COVID-19 Update: Salvation Army Launches Red Kettle Campaign Early to Rescue Christmas, Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark Wins Tripadvisor Award, and More

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.
Courtesy of Bridge

Here is a roundup of the latest news concerning the COVID-19 pandemic in addition to announcements from local, state, and federal governments, as well as international channels. To share a business or nonprofit story, please send us a message.

Salvation Army Launches Red Kettle Campaign to Rescue Christmas
The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit is launching its Red Kettle Campaign – the earliest the nonprofit has ever begun its annual Christmas fundraiser in its 133-year history of serving southeast Michigan.

Supporters can Rescue Christmas for those in need throughout the 2020 Red Kettle Campaign by donating or volunteering their time this Christmas season to aid The Salvation Army reach its $8 million fundraising goal. All funds raised will directly benefit communities throughout Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties.

“With more people facing hardship this year, the need to serve those most vulnerable is greater than ever,” says Major Tim Meyer, general secretary, metro Detroit area commander, and regional chief operating officer for The Salvation Army Eastern Michigan Division. “2020 has been a tough and tumultuous year for thousands of people across metro Detroit, and we realized that we had to begin this year’s Red Kettle Campaign much earlier than normal to make up for lost time. Bottom line – many more families will be coming to us this year for help – and we want to make sure we’re able to give them the support they need.”

While the iconic red kettles won’t make an appearance until Friday, Nov. 13, Salvation Army supporters can help support the nonprofit’s early efforts to Rescue Christmas by:

  • Texting GIFT to 24365
  • Visiting here
  • Calling 877-SAL-MICH
  • Sending a check, made payable to The Salvation Army, to: 16130 Northland Dr., Southfield, MI 48075

The Salvation Army is relying on the metro Detroit community for its support in order to provide for people who may lack proper shelter or warm meals – or for families that might be choosing between things like paying the rent or buying Christmas presents for their children.

A sustaining, $25 monthly gift helps support The Salvation Army’s much needed programs in a donor’s area, while one-time gifts up to $300 are being made 100 percent tax-deductible for the remainder of 2020, thanks to the CARES Act. This even applies for donors who use the standard deduction.

The Salvation Army also is encouraging individuals and families to sign up as volunteer bellringers by visiting where they have an option to choose a traditional, two-hour session at a physical red kettle site or participate in a virtual bellringing shift where they can raise funds in the comfort of their own home. Volunteers who donate their time as a virtual or in-person volunteer bellringer can enter to win an Apple or Android Smartwatch as part of the nonprofit’s Watch for Good volunteer recruitment initiative.

The Salvation Army will take all safety precautions with in-person volunteers by providing them with personal protection equipment and encouraging individuals to donate via Kettle Pay, a contactless donation option through Apple or Google Pay.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a substantial hit on retail foot traffic at malls and department stores, with some seeing an 80 percent or more drop during the months of March through May. On the contrary, preference for curbside, contactless pickup at retail stores surged more than 208 percent during the height of the pandemic – and online searches related to “curbside pickup” for major retailers like Walmart from March through July grew more than 600 percent.

“After looking at all the data these past few months, we found that people were still going to stores, albeit in a much different way – which helped identify options for shoppers to still safely interact with our Red Kettles” says Meyer. “We know people automatically think of Christmas as soon as they see our kettles at storefronts, and that’s why we’re working diligently with our corporate partners and bellringing locations to still have physical kettles at some locations this year. With the continuation of Kettle Pay, paired with the health and safety guidelines our bellringers must adhere to this year, we’re confident the public will feel comfortable donating to The Salvation Army in 2020.”

For more information, visit here.

Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark Wins Tripadvisor Award
Zehnder’s Splash Village Hotel and Waterpark in Frankenmuth has been recognized as a 2020 Travelers’ Choice Best of the Best Winner in the Best Hotels for Families category.

This marks the third time in the last four years that the property has won the award is based on a full year of Tripadvisor reviews, prior to any changes caused by the pandemic; award winners exemplify the top 1 percent of hospitality businesses around the globe.

“We opened Splash Village in 2005 to give families a place and an opportunity to spend fun time together and that remains our focus,” says Al Zehnder, chairman and CEO. “We invested in expansion projects for the waterpark and hotel in 2014, and most recently added a second waterpark retractable roof to our original park. With more than 50,000 square feet of aquatic fun, Splash Village has gone beyond our expectations and is now one of Michigan’s largest indoor waterparks.”

MSU Researchers to Create Diamond Devices to Detect Parkinson’s Early
Researchers at Michigan State University in East Lansing have secured $3.4 million in grants to develop diamond implants that could let doctors diagnose and treat Parkinson’s disease earlier.

