Thursday, May 28, 2009

Kettunen Center: teaching and practicing green

Kettunen Center has offered environmental education programs, such as 4-H TRACKERS, for more than 20 years. These programs, taught by Kettunen Center staff members, are designed to meet the Michigan Curriculum Framework for science standards and benchmarks.

But, what isn’t so well known is that Kettunen Center staff members not only teach environmental stewardship – they practice environmental stewardship as well.

“Kettunen Center has had a strong environmental ethic as one of its core values for many years. It’s a part of our mission,” said John Grix, Kettunen Center director.

Because of this strong commitment to the environment, Kettunen Center is a certified Green Lodging Michigan Partner with the Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth. Green Lodging Michigan encourages facilities to implement environmental initiatives and costsaving green practices to conserve energy, reduce water consumption and reduce waste.

“There was very little we needed to do to get certified because it’s something we had already been doing for years,” said Jamie Mielke-Mitchell, Kettunen Center operations coordinator.

Since its beginning, Kettunen Center has had a focus on environmental stewardship and preservation. When Kettunen Center opened in 1961 as the first 4-H volunteer and youth training center in the nation, the buildings were constructed to minimize the building imprint on the land.

The center has been through two major renovations, and each time there has been a focus on environmental conservation.

The Kettunen Center Improvement Project resulted in the construction of the Kettunen Center director’s residence in 1980, an earth-sheltered house built into a hillside. This allows for natural heating and cooling, protection from the elements and, therefore, energy saving.

In 1998, as a result of the Vision 2021 Campaign, Kettunen Center installed a geothermal heating and cooling system for long-term energy efficiency and underwent a major development of the forest and wetland trails and arboretum.

Currently, Kettunen Center is applying for the next level of certification to become a Green Lodging Steward by increasing the number of green practices implemented. Kettunen Center currently has a number of green measures in place.

To conserve and maximize energy, Kettunen Center has LED exit signs, light sensors, and ENERGY STAR-qualified light bulbs, dehumidifiers and dishwashers. Additionally, all computers and small appliances are turned off when not in use.

To reduce waste, the center has a comprehensive recycling program that all departments participate in. The center also uses recycled paper products for marketing materials, avoids single-use items and purchases products in bulk.

For water conservation, low-flow faucets, showerheads and fixtures are used, and guests are offered a towel and linen reuse program. The property is also landscaped with native plants and trees, and watering is done in the early morning or evening to reduce water consumption.

The Kettunen Center staff members established a Green Team made up of one staff member from each department. Each team member is responsible for reviewing and implementing green practices within his/her department. The staff newsletter also has a regular column dedicated to green practices.

“It’s not just a matter of an energy savings program. It’s a policy shared with all staff members on becoming aware of how we can decrease dependence on nonrenewable resources,” Grix said.

Originally published in the Winter/Spring 2009 issue of Vantage.

Gerstacker Foundation supports White Pine Lodge update

The Rollin M. Gerstacker Foundation has been a significant partner of the Michigan 4-H Foundation and Kettunen Center for the past 20 years.

It has provided support to strengthen and beautify the facility’s woodland trail and waterfront access to the Center Lake; provided additional support to cap the Vision 2021 Campaign to complete master plan updates; and provided support to renovate and name the Alan and Jean Ott White Pine Lodge.

The Gerstacker Foundation also positioned Kettunen Center to meet the needs for family programming with the addition of the new Rollin M. Gerstacker wing to the Cedar Lodge.

This year, the Gerstacker Foundation continued its commitment with a $50,000 grant to update the room interiors of the Ott White Pine Lodge at Kettunen Center.

“We as a group have been solidly behind 4-H activities,” said Ned Brandt, Gerstacker Foundation vice president. “I think 4-H memories really come to life at the Kettunen Center.”

The Ott White Pine Lodge has provided premium housing, offering semi-private baths, two-person rooms in the upper White Pine rooms and three-person bunkstyle lodging in the lower White Pine rooms.

With the addition of the Red Oak wing for premium lodging, Kettunen Center staff members have been challenged to adequately book groups of 45 to 50 people – the most popular and consistent adult group size for workshops or conferences– with the comparison of the two lodging wings for groups wanting the more semi-private style lodging.

As part of the update to the Vision 2021 Master Plan in 2007, Kaleidoscope, a nationally recognized non-profit conference center and residential consultant, recommended updating White Pine Lodge to ensure the quality accommodations that Kettunen Center guests have come to expect.

