Women’s History Month on The Four

Honoring the contributions of Northern Michigan women.

March is Women’s History Month, so 9&10 News and Consumer’s Energy are joining up to share some of the amazing women that have made lasting contributions to Northern Michigan history! These history makers were selected from suggestions that our viewers sent to us in February and will be featured on the four throughout the month.

National Women’s History Month is an annual celebration of the hard work and perseverance given by the women who have shaped the world we live in today. This year’s theme, Women Promoting Healing /Promoting Hope, is a focus that we can embrace as we share the current contributions of women along with those of the past. 9&10 News searched for women, past and present, who have enriched the lives of those in Northern Michigan.

In February, we asked our viewers a few questions: Do you know a woman who has made a substantial change in your community? Someone who deserves recognition for their efforts to bring about change? A true influencer for something greater? The result: 4 women who’s positive influence will affect Northern Michigan communities for generations to come. Check out their bios below and watch the four each week in March to share in the celebration of these remarkable women!

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Julia Chambers

The four Week 1 guest: Julia Chambers of Branch Twp.; nominated by Pamela Tripp-Simmons of Baldwin. To appear Thursday, March 3rd, on the four.

Julia Chambers has been on a mission to educate others about protecting the earth and its habitants for most of her life! While she managed the Great Lakes Interpretive Center in the Ludington State Park she developed many programs that accomplished her goal.

During her 26 years as an elementary and art education teacher at Manistee Public Schools she wove this passion in her classes and afterschool programs. Julia owned a small landscape company for 15 years which promoted native plants and organic practices.

In 1990, she co-founded the all-volunteer AFFEW (A Few Friends for the Environment of the World) with Kate Stege in order to educate and assist citizens in creating a healthier world.

She lives on a beautiful pristine lake with her husband Mark. They have 4 grown children and 3 grandkids. She loves to garden, hike, dance, and travel, in her spare time!

Watch Julia’s Live interview now:

The four week 2 guest: Carol Santini of Clare; nominated by Joy Simmer of Mt. Pleasant and Hilda Sharp of Lake, MI. To appear Friday, March 11th, on the four.

Carol Santini: has been a vital organizer and philanthropist for Clare County for at least 35 years: acting as a founding member of the Clare County Community Foundation and Clare High School soccer program, for donating seed money to start Phi Theta Kappa at Mid Michigan College, as well as playing an instrumental role in many other civic programs. She remains very close to the heart of Clare, to this day, and volunteers for numerous nonprofit projects in addition to her administrative work.Carol Santini 1

Carol was a founding member of the Clare County Community Foundation in 1997 and president for over 9 years. She – along with her husband, Anthony, – donated seed money to start the Phi Theta Kappa honor society at Mid Michigan Community College in 1989. She worked as a Licensed Professional Counselor and Dean of Students for Mid Michigan College for 28.5 years as well as 2 more years for CMU as an academic advisor in the College of Business. In 2000, she helped to secure a renovation millage and started the soccer program at Clare High School, taking on the responsibility of fund raising, purchasing uniforms, scheduling games, and finding officials, for the first couple years: until it became a varsity sport. She was on the Clare Public Schools Board of Education and the Clare City Parks and Recreation for 16 years. She worked for 10 years in employment and training for Clare, Gladwin, and Roscommon Counties. She has gone to Zambia and the Dominican Republic on Rotary District 6310 trips to view the water well projects sponsored by the Rotary. She was instrumental in grant writing and fundraising to improve community health with the Emerald Isle Recreational Complex for the City of Clare: including a soccer complex, playground, skate-board park, and a butterfly garden. Her current project with the Clare County Arts Council is Destination Clare: Art Sculpture Walk – with the goal to bring 10 sculptures from across the nation to Downtown Clare to be displayed from May 2022 to April 2023.

As if all of these activities weren’t enough to show Carol’s commitment and positive impact on her community, she remains active as president in the Clare County Arts Council and is involved in: the Volunteer in Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, Clare County Baby Pantry, Mt Pleasant Rotary, 100 Women of Clare and Isabella Counties (fundraising organization for local nonprofits), The Clare Board of Review, and in the City of Clare millage elections.

Carol Santini is able to give so much by focusing on improving the communities around her. She says that “I believe in giving back to the Clare Community to improve life for future generations: my goal in life is to make the world a better place today than it was yesterday.”

Watch Carol’s Live interview now:

The four week 3 guest: Debra Looney of Roscommon nominated by a resident of Roscommon. To appear Friday, March 25th, on the four.

