“This event is a great way to get behind the community. I believe we should always give back more than we receive,” says Trudy Ender, executive director of Humane Society of West Michigan (HSWMI).
And Grand Rapids agrees. Over 750 guests filled the ballroom at DeVos Place on Monday, for the third annual Paws, Claws & Corks.
“We’re 100% donor-funded, so everything we do has to be from donors and sponsors,” says Nicole Cook, marketing & events coordinator of HSWMI. “Events like this help us continue to raise awareness about animals and our organization in the community.”
In its inaugural year in 2012, Paws, Claws & Corks boasted a guest list of over 400 names. This year, the event raises a glass to its over 750 guests.
“Our community really cares about shelter animals,” says Ender. “They truly believe from their hearts, and their pockets, that Humane Society of West Michigan serves a community need for neglected and abandoned animals.”
The event ticket granted each guest to enjoy creative and unique silent auctions items, participation in the live auction and samplings of local wine, beer and cuisine. Twelve local restaurants showcased a taste of their menu at the event, from apple and blue cheese bruschetta served by CitySen Lounge to bacon-wrapped dates from Olive’s Restaurant and Bar. Keeping things local not only helps Grand Rapids restaurants generate awareness, but strengthens the partnerships and relationships HSWMI has with community.
If there’s one thing Ender wishes each guest leaves with after the event, it’s a full heart.
“I hope the guests are touched and that they recognize that it’s what each they do that makes the impact,” says Ender.
To Ender, her team, the HSWMI directors and the board, here’s to warm feelings, good stories and many more (dog) years.
“Seva means ‘selfless service.’ And the teachers, the support staff, and students really embrace that,” said Melissa Tungl.
Melissa and her husband Tobi own and operate SEVA Yoga at 2237 Wealthy Street SE, Suite 120 in the Gaslight Village business district of East Grand Rapids. The studio, now in its eighth year, is well-known in the area. The Tungls took over operations just last year.
But why is Seva Yoga different than a yoga class that you may find online, on video, or even take at your local gym?
At Seva, they support the notion that Yoga should be accessible to everyone regardless of their financial situation. If the pricing structure at Seva is beyond your financial means, please come enjoy the classes simply by making a donation to the studio. Donation meaning “the act of giving”, please simply give what you can afford.
Melissa Tungl glows when she talks about yoga and her commitment to community. She strongly feels that everyone can find something to love about practicing yoga.
“I have always been interested in yoga and wellness,” she said. “It’s been a path that’s always called to me. It’s a joy and honor to share my enthusiasm with my students. When they’re here, I can see it. And I can feel it. I know that it’s making a difference.”
It was while first living in Caledonia, that Melissa visited many different yoga studios. When she found Seva, she says she finally “found her yoga home”.
“I enjoyed the practice style and the good community here,” she said. “Moving forward, I decided to become a yoga teacher. I took my training here at Seva. I was a teacher here at Seva. And then we bought the studio.”
Beyond the style of practice and the community, Melissa felt assured by the studio’s reputation for excellence. Seva not only holds a State of Michigan propriety school license, but it also offers a rigorous training program to become a Yoga Alliance 200RYT certified Yoga instructor.
“The teachers are really known in the area,” she said. “People who have their certificate from Seva are some of the best.”
The Seva Yoga studio offers a variety of different classes, with different styles, instructors and pacing: something for every body type.
“We offer anything from really gentle yoga, which would be really good for someone who’s got a lot of stress, a lot of anxiety, depression,” said Melissa. “It would be good for people recovering from injury. Gentle yoga is really therapeutic and one of our slower classes. And then we offer everything from that base level all the way up to your really high, Vinyasa, cardio-based hot yoga class for those people who want to really move and really sweat.”
But what about a person who is ‘yoga curious’ but feels too intimidated to drop in for a class?
Melissa sympathizes. She’s been there.
“Oh, man, it’s so hard to get on your mat for the first time,” she said. “It can be really intimidating. You see all these pictures in magazines of these beautiful women just like pretzels, totally, totally unrealistic. And you realize that’s just the marketing of yoga. That’s not really what yoga is.”
So what is yoga? Melissa smiles and offers this suggestion:
“Sit at home. Just sit down. Close your eyes. Take ten deep breathes. Feel that awareness,” she said.
“And that,” said Melissa, “is yoga. Yoga is not the picture on the magazine. It is not the woman with the leg behind her head.”