A skim coating of plaster was applied to the interior walls to achieve a smooth wall rather than the previous cinder block texture. Additionally, the walls were painted and the room furnishings – including storage, work surfaces, bathroom fi xtures, fabric, linens and wall art – were replaced to provide a consistent and attractive interior look with an intentional focus on lighting to increase natural light.

“The renovation of White Pine Lodge caps a total remodeling of all of Kettunen Center’s lodges that nearly doubled our size over the past decade,” said John Grix, Kettunen Center director.

"The transformation in WhitePine was amazing, going from cinder block rooms with 25-year-old beds and furnishings to an upscale, well-appointed cozy space. The remodel also gives us the flexibility to turn two twins into a king-sized bed for couples, fulfi ll single room requests on the upper floor and house families with small children on the lower level,” Grix said.

Originally published in the Winter/Spring 2009 issue of Vantage.

Yoplait/General Mills funds second year of Kettunen Center health and fitness awareness initiative

Kettunen Center received a $10,000 grant from the Yoplait-Colombo Division of the General Mills Foundation, of Reed City, for a second year of the center’s health and fitness awareness initiative.

Kettunen Center’s Multicounty Health and Fitness Awareness Initiative provides programs, events and workshops that promote good nutrition and physical fitness to youth and adults who live in Osceola, Mecosta, Wexford and Lake counties, specifi cally targeting at-risk youth and families.

“We are very thrilled that Yoplait of Reed City has provided a second year of funding for programming at Kettunen Center,” said Andrea Grix, Kettunen Center educational program coordinator.

“For a second year, the funding from Yoplait will reduce the cost for more than 750 local area youth to enjoy environmental and outdoor education programs at Kettunen Center. In addition, this grant offers a new multicounty community program called BodyWorks! This program offers an interactive and fun way for moms and daughters to learn together about healthy eating and physical fitness.”

BodyWorks: A Toolkit for Healthy Girls and Strong Women is an obesity prevention program developed by the Office on Women’s Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, to help parents and caregivers of adolescent girls improve family eating and exercise habits. The toolkit provides information, materials and strategies on how to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Wexford, Mecosta and Osceola County MSU Extension are each hosting local workshops based on the BodyWorks program.

In Osceola and Mecosta counties, a one-day BodyWorks workshop was held this spring for participants to learn about healthy eating, serving sizes and fast food; physical activities; meal planning and shopping; cooking and eating together; media influences; and looking at your environment.

Wexford County is hosting a six-week BodyWorks program that began March 5.

“BodyWorks is a program with the overall goal of reducing overweight and obesity in adolescent girls,” said Shari Spoelman, Wexford County MSU Extension educator. “It is based on research that girls will learn from and model what is going on at home.”

Each week’s two-hour session includes a lesson, mostly done by guest speakers, an experiential activity and preparation of healthy food.

“BodyWorks comes with a toolkit that includes a recipe book. After each lesson, we prepare one of the recipes and the participants get a chance to taste it.

“We’re lucky to be working with Kettunen Center staff members. We have four educators on staff for each session,” Spoelman said. “It’s nice to have all of the community partners. We’ve had some amazing presenters,” she said.

Presenters have included a local yoga instructor, a registered dietician,a nurse practitioner and an exercise specialist from the Mercy Hospital Cadillac cardiac care and rehabilitation program.
“We try to introduce the participants to various types of activities,” Spoelman said.

At the end of the program, participants will be provided with gift cards to purchase groceries to prepare a dish to pass from the cookbook. Their families are invited to come to that session, celebrating all that the participants have learned.

“I think there are several benefits to the program. Participants are learning skills they can take
back to their home so that their whole family benefits,” she said.

“It goes back to the research – if children see their parents being active, the children will grow up to be more active. This course gives us skills and ways that we can benefit from,” Spoelman said.

The BodyWorks program will conclude with an event at Kettunen Center for participants from all three counties on May 16.

In 2008, the first year of Kettunen Center’s health and awareness initiative, 1,191 youth and adults were reached through various programs at Kettunen Center, including 4-H TRACKERS school field trips, Family Fun Days, 4-H Learning Science through the Arts Camp, a Women’s Wellness Retreat and several other educational opportunities.

Originally published in the Winter/Spring issue of Vantage.