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AnnArbor.com's News section covers government, crime, education, health and the environment across Washtenaw County.

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    Sweetwaters employee Nathan Gire fills an order during the first day of business at the new location at 735 W. Cross St. in Ypsilanti on Tuesday, March 19, 2013.

    Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com

    The Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea location in Ypsilanti will add an outdoor cafe in June.

    Owner Lisa Bee said the cafe will be similar to the ones at her other locations and will be located on the right side of the building, across from an adjacent parking lot.

    "We’ve already gone through the permitting process, but we still have to get a few things in place," Bee said. "I think it's ideal for this location. It's a really nice area for it."

    Bee said she's hoping to have between four to eight tables. The cafe, depending on the weather, may be open until October.

    Bee said her business has been well-received by Ypsilanti.

    "It's going great and we've been busy," Bee said. "We love the community."

    The Ypsilanti location opened in March, after Wei and Lisa Bee signed a lease last November to open in the 1,300-square-foot building at 735 W. Cross St.

    The Ypsilanti location has about 15 employees and seats between 30 and 40 patrons.

    Sweetwaters was founded in 1993 by the Bees, who have three locations in Ann Arbor: one on East Washington Street downtown, one in Kerrytown and one on Plymouth Road.

    The menu offerings are largely the same as the other locations and feature BakeBar desserts, which are made by Sweetwaters.

    The recently renovated building at 729-735 W. Cross St., already is home to two first-floor retail tenants — a SUBWAY sandwich shop and the Ypsilanti T-shirt Co. shop.

    Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com.Reach her at katreasestafford@annarbor.com or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.

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    Brush will be cleared from the west side of Lakeside Park and a boathouse, docks and trails will be installed.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    A $1.25 million upgrade of Ypsilanti Township’s Lakeside Park and area around Ford Lake could be completed late this summer.

    Among the improvements are a boathouse that will house the Eastern Michigan University and Saline High School rowing teams; an extension of the trail network that will connect it to regional trails; a new pavilion; fishing docks and lookouts over Ford Lake.

    The project is a partnership between EMU, Saline High School, Ypsilanti Township, the State of Michigan and Washtenaw County and is an effort to pull thousands of more visitors to the area annually.

    The improvements will be funded with a $500,000 grant from the Michigan State Department of Natural Resources Trust Fund, $450,000 from EMU, $250,000 from the Washtenaw County Parks and Recreation Commission and $50,0000 raised by the Saline rowing team.

    “This is a win-win situation for all properties involved and a big enhancement for the larger community,” said Art Serafinski, director of the Ypsilanti Township Recreation Department.

    He said he is hopeful to make final tweaks to the plans in the coming days and have construction completed by Aug. 31.

    The centerpiece of the project is a $320,000 boathouse that could attract thousands of visitors to the area annually. The idea to build one at Lakeside was floated in 2001 by the EMU women’s crew team, but took years to germinate and pull together all the funding with multiple partners, said Brad Holdren, EMU's rowing coach.

    The 5,600-square-foot boathouse will include public bathrooms, a meeting area and space to store Saline and EMU’s shells.

    Holdren said rowing has spiked in popularity in recent years.

    "If you were to research around the country, anywhere where a boathouse is built it gets filled to capacity in a number of years and people have to start talking expansion," he said.

    Locally, EMU, the University of Michigan, Concordia College, Ann Arbor Pioneer, Ann Arbor Huron, Saline and Northville all have rowing teams. When a recent rowing tournament in Indianapolis was canceled due to flooding, Holdren said the EMU and U-M teams were able to organize the event last minute on Ford Lake.


    Some of the brush separating Lakeside Park from the shoreline will be cleared and scenic lookouts installed.

    Tom Perkins | For AnnArbor.com

    "Ford Lake is a fantastic training lake," he said. "The size is nice, it has good depth, not a lot of debris and not an overwhelming amount of power boats. The flatter the water, the better."

    Holdren said he envisions the lake hosting five to six races annually that could draw between 2,000 and 10,000 visitors per event.

    "We would be filing up local restaurants and hotels," he said.

    Aside from serving as a home base for the crew squads, the boathouse will be utilized for public rowing lessons, training and the development of an area club team. Holdren said rowing lessons would be available for all skill sets and ages, and it would be run by EMU rowing members through the Ypsilanti Parks and Recreation Department.

    In addition to the boathouse, asphalt trails will be constructed between South Grove Road near Interstate 94 and Rawsonville Road. There will also be more trails installed in the 21-acre Lakeside Park with an overlook in the northeast corner on Ford Lake.

    They will serve as arteries off the Border to Border Trail once it’s completed in Ypsilanti Township.

    Plans call for fishing docks and a new 900-square-foot pavilion with tables and grills that can be rented or used for other activities.

    Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter. Contact the AnnArbor.com news desk at news@annarbor.com.

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    The University of Michigan's downtown Ann Arbor campus.

    University of Michigan recently received a $110 million donation from a California billionaire, which is the largest donation in college history and was received just before the official launch of the school's next capital campaign.

    The exact goals of the school's campaign haven't yet been made public, but officials say they'll be seeking donations centered more toward scholarships and less toward buildings, which is a shift from the school's last Michigan Difference campaign. That effort raised $3.2 billion for the college, well above its $2.5 billion goal.

    Within the last year U-M has closed on four of the largest donations in the school's 196-year history. The top 10 single donations at U-M add up to a staggering $580 million.

    All gifts to the university since July 2011 will count toward the school's fundraising goal when it launches its formal campaign in the fall.

    Here's a look at the school's 10 largest gifts:

    $110 million in April 2013

    Charles Munger's $110 million gift, announced in April 2013, will go toward building an interdisciplinary graduate student dormitory and fellowship program. The gift is the largest single donation in U-M history.

    The gift will fund the majority of a 600-bed, 370,000-square-foot $185 million apartment-style dormitory that will be limited to graduate students; $10 million of the award will go toward creating fellowships for the graduate students.

    Munger was an undergraduate mathematics student at Michigan in the 1940s, but did not graduate. He did eventually graduate from Harvard Law School. The California billionaire is the vice-chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and a close confidant of Warren Buffet.

    Previously he's given $20 million toward a graduate housing renovation for the Law School and $3 million for improvements to the school's law quad.

    $100 million in September 2004


    The Stephen M. Ross School of Business

    File photo | AnnArbor.com

    New York City real estate developer Stephen M. Ross gave $100 million to U-M's business school during the Michigan Difference capital campaign, prompting regents to rename the business school after the U-M alumnus.

    Ross, a Detroit native, earned a bachelor's degree from U-M's business school in 1962. His gift was the first nine-figure donation to the university and one of three in the school's history.

    His gift supported the construction of a new, modern building for U-M's growing business program. About $50 million of the donation was distributed over the course of 10 years, with the remainder of the money as a bequest of Ross' estate.


    Stephen Ross, wearing sunglasses, sits next to Rick Snyder and Mary Sue Coleman during University of Michigan's 2011 commencement.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    "This should be a very iconic building," Ross said when his donation was announced in September 2004. "When you see a picture of it, you know this is the University of Michigan Business School."

    $100 million in April 2011

    A. Alfred Taubman, a shopping mall mogul who hails from Detroit, enrolled in U-M's architecture college on the G.I. Bill after returning from World War II in 1946. Taubman left U-M in 1948 without graduating, but returned half a century later to become one of the school's most philanthropic alumni.


    A. Alfred Taubman and Gov. Rick Snyder during a symposium at the A. Alfred Taubman Biomedical Science Research Building in 2011.

    Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com

    Taubman, who is worth an estimated $2.9 billion, has given more than $142 million to U-M over his lifetime. Taubman is credited with creating the shopping mall concept and founding Taubman Centers, Inc., a high-end retail business.

    Taubman's $100 million donation was given in phases, the last of which was a $56 million sum in 2011. That sum is being used to explore the potential of embryonic stem cell research. An earlier $22 million gift created the A. Alfred Taubman Medical Research Institute, where scientists are exploring cures and treatments for Lou Gehrig’s disease, breast cancer, prostate cancer, childhood cancers and other diseases.

    In addition to the institute, U-M named its Biomedical Science Research Building in Taubman's honor.


    Helen Zell

    Photo courtesy Zell Family Foundation

    $50 million in March 2013

    This winter Chicago philanthropist Helen Zell, wife of billionaire real estate tycoon Sam Zell, donated $50 million to the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts toward a creative writing program.

    The gift permanently funds the school's Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Program, which is being renamed the Helen Zell Writers' Program. Zell offered an initial $10 million donation to the program in 2004. She's given a total of $60 million to the university.

    The program provides 22 students with more than $1 million of financial support each year through tuition waivers, stipends and health insurance. It provides year-long fellowships, dubbed Zellowships, to qualifying graduates of the program. Zell received her English degree from U-M in 1964.

    Her donation is believed to be the largest gift given to a college writing program.

    $50 million in March 2013

    U-M's health system renamed its cardiovascular center after Samuel and Jean Frankel, a couple who gifted $50 million to the center during the past six years.

    The center received its first $25 million gift from the Frankel family's foundation in 2007, although at the time it was given anonymously. Another $25 million gift from the family was awarded to the center in March and will go toward financing clinical research and patient support.


    The Samuel and Jean Frankel Cardiovascular Center

    File photo | AnnArbor.com

    The couple, now deceased, also have financially supported the school's Center for Judaic Studies. They graduated from U-M in 1936.

    "The Frankel family has decided to gift another $25 million and this will help us build on the successes of the last six years, to create a culture of total partnership," said health system CEO Ora Pescovitz. The second $25 million gift was contingent on the cardiovascular center reaching certain benchmarks with the first allotment.

    $44 million in November 2004

    Delores and William Brehm gave $44 million to the health system to work toward a cure for type 1 diabetes. Two floors in the 222,000-square-foot addition to the Kellogg Eye Center are dedicated to the Brehm Center for Type 1 Diabetes Research and Analysis. The tower, built in 2006 at a cost of $121 million, is also named after the Brehm family.


    The Kellogg Eye Center's Brehm Tower

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Their donation was part of the four-year Michigan Difference campaign, which raised $3.2 billion for the school.

    William Brehm, a businessman in the defense industry, received a bachelor's degree from U-M in 1950 and a master's in 1952. He is originally from Dearborn, although he lived in Virginia when he made his donation. Delores Brehm graduated from Eastern Michigan University in 1950. She was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes by U-M physicians. William Brehm received an honorary degree from U-M this spring.

    Brehm also has donated to EMU. In June 2011, he and his wife gave $3.2 million to the school's College of Education to develop a special education research center.

    $33.2 million in March 2000

    This donation, which surpassed all university records at the time, sort of fell in U-M's lap. Lincoln Knorr owned Scott Equipment Co. of Detroit, a private firm that made machines used by commercial binderies. After his death, officials discovered that Knorr left $33.2 million of his fortune to the Ann Arbor university, where he attended law and business school.

    Susan Feagin, Michigan's vice president of development at the time, said the donation "came out of the blue."

    The donation is kept in a private trust and each year the university is paid 5 percent of the trust's market value. When those payments plus the bulk of the trust totals $1 billion, the entire amount will be transferred to the university. Such a transfer probably won't happen until 2030 or 2040.

    $32.5 million in September 2012

    U-M's art school was renamed the Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design in September in honor of Penny and E. Roe Stamps, who donated $32.5 million to the school.

    Penny Stamps, a 1966 U-M art and design school grad, and her husband live in Miami. Penny Stamps is a retired interior designer and her husband is a venture capitalist. Their gift was among the largest donations to any art school in the nation. It was matched by a $7.5 million sum from the university, giving the school $40 million in new funds.

    Former U-M art school dean Bryan Rogers, who retired in May after 12 years as dean, said at the time that the gift was a "very unlikely thing to do in today's world."

    "Money for the arts, in particularly the visual arts, is very hard to come by," he said.

    The Stamps had previously funded a lecture series, a scholarship program and an off-campus art gallery.

    $30 million in April 1992

    A $30 million donation from William Davidson, former owner of the Detroit Pistons and Guardian Industries and a U-M alumnus, was used to create a business institute at U-M's business school. The institute focuses on firms in transitioning economies.

    Research projects have spanned Africa, South America, Asia and Europe and coursework includes intensive MBA classes that analyze developing countries that are moving toward a market-based system.

    At the time, this gift was the largest U-M had ever received and one of the largest private donations in public university history.

    In 2012, the athletic department named its new $23.2 million Player Development Center after Davidson because of a $7.5 million gift. Davidson, now deceased, ran track at U-M when he was a business student in 1947.

    $30 million in May 1999

    More than 50 years after Taubman matriculated into U-M, he gave $30 million to his alma mater, matching the record for the largest donation to the school at the time.

    In honor of the donation, regents voted unanimously to name the architecture school after Taubman- it's now called the A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture & Urban Planning. It was the second time regents had done this. In 1935, the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies was named in honor of Rackham's $6.5-million gift.

    "It was his experiences here at U-M and its meaning to him that was the source of the gift, " Lee Bollinger, who was president of U-M at the time, said during 1999 the Board of Regents meeting. "Through a visual understanding of the world, he was able to find himself."

    The money was gifted to U-M's endowment in six installments over five years beginning in September. Since the donation, the school has grown by more than 100 students and developed an urban design program.

    His gifts totaled $7 million prior his 1999 award, and later he would donate $100 million toward medical research.

    Kellie Woodhouse covers higher education for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at kelliewoodhouse@annarbor.com or 734-623-4602 and follow her on twitter.

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    Abigail Stauffer

    Last fall I once again had the pleasure of taking my 107one morning show out on the road for a series of "Music and Mocha" broadcasts, which took place at some of the finest coffee houses in Washtenaw County. One of those shows was at the venerable Drowsy Parrot in Saline, and one of my guests that morning was the Ann Arbor-based singer and guitarist Abigail Stauffer, who delighted us coffee achievers with her emotionally charged and beautifully played songs.

    I’ve been looking forward to hearing new studio material by Stauffer ever since then, and her brand new album "No Contradictions" lived up to my expectations and went way beyond them. The material on her second album is certainly grounded in the world of heartfelt indie-folk, but the added elements of electronic dance music and rap also came as a welcome surprise.

    Abigail Stauffer will celebrate the release of her diverse and adventurous new album with a CD release party this Thursday at the Ark, followed by a performance at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival’s Grove Stage at Top of the Park on Saturday, July 6.

    I recently had the chance to catch up to the talented 24-year-old musician and ask about the making of "No Contradictions."

    Q: So when did you begin working on your new album?

    Abigail Stauffer: I started working on it last summer with Christopher Norman. He’s now in Houston but was in the Ann Arbor electronic music scene for quite a while. It was really cool to add some electronic elements, and while some of the songs are really folk, I don’t just want to be seen as that. I had a song or two in mind where I thought that Christopher could add his electronic stuff to it, but I wasn’t planning on doing a whole album.

    It was a stage for me of overcoming a fear of collaborating with other musicians. I don’t know that much about music, so when it comes to playing with other musicians I’ve had a lot of fear. He presented the idea of doing an EP, and that was his way of easing me into this idea of doing another album. It’s exciting but financially draining; it takes a lot of time and energy and I wasn’t feeling up for it at the time. Initially we thought we’d do a couple of EPs: Abigail exploring electronic music on one, Abigail doing blues and soul on another, that kind of thing. In the process I also started rapping.

    Q: I wasn’t expecting that hip-hop and rap element on your album and I love it!

    A.S.: It totally fit in with the concept of doing all these things all on one album. At first it was going to be on separate EPs, and then we thought why don’t we throw it all together. It fit in with the idea of branching out a lot and the uniting theme is doing different things. It’s united in its diversity.

    Q: Who else plays on "No Contradictions?"

    A.S.: Mike Shea is on drums and Joe Dart is on bass. They both were with My Dear Disco/Ella Riot. So not only am I overcoming my fear of working with others but I ended up working with these really talented, really experienced musicians; they were a key part of the process. Last time I recorded I did the songs with me on the guitar and then I would add someone else on top, but this time we learned these songs together and recorded them as a unit, which was really a lot of fun. We just played our first show together fairly recently and we called ourselves Abigail and the Butt-Touchers (laughs)!

    Q: Is that the lineup we’ll see at The Ark?

    A.S.: Fortunately and unfortunately, because of Joe’s awesome success as part of the Darren Criss tour (which comes to the Michigan Theater on June 13 as part of Bank of Ann Arbor’s Sonic Lunch series), I’m bringing in Sam Collins, a 17-year-old bassist, plus Mike Shea and Christopher Norman will be there.

    Q: There’s a gorgeous duet on the album entitled "World or the Windowsill." Who is that singing with you on that one?

    A.S.: That’s Chris Dupont! Chris has been 110 percent supportive of my music. Certain people come into your life and they say, "I just want to help you and I think you’re awesome." I wrote that last summer when I was hanging out with Christopher Norman but got stuck and couldn’t figure out how to end it. I went to Thailand for a month and while I was gone, Christopher Norman sent it to Chris Dupont. It’s amazing what he did to it! Not only does his voice sound incredible, he wrote the words to the second half of the song and pulled it all together.

    Q: It’s interesting to hear you talk about how self-critical you are about your own talents. When you played live at the Drowsy Parrot last fall during my radio show, I thought you exhibited a lot of poise and self-confidence, not at all rattled by the hissing of the espresso machines or customer conversations. How long did it take to get to that level?

    A.S.: That’s interesting because a lot of the lyrical content on this album is about that idea of moving from a place of insecurity and a lack of confidence to a place of stability. It took a minute; it’s been a series of steps. Any performer knows that there are so many different pieces to musicianship; part of it is musical skill and then there’s that aspect of confidence and comfort, and that has to do with relating to people. That works out for me pretty well, because I really like people and like engaging and interacting with an audience.

    Abigail Stauffer plays The Ark at 8 p.m. Thursday, May 30. Tickets ($15) are available online. Martin Bandyke is the 6-10 am morning host at Ann Arbor’s 107one, WQKL-FM. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and at www.martinbandyke.com.

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    A fire damaged a mobile home in Pittsfield Township early Saturday morning, but no one was injured.

    Pittsfield Township firefighters responded to a report of a fire in Coachville Moblie Home Community in the 3400 block of Carpenter Road at 1:19 a.m. Saturday. When they arrived, heavy black smoke was coming from the trailer, firefighters said in a press release.

    They forced their way in and found fire in the living room, which they extinguished. A cost estimate for the damage had not been determined.

    Firefighters continue to investigate the incident.

    View Fire 052513 in a larger map

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    An outdoor concert at Liberty Plaza in downtown Ann Arbor Saturday night will feature the talents of local musicians and benefit a program that helps patients at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

    The proceeds from the concert, organized by Skyline High School senior Nikki Kamouneh, will go to the hospital's Bedside Music Program and that's it's being organized by a high school student.

    100710_NEWS_Liberty Plaza_MRM_01.jpg

    Tonight's concert will be at Liberty Plaza at Liberty and Division streets in downtown Ann Arbor.

    Melanie Maxwell | AnnArbor.com

    Kamouneh said a strong love for music and a desire to help those in need were two of her main motivations for organizing this evening's concert, which runs from 5 to 9 p.m. The idea stemmed from a senior project that required students to execute a change in themselves or their community and to create a narrative about it.

    "At first I wanted to learn to play piano, as many of my peers seemed to be either learning how to cook or play a new instrument," said Kamouneh. "But after talking to my friends and family, I realized I needed to broaden my horizons, and extend the change to not just me, but to my community."

    Kamouneh said the recent death of a family friend from cancer and the loss of another friend made her choose Mott as the organization to benefit from the concert.

    Hannah Ashmore, an event planner and fundraiser for Mott, said the Bedside Music Program is part of the Gifts of Art fund, which is funded through philanthropic efforts.

    "Musicians go to rooms throughout the hospital to literally visit the bedsides of patients," explained Ashmore. "The soothing, relaxing qualities of music are well-known and this program is a welcome piece of the inpatient puzzle."

    Kamouneh has many connections to local musicians which made a concert a natural fit for her project. All the bands are local and include the duos Janet Cannon and Oliver Deperaita, Brandon Kemp and Jamie Seely, Zach Stoner and Jake Martin and the band Creal. "This event would not have been possible if not for the support and guidance of my teachers, my peers, and my family," said Kamouneh, who put up fliers about the concert around her school and neighborhood and in downtown Ann Arbor.

    Kamouneh hopes to raise at least a couple hundred dollars through donations at the event at Liberty and Division streets. She is not charging admission.

    Lisa Carolin is a freelance writer for AnnArbor.com. Contact the news desk at news@annarbor.com or 734-623-2430.

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    Ypsilanti police arrested a man on suspicion of felonious assault early Friday morning.

    Another man reported at 5:20 a.m. Friday that the 35-year-old man assaulted him in the 300 block of South Street, police said in a media summary.

    Police arrested the suspect. The victim suffered a minor injury.

    More information, including the suspect’s city of residence, was not available.

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    The Ypsilanti Downtown Development Authority has awarded the Ann Arbor Transportation Authority a $20,000 grant to go toward $500,000 in improvements at the Ypsilanti Transit Center.

    At its May 16 YDDA Board meeting, the board overwhelmingly agreed to support the programs and services provided to Ypsilanti by the AATA.


    The Ypsilanti Transit Center on Pearl Street in downtown Ypsilanti.

    AnnArbor.com file photo

    The DDA board stated that since the AATA has increased its investment in both services and infrastructure to the DDA districts in recent years, it decided to give a grant.

    The one-time grant's funds will come from the fund balance reserves of the Downtown, Depot Town and West Cross Street districts.

    The grant follows a recent resolution from the Ypsilanti City Council that requested the DDA to consider giving the funds.

    Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber, who also sits on the DDA board, said some of the funds will be used to improve the signage at the transit center. Schreiber said the AATA has about $500,000 in planned improvements. Future money could be given to the AATA by the DDA, Schreiber said.

    "There was a comment about in future budgeting to have some sort of expenditure for public transportation," Schreiber said. "I will say that $20,000 is not much when you compare it to other revenues for the AATA like from the Ann Arbor DDA, but for the Ypsilanti DDA, which has about a $500,000 budget, it's about 4 percent of the budget. It's a significant monetary transfer."

    The Ypsilanti City Council passed a resolution April 23 in support of requesting membership within the AATA. Schreiber said the AATA has passed a resolution acknowledging Ypsilanti's request and further discussion will occur at a later date.

    Schreiber said the next step would be for the AATA board to pass a resolution approving the request. The AATA's articles of incorporation, originally approved in 1975 and amended in 1978, would have to be approved by the Ann Arbor City Council, the AATA Board and the Ypsilanti City Council.

    Schreiber said he's hopeful the request will be approved.

    "I think there's a lot of positive comments," Schreiber said. "The request fits in with their mission and the previous effort of a regional authority. I'm just looking forward to the board's decision and I hope they do accept it. I think it's a great opportunity for Ypsilanti to work with the Ann Arbor City Council and to strengthen regional cooperation immensely."

    Katrease Stafford covers Ypsilanti for AnnArbor.com.Reach her at katreasestafford@annarbor.com or 734-623-2548 and follow her on twitter.

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    Editor's note: This article was updated at 2:50 p.m. with information from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office about at 4:30 p.m. with information from Amtrak.

    An Amtrak passenger train struck a semitrailer carrying kayaks on the tracks near North Maple Road and Huron River Drive in Ann Arbor Township Saturday afternoon.

    No one was injured in the crash, which occurred about 12:50 p.m., said Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office spokesman Derrick Jackson.

    The train struck the semitrailer, splitting it in two, Jackson said. One half lay on the north side of the tracks with kayaks spilled out shortly before 2 p.m. The other half lay on its side on the south side of the tracks.

    Jackson said the truck driver had been rerouted to Huron River Drive from his original route, After discovering he could not cross the one-lane bridge over the river because the truck was too heavy and too wide, he tried to back up.

    While he was trying to maneuver the rig back across the tracks with the help of another man, the train began approaching and the crossing gate came down. The trailer was still on the tracks when the westbound Amtrak train came through the crossing. The driver was able to get out of the truck cab before the crash occurred.

    Passenger Mary Bak, who got on the train in Dearborn, where she lives, said she didn't even feel the crash. “I just noticed we were stopped and then we were told that the train hit somebody.”

    Another passenger, Gabrielle Dickson, who also boarded the train in Dearborn, said she heard and felt the crash and then saw the split open trailer and the spilled kayaks. Passengers were told no one was injured, she said.

    John Biancke lives near the railroad tracks. He and his wife were working outside when they heard the commotion.

    "We were out in the yard and heard a thump and knew that something unusual had happened."

    An Amtrak spokeswoman said the train was the Wolverine 353, which runs between Pontiac and Chicago. It was carrying 253 people, including passengers and crew, Vernae Graham said.

    The train, which had two locomotives and about six passenger cars, was still blocking the railroad crossing at North Maple Road about 2:30 p.m. Passengers were still on the train.

    As of about 4:15 p.m., the train had been cleared to continue on its route, but officials were waiting for the completion of a track inspection before proceeding, Graham said.

    The westbound Wolverine runs daily between Pontiac and Chicago three times a day. The 353's scheduled departure from Pontiac was 10:35 a.m. It was to have departed Ann Arbor at 12:17 p.m. and arrive in Chicago at 3:38 p.m.

    An eastbound Amtrak train was also been delayed by the accident. The Wolverine 350, which runs between Chicago and Pontiac, and had been scheduled to arrive in Ann Arbor at 1:05 p.m., was waiting on a siding near Chelsea, Graham said at 4:15 p.m. About 3:15 p.m., Jackson said the train was stopped somewhere near Chelsea waiting for the track in Ann Arbor Township to be cleared.

    View Amtrak-semi crash in a larger map

    Ann Arbor freelance journalist Lisa Carolin contributed to this report.

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    Michigan pitcher Sara Driesenga reacts after giving up a home run in a 5-0 loss to Louisiana Lafayette on Saturday, May 25.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    The winner advances to the Women's College World Series, the loser's season is over.

    Buckle up.

    The Michigan softball team will play a winner-take-all third game on Saturday (3 p.m., ESPN) in its NCAA Super Regional against Louisiana Lafayette after falling 5-0 to the Ragin' Cajuns in game two of the series.

    Michigan softball coach Carol "Hutch" Hutchins decided to pull starting pitcher Haylie Wagner after three shutout innings and the Louisiana Lafayette picked up where they left off on Friday. The Ragin' Cajuns broke a scoreless tie, scoring three runs in the bottom of the fourth after hitting two home runs off of Sara Driesenga. Driesenga, usually the No. 1 pitcher for the Wolverines, was pulled in the eighth inning on Friday after Louisiana Lafayette hit a pair of home runs late.

    Michigan was designated the away team after winning the first game of the three-game series Friday night in dramatic fashion with a walk-off home run in the eighth inning. Driesenga entered the game in the bottom of the fourth inning on Saturday after Wagner had retired the last seven batters she faced. Driesenga gave up a solo home run to Sarah Draheim and later in the inning gave up a two-run home run to Sara Corbello. Draheim homered in the sixth inning as well.

    After giving up just one run in three regional games the previous weekend and throwing six-and-two-thirds shutout innings on Friday, Driesenga had given up six runs and four home runs in her past one-and-two thirds innings after the fourth. Driesenga settled down after the fourth, but was able to Louisiana Lafayette added a pair of insurance runs in the sixth inning.

    The Wolverines threatened at the top of the fifth, but left a pair of runners on base. It was Michigan's best chance to score since the top of the third inning when Nicole Sappingfield reached base on a walk and advanced to third after a fielding error on her steal attempt. Sierra Romero battled through a 10-pitch at-bat before eventually being walked, but with runners at first and third, Caitlin Blanchard flew out to right field and Louisiana Lafayette escaped the inning unscathed.

    Lafayette pitcher Jordan Wallace picked up the complete game win allowing three hits and striking out 11 batters. It was Michigan's first home loss of the season.

    The winner of Saturday's late game advances to the Women's College World Series May 30-June 5 in Oklahoma City.

    Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at petercunningham@annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.

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    Updated 7:27 p.m.

    Next stop: Oklahoma City.

    The Michigan softball team is bound for the Women’s College World Series after defeating Louisiana Lafayette 2-1 on Saturday at Alumni Field. The Ragin’ Cajuns beat Michigan 5-0 in Game 2 of the three game series earlier in the day - the Wolverines won Game 1 on Friday - setting up a winner-take-all third and deciding game with a trip to the World Series on the line.

    For the second day in a row, Ashley Lane played the role of hero as Michigan mustered together just enough offense to advance to World Series for the 10th time in program history.

    "I’m so proud of my kids and their effort today. Sometimes losing that Game 2 is tough, (Louisiana Lafayette) had 24 hours to adjust and we had 30 minutes," said Michigan coach Carol "Hutch" Hutchins after the game. "I’m most proud of my senior class; they told me all year that they were going to go to Oklahoma and they were determined. Determination is pretty important, so I’m excited for them and I’m proud of them and I love them.”

    After hitting the eighth inning walk-off home run that won the game for Michigan on Friday, Lane drove in two runs with a two-out double with runners at the corners in the bottom of the fifth inning with Michigan trailing 1-0.

    Louisiana Lafayette had scored its run in the fourth inning and was assisted by a throwing error made by Lane while attempting to turn a double play. The struggles made her late game heroics all the more gratifying.

    "I make it a little tough on myself, that’s for sure," Lane said with laugh. "But that hit wouldn’t mean anything if Romo (Sierra Romero) didn’t do her job and Caitlin (Blanchard) didn’t do her job."

    Related: Game 3 Boxscore | Game 2 Boxscore

    Lane had two runners on with two outs in both the first and third innings and grounded out to end each inning. She made good on her third chance, driving a hit to left center field. Romero easily scored from first to tie the game and Blanchard - who had kept the inning alive with a single of her own - scored what proved to be the game-winning run.

    "That was - what - my third situation with two outs and runners in scoring position? Something good was bound to happen," Lane said.


    Michigan senior Ashley Lane, above, drove in Michigan's only two runs in its World Series clinching 2-1 win over Louisiana Lafayette on Saturday, May 25.

    Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com

    Blanchard's run was no sure thing as she was just able to avoid a tag at the plate from Louisiana Lafayette catcher Sarah Draheim.

    "The throw was off line, and (Draheim) tried to reach and make a swipe tag. The kid made a good slide and got under (the tag)," Louisiana Lafayette coach Michael Lotief said after the game. "It’s a game of inches, really. This was really a series of inches."

    Sara Driesenga picked up the win for Michigan from the pitching circle in what was a surprise start to everyone at Alumni Field, Driesenga and Hutchins included. Driesenga was pulled from the eighth inning on Friday and struggled in four innings of work in Game 2 of the series on Saturday. Game 2 starter Haylie Wagner was on the lineup card as the starter for Game 3, but hurt her shoulder just minutes before the game, causing Hutchins to go with Driesenga.

    "Next time we get hurt we need to do it a little sooner," Hutchins joked. "That was quite a finagling at the end. Sara came in and apparently she doesn’t need much notice to pitch, so we’re good.”

    "We both warm up before every game so we’re both ready to go no matter what, ready to pick each other up,” Driesenga said.

    Driesenga had given up eight runs and five home runs in her past four-and-two-thirds innings of work against the Ragin' Cajuns — having been pulled in the eighth inning on Friday and replacing Wagner in the fourth inning of Game 2 — but appeared unfazed by her recent struggles in the deciding game. Driesenga allowed one run on four hits and struck out seven to get the win for the Wolverines.

    "I just had to forget about it. I didn’t have a choice not to forget about it, I had to do it for the team," Driesenga said. "We weren’t sure if Haylie was going to be ready or not so I had no choice. I had to go right at them and keep us in the game.”

    Hutchins said the choice to pull Wagner in the early game was unrelated to the injury she suffered between games. Wagner left having retired seven straight batters in a scoreless tie, and Driesenga gave up two home runs in her first inning of relief.

    “Haylie throws into their strengths and that part of the order, starting with their two-hitter had hit her hard the first time around and we felt that what we’d try to do was change it up every time through the order," Hutchins said. "But it didn’t work; it didn’t work and we make a lot of decisions; as the head coach I live with all of them. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.”

    Louisiana Lafayette scored its only run in the fourth inning when Shellie Landry hit a sharp single up the middle to score Draheim, who was in scoring position because of the Lane error. Lane more than made up for the mishap in the fifth inning with her third and fourth RBIs of the series.

    "I think Ashley showed yesterday it doesn’t matter what (you've done before), only what you’re doing right now. She went up there and she had a great look, and I knew she was going to have a great at-bat," Hutchins said. "Ashley’s been getting it done for us all year. She’s a great player and a great hitter. Her having confidence was the most important thing in my mind in her at-bat and she had it.”

    Michigan's focus now shifts to the the World Series, where the Wolverines will take on top-seed Oklahoma in the opening round of the week-long tournament on Thursday. It's Michigan's first trip to the national tournament since 2009. Hutchins led the Wolverines to the program's lone national championship in 2005.

    "I couldn’t be more excited for this team," Hutchins said. "This is Team 36 and I’m all about that. It’s not about the past and it’s not about the future. I’m excited for these kids, now.”

    Pete Cunningham covers sports for AnnArbor.com. He can be reached at petercunningham@annarbor.com. Follow him on Twitter @petcunningham.

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    Protesters march along Liberty Street in Ann Arbor to show their objection to genetically modified foods.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Hundreds of people marched through the streets of Ann Arbor Saturday to protest the use of genetically modified foods. The protest, dubbed the March Against Monsanto began on the University of Michigan Diag at 1 p.m. and ended at Hanover Square Park on Packard Street.

    Monsanto is a $ billion St. Louis, Mo.-based agriculture technology company that sells, among other things, genetically modified seeds for farming. It says its products pose no risk to humans.

    People of all ages, including children, were among the protesters, many of whom carried signs with messages like "My family's food is not your experiment," and "Do you know what you are eating?" One little girl wore a sign around her neck stating, "I am not a science experiment."

