ELi’s Top Ten Feel-Good Stories of 2019 (Plus Three Bonus Laughs)

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Wednesday, December 25, 2019, 6:00 pm
Alice Dreger, Publisher

Our end-of-the-year fundraising campaign has left me in “reporting jail,” but I’m still allowed by the ELi staff to research one local story: what ELi reporters did for our readers this year, including in terms of making us appreciate our community a little more.

Before I get to our Top Ten Feel-Good Stories of 2019, I want to note that the whole ELi reporting staff has been thrilled this year to have the on-call help of Raymond Holt, an astoundingly talented professional photographer and videographer.

Ray’s photos have truly improved our reporting, and not just visually; his work has been inspiring those of us doing reporting to write text worthy of his images! This year he also produced a video about ELi that has been opening eyes everywhere about our work.

Okay, now onto “ELi’s Top Ten Feel-Good Stories of 2019.” This year it was really hard to choose, because we had so many options! But here are ten stories that ELi’s lead editor Mark Meyer and I thought we should share:

1. Our recent story on solar pioneers Pat and Mary Barrett (above) of Chesterfield Hills is a great example of the teamwork between a great ELi reporter – Chris Gray – and a great photographer – Ray Holt. The whole editing team just loved reading the Barretts’ story and receiving Ray’s photos of them and their house. Have a look.

2. “You can’t really put words to the type of bond between a police dog and their handler.” So, okay, we’re going to admit we are biased in favor of dog stories, but who wouldn’t love Amalia Medina’s story on ELPD Officer Travis Bove and Quinn, his beloved police dog?

3. Sometimes assigning a local story means getting back a global perspective, and that’s what we got when we asked Ann Kammerer to write about Jamil Hanifi (above, center), beloved local soccer guru. Jamil told Ann the story of how he learned to play soccer in the alleys of Kabul in the 1940s, and what it means to him to play now with people sixty-something years younger than him on the field of MacDonald Middle School. You have to read this one.

4. Most ELi readers know Chris Root (above) for her serious government reporting. But every now and then, Chris does some “embedded” ELi reporting . . . and brings us news of which weeds in our gardens are edible! This year, she brought us dandelion petal pancakes.

5. Usually feel-good stories don’t generate lots of email responses, but we received a ton in response to Brad Minor’s report on the three generations of the Yonkus family at Sundance Jewelers. So many people told us the stories of their wedding rings!

6. And we have another family-business story on our feel-good list: Sarah Spohn’s offering on the fortieth anniversary of B/A Florist, founded by Barb Hollowick and run by daughter Laurie Van Ark: “We take it seriously, so there is responsibility – because these are some of the happiest and saddest times [for our customers].”

7. Our “Ask ELi” column is known to occasionally send us down the silly path – as when we are asked to investigate an odd smell – but one time this year, after we posted an image of the public art mural near Blue Owl Coffee, a reader asked us to find out who the artist of this great piece was. As a result, Ann Kammerer brought us the story of the wonderful local artist Julian Van Dyke (above), who encourages everyone to “Share your work. Think about what you want to achieve.”

8. As with Ann Kammerer’s work for ELi, it’s hard to pick one story from Mark Meyer’s oeuvre to highlight, so I’m choosing two. First up is his report for us on the induction of East Lansing’s ever-humble Bill Feraco into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association Hall of Fame . . .

9. . . . and second, Mark’s profile of a star hidden in our midst: Judy Tant, East Lansing clinical psychologist and precision pistol shooter of wide renown. Seeing Judy on the street, you might well have no idea about her remarkable skill.

10. And finally, we remember back to the early-2019 polar vortex and Jessy Gregg reporting for us on how the wild weather didn’t stop East Lansing’s Department of Public Works employees from fixing water main breaks around the City. Only our Director of Public Works would call the challenge faced by him and his team “interesting”!

And that takes us to our bonus of three laughs, found while surveying this year’s reporting from ELi.

First up, I came across the lede I most enjoyed writing this year: “A marital dispute broke out this past weekend at the home of ELi’s Publisher (me) on East Lansing’s Sunset Lane. Police were not called, but the Department of Public Works was.” Spoiler alert: I won the argument with my spouse about whether you can recycle #4 plastic bags. (Don’t!)

Second, we found a “Your ELi” column from January 2019, from a moment when we had grown tired of readers telling us what we thought they should be telling City Council. The article was headlined, “PSA: We Are Not Your Government.”

What’s funny about this one? Well, we used a photograph of an ELi journalist reporting from City Council – and that was Jessy Gregg, who is now part of your government!

Apparently the column persuaded Jessy to switch teams, since not long after that column, Jessy filed for candidacy. The subject of her last report for ELi? East Lansing’s new “poop digester.” We’ll leave you to insert the obvious jokes.

Finally, while I generally cringe when I have to run a correction, I found myself giggling when I had to run this one: Due to an editing error, the original version of this article had Mike Vasievich referring to "back rubs" by deer. That was supposed to be "buck rubs" (bucks rubbing up against trees). So far as we know, deer don't give back rubs.

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