MSU’s Wen Li and Erin Purcell are leading the effort to use diamond devices to monitor the brain’s biochemistry for early warning signs of disease. The National Institutes of Health (43 million) and an MSU Strategic Partnership Grant ($400,000) are funding the work, which includes preclinical testing of the devices in rodents. Using these animal models, the team will evaluate the safety, durability, and performance of diamond-based electrodes implanted for up to six months in brain tissue.

During that time, researchers will essentially have a live feed to the brain’s levels of dopamine, a chemical that neurons use to communicate. Patients with Parkinson’s disease start losing dopamine even before the onset of physical symptoms, such as tremors or balance problems.

“By the time patients with Parkinson’s disease start noticing problems with their motor systems, they may have already lost 60 to 70 percent of their normal dopamine levels,” says Purcell, an associate professor in MSU’s Department of Biomedical Engineering and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering. “This is an untapped window of opportunity. If you can detect that loss earlier, you open up opportunities to treat the disease earlier.”

Although Parkinson’s disease is the researchers’ primary focus, they added that the diamond devices could probe chemistries involved with other diseases and disorders, such as addiction, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Diamond is a very unique material,” says Li, calling out its durability. “That has the potential to improve the stability of our devices.”

Other electrode materials can degrade or decompose over time when implanted in living tissue, but diamond should be tough enough to survive months of implantation, Li says.

But toughness also can be a drawback in biology. Implants need to be compliant, or flexible, so they don’t irritate or damage soft tissue.

“Flexibility is tricky,” Li says. Her team has a solution, though. They develop techniques to make ever shrinking diamond devices, which will continue under the new grants. “When the dimensions shrink, the device becomes more compliant.”

“As it shrinks, the device becomes unseen to the tissue,” Purcell added. “You can think of it as a sort of stealthy sensor inside the brain.”

If the researchers are successful, they will have built an unseen sensor to spot previously undetected signs of Parkinson’s disease early in its onset. Although the team is optimistic, the researchers aren’t taking success for granted.

“There are a lot of challenges,” Purcell says. “We have to see if diamond can overcome those.”

Meijer Extends 15% Teacher Discount for Entire 2020/2021 School Year
Grand Rapids-based Meijer is extending its 15 percent discount on classroom essentials throughout the entire 2020/2021 school year.

Additionally, the retailer has added facemasks and hand sanitizers to its annual 15 percent off teacher discount at all Meijer stores.

“There are so many uncertainties as teachers head back to classes and we’ve heard the plans may change throughout the year, so our goal is to help them shop with confidence whenever they need to refill supplies,” says Brandon Pasch, director of back-to-school merchandising for Meijer. “We hope that extending the 15 percent discount for the entire school year helps reduce the stress to their pocketbooks as they continue gathering supplies for their classrooms and home offices.”

Pasch says that a recent Meijer survey showed that teachers expect to repeatedly adjust, refill, and update their supplies multiple times in the coming months, as more than 80 percent expect the new normal for their students to be a back and forth mixture of virtual and in-person learning.

A recent Center of Education Statistics, Schools, and Staffing Survey, 94 percent of public school teachers say they spend their own money on notebooks, pens and other supplies without reimbursement. Other experts have estimated the average teacher spent more than $745 out of their own pockets during the last school year.

Teachers can get the discount, in the form of a paper coupon, by presenting a current school ID at their local Meijer Customer Service desk. The coupon can only be used for purchases made in-store and some restrictions apply. Teachers can take advantage of the coupon repeatedly by obtaining a new one any time they return to Meijer throughout the back-to-school shopping season.

The retailer expects more than 80,000 teachers across the Midwest will take advantage of the teacher discount. Visit here for more information.

Two September Events Highlight Women in Business
Two events at the end of September will put a spotlight on women in the business world: Inforum on Sept. 29 and the Great Lakes Business Women’s Conference on Sept. 29-30. Both will be conducted virtually.

Inforum will take place from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Sept. 29. Tickets are available here. Panelists for the discussion include Gina Coleman, chief sales officer at MassMutual Great Lakes; Nansook Park, director of the Michigan Positive Psychology Center at the University of Michigan; and JoAnne Purtan, co-host of “Mornings with Stephen Clark and Joanne Purtan” on 104.3 WOMC. Lynn Antipas Tyson, executive director of investor relations at Ford Motor Co., will moderate the event.

The Great Lakes Women’s Business Conference on Sept. 29-30 is hosted by Pure Michigan Business Connect and the Great Lakes Women’s Business Council. To register and to become an event sponsor, visit here.

U-M Researchers: Testing Deceased Could Provide Additional Pandemic Surveillance
Testing for the coronavirus on those who have died could supplement other forms of surveillance and serve as a possible early outbreak warning sign, say University of Michigan researchers.