Debra Looney’s consideration for Roscommon County seniors sparked an activities program that she manages to this day to enrich the lives of aging adults in her community. When she and her husband sold their Campground and Canoe Livery on the AuSable River in Roscommon, as a favor to a friend and Roscommon County Commission on Aging employee, she started working at the St. Helen center as an assistant cook and discovered that she really enjoyed working with the seniors. Debra worked her way up and after several years, she began a short period of volunteering to facilitate activities with the seniors, followed by the proposal and creation of an official activity program. Debra has now been with the RCCOA for the past 17 years.Debra Looney

Some of the trips she has put together through the years include para sailing in Mackinaw City, zip lining in Harrison, sailing in Traverse Bay on a Tall Ship, wine tasting events, lavender farm tours, Dennos Museum tours, bus trip to Grand Rapids to see Broadway performances and monthly casino trips. Pre-Covid, overnight trips to New Orleans, Toronto and Niagara Falls, and to the Ark & Creation Museum in Kentucky were taken. By end of this year, she has trips planned for Ark & Creation Museum, Chicago, The Biltmore Estate and Asheville, NC, and Branson, MO.

Not only does she plan trips and activities for the seniors, but she is also a certified instructor for “Matter-of-Balance,” a program designed to teach older adults to manage falls and increase activity levels. She is also a certified instructor for “Take Control with Exercise,” a weekly exercise class aimed to help people with arthritis. New in 2021, during Covid, she started cardio drumming classes which currently meet twice a week.

In addition to these responsibilities, she is also a fundraiser for the Agency’s “Meals-on-Wheels” program. With the help of a few staff members, and her husband, Mike, the “Meals-on-Wheels” Car Show came to be. This summer will mark their sixth year. She also formed a singing group, “Music in the Air,” that represents the RCCOA and performs multiple times throughout the year in Roscommon County and surrounding counties. Debra believes music is the best medicine for everyone.

Debra Looney and her husband, Mike, have been married for 49 years and have one son: living in a wooded country setting with chickens running all over. Debra is always eager and open for new adventures with her senior friends. So, stop by any of the three centers and enjoy a wonderful experience of fellowship and fun or jump on their bus and head off for an awesome adventure with her!

Watch Debra’s Live interview now:

The four week 4 guest: Beverly Mae Cherwinksi of Vanderbilt; nominated by Suzanne Coveyou of Petoskey. To appear Thursday, March 31st, on the four.

Beverly Mae Cherwinksi: has been a lung transplant spokesperson and awareness organizer since her first transplant evaluation in Ann Arbor, in 1998. In the same year, she founded the Organ Transplant Support Group of Northern Michigan and has been active in the organization for over 2 decades!

Beverly started the support group with the help of Mary King, the Community Activity Director at Otsego Memorial Hospital, at that time. She has since been joined by numerous members of her family and other transplant recipients. Her illness was caused by Antitrypsin Deficiency Alpha 1: an enzyme that helps to clean the lungs. Her antitrypsin numbers were at less than 10% of the normal range and led to the onset of emphysema that was further complicated by the inhalation of sawdust particles. By 1998, Beverly had reached a point where normal life function was impossible and her need for a lung transplant was critical. Due to her need for constant oxygen, she was also primarily homebound. Bev Cherwinksi Image

Beverly’s lifesaving lung transplant was not without complications: she received injury to her transplant during her 5th biopsy and was forced into a medically induced coma for 6 weeks that was followed by physical therapy to swallow, sit up, walk, and talk, normally. Since her recovery, Beverly has continued to be a spokesperson for organ and tissue donation. She has made public speaker appearances and written more than 430 articles to local newspapers describing individuals in need of transplants and the success stories of those who have received them. She served as a board member on Governor Rick Snyder’s Board of Respiratory Care for 6 years and as chair for the Care Disciplinary Subcommittee for the last 2 of those years. Beverly also hosted and organized the Hawaiian Lawn Party for local senior citizens since 1999 and organized annual memorial Rose Bush planting events across the state from 2000 through 2019.

The connection that organ transplant recipients share is at the core of the Organ Transplant Support Group of Northern Michigan and their testimonials help to raise awareness across Northern Michigan communities. Beverly encourages others to “think of what will happen to your organs if you don’t donate” because organ donation is the ultimate gift that someone can give after they are gone.

Watch Bev’s Live interview now:

Thank you to all of our viewers for supporting Women’s History Month on the four!

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