    "I want my kids to be able to eat the food they grow from seeds that can reproduce themselves," said Rebecca Laduca from Ann Arbor, who marched with her husband and their young son who got a lift on his dad's back.

    Some protesters called for labeling of genetically modified foods, so that consumers can decide whether to eat it or not.

    "We need transparency," said Ann Arbor resident Erin Gelderman. "It's always labeled if something is gluten-free or peanut-free. Why can't they tell us if there are genetically engineered foods in a product?"

    The U.S. Senate voted this past Thursday against an amendment to the farm bill that would have let states decide whether to require the labeling of genetically modified organisms.


    A protester chants during what was labeled the March Against Monsanto.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Many scientists say genetically modified foods pose no risk to human health. "GM foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and are not likely to present risks for human health," the World Health Organization says on its website. "In addition, no effects on human health have been shown as a result of the consumption of such foods by the general population in the countries where they have been approved."

    Monsanto also says its genetically modified products are safe."Food derived from authorized genetically-modified (GM) crops is as safe as conventional (non-GM-derived) food," the company states on its website.

    Saturday was an international day of protests that included marches in 10 Michigan cities, and 330 marches in more than 40 countries. Kryssi Jones organized the march in Ann Arbor and said the primary goals were to educate people about genetically modified foods and tell them what they can do.

    Cale Stoker and his friend Paul Hensler came to Ann Arbor from Adrian to join the protest march.

    "I'm carrying this sign to get attention," said Stoker, whose sign included the words, "Grow food not lawns."

    "My uncle is a farmer, and I don't want to see him negatively affected by GMOs," said Hensler.

    Lisa Carolin is a freelance reporter for AnnArbor.com. Contact the news desk at news@annarbor.com or 734-623-2530.

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    Sue Scott plays all the female roles on the radio program, "A Prairie Home Companion."

    Photo provided by APHC

    You might not be surprised to learn that Sue Scott, the actress who plays various characters on Garrison Keillor’s radio variety show, “A Prairie Home Companion” (coming to Hill Auditorium for a live broadcast on Saturday, June 1), has long had a flair for theater roles that required her to play multiple characters and improv.

    “It all lends itself to what I do now, except with this, I don’t have to keep running backstage to change my wigs and costumes,” said Scott.

    Plus, radio plays allow Scott to play with an eclectically broad range of voices. “Some voices I would never be able to sustain on a stage, because you have to project, and reach back of the house,” said Scott. “For radio, the mic is right there, so you can use really intimate voices, or strange, scratchy voices I could never do for 7 or 8 performances a week on a stage. So it’s fun to find whole different category of voices. … I come from theater, but (fellow APHC actor) Tim Russell comes from radio, so we meet somewhere in the middle.”

    Scott has been with APHC since 1992, when Keillor returned to St. Paul (from New York City) and revived the show, after it went off the air in 1987.

    So after more than 20 years, Scott is well familiar with the way the show works from the inside.


    ”A Prairie Home Companion”

    • What: The Ann Arbor Summer Festival and Michigan Radio present a live broadcast of Garrison Keillor’s beloved radio show, “A Prairie Home Companion,” with special guests Ellis, Radoslav Lorkovic, Kenni Holmen, and Steve Strand.
    • Where: Hill Auditorium, at 825 N. University Ave. in Ann Arbor.
    • When: Saturday, June 1 at 5:45 p.m.
    • How much: $35-$75. Visit www.tickets.a2sf.org or 734-764-2538.
    “When we come to Ann Arbor, we’ll see the script for the first time Friday evening at 6 or 6:30, and we’ll rehearse on stage with microphones,” said Scott. “It’s a great 'heads up' for the cast, but the main purpose is to do it for Garrison, who’s the head writer, and often the only writer, … to see how (the script) flows, and what works, and what doesn’t work. And it can change a little or drastically between Friday and Saturday.”

    On Saturday afternoon, another rehearsal happens, this time with “more of the bells and whistles”—which could be taken literally, given the radio show's penchant for storytelling sound effects—and often the integration of the show’s guest artists. Changes are made in the script after this rehearsal, too; but according to Scott, the script is never officially “locked.”

    “Sometimes during the show, Garrison will decide we’re running long and … he’ll edit on the fly while we’re doing a script on the air, live,” said Scott. “I stand next to him, … and I’ll lean over and see that he’s crossed out half a page, and he’ll motion to me to let the other guys know. … But you have to make it sound seamless. … Garrison is the king of the save. He can always save a moment and turn it into something funny. There’s rarely a train wreck.”

    The spontaneity forces Scott and the other performers to stay on their toes during the live broadcast, of course, and this is part of what keeps it fresh and fun.

    “There are weeks when I’ve called my husband that night after the show to check in, and I’ll tell him, ‘I’m glad this week was not my first time on the show,’” said Scott. “Because just a few weeks ago, Garrison had a wrong version of the script. … So he was out there on stage with an older version of the script than what we had, and we were noticing that he’s halting in some of his lines. While he was talking, conversing with Tim for ‘The Lives of the Cowboys’ or something, he leaned over me and was comparing notes. Script 1 is what we get Friday night, and there’s a 2, a 3, sometimes 4. We realized he had a 1, and we all had a 3. … I, of course, gave him my copy, since I wasn’t speaking then anyway. … I’m a bit more used to this now. And live audiences love seeing a commotion when we’re experiencing something unexpected.”

    In Robert Altman’s 2006 film of “A Prairie Home Companion,” Scott played the makeup lady for the show - which is ironic, since the show doesn’t actually employ a makeup person (“I don’t mean to bust that myth,” Scott said). But big stars, who were often longtime fans of the radio program, lined up to star in what would be Altman’s last film, shot at APHC’s home turf, the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul: John C. Reilly; Woody Harrelson; Lindsay Lohan; Meryl Street; Lily Tomlin; Virginia Madsen; Kevin Kline; and Tommy Lee Jones.

    “Everyone checked their ego at the door, and it became like a big family,” said Scott. “It was a ton of fun.”

    And although Keillor announced a few years ago that he would retire in 2013, he has since changed his mind, and Scott has no idea how much longer the host plans to continue.

    She does, however, have ideas about why people love the show so much that they were mourning it before it even left the airwaves.

    Though many assume APHC primarily appeals to people who grew up in small towns in the Midwest, Scott’s met enough Brooklyn native diehard fans to know that that’s not it.

    “I think the attraction is … the variety show aspect,” said Scott. “They don’t really do variety shows anymore. When I was growing up, I loved ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ - things that combined music with humor. We don’t have that anymore. There’s that. But also, you have a more intimate relationship with radio. When you’re listening, you might be in a group of people listening, or you might be in the car, or on the porch with a glass of wine. We’re live … when people are gearing up for Saturday night. And you have to use your imagination when you’re just listening, and I think that sucks you into it so much more than television shows or movies.”

    Jenn McKee is an entertainment reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at jennmckee@annarbor.com or 734-623-2546, and follow her on Twitter @jennmckee.

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    Recent solutions in downtown development show not only contextual problems, such as insensitivity to concerns of neighborhood, but a general lack of architectural imagination. One reason is the rigidity which results from excessive reliance on zoning. There are better ways to urban planning. Note the word “process” in the title of my remarks. We lack two basic assets: preliminary, documented visions for all sites under consideration and flexibility to change such visions into alternatives when new understanding of the particular circumstances arises.


    The current zoning map of Ann Arbor.

    How can this be achieved? By taking advantage of the resources we have available. I identify four: the city planning department, the highly interested citizenry, the professional architects and planners in the region, and the school of architecture and planning at the university. Real estate and other business professionals will become occasionally important resources.

    With these entities synergized, development with continuity can be initiated which is much preferable to what we experience now with at hoc confrontations. Consider the following scenario.

    1. The City with input from interested parties identifies all potential sites for urban redevelopment.
    2. Each site is developed toward preliminary design by architecture and planning student teams in their design classes with input by professionals in addition to their teachers. During the 16 years of my teaching here I used often downtown sites. Many of the solutions which we came up with were superior to what exists now on some of these sites or is presently proposed for them.
    3. Why? We had usually several projects for the same site with various perspectives for development and made adjustments according to dialectic and sympathetic argumentation. We could change the ‘rules of the game’ somewhat when we felt that circumstances favored a change in zoning requirements.
    4. The proposals are exhibited in suitable spaces (libraries, warehouse spaces, etc.) for further discussions and input by professionals and laypeople. The proposals will provide evolving frameworks for particular site developments. All involved will have to agree that participation does not constitute any rights of individuals or entities but brings the proposals into public ownership as contribution to the welfare of the city.
    5. After each site has been developed and publicly discussed to the point of reasonable consensus, City awards the site ‘preliminary site master plan approval’.
    6. A small budget is approved by City and funds solicited from the public not for salaries but for expenses of documentation and exhibition of results.

    A group of local architects and other professionals recently visited Tübingen, our sister city in Germany. They could see excellent examples of highly flexible urban planning according to site-specific circumstances. Although the background conditions are different, we can learn from some basic principles applied there, and we can find our own approaches derived from them.

    My proposal is probably controversial, not least for my own profession. But an approach somewhat like it would provide the opportunity to develop a highly adaptable environment of comprehensive urban planning. The City would retain its powers but could make decisions based on better site related input and on broader consensus because of the many people productively involved before final decisions have to be made.

    Kurt Brandle is an Ann Arbor resident and Professor Emeritus of Architecture at the University of Michigan

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    The following students were nominated for the AnnArbor.com 2013 Young Citizen of the Year Award. From this list, a panel of judges chose the winner and nine finalists:

    • Ajanay Bradshaw, Lincoln Senior High School
    • Yuxuan Chen, Skyline High School
    • Tya Chuanromanee, Homeschooled
    • Cecilia DiFranco, Skyline High School
    • Melissa Drefts, Whitmore Lake High School
    • Hani Elhor, Ann Arbor Huron High School
    • Jennifer Ezeokobe, Ann Arbor Huron High School
    • Shoham Geva, Skyline High School
    • Kelley Greene, New Tech High School, Ypsilanti
    • Evan Heetderks, Skyline High School
    • Andy Hsiao, Ann Arbor Huron High School
    • Rianna Johnson-Levy, Ann Arbor Community High School
    • Emma Kern, Pioneer High School
    • Sophia Ketchum-Goulding, Community High School
    • Alex Kime, Skyline High School
    • Christa Kuck, Ann Arbor Huron High School
    • Joseph Mazur, Manchester High School
    • Merin McDivitt, Pioneer High School
    • Tevis Robinson, Pioneer High School
    • Anna Rosenfeld, Huron High School
    • Eliza Stein, Pioneer/Community high schools
    • Kate Summers, Community High School
    • Sloan Talbot, Washtenaw Intermediate High School
    • Nicole Zeffer, Skyline High School

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    The renovated dining room at the Max & Bella's On The Green restaurant at Ann Arbor Country Club.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Twenty-year food industry veteran Aaron Peggs knew the restaurant at the Ann Arbor Country Club needed a drastic overhaul.

    Peggs — who was hired by the club’s new owners last year — decided to temporarily close the existing restaurant in the clubhouse, hire and train new staff, roll out an entirely new menu, and change the restaurant’s name.

    Max & Bella’s On The Green officially opened in early 2013 and Peggs estimated business has increased by more than 100 percent in the past several months.

    “We’ve seen a tremendous growth in business,” he said. “I pretty much came in and structured this like it was a brand new restaurant.”

    The semi-private Ann Arbor Country Club is on 200 acres between Ann Arbor and Dexter in the Loch Alpine neighborhood in Webster Township. Club ownership shifted when a West Virginia investment group, A2C2 LLC, bought the mortgage after a bank-ordered sale in 2010. The club’s assets were transferred to the group six months later and the restaurant and golf course were opened to the general public.


    The clubhouse at the Ann Arbor Country Club, where Max & Bella's On The Green opened earlier this year.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Faced with declining golf membership and sluggish business at the restaurant, the new owners hired Peggs as executive chef and operations manager. Peggs trained at the Culinary Institute of America and has operated various restaurants across the country. In 2006, he founded a food consulting business, Team Cuisine LLC, which works to turn around struggling restaurants.

    Peggs’ task at the Ann Arbor Country Club: Convince residents in Loch Alpine and neighboring subdivisions to eat at the club instead of driving to other restaurants.

    “I thought (they were) missing a lot of opportunity here in the neighborhood,” Peggs said. “Instead of having these people drive to Dexter and Ann Arbor to eat, (we need to) capture that. We have 1,000 homes around us.”

    Michael Weikle, who lives in the neighborhood and represents the new owners of the Ann Arbor Country Club, said he’s also trying to convince diners across Washtenaw County to come eat at the “family-focused” restaurant. The biggest challenge, he said, is that people don’t know the club and restaurant exist.

    “All of a sudden, we have a chef with the ability to put together a menu and a sous chef (Michelle Taylor) who can execute,” Weikle said. “I want people to say, ‘Let's meet at the club.’ ”

    The new menu at Max & Bella’s On The Green emphasizes fresh and seasonal ingredients sourced from local purveyors.

    “Everything prior to me came out of a box and can, and now everything is made from scratch with the farm-to-table idea,” Peggs said.

    The menu includes appetizers, salads, pizzas, burgers, sandwiches and entrees. A kid’s menu also is offered. Peggs said some of his favorite dishes are: Vol-Au-Vent, a grass-fed sirloin with a marsala mushroom base; the wedge salad; and the Salmon En Papillote, which is baked in parchment paper with vegetables and rice. Peggs said meals range from $10 a plate to $30 a plate.

    The restaurant now serves Michigan microbrews and has an increased liquor line, including high-end products and liquors from local distilleries.

    Peggs said he plans to change the menu seasonally and he’s receptive to feedback or special requests.

    “We’re really customer-service based. … I always tell people, if there’s anything they don’t see on the menu and they’re craving it, just let me know and we’ll make it. … We have a lot of talent in our kitchen,” he said.


    A portion of the banquet room at the Ann Arbor Country Club. The club's new executive operations manager plans to grow the events business this year.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    As part of the overhaul, the club hired new staff and renovated the dining area. It’s also expanding its events business and plans to host luaus, movie nights by the pool and a lobster boil. Peggs brought in a competition-sized smoker and plans to make ribs, pulled pork and smoked chickens for the outdoor events, which will be open to the public by reservation.

    “I have nine different events going at the pool this summer. … I’m trying to think: How can I get more business in here?” he said. “It’s either make or break us right now.”

    Instead of hiring a separate catering company for private events, the club can now customize menus and prepare the food. And when the club’s snack shop opens at the pool on Memorial Day weekend, it will have a new menu with healthier options.

    “This was the hangout place in the 1970s, and that’s what I’m trying to give rebirth to,” Peggs said. “(We’re trying) to bring back the community and make it a social event place and have it become a safe haven for parents and kids.”

    The hours at Max & Bella’s On The Green are: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, Saturday and Sunday for lunch, and 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday for dinner.

    View Larger Map

    Lizzy Alfs is a business reporter for AnnArbor.com. Reach her at 734-623-2584 or email her at lizzyalfs@annarbor.com. Follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lizzyalfs.

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    Students work at different stations in a kindergarten class at Mitchell Elementary School earlier this year.

    Melanie Maxwell I AnnArbor.com file photo

    Cuts to teaching positions are the largest cost savings in the Ann Arbor Public Schools' proposed budget for the 2013-14 academic year.

    But if the district is forced to achieve these staffing reductions through layoffs, the cuts will have monetary repercussions.

    The school board Wednesday approved issuing layoff notices to 233 teachers, in order to prepare for a possible cut of 50 positions.

    The 50 positions carry a price tag of about $4.7 million — more than half of the district's $8.67 million budget shortfall for next year.

    For every full-time teacher the Ann Arbor district lays off — or cuts through attrition — the savings in salary, benefits, pension contribution and Federal Insurance Contributions Act tax will be $100,000. But for each laid-off teacher, the district is required to pay about $7,200 in unemployment insurance.

    District officials explained workers who become unemployed through no fault of their own are entitled to temporary benefits for up to 14 to 20 weeks paid for by the district. The cost is around $360 per week, for a total expense per employee of about $7,200, said Deputy Superintendent of Human Resources and Legal Services David Comsa.

    So despite saving $4.7 million in compensation costs by laying off 50 teachers, the district would be required to add about $360,000 back into its expenses to cover unemployment insurance for the laid-off instructors. So the net savings would be $4.34 million.


    Ann Arbor Public Schools board Vice President Christine Stead speaks during a public hearing at the Ann Arbor District Library.

    Angela J. Cesere | AnnArbor.com file photo

    The expense of laying off staff was not figured into the $8.67 million deficit projection, a fact which concerns at least one school board member.

    Trustee Christine Stead said the act of teacher layoffs will add to the amount of money by which the district must reduce its operating expenses in order to pass a balanced budget for 2013-14, resulting in more agonizing discussions about tradeoffs and which awful cut is better than another awful cut.

    "I do want to raise my colleagues' awareness of some of the other impacts that we may have," Stead said at Wednesday's Board of Education meeting.

    Stead has been one of the trustees most vocal about trying to save teachers.

    The unemployment insurance costs would apply to any employees that are laid off, which could include another 26 FTEs from grounds, maintenance and custodial services and from guidance counselors and central office staff. The school board agreed to keep these positions on the chopping block at a study session on May 15. The gross savings would be about $1.5 million.

    The board also looked Wednesday at reductions to office personnel (3.5 to 6.5 FTE), teacher consultants (8 to 8.5 FTE), teaching assistants (4 to 4.5 FTE) and speech and language pathologists (2 FTE) for a savings of $250,000. There also is the possibility to cut two community assistants or paraeducators from each comprehensive high school, one from Ann Arbor Technological High School and one from Roberto Clemente Student Development Center for an estimated gross savings of $347,200.

    The cost for unemployment benefits for all of these additional 45 employees could be around $324,000. Combined with the teachers' unemployment insurance, the total cost to the district to lay off staff could be in the realm of $648,000.

    Which staffing positions ultimately will be cut is still unknown at this point. It likely will not be clear until the board passes a budget in June.

    Trustees have been trying to find ways to look at anybody and anything else but teachers to get to the needed $8.67 million in savings for 2013-14.

    The board has until June 30 to approve a balanced budget for the next fiscal year.

    Stead touched on the remaining financial unknowns at Wednesday's regular Board of Education meeting as well as Thursday on her blog.

    Among the many things still in flux, Stead said, is the potential to lose a portion of the district's special education funding due to the federal sequestration. There also are about five pieces of legislation that have been proposed in Lansing that could permanently decrease money that goes into the School Aid Fund, Stead said.

    Another cost that will need to be factored into the district's $8.67 million budget shortfall is the expense of borrowing $10 million to make payroll. The district will be required to pay some processing and interest fees on the line of credit. District spokeswoman Liz Margolis said the district's interest rate is not finalized yet.

    A Republican-led School Aid Conference Committee last week approved a 3 percent increase to K-12 education funding in Michigan. It is unknown whether the Ann Arbor Public Schools will see any of this money because, as of Thursday, the proposal on the table was to raise the per-pupil foundation allowance by $60 at the state's lowest-funded schools. Other proposals are still floating around, however, Stead said. The latest idea is to give all districts a $5 to $40 per-pupil boost.

    For AAPS, that boost could mean an additional $82,500 to $660,000 in revenue and could save — on the low end — the Pioneer High School theater technician or keep the middle school pools open. On the high end, the boost could preserve high school transportation, the seventh-hour option or 6.5 teaching FTEs — or cover the cost of unemployment benefits for laid-off staff.

    Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for AnnArbor.com. Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at daniellearndt@annarbor.com.

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    Ann Arbor's North Main-Huron River corridor in the context of its surroundings. A citizen-led task force has been studying ways to improve connections and access to the river and will make recommendations to the City Council by July 31.

    Courtesy image

    A lot of ideas are being kicked around for how to transform Ann Arbor's North Main-Huron River corridor into a vibrant and unique destination that's both safe and accessible.

    But while city officials and citizens leading a 14-member task force may have ambitious ideas for achieving those goals with pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists in mind, it's the Michigan Department of Transportation that gets final say on much of what happens on North Main Street.

    "It's good to be the king," quipped David Santacroce, chairman of the city's North Main-Huron River Vision Task Force, referring to MDOT at a recent community meeting.


    This map on display at a recent community meeting gives an overview of the 16 different ideas being considered by the task force for the North Main-Huron River corridor. Download the full presentation from the meeting.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    MDOT plans to undertake a major construction project along North Main — a US-23 business route — between Huron Street and M-14 sometime in 2018.

    City officials are hopeful MDOT will consider some of the community's ideas for improved walking and biking amenities in conjunction with that project.

    Some of the ideas coming out of the task force that can't happen without MDOT approval include reducing traffic speeds along North Main, adding new crosswalks, putting in a roundabout for traffic coming off the highway at M-14, and maintaining a signalized railroad crossing at Lake Shore Drive into Bandemer Park where the current at-grade crossing is at risk of closing.

    The task force also has expressed interest in widening the Main Street right-of-way and improving and extending the sidewalk on the east side of North Main from Depot Street to and under M-14 to enhance pedestrian and bike access to West Huron River Drive.

    Santacroce said there is a continuing dialogue between the city and MDOT on the many issues along the corridor and he doesn't sense that the relationship is hostile — just two different parties with different issues and different constituencies, and limited pots of money.

    Mark Sweeney, MDOT's regional manager in Brighton, declined to comment Friday on the task force's ideas that are still in draft form.

    "MDOT has always been on record as supporting complete streets initiatives," he said. "However, we cannot comment on recommendations that have not been officially presented to us by the city."

    The task force, which was formed by the Ann Arbor City Council last May, is expected to submit its final report with recommendations to the council by July 31.


    Nearly 100 members of the community packed into the Ann Arbor Community Center for a meeting this past Wednesday to hear the latest plans from the North Main-Huron River task force and give feedback.

    Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com

    Before that happens, the task force will hold another community meeting at 6:30 p.m. June 12 at the Ann Arbor Community Center.

    Nearly 100 people packed the Community Center this past Wednesday night to hear the latest plans from the task force and give feedback. Opinions were mixed about the various ideas on the table — some are more popular than others — but most seemed to agree there's at least room for improvement along the corridor.

    "For the most part, I think people were appreciative of the work the task force has done and supportive of most of the preliminary ideas we put out there," Santacroce said. "For some ideas, there were mixed reactions, and probably no one in the room agreed with every one, but the point of the meeting was to make sure the task force had identified all the issues."

    Santacroce hopes more people will add their voices online at A2 Open City Hall by the Tuesday deadline for submitting comments.

    Erica Briggs of the Washtenaw Bicycling and Walking Coalition said her group is launching an advocacy campaign to convince MDOT to seriously consider ideas for North Main.

    "There are some things that we're really going to need to get active on as a community, and the city can only do certain types of advocacy work," she said.

    One of the issues the WBWC will be focusing on, Briggs said, is the threat that MDOT could close the only legal railroad crossing off North Main into Bandemer Park at Lake Shore Drive.


    Rough plans released this past week show a pedestrian bridge proposed over North Main and the railroad tracks that act as a barrier to the river. The bridge would start at Wildt Street and go over the road and tracks before spiraling down at the Border-to-Border Trail next to Argo Pond.

    Courtesy image

    MDOT recently acquired the Norfolk Southern tracks and city officials fear the state might move to close the Lake Shore Drive crossing as a safety measure when it implements high-speed rail.

    "We'll be stepping up in the next couple of years and really trying to make sure that people are telling MDOT they do not want to have Lake Shore Drive closed," Briggs said, "and telling MDOT that we need to have the street construction done sooner rather than later."

    Briggs said she's excited about ideas like putting in new crosswalks, including a user-activated signal to cross North Main from Bluffs Park to Bandemer Park at Lake Shore Drive. She said it's also important to be talking about slowing traffic coming off the highway onto North Main.

    Task force member Darren McKinnon, a representative of the Water Hill neighborhood in the area, said widening the road right-of-way and installing sidewalks on the west side of North Main need to happen before the city can make a case to MDOT for pedestrian crossings north of Depot.

    "What we're being told is, if you don't put in a sidewalk, there's nothing to cross to, and so you're never going to get a crosswalk," he said.

    But the task force does believe it's possible in the short term to establish new pedestrian crosswalks across Depot at Fourth Avenue and across Main at Depot.

    Rough plans released this past week also show a pedestrian bridge proposed over North Main and the railroad tracks that act as a barrier to the river. The bridge would start at Wildt Street and go over the road and tracks before spiraling down at the Border-to-Border Trail next to Argo Pond.

    The task force is continuing to look at options for tunneling under the railroad tracks just north of Depot and Fourth Avenue to provide access to a future park at the MichCon site, too. And from there, the tentative plan is to have two pedestrian bridges crossing over the river to Argo Park and the Border-to-Border Trail — one bridge on each side of Argo Dam.


    Two generic images included in a presentation given Wednesday night show what development can look like next to public riverfront amenities, though they're not intended to depict the MichCon site specifically

    Courtesy image

    The task force's rough conceptual plan for a riverfront park on the MichCon site remains unchanged since March, showing trails along the river and a new canoe livery.

    Two generic images included in a presentation given Wednesday night show what development can look like next to public riverfront amenities, though they're not intended to depict the MichCon site specifically.

    "They're meant to evoke a vision," said task force member Julie Grand, chairwoman of the city's Park Advisory Commission. "They were just an example of what a private-public riverfront can look like, not necessarily our riverfront — just how private development and public parks can co-exist."