“This kind of surveillance could be really useful and serve as an inexpensive testing method, especially in urban areas,” says Andrew Brouwer, an assistant research scientist at U-M’s School of Public Health.

Brouwer and his colleagues in epidemiology worked with Carl Schmidt, U-M professor of forensic pathology and the chief medical examiner for Wayne and Monroe counties to test more than 1,000 people who had died to see if they had SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that causes COVID-19.

Normally, medical examiners investigate unexpected deaths and deaths not explained by natural causes. Schmidt led the study and asked the U-M epidemiologists to look at the data to find any potential patterns that could be of significance.

All of the deceased had been assessed for their potential risk for COVID-19 through a checklist that included questions related to symptoms and potential exposure to the coronavirus. Those who were likely to have had coronavirus were tested for the virus, and an additional random sample of decedents was also tested.

The U-M epidemiologists compared the characteristics of the decedents (age, sex, race, manner of death) that were flagged by the COVID-19 checklist versus those that were not and compared the characteristics of decedents that were SARS-CoV-2 positive versus those that were not.

The researchers found that the positive tests in flagged decedents matched patterns of positivity of people in the region, including large racial disparities between those who tested positive. This could mean that testing decedents may provide an early warning sign and a supplemental surveillance strategy and may be a cheaper alternative to large-scale surveillance efforts, the researchers say.

“The most shocking part is that despite the fact that there were no racial differences in who was flagged and who was not flagged, there were huge racial disparities among who was actually positive,” Brouwer says. “That really speaks to the health inequalities that have been exposed by the pandemic.”

The results, he says, “underscore the larger context of racism and socioeconomic disparities and susceptibility to infectious disease because of chronic stress or other underlying risk factors.”

“This is a good example of the support that a medical examiner’s office provides public health,” Schmidt says. “Because of this effort, we have a better understanding of how SARS-CoV-2 is distributed in the community.”

Junior Achievement Presents Four-day Virtual Event Series
Junior Achievement and Rising Achievers Advisory Board will host “Present is Future: Conversations with Rising Leaders,” a virtual speaker series Sept. 21-24, from 4-5 p.m.

Panels will be themed around: business and entrepreneurship with Marc Hudson, co-founder and former CEO of Rocket Fiber, and Andrew Sims of the Michigan Minority Supplier Development Council; financial literacy and wealth generation with Shunda Robinson, global vice president of diversity and inclusion at GM Financial, and Jeff Fratacangeli, wealth manager to the stars; jobs and workforce development with Larry Brinker of Brinker Construction; and Andrew Lamar vice president of Doner Advertising. The week will culminate with a keynote by Eric Thomas, chief storyteller of the city of Detroit.

To register, visit here.

“Step Up to the Plate” Radiothon to Benefit Detroit PAL
Detroit area Entercom Radio Stations will be conducting the inaugural “Step Up to the Plate” Radiothon Sept. 21 from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. to benefit the Detroit Police Athletic League.

Stations involved include WWJ News Radio 950, 97.1 The Ticket, 104.3 WOMC-FM, 99.5 WYCD-FM, 98.7, WDZH-FM, and WXYT-AM 1270. Donations may be made by calling a special Detroit PAL phone number, 313-880-4725 (4PAL) or here.

Throughout the 13-hour radiothon, the radio stations will ask their listeners to “step up to the plate” for PAL on air, via their websites, and on their social media channels to donate whatever they can. Stations also will play brief interviews from Detroit PAL supporters, including Detroit Police officers, community leaders, current and former athletes, young athletes, parents, and more to help listeners understand the immediate impact their donations will make for the organization.

“Like many other nonprofits in our area, Detroit PAL is in much need of funds to help us bridge the gap to support our programming to continue into the fall, winter, and even into next year,” says Robert Jamerson, CEO of Detroit PAL. “One challenge we often face is to garner exposure, as people may not realize there is significant need to help the youth of Detroit find their greatness and we can’t thank Entercom enough for stepping up in a big way to give us the platform to help share that message.”

Ann Arbor Hospice Organizations Provide Grief Support During Pandemic
Hospice of Michigan and Arbor Hospice, both members of the NorthStar Care Community, are continuing to provide bereavement support for the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hospice of Michigan and Arbor Hospice say they are sensitive to the continuing impact of COVID-19 and the anxiety felt by those grieving the loss of a loved one during these uncertain times. Virtual sessions ensure bereaved individuals and families receive uninterrupted emotional support while protecting their physical well-being, as well as that of Hospice of Michigan and Arbor Hospice volunteers and staff.

Virtual grief support groups offer the same content as in-person sessions. Attendees can join by phone or computer and may register for more than one session.

For more information on individual groups, visit here or here.