Street Talk

Street Talk: GVSU to the rescue

Road warriors.

June 3, 2016
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It’s OK to be a little scared.

At the end of May, the “superbug” E. coli infection resistant to many antibiotics showed up in the United States for the first time. The case involved a 49-year-old Pennsylvania woman. If the gene that makes this E. coli drug-resistant moves on to other “superbugs” with other resistances, the result could be bacteria that are resistant to all known antibiotics.

One of the first lines of defense is right here in West Michigan. A group of Grand Valley State University chemistry professors, including Rachel Powers, Brad Wallar and David Leonard, is researching solutions for the potentially devastating bacteria.

The professors have been researching the topic for 10 years, and the solutions have a lot to do with scientific reactions of enzymes.

“The recent announcement of the discovery of a superbug that is resistant to Colistin is a major public health concern; these bacteria are now resistant to our last-line defense antibiotics used to treat these infections,” Powers said. “In our lab, this has provided even more motivation to find novel ways that our research can contribute in the fight to overcome bacterial resistance.”

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention appears to be getting on board as drug-resistant bacteria become more common globally. In a statement following the Pennsylvania news, the CDC said it will begin providing infrastructure and lab capacity to seven of its eight regional labs, labs in every state and seven major cities to help detect and respond to resistant organisms found in human samples.

These “superbugs” keep infectious disease specialists awake at night. At least that’s what Dr. William Schaffner told the website Live Science. He also said the general public should not panic yet; the public health sector will — hopefully — figure out a solution as scientists work to find more antibiotics to augment the current offerings, many of which were created more than 50 years ago.

In the meantime, Schaffner told Live Science that patients should not argue with their physicians when told antibiotics are unnecessary for whatever condition they have.

“Don’t insist on them,” he told the online magazine.

Helping hands

The recent deal between Spartan Stores Inc. and Nash Finch that created SpartanNash will have an unexpected — and welcome — impact on the community.

SpartanNash employees in West Michigan will embark on the company’s first Helping Hands in the Community Day on June 7, in part based on the success of a similar venture in Nash Finch’s hometown of Minneapolis.

SpartanNash officials anticipate that nearly 350 employees will complete more than 2,000 hours of volunteer service at 20 nonprofits during the West Michigan event.

“Helping Hands is a great tradition that started at our Minnesota office that we are proud to bring to West Michigan for the first time this year,” said Dennis Eidson, SpartanNash CEO. “The success of our company is built upon being good neighbors and partners in the communities we serve. Many of our distribution, retail and corporate associates already volunteer their time regularly throughout the year, so having hundreds of us come together and take a day to give back is very special.”

Volunteer groups will leave the Byron Center headquarters on buses beginning at 8 a.m. to travel to their respective project sites for day-long project work. Projects will include repainting a gymnasium, preparing meals, yard and garden work, cleaning up trails, landscaping, deep cleaning, taking in and sorting donations, interior and exterior painting, warehouse reclamation and more.

Afterward, the teams return to SpartanNash headquarters for an ice cream social where they can share their experiences with their co-workers.

According to Kathy Mahoney, SpartanNash’s chief legal officer, SpartanNash Foundation trustee and a founder of the first Helping Hands Day in Minneapolis, “The energy and pride we share following the event is phenomenal. Our associates give so much while volunteering — but they quickly learn how much they receive in the process. Helping Hands helps us better connect with our Foundation grant recipients and community service providers, and together we build stronger communities.”

Eidson said SpartanNash has increased its commitment to volunteerism in 2016, challenging its associates from across the country to collectively give more than 15,000 hours to volunteer efforts. Associates are encouraged to find the causes they care most about and volunteer in their local communities.

Local nonprofits are looking forward to this first go-round.

“On behalf of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, we wish to thank the SpartanNash Foundation, SpartanNash corporation and its Kent County stores for their key role in providing resources and volunteers to build more affordable housing in Kent County and for helping us transform the lives of vulnerable children and their parents through homeownership and neighborhood revitalization,” said BriAnne McKee, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, a Helping Hands partner organization.

Helping Hands in the Community Day first took place when Nash Finch employees from the company’s Edina, Minnesota, location spent a day volunteering together at various nonprofits around the Twin Cities in June 2011. Since then, associates at the Minnesota corporate office have participated annually. To date, 1,628 SpartanNash associates have helped contribute more than 8,000 volunteer hours to 19 community partners during Helping Hands days. The next Twin Cities Helping Hands Day will take place June 29.

SpartanNash’s MDV military division, based in Norfolk, Virginia, will host its inaugural Helping Hands Day this fall. MDV is a distributor to U.S. commissaries and exchanges around the world.

Road rally

Grand Rapids Home for Veterans once again will benefit from a series of summer street parties.

Beginning Wednesday, June 15, and continuing each Wednesday through Aug. 31, Garage Bar Block Parties will take place from 6-10 p.m. in front of the venue, 819 Ottawa Ave. NW. The events will have a $3 admission fee, of which $1 will be donated to the veterans home.

“The Garage Bar Block Parties will be fun, but they’ll also be community-minded by allowing us the ability to give something back to the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans,” said Kevin Farhat.

Garage Bar & Grill has raised more than $7,300 through its block parties and other charitable events over the past two years, he said.

Each block party will feature live music as well as motorcycle and classic car competitions on Ottawa between Fairbanks and Mason streets.

Car clubs and enthusiasts are encouraged to come to the events and display their cars, Farhat said. A designated exhibit area will run along Ottawa from Fairbanks to Newberry streets. Best-in-show prizes are awarded each week.

Garage Bar & Grill has partnered with WGRD 97.9 FM to secure musical acts, including the Twisted Tarantulas, In the Red, Brena and Stolen Horses.

Each band will perform two sets between 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Ottawa Avenue.

Food and drink specials will include $1 tacos from 6-8 p.m., $2 draft beer, $3 well drinks and $4 glasses of wine.

Pioneer Construction, Kent Companies and Budweiser are this year’s block party sponsors.

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