    DTE Energy is still sifting through proposals from developers interested in the site. That could include restaurant, retail, residential, commercial office space and medical office uses.

    In addition to the MichCon site, the task force will be recommending public open space uses for the former city maintenance yard at 721 N. Main as part of the Allen Creek Greenway.

    Other ideas being kicked around include an improved boat launch at Bandemer Park, an improved two-lane bridge to make Bandemer Park more accessible, widening the Border-to-Border Trail at some points, a park-and-ride lot at M-14 and Barton Drive to help take traffic off North Main, and a tunnel under the railroad tracks north of M-14 to link the Barton Nature Area with Bandemer Park.


    No. 10. on the task force's list of ideas is a tunnel under the railroad tracks north of M-14 to link the Barton Nature Area with Bandemer Park. That's an area where many people already cross the tracks illegally. No. 11 is an extension of the sidewalk along the east side of North Main under M-14 to enhance pedestrian and bike access to West Huron River Drive.

    Courtesy image

    Clark Charnetski of the Michigan Association of Railroad Passengers gave an update on plans for high-speed rail improvements on the Detroit-to-Chicago line at Wednesday's meeting.

    "You may have seen there's some rail sitting out there now waiting to be installed," he said. "Most of the track work will be done this year."

    He said the stretch from Kalamazoo to Battle Creek is expected to be up to 110 mph by Christmas, and the stretch from Battle Creek to Dearborn should be done by the end of next year.

    "They obviously can't go 110 mph through some of these curves along the Huron River. However, they probably will be going faster," he said.

    As for the at-grade crossing at Lake Shore Drive, he said it's not a simple matter, and it's worth noting the newer equipment will be quieter, "so you may not hear the train."

    He said the crossing was always pretty safe until earlier this year when a train hit a car stopped on the tracks.

    "One of the problems with Lake Shore Drive is that's not just out in the open country. That's in the middle of a railroad yard, believe it or not," he said. "There are multiple tracks, and there may very well be additional tracks put in there, so you could have the crossing blocked when people are switching or doing something, depending what happens, for example, with commuter trains here."

    Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at ryanstanton@annarbor.com or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to AnnArbor.com's email newsletters.

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    AnnArbor.com is proud to present the 2013 finalists for Young Citizen of the Year. These finalists and winner Andy Hsiao were chosen for their leadership and community service.

    The Young Citizen of the Year wins a $2,000 college scholarship from AnnArbor.com. The nine finalists each receive a $1,000 scholarship from the Robert Bruce Dunlap Fund of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

    The finalists and winner were selected by the following panel: Connie Dunlap, who created the scholarship fund for finalists in memory of her husband; Scott Menzel, Washtenaw Intermediate School District superintendent; Jan Bacungan, AnnArbor.com executive administrative assistant; Ben Freed, AnnArbor.com business reporter, and Elizabeth Palmer, retail sales account executive.

    Following are profiles of the nine finalists.

    Hani Elhor

    Age: 18

    High School: Ann Arbor Huron High School

    Parents: Hassan and Salwa Elhor

    Nominated by: Robyn K. Watson

    School and community activities: Hani is a peer facilitator at Huron, speaks publicly about the benefits of recycling as a leader for Huron's "Green Team," helped Huron start a recycling program in coordination with Recycle Bank, instrumental in organizing Huron's Student Council Blood Bank, served on Ann Arbor Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee and as a peer leader for the Peer2Peer Depression Awareness Project with the University of Michigan.

    College plans: Hani will attend the University of Michigan in the fall and hopes to be a pre-med student.


    Emma Kern

    Age: 17

    High School: Pioneer High School

    Parents: Wendy & Steve Kern

    Nominated by: Claire Kitchin Dahl

    School and community activities: Emma traveled to Morocco and Alteria last summer as a U.S. State Department "Youth Ambassador." Upon her return to Ann Arbor, she organized a cross-cultural communication program between Pioneer French classes and a youth center in Morocco. It is free for participants. For two years, Emma has served as co-chair of the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation Youth Council.

    College plans: Emma will attend Emory University.


    Christa Kuck

    Age: 17

    High School: Huron High School

    Parents: : Laurie & Donald Kuck

    Nominated by: Robyn K. Watson

    School and community activities: Christa is a contributing member and editor for Huron’s "Full Circle" literary journal and winner of several awards. She is a member of Huron’s cross country team and earned her varsity letter in her first year. She has now been selected as captain by her peers and coaches. Christa is also involved in Girls on the Run, her church nursery, helping Alzheimer's patients at Glacier Hills Nursing Home and as a tutor for Huron students and Kids for the Future.

    College plans: Christa plans to ttend St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minn.

    Sophia Ketchum-Goulding

    Age: 18

    High School: Community High School

    Parents: Emily Campbell

    Nominated by: Mary Thiefels

    School and community activities: Sophia has been very active with the Neutral Zone teen center. She has held the Visual Arts Council leader position for over more than two years. She has been integral in decision making, grant writing and group art show facilitation. Sophia is certified as part of the Neutral Zone Lead Team, a group of aspiring youth interested in developing leadership skills in planning and reflection, community building, general group facilitation and team building. She is also active at the First Presbyterian Church, serving and facilitating in the organization of the church's annual market place and holiday craft fair. Sophia has been youth forum leader at Community High School, and has sat on the school's forum council, representing her peers. She has also been a part of the production of "Free Verse," Community High School's literary magazine.

    After high school: Sophia will be working for a national service program called City Year in Seattle, WA.

    Shoham Geva

    Age: 17

    High School: Skyline High School

    Parents: Sharon Geva

    Nominated by: Lori Roddy

    School and community activities: Shoham has received the Varsity Letter in community service, an award provided to people who complete at least 145 hours of community service in a year. She was the lead facilitator of the Youth Owned Record Label at the Neutral Zone, Red Beard Press, and the co-editor of "Teen Spirit" at Skyline. This past year, she was invited through a selective process to join the Neutral Zone Board of Directors. She has also interned to support the Summer Festival to host the first teen battle of the bands event. Shoham participates in Neutral Zone's Students Educating Each other about Diversity.

    College plans: Shoham will attend the University of Michigan's Honors and Residential Colleges for political science and economics.


    Alex Kime

    Age: 17

    High School: Skyline High School

    Parents: Glenda Gordon & Glenn Kime

    Nominated by: Amy Milligan

    School and community activities: Alex is heavily involved in leadership roles at the Neutral Zone. As a lead facilitator of Youth Owned Records, he has spent countless hours working to support teen musicians as they take their first steps in the music business. Alex is also committed to diversity and is involved in both Neutral Zone's Riot Youth (LGBTQQA youth) and Students Educating Each other about Diversity programs. He is a writer and actor and is on the staff of his school literary magazine and forensics team and leads Skyline's Gay-Straight Alliance.

    College plans: Alex plans to attend the University of Michigan's Honors and Residential colleges, where he hopes to study creative writing, along with social theory and practice and possibly film studies.


    Kate Summers

    Age: 17

    High School: Community High School

    Parents: Donna Ainsworth

    Nominated by: Marshall Thomsen

    School and community activities: Kate is heavily involved in the Nicaragua Project, which looks to build an Intercultural Exchange Center and 24-bed hotel within the community of Catarina. She was unanimously elected as one of 10 members of the board for the project and has traveled to Nicaragua four times. She has participated in the Face to Face: Faith to Faith program, which brings together youth from a variety of cultures, including those who have historically been hostile to each other, to exchange ideas and bridge cultural divides. Kate has been very active in the Pioneer Theatre Guild, including serving as its board president. She has been active in Students Educating Each other about Diversity at the Neutral Zone and is the co-editor in chief of Community High School's Communicator online.

    College plans: Kate will spend a year in Nicaragua teaching English then attend Clark University in Wooster, Mass.


    Rianna Johnson-Levy

    Age: 17

    High School: Community High School

    Parents: Janet Johnson & Judith Levy

    Nominated by: Danny Brown

    School and community activities: Rianna serves on Community High School’s School Improvement Team, a group of students, teachers, and parents that meets regularly to improve school life and student success. She is also a star member of Community High School’s 2012 State-Champion Mock Trial Team and a member of the National Honor Society. Rianna is president of the Young Religious Unitarian Universalists of Ann Arbor and is the Social Action Coordinator for the District Youth Steering Committee for the Heartland District of the Unitarian Universalist Association. She is active with Neutral Zone, Habitat for Humanity and Light the Night, and is involved in many other activities.

    College plans: Rianna will be attending Yale University.

    Kelley Greene

    Age: 