AP NEWS

Family AfFair brings communities, families together

March 18, 2019

SCOTTVILLE — It’s all about bringing families and communities together at Family AfFair, and that’s exactly what area businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies did Saturday at Mason County Central High School.

The 28th annual free community event drew hundreds of kids, families and local community leaders to the school at 10 a.m. to peruse booths set up and staffed by dozens of local agencies.

Kids leapt into bounce houses, hula-hooped and played games in the hallways, gymnasiums and classrooms throughout the high school.

The theme of this year’s event was Let’s Get Groovy: Spectacular Health Families, and several participants could be seen in ’60s garb, circled shades and tie-dyed shirts.

The health element of the theme was exemplified by the winner of this year’s Most Interactive Booth award, Spectrum Health of Ludington and the Veggie Van of the greater Grand Rapids area YMCA.

The organizations collaborated for the event, bringing a van full of fresh fruits and vegetables for attendees to take home, along with information about the importance of healthy eating, nutrition, supporting local farmers and food accessibility.

Angela Taylor, Family AfFair chair, said the Veggie Van was a standout that offered something special to attendees.

“The effort on part of Spectrum Health of Ludington to partner with the Veggie Van out of greater Grand Rapids, and their ability to explain the importance of healthy eating, has just been icing on the cake for our families today,” Taylor said. “Especially with all the winter blues and blahs that everyone’s suffering from … It’s been great to see the smiles on the kids’ faces as they look at everything they’re getting in the bags.”

The bags contained fresh carrots, onions, apples and more, and the outdoor booth was managed by Luis Chen, who runs the Veggie Van, David Campbell and Spectrum’s Alan Neushwander.

“This partnership between Spectrum Health and the YMCA of Grand Rapids brings healthy produce to neighborhoods throughout West Michigan, so it’s basically a mobile farmers market,” Neushwander said. “We thought this would be a good opportunity to bring the Veggie Van to Mason County, and to bring fresh fruits and vegetables to those who are attending this event.”

The goal is to get people to eat healthy foods, he said, adding that recipe and nutrition cards and measuring spoons were also available at the van.

Chen said he was happy bring the van to Mason County and share the fresh food with Family AfFair attendees.

“We’re grateful for the opportunity to support local farmers by being able to provide all this produce … it supports a lot of farmers,” Chen said. “We’re grateful to Spectrum for sponsoring the Veggie Van to be able to come here.”

He said he enjoys and takes pride in his job, which takes him to nursing homes, food banks, schools and areas where fresh fruits and vegetables are hard to come by.

“I like what I do. It’s nice to serve, and we like to serve the community,” Chen said.

Neushwander said the Veggie Van will be back in the area in May for the Win with Wellness health fair at Spectrum Health Ludington Hospital.

Taylor said Family AfFair is one of the biggest community events of the year, and that it brings local organizations together for a good cause.

“It’s just a great and important event that brings families and communities together,” she said.

The Mason County Sheriff’s Office, Life EMS, Ludington and Scottville police departments, COVE, West Shore ESD Transportation Services, Great Start Early Childhood Collaborative, the U.S. Coast Guard, 4H, Mason County District Library, Mason County Central schools, Meals on Wheels, FiveCAP, Connexion Point, the American Red Cross, Sandcastles Children’s Museum and many more businesses, nonprofits and agencies also participated in Family AfFair.