“It’s that awareness and really deep connection, which is what everyone is looking for. Everyone. And I think that’s why yoga is so popular now.”
The studio also offers drop-in, student, and senior rates; as well as unlimited monthly packages. Weekend training for 200RYT Yoga Alliance certified Yoga instructors begins in September 2014. Visit the Seva Yoga website for more details.
BY LAURA BERGELLS
PHOTOS TJ HAMILTON Monday, March 24th marks the second annual Paws, Claws & Corks event at the Steelcase Ballroom in DeVos Place. When you attend, you’ll not only help raise money for the Humane Society of West Michigan (HSWM), you’ll also help yourself to a mouthwatering array of fabulous cuisine, brews, and wine.
Oh, and the networking opportunities?
“We’re expecting 450 plus people to attend,” said Trudy Ender, Executive Director atHSWM. “We’d like to shoot that through the roof. Over 500 would be fantastic.”
Last year’s event raised over $84,000 for the Humane Society of West Michigan. With the support of local restaurants, businesses and individuals, this year’s event is primed to be an even bigger success.
“Whether you’re an animal owner, or you just want to support the animals in our area, we want you to come,” said Nicole Cook, Marketing & Events Coordinator for the Humane Society of West Michigan. “It’s a fun event. Whether you love food, beer, and wine — or you just want to come out and support our animals, there’s something for everyone.”
The Humane Society of West Michigan has been in our area since 1883, and relies entirely on local support to fund its programs.
“Because we’re 100% donor funded, we don’t receive any funding from the government or national animal welfare organizations,” said Cook. “So everything that we do comes directly from our community. We rely on events like this that provide the majority of our funding to care for all the animals that we have year round.”
Locally, Meijer continues to support the organization and plans to be present at the event
“Since 2004, Meijer has been a partner with the Humane Society,” said Stacie Behler, Group Vice President for Public Affairs at Meijer. “We realize the importance of rescuing and finding forever homes for pets in West Michigan. And so we love to support different events that the Humane Society puts on to raise awareness as well as raising capital. We got a lot of expenses here, caring for animals.”
The HSWM needs your support to run its 15+ critical programs. The largest program is animal adoptions.
“Currently, we have about 200 animals,” said Cook. “The majority of those are dogs and cats, but we also currently have bunnies, a couple of guinea pigs, and some hamsters.”
Another big program is Kibble Konnection.
“That’s our low income pet food bank,” explained Cook. “We believe strongly that if we can provide some supplemental services for people who are struggling a little bit that they can keep that pet in the home. The pet’s happier, the people are happier, and that’s one less animal in an already overcrowded shelter.”
Other programs include humane education, spay/neuter, and animal rehabilitation.
Come to nom-nom-nom, network, and bid on auction items. This year’s event will feature noshes and guzzles from the following restaurants:
“My involvement with HSWM and Paws, Claws & Corks stems from my love of animals, particularly dogs. I have 4 amazing large, loud and lovable dogs – Bentley, Apollo, Murphy and Jimmy. The joy they have brought into my life is immeasurable. Animals give so much of themselves to their human counterparts and the least we can do is support a great organization that is dedicated to finding them their forever homes.”
Group Vice President, Public Affairs, Meijer
“I’m not unlike thousands of Meijer customers who also have pets in their homes. Today, I was with my dog Jake. And he’s got two cat brothers that live at home with us, too. He had a sister that we had to say goodbye to in November. But we are an animal family, and lots of Meijer shoppers are animal families, too, so it’s a great fit for us to support the Humane Society.”
“My passion for animals and involvement with the HSWM started as a young child. As the current President of the Board of Directors, I continually try to find innovative ways to help the organization succeed in our wonderful community. ”
GRAND RAPIDS – The spotlight will shine brightest on 19-year-old Breighanna Minnema when the curtain goes up later this month for Grand Rapids Civic Theatre‘s performance of “Legally Blonde: The Musical.” Her infectious smile, bubbling personality and, of course, stunning head-to-toe pink outfit are all sure to have the audience buzzing each night throughout its run May 31 through June 16.
It’ll all change when her four-legged co-stars make their bold entrances.
Minnema, who plays Elle Woods in the lead role, fully understands the audience is going to forget all about her whenever Cszar the Chihuahua or Jake the Great Dane commands the spotlight on stage.
“I’m just excited to see the audience’s reaction when we get on stage. The dogs are show stealers,” Minnema said. “You can sing as well as you want and dance as well as you want, but as soon as the dogs come out on that stage, they steal the show. Having a chance to create a relationship with the dogs, I love that.”
The opening night of “Legally Blonde: The Musical” on Friday, May 31, at the Civic Theatre, 30 N. Division Ave., is designed to help place abandoned dogs, cats and other small critters in forever homes. The theatre lobby will serve as the hub of the Human Society’s adopt-a-pet program for a night.
The adoption fees will be reduced to $50 per dog, name your price for a kitten or cat, and theatre patrons can pick out their new pets and are able to pick them up Saturday, June 1, after enjoying the show.
“It is a wonderful show and what the dogs bring to the show is wonderful,” said Theatre Director Bruce Tinker, who also is directing “Legally Blonde: The Musical” and looking forward to the interaction between Minnema and the dogs. “Our family has four animals from this shelter – two cats and two dogs. I know how important that is. It doesn’t matter what they look like, a dog will come into your home and love you.
“It’s what the story in the musical is all about: You can’t judge a book by its cover.”
The story of Elle Woods persevering to overcome her bombshell blonde stereotype – from the shopping mall to graduating at the top of her class at Harvard law School, has been well chronicled on film and the Broadway stage. It’s a character Minnema can’t wait to unleash – with some help from her furry friends.
“Who doesn’t want to wear pink from head to toe? Elle Woods is a role model for me,” Minnema, 19, of East Grand Rapids, said. “She always believes in herself. She becomes valedictorian at the end of the movie.
“It’s really just a story of never losing faith in yourself.”
Her canine co-stars couldn’t be more different in terms of size or character.
Cszar, who has been cast as Bruiser, is a diminutive 2-year-old with endless energy. His owner, Dante Alighire, responded to an ad placed on Craigslist for an unwanted pet and never expected to find himself a star.
“I got him on Craigslist. I’ve had him since he was 10 weeks old. He was in a milk crate,” Alighire said. “He likes to ride on my shoulders wherever we go. He has great balance. He just started doing that one day. He hasn’t stopped.”
Initially, there were problems filling the Bruiser role.
“We were looking to cast the role of Bruiser and we were having a really hard time finding a Chihuahua,” said Nancy Brozek, director of development and community relations for Civic Theatre. “One day, I look out the window and I see this man walking down Monroe Mall with a Chihuahua on his shoulders. I turned to Bruce and said, ‘What should I do?’ He said, ‘Go get him.’ The rest is history.”
Jake, who has been cast as Rufus, is a black stallion who belongs to stage manager Chris Carnevale. The dog is the size of a small horse. The pet’s manner is so mild, he’s no match for the uber-social Cszar.
Originally, the role of Rufus was supposed to be played by a bulldog.
“We had three bulldogs lined up, but, one-by-one, they all dropped out,” Carnevale said. “So, the director turns to me one day and says, ‘We’re using your dog.’ So, that’s how Jake ended up getting cast in it.”
Tinker thinks the contrast between Bruiser and Rufus should be a huge hit.
It should provide unexpected challenges, however, since both Cszar and Jake, who’re just beginning to feel comfortable with Minnema and other cast members, will be making their live debuts on stage.
“The thing with working with animals is they have to feel safe in their environment,” Tinker explained. “Every animal is a little different. Everything can be new to them every night. New people. New smells. The script is written so they’ll both be on leashes. The good news is that Rufus and Bruiser never have to share the stage.
“It’s part of the show and we all love animals.”
Minnema, a graduate of Grand Rapids Christian High School, is no stranger to man’s best friend. She has two dogs at home, a golden retriever that’s hers and German Shepherd that belongs to her parents.
“I’m a big-dog girl,” she said with a laugh.
The prospect of sharing the stage with both Cszar and Jake just makes her smile. She is as comfortable controlling a dog on a leash as slipping into her pink costume and slipping into character as Elle Woods.
“It helps,” she said of being a lifelong dog lover. “My senior year in high school, I was in ‘Annie,’ so it’s not my first time working with dogs. I’m really looking forward to being up there with them both.”
To adopt a pet, contact the Humane Society of West Michigan, 3077 Wilson Dr. NW, at (616) 453-8900 or www.hswestmi.org. The facility is open 2-7 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday.