisoned children – almost always in impoverished parts of town.

She and her team find these children from blood samples that have been tested for lead. In those with elevated levels, Dr. Miranda found clear evidence of developmental deficits attributed to the lead in their blood stream.

But Dr. Miranda, who came to Michigan from Duke University, sees hope for mitigating the neurological damages of lead.  And she starts with a colorful backpack full of new books and a library card for each child.  Lab studies on rats have shown their lead-poisoned brains start functioning better when the rats are put in cages full of bright toys they can manipulate. For the children hurt by lead poisoning, Dr. Miranda sees the stimulation of books and mentors reading to them as the best hope to improve their brain function.  Passionate about her cause, Dr. Miranda told the Aquinas audience, “These children deserve every opportunity all our children do.”

kidssafety

Peter M. Wege's daughter Mary Nelson and his son Peter M. Wege II and Aquinas College's Sister Mary Weber gather after Dr. Marie Lynn Miranda's Wege Foundation Lecture on "Linking Children's Health to Our Environment."
Peter M. Wege’s daughter Mary Nelson and his son Peter M. Wege II and Aquinas College’s Sister Mary Weber gather after Dr. Marie Lynn Miranda’s Wege Foundation Lecture on “Linking Children’s Health to Our Environment.”
Dr. Marie Lynn Miranda, Dean of the University of Michigan's School of Natural Resources & Environment and Aquinas College President Juan Oliverez after Dr. Miranda gave the college's 17th annual Wege Foundation Lecture.
Dr. Marie Lynn Miranda, Dean of the University of Michigan’s School of Natural Resources & Environment and Aquinas College President Juan Oliverez after Dr. Miranda gave the college’s 17th annual Wege Foundation Lecture.

A Linguistic Discovery Helping Cancer Patients

Very few people know that the word “gilda” is actually derived from the ancient Latin term for “volunteer.”  And if you read that with any skepticism, it’s only because you’ve never been to the free cancer-support home called Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids.  This 12-year old welcoming place for anyone dealing with cancer could not be there for all the 10,000 people it serves every year without Gilda’s volunteers.

The children, adults, family, and friends who come through Gilda’s distinct red door soon find themselves embraced, supported, and entertained by red-shirted men and women volunteers. They offer more than compassion; they also offer empathy because most of them have walked themselves or along side a loved one in the moccasins of cancer.

But it’s not enough that these devoted volunteers give their time at Gilda’s Club pouring coffee, playing with children, joining discussion groups, and simply holding a hand.  When Gilda’s puts on an outside  fundraiser to keep that red door wide open, the volunteers sign up in droves.

The late summer 2012 golf outing at Thousand Oaks Country Club was a case in point.  Despite the 90-degree heat, Gilda’s volunteers spent a long afternoon happily greeting golfers at each hole with food, beverages, and gifts.  They were smiling because they knew what they were doing. They were making sure other families like theirs will be able to walk through the open and free red door when one of their own is told, “You have cancer.”

It is true that Gilda Radner, the comic genius who died of cancer in 1989, was the inspiration for the Gilda’s support clubs around the country. But it’s also possible that her parents knew ancient Latin.

gildadoor (1)

 

Sophia’s House Opens with a Blessing

Saint Mary’s medical staff and friends participate in the Bishop’s blessing of Saint Mary’s new guest quarters for families of patients from out of town. Sophia’s House is named for Sophia Dubridge Wege, the mother of the lead sponsor Peter M. Wege. On the far left, Michelle Rabideau, Saint Mary’s Foundation executive in charge of fundraising for Sophia’s House, stands beside her associate Keri Kulala, who delivered her first child four days later, a healthy baby boy named William Briggs Kujala.

For more information on Sophia’s House please visit – Sophia’s House

The plaque reads - This Guest House is named for the woman Peter Melvin Wege referred to as "my sainted mother," Sophia Louise Wege. Born December 8, 1884, Sophia Dubridge grew up on the west side of Grand Rapids in a fun-loving Catholic family. In 1916 the pretty, dark-haired woman caught the eye of widower Peter Martin Wege when his new company, Metal Office Furniture, was doing business with Macey's where Sophia kept the books. They married in 1917, and on February 19, 1920, their life's miracle happened at Saint Mary's Hospital. Peter Melvin Wege, the child they never thought they would have, was born. Sophia Wege gave back to Saint Mary's by becoming an active member of the hospital's Mary Catherine Guild. In turn, Peter carried on his mother's special affection for Saint Mary's when he joined the hospital's board in 1956, being the youngest member by 30 years. Peter's commitment to Saint Mary's has never flagged since.
The plaque reads –
This Guest House is named for the woman Peter Melvin Wege referred to as “my sainted mother,” Sophia Louise Wege. Born December 8, 1884, Sophia Dubridge grew up on the west side of Grand Rapids in a fun-loving Catholic family. In 1916 the pretty, dark-haired woman caught the eye of widower Peter Martin Wege when his new company, Metal Office Furniture, was doing business with Macey’s where Sophia kept the books. They married in 1917, and on February 19, 1920, their life’s miracle happened at Saint Mary’s Hospital. Peter Melvin Wege, the child they never thought they would have, was born.
Sophia Wege gave back to Saint Mary’s by becoming an active member of the hospital’s Mary Catherine Guild. In turn, Peter carried on his mother’s special affection for Saint Mary’s when he joined the hospital’s board in 1956, being the youngest member by 30 years. Peter’s commitment to Saint Mary’s has never flagged since.

The Wege Foundation Honors Peter Wege’s Mother

Sophia’s Guest House at Saint Mary’s Health Care is named after Sophia Dubridge Wege, Peter M. Wege’s mother. The three-story  Guest House – built in 1959 to house hospital interns – has been gutted and renovated earning LEED certification for environmental construction.

Sophia’s House’s 15 private rooms with bath offer families of overnight patients who live 30 miles or more from Grand Rapids a welcoming home across the street from Saint Mary’s. Since one-fourth of the hospital’s in-patients come from out of town, Sophia’s House fills an important need.

While all patients’ families are welcome, Saint Mary’s sees the new Guest House as vital to its kidney transplant program. As West Michigan’s only adult kidney transplant hospital – the University of Michigan’s is the next closest – Saint Mary’s needed a comforting place to house those patients’ family members on short-notice.

“We have a kidney for you. Come now!”  The phone call patients have been waiting a long time to hear comes anytime 24/7. Packing is the last thing on that family’s agenda. They are in the car and gone.

Exhilarated and exhausted, these families now have a homelike place to crash, eat meals, do laundry, and then cross Lafayette Street to spend time with their hospitalized loved one. In their rooms they’ll find free WiFi, cable TV, a coffee maker, a master bedroom with a king/queen mattress, and a guest room that sleeps up to four more family members.

Sophia’s House, with its fireplaced living room, a fully stocked community kitchen, and quiet reflective spaces, charges $35 a night for families who can pay it and reduced rates for others. Thanks to a generous endowment, no family will be turned away.

**Pictured above in hard hats on a construction-site tour of Saint Mary’s Sophia’s Guest House: L to R, Simie Bredeweg, R.N. Manager of the  Kidney Transplant Center; Ellen Satterlee, CEO of The Wege Foundation, and Terri McCarthy, The Foundation’s V.P. of Programming; Caitlin Wege, great-granddaughter of Sophia Louise Wege for whom the Guest House is named; Michelle Rabideau, Director of the Saint Mary’s Foundation.

 

sophiasinside
Inside Sophia’s Guest House: Caitlin Wege, on a visit from San Diego, California, where she is a designer for one of Steelcase’s healthcare distributorships; Michelle Rabideau, Ellen Satterlee, Terri McCarthy, and Simie Bredeweg.

 

sophiasoutside
Saint Mary’s Health Care is seen directly across the street through the window of Sophia’s Guest House during construction.

Gilda’s Club Planning LaughFest 2012

The overwhelming success of Gilda Club’s first LaughFest in March 2011 meant for sure the cancer-support group would do it again. With 55,000 people attending last year’s ten-day marathon of funny people on stage, Gilda’s Club leaders knew they had a good thing going. Even more important, the original LaughFest raised $330,000 to help fund West Michigan’s three Gilda’s Clubs in Grand Rapids, Lowell, and Holland.

When Gilda Radner, Saturday Night Live’s beloved comedian, died in 1989, her family and friends honored her by starting clubs around the country where cancer patients and families could gather in community. Three Grand Rapids cancer survivors – Twink Frey, Deb Bailey, and Susan Smith – decided their city needed a Gilda’s Club too.

Their organizing energy led to Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids opening its signature red door in 2001. Peter Wege, whose mother and father had died of cancer, joined these women’s cause with a major capital gift. The Wege Foundation has continued to be a strong supporter of Gilda’s.

Ticket information about LaughFest’s March 8-18, 2012, lineup is available at laughfestgr.org/. Big names like Whoopi Goldberg, Kevin Nealon, and Martin Short headline the 60-person cast performing in 200 different locations – half of them free to the public. This year Gilda’s Club has scheduled even more family-friendly entertainers than they had last March.