Hometown Highlight: 75Walls

Two hometown gals starting a mural movement in Muskegon, Michigan, one wall at a time.


Christine Mattson and Jenni Schuitema are the faces behind 75Walls. In line with movements across the U.S., the goal of 75Walls is to beautify inspire and bring joy to the Muskegon area by commissioning artists to transform the Muskegon area – one wall at a time – with a little TLC.

Years ago, Christine and Jenni started a band by the name of 75Walls. Ironically, that band name is now the vision the two friends have for their mission: Turning 75 walls into murals that inspire and bring rejuvenation to Muskegon.


Their first project, titled “Lakeside Regatta” and located along the bike path at the entrance to the Lake Express Ferry, is the perfect welcome to Lakeside and the beautiful Muskegon Lakeshore.

Local artist Jimmy Cobb was commissioned to create and transform the wall.

Funded by personal funds as well as Go Fund Me funds, the murals are coming to life with the help of local artists and community members passionate about spreading art and joy across the great city of Muskegon.

The second project entitled “The Siren’s Catch” now adorns one of Lakeside’s oldest walls.

Local artist Angie Mattson was inspired by those who fished our waters and called this port their home, and is now Located on the wall at Torresen Marine.

To support and learn more about 75Walls, check out their Facebook page.

Stay tuned for walls number 3 through 75!

Hometown Highlight: The Front Porch Project

Kelly Rogers Ruffing has a passion for people, for life and for capturing special moments.

Kelly is a photographer, mom and community cheerleader in Spring Lake. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she added “The Front Porch Project” to her resume.

The closure of schools and local business brought families together and indoors. So many special moments were happening at home.

The original idea sparked in Needham, Massachusetts when Care Soulia and Kristen Collins brought the idea to life.

“Even though (the pandemic) is negative, it’s historic and needs to be documented,” Soulia said. “So why not capture the moment as people are living their lives at home? To be safer and socially distant in front of their homes!”

The idea took root and Kelly brought it to West Michigan.

Her enthusiasm and energy bring joy and laughter to every front yard she crosses. She pops by, capturing each family on their front – and sometimes back – porch.

The photo session is short and sweet. What’s the cost of this unique family keepsake?

Kelly simply asks that each family make a donation to their favorite local charity, church or school. The dollar amount is not specified. In turn, the family receives a high-quality digital print to make this time in history. It truly is a win-win!

As of June 1, more than half of the 31 families who have participated in the project have donated to 21 different charitable organizations, churches or schools in the Tri-Cities area.

“That’s something to smile about,” Kelly said.

More information is available on Facebook. If you’re interested in participating, shoot Kelly a message. She would love to stop by and appreciates your willingness to give back to the local community.

Honoring Our Local Educators: Ms. Annie Willard at Oakridge Lower Elementary

MM Gives Back was launched as a way for the Michigan Mortgage team to give back to the community, local and afar.

In the past, our monthly MM Give Back charities were selected by our Employee Superstar of the Month. We donated financially and offered our time and resources.

This year, we’re switching things up! 2020 is the year of Educators.

Each quarter, Michigan Mortgage will recognize a West Michigan educator and donate $1,000 to their school. Honoring education is our priority!

This quarter, we honored Ms. Annie Willard, an SXI Teacher (SXI stands for students that have Severe Multiple Impairments) at Oakridge Lower Elementary.

Ms. Willard, along with a slew of others, was nominated on our Facebook page.

“I would like to throw Rosanne (Annie) Willard’s hat into the ring. Annie works with Severe and Multiple impaired special needs students. I have never met anyone who does more for her students and sometimes, more importantly, their families than Annie. She makes their lives so much better, advocating and arranging for supplies and services to be available to assist these students with some of their most basic necessities like mobility, bathing, and feeding Always looking for solutions, she often spends her own money to make sure the students and their families have what they need. Over the years we have had a few students pass away and Annie is with these students and their families, crying and laughing about the joy these kids have brought right up until the end.” – Renee Warmoth

She is so incredibly deserving of this recognition; we learned that first-hand when we visited her classroom.

“Annie is very deserving of this award because there is no end to the lengths that she goes to for her students and their families,” said Principal Angela Ogden. “Annie has a huge heart and cares for her students and staff as if they were members of her own family.”

Click here to see our surprise visit to Ms. Willard’s classroom!

“I became a special education teacher so that I could make a difference in these children’s lives,” said Ms. Willard. “I push them to their fullest potential and expect great things from them. Their gains may be small and far between, but the challenge is worth it. And it is exciting when they accomplish something that nobody ever thought they could do.”

“My students are my kids,” she continued. “I generally have them for seven years before they move on to the Middle School program. I learn a lot about them and their family. Their struggles, their needs, or just when they need a shoulder to cry on. I have been there for the passing of two of my students. Helping the family during a very dark time.”

On behalf of Michigan Mortgage, Ms. Willard and Oakridge Lower Elementary received a check for $1,000. Ms. Willard plans to use the funds to purchase specialty chairs for the lunch room and sensory items for a new space currently under construction.

“I cannot thank Michigan Mortgage enough for honoring outstanding teachers,” Ms. Willard said. “I love my job and would not change a thing, but it is awesome to be acknowledged for our hard work.”

“My students have made a huge impression on my life,” she said. “I am thankful for them every day.”

Thank you for your commitment to education, Ms. Willard! We are so blessed to recognize you as the first recipient of our Honoring Our Local Educators Award.

Aldea Coffee

Hometown Highlight: Aldea Coffee and Aldea Development

When exceptional coffee and social responsibility intersect, you get Aldea Coffee.

Aldea CoffeeUpon entering an Aldea coffee shop, there is a palpable culture and vibe that exudes community and service. It doesn’t take long to feel like you are with friends as you are greeted with a warm smile, learn the baristas name and receive the special care that they give each one of their patrons.

Aldea was founded to be more than a transactional coffee shop.

Aldea’s sister organization was born out of a mission to empower the farmers of LaUnion, Lempira, Honduras. So, when you pop in for a lavender latte or a coffee pour over, you are positively impacting the lives of men, women, and children in remote areas of Honduras.

You are giving those small farmers in impoverished areas the ability to plant, harvest and bring their coffee to market, where they receive fair value for the coffee beans.

Established in November, 2009, Aldea Development, a registered 501(c)3, was established as Union MicroFinanza with a microfinance focus, which has morphed into a community development organization.

The goal was to create a microfinance organization supporting small-scale farmers. Their staff lives in Honduras and learns from members of the community.

They hear first-hand what limitations, obstacles, and successes the farmers are experiencing and come up with solutions together to greater serve the farmers and community as a whole.

In a time where small scale producers are going out of business, due to the world’s coffee market experiencing a downturn. Aldea has the unique ability to provide stability to farmers. These farmers don’t have to adjust to market rates. Aldea purchases the farmers coffee and pays the farmers consistent prices that are above Fair-Trade prices.

As Aldea’s wholesale and retail business increases, more money goes directly to the farmers pocket book.

With coffee houses in two different West Michigan locations, Aldea has become a gathering place for locals to socialize, work, and just be in a space that is welcoming, calming and super hip and cool!

They are creating community in downtown Grand Haven and Muskegon, very similar to the community they have created in LaUnion, Honduras.

Next time you are deciding which coffee house to patronize, pause and remember, when you choose to purchase your coffee at Aldea, your purchasing power is positively contributing to the quality of lives in impoverished areas of Honduras.

For more information check out www.aldeadevelopment.org and www.aldeacoffee.com.

Hometown Highlights: PassPort to Growth

Hometown Highlights: Passport to Growth

Passport to Growth with your “tour guides” Rich Lohman, Dave Rudin and Leigh Lohman.

“Without continuous growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin

Hometown Highlights: PassPort to GrowthIf you are looking to grow in the areas of leadership, personal development and communication, Passport to Growth invites you to take action now and give yourself the gift of growth through mentorship. If you struggle with being consistent with growth and feel that you lack the tools for professional and personal growth, this program offers a community to help you bridge the gap so that you have the exercises and tools necessary to progress and succeed.

Passport to Growth is designed to be flexible and adaptable so that even those with the busiest of schedules can operate effectively within the structure. For an entire year, members can access this mentorship program before or after work, during a break or as a designated part of you workday. Passport to Growth is Designed for individuals and larger organizations alike.

Your mentors will guide you and encourage you through the process, meeting you where you are on your journey.

Rich Lohman has been a full time speaker, coach and trainer for nine years. He is an Executive Director with the John Maxwell Speaking, Coaching, Training Team and is also a DISC certified
Consultant. His main goal is to be a resource, friend and mentor to help and challenge your growth, improve your leadership skills and help you achieve amazing success in all areas of your life.

Leigh Lohman in truth is a Realtor but she is so passionate about personal and professional growth that she became a certified John Maxwell Speaker, Coach and Trainer as well as being
a DISC certified Trainer. Along with her strong desire to walk beside people in their growth journeys, Leigh is also a recent graduate from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, driving her
focus to the overall health of a person, mind, body and soul. She believes we cannot be whole unless we work on all facets of life.

Dave Rudin has been on the path to growth for over 20 years. He realized that it was necessary to make a shift to being intentional, surrounding himself with other people that had
been where he wanted to go that his growth journey really started to take off. He recognized that content alone, (books, podcasts, seminars) wasn’t enough to make great strides in personal and professional growth.

One of the primary goals is to offer affordable, weekly coaching that follows a curriculum that offers concrete action steps to take in order to have clarity in your personal and professional life.

The support from the coaches and the community gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, with a weekly coaching call, group tasks, weekly growth assignment, worksheets, discussion, Q & A
sessions, and a Facebook community to interact with. The calls are also recorded for those times when your schedule may not allow you to be a part of the live call or for the times you need additional reflection on a particular topic, you are able to go back and listen as many times as you need.

To learn more about Passport to Growth go to www.passportogrowth.com or contact Rich at Rich@woohooing.com.

Hometown Highlights: Jenn VanHekken

Hometown Highlights: Jenn VanHekken

What do you get when you combine a serving heart, crazy positive energy and the desire to help others? You get Jenn VanHekken.

She is quick to smile, quick to laugh and quick to contemplate!

Hometown Highlights: Jenn VanHekkenJenn’s journey has brought her to this amazing place in her life in which she finds herself coaching, blogging, podcasting, and speaking her truth and her passion so that others can find their God given purpose and inspire them to walk in the fullness of all that God has called them to be.

Before Jenn was any of those things she was and still is wife, a mom and a Child of God.

She and her hubby (and high school sweetheart) Chris have the joy of raising two amazing kids together right here in Grand Haven.

Kaitlyn is a college cheerleader who is all full of #girlpower and her son Carson spends most of his time on the baseball field, and also happens to be Chris’s mini me.

You can check out Jenn’s Podcast, “Diary of a Small Town Girl” where she interviews local hometown heroes, musicians, pastors, boss babes, artists and world changers all in our backyard of West Michigan.

When you need a dose of inspiration, a bit of local flavor, hope and laughter, Jenn’s podcast delivers. Her goal is to “inspire others through the stories they hear.”

You can check out over 40 podcasts at “Diary of a Small Town Girl.”

When Jenn is wearing her coaching hat, she works to help women find clarity and purpose through her faith-based approach.

She is a certified life coach as well as a certified Enneagram coach. Working with individuals and small groups, this technique is a powerful tool for personal and collective transformation.

Grabbing a cup of coffee is a great way to learn more about Jenn and the beautiful resources she provides her clients.

You can learn more about Jenn by going to www.jennvanhekken.com.

Hometown Highlights: The Be Event 2019

BE is the most common verb in the English language.

To BE is to exist, live, take place, happen; to belong, to attend; to remain in a certain state or situation undisturbed, untouched.

Image promoting The Be Event 2019What is the BE event? A goal setting conference, featuring eight speakers, each focusing on key areas of life, ranging from relationships, finance, health, career and more.

The event is a time to be intentional about the 2019 year, creating goals, letting go of that which does not serve you and connecting with other men and women that want to BE better, not perfect!

It is a time to be filled, present, loved, accepted, excited, passionate, hopeful. It is a time to connect with our community, share common energy and to recognize and embrace the fact that we are the change that the world needs.

We all want to DO BETTER in areas of our lives, however we strive so deeply for perfection and balance that we get caught in a constant feeling of falling short. We compare ourselves to other people’s outsides, and some of us compare net worth to self worth. This conference is for anyone that has made mistakes, wants to do better, wants to connect, has a dream, wants to live with purpose and make a difference.

Who attends the BE event? Men and women who need encouragement, leaders who lead with love, community impactors, encouragers, growers and learners, evolved, evolving people who desire a commitment to each other, a desire to first BE, then DO, then HAVE and most importantly to GIVE and connect in a world that can be isolating and competitive.

You cannot command change unless you are willing to actually BE the change. Your hands, your words, your willingness to show up with integrity and kindness in all that you say and do matters. Because our world is LOUD, the BE event gives women and men alike, a space where they can see and feel each other’s light.

This year’s keynote speaker will be Dr. Jean Houston, a nationally recognized scholar, philosopher and a founder of the Human Potential Movement. She talks to audiences around the world, using her deep knowledge of culture, new science, spirituality, and human development to inspire leaders to better their lives in the everyday. Dr. Houston challenges us through engaging teaching, inspiring revelations, and humorous stories to reconnect, recharge, be liberated and engage in our communities and our daily lives.

“The entelechy of an acorn is to be an oak tree, a caterpillar to be a butterfly, and a popcorn kernel to be fully popped. We are all loaded and encoded with a dynamite purpose, a special
gift and ability that comes naturally to us—so naturally that we may even take it for granted and not recognize it as our innate, great purpose.” – Jean Houston

This year’s event will be at the beautiful and historic Frauenthal Theater in Muskegon on September 14. For additional information about the event, for ticketing and sponsorship information go to www.thebeevent.com.

When registering, use promo code Be2019. 

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are we not to be?” – Marianne Williamson

Image showing an autographed Justin Abdelkader jersey.

#MMGivesBack: Stand Up for the Cure

Each month, our staff selects a local charity to support through our #MMGivesBack program. Our goal is to give back, get involved and make a difference.

In honor of Loan Officer Shawn Norden and her passion for breast cancer awareness, we have selected Stand up for the Cure (SUFTC) Muskegon as this month’s charity.

“As a breast cancer survivor, I learned very quickly the importance of early detection,” Norden said. “It is not a cliché. Finding breast cancer early offers you less invasive treatment options and a much greater probability of survival.”

“My wish is that every woman has the same access that I did for finding breast cancer early – that is why I Stand Up for the Cure,” she said.

The event – the fifth in Muskegon – is slated for Saturday, July 13, at Harbour Towne Beach.

SUFTC’s mission is “to help women find breast cancer early – when it’s more treatable – through education, awareness, screenings and research while building a supportive, compassionate community.” The event aims to introduce non-paddlers to the fun and healthy sport of standup paddle boarding.

According to the organization, “Seventy-five percent of the funds raised at the 2019 event will go to local programs managed through Hackley Community Care, with the remaining twenty-five percent going to Van Andel Institute to fuel Dr. Carrie Graveel’s research into triple-negative breast cancer, which is the most aggressive and deadly form of the disease.”

“We help those right here in our community every day,” Norden added. “This is a huge reason why I support SUFTC. Of course, we want to end breast cancer forever – but until that happens, we need to help those afflicted by this horrid disease.”

Online registration is now open.

As part of this year’s event, Michigan Mortgage will be giving away a Red Wings jersey autographed by Muskegon’s very own Justin Abdelkader.

If you’d like an opportunity to win, stop by our office (6207 Harvey Street, Suite B) between now and July 12. The cost to enter is $10 for one chance and $20 for three.

If you’re planning to attend the July 13 event, stop by the Michigan Mortgage booth for your chance to win. All proceeds will go directly to Stand Up for the Cure.

The winner will be announced at noon on July 13. You need not be present to win.

If you have questions related to the giveaway, please call Shawn Norden at 231-557-9414.

“I am so grateful that our community has embraced this event and all it stands for,” Norden said. “We would not be able to be successful without our very generous sponsors, participants and the community as a whole.”

Muskegon Event Details
Harbour Towne Beach, Muskegon
Date: Saturday, July 13
Time: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Activities: Kid’s Paddleboard Race, 5K Expert Race, Relay Races, Fun “Sea of Pink” Paddle, Yoga on the Beach, Free Breast Health Screenings, Live Music, Catered Lunch & Happy House, a Silent Auction and much more!

For more information about this year’s event, click here.

Image of Dr. Tabatha

Hometown Highlights: Dr. Tabatha Barber Duell

In a world full of buzz words like gut microbiota, leaky gut, diseases of affluence, mind/body connection, functional medicine, mindfulness, phytochemicals, detoxification… it’s no wonder that we are all confused about how to live our best life.

Enter Dr. Tabatha: “Take care of yourself! Doctors orders!”

Dr. Tabatha Barber Duell’s passion to encourage women to live their best life through a functional medicine approach to health is nothing short of inspiring.

She believes that the best “medicine” is for physicians to spend time with their patients, listening to their histories, mapping their personal timeline, and looking at the interactions among genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors that can influence long term health and complex chronic disease.

As an OB/GYN, she has been working with women through issues that face them as they have their first baby, to women going through menopause and learning how to cope with all of the changes that come with both.

Tabatha’s passion over the past 15 years has been delivering babies for hundreds of patients in West Michigan. She maintains that passion today, with an added dose of care that goes beyond the typical Doctor/patient relationship.

As Tabatha has grown and evolved over time, her course work, readings, and patient care have brought her to a place where she recognizes that women need to be empowered so they can advocate for themselves through movement, mindfulness, and diet each and everyday.

She wants to dig deeper with her clients and our community to see stronger, healthier women who thrive in all areas of their lives.

When asked if she could do anything in the world professionally right now what would it be? Without a second’s hesitation, she answered enthusiastically “I would open a women’s wellness center that incorporates Western and Eastern medicine: with meditation, accupuncture, herbal therapies, counseling, movement, mindfulness, nutrition and aesthetics!”

Giving women the tools to thrive through a mind, body, spirit approach to well being is what Dr. Tabatha would like to see more of in West Michigan and all over the United States.

Tabatha’s training as a DO, her work in Functional Medicine, and her personal struggles with back pain, and an autoimmune disease have given her a personal perspective on how lifestyle changes can make a huge difference in mental and physical health. She has been promoting “52 Weeks of Growth” using social media platforms to promote habit shifts. She teaches workshops through NOCH on related health issues, has been a speaker at the BE event, and has recently written a book “From White Trash to White Coat” that is a fictionalized story of her life.

If you are interested in learning more about Tabatha’s journey into Women’s Wellness, you can hear her speak at this year’s Be Event, Saturday, September 14, from 1-5 p.m. at the Frauenthal Theater. Tickets go on sale June 1.

Headshot of Julie

Hometown Highlight: Call to Lead Coaching

With a radiant smile and exuberant welcome, Julie Stenberg exudes confidence with equal parts caring.

As a life coach, Julie helps people create a “Go For It” life and business. Julie’s goal is to guide people back to life.

When you meet her, it is obvious that Julie is living out her purpose, using her gifts and talents to impact lives in a beautiful and positive way. With multiple careers, three universities, John Maxwell Coaching and Leadership Certifications, and several years of coaching under her belt, Julie brings a unique perspective and varied skill set to her clients.

Whether teaching Kindergartners Spanish, teaching Shakespeare to gang members, coaching participative management Toyota-Production-System style, Julie is inspired by the human spirit. She is passionate about serving the people whose spirit is a little broken, underdeveloped and sometimes just lost.

“It breaks my heart to see people mired in the circumstances of life and never feeling they have the ability to change their situation,” Julie said.

Like so many successful people, Julie believes that everyone benefits from having a coach.

“Coaching is not therapy, it’s a specific set of ACTIONS to break patterns that do not serve you and to build vital behaviors that take you where you want to go,” she said.

Julie offers predominantly two types of coaching: leadership building and individual success coaching.

She serves organizations in developing leadership practices to take them to the next level of life and business. She thrives in speaking to groups of 25-300 people, getting them fired up to tackle change head-on. She teaches all aspects of change, from identifying the compelling need, to their current culture, to their ideal state, and then building the actions to take them from here to there.

The majority of Julie’s clients are small to mid-size businesses that want to up-level and increase the effectiveness of their managers and processes, allowing the executive team to focus on strategy and business development. She also works with family-owned businesses that are looking to pass their legacy off to under-developed heir, or team of managers, as well as those needing to systematize the business for potential sale.

In Julie’s one-on-one success coaching, she works with healthcare executives, stay-at-home moms, university professors and air travel professionals, among others, to prioritize their personal, physical and professional lives.

One of Julie’s clients had this to say: “From the first meeting with Julie, I knew I had found the right person. She ‘got’ me. Through her one-on-one coaching and her workshop, she has helped me adjust my priorities, set goals and take action steps to structure my life around my true passion.”

To contact Julie for more information, you can reach out via email at julie@calltoleadcoaching.com or visit www.calltoleadcoaching.com.