Visiting the Great Lakes State

Written by: Lynn Young, President General
November 6, 2015

After six days in Texas during the month of September, I again boarded a plane to travel to Grand Rapids, MI on September 24 where Theresa Tuttle, Regent, and Sharon VanWeelde, Vice Regent, of the Sophie de Marsac Campau Chapter in Grand Rapids welcomed me to Michigan.  The 115th Michigan State Conference, State Regent Diane Schrift, was held at the elegant Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, with high gold leaf ceilings, fabulous chandeliers and architectural details.

Downtown Grand Rapids was full of original art, thanks to ArtPrize, a non-profit organization with an independently organized international art competition.  Over 400,000 visitors come to Grand Rapids during the few weeks of the ArtPrize exhibit to view the work of 1500 artists displayed at several venues across three square miles of downtown Grand Rapids.  My page, Elizabeth Findeis, discovered a peacock made out of silver spoons.  In the lobby of the hotel was a large canvas with the story of one soldier who made the ultimate sacrifice, titled “Hometown Hero.”  We were invited to add a message to the large canvas and I wrote “Byron Forney – our hero.”

The first event was the President General’s tea, held in the spectacular Gerald Ford room with its Wedgewood blue décor.  It is always delightful to thank our generous donors and provide information about the projects at our historic headquarters.

After the Memorial Service, a special Vietnam Commemoration Service was held to honor the Vietnam Veterans, loved ones of the Michigan members as well as those who served or supported family members during the War.  For each name called, a white orchid was placed in a large clear bowl.  It was most impressive to learn that all 52 chapters are commemorative partners with the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration.

At the opening night banquet, Diane’s talented daughter, Sarah Schrift, was the evening’s entertainment.  Sarah is an accomplished artist and singer/songwriter and combined portraits she had painted of several strong women in America’s history in her program “Women of Note.” Playing her guitar, with the portraits displayed, she sang a song about each and the times in which they lived.

During the Friday morning breakfast, the State Chairman’s Club and Cameo Club Meetings were held consecutively, followed  by the opening business session. Diane’s theme is “Growing our legacy of Spirit and Service.”  With almost 3,200 members in 52 chapters, Michigan DAR is growing, due to the creation of the position of State Organizing Secretary who is charged with strengthening small chapters to turn prospective members into applicants. It was a pleasure to present certificates to the five chapters which achieved 100% participation in the President General’s Project.

State School Chair PJ Steeby wore a KDS Patriot Jersey and cap to introduce Heather Green, Executive Director, Kate Duncan Smith School and Tammy Clemmons, a KDS graduate, Alabama DAR Vice Regent and the President General’s appointee to the KDS Board, as speakers for the DAR School Luncheon.  The students at KDS are very appreciative of Diane’s project to renovate the baseball field at KDS.

The Conference guests visited the Gerald R. Ford Museum a few blocks from the hotel escorted by Carolyn Levin and Christine Richman. One exhibit on the turbulent times in which Gerald Ford became our 38thPresident certainly brought back memories of the clothing fashions of the era, particularly the white Go-Go boots.

Returning to the hotel, the Exhibit room was full of lovely, handmade items for sale along with committee tables.  Most impressive was the DAR Project Patriot Committee, in which Vesta DeRiso, State Chair, asked members to donate bars of Irish Spring soap for distribution to homeless veterans at the October Stand Down at John Dingle VA Hospital in Detroit.  Hoping for 1,000 bars, Vesta was stunned to receive over 4,000 bars from the generous Michigan Daughters!

At the formal Banquet that evening, beautiful piano music was provided by John Griffin, Ph.D. Visiting State Regents Nancy Folk, AL, Ginger Poffenberger, FL and Dianne Culbertson, SC, were invited to bring greetings and to speak briefly about their projects.  The 2015 State Outstanding Chapter Regent, Christine Richman, was recognized.  Competition for this honor must be stiff as the applications are submitted anonymously.

After my presentation on the Guardian Trust Campaign and the need to provide for the future restoration of our buildings through an endowment fund, Diane presented a generous check to the President General’s Project along with two charms for my bracelet, a Leeland Stone charm from the upper Peninsula and a Petoskey stone charm with a fossil from the Lower Peninsula. The evening concluded with Kathleen Leo, State Chair, American Heritage, reading “Days of Grace,” a poem she had written in celebration of our 125th anniversary.  Diane announced that every attendee would receive a complimentary booklet of Kathleen’s poems, which was enthusiastically received.

Throughout the conference, the flowers were spectacular, thanks to the talents of florist and member Barbara Sauerwald. The evening concluded with a beautiful anniversary cake. Regrettably, I had to leave the spirited Michigan Daughters very early the next morning to return to Washington and prepare for the Executive Week and National Board of Management meeting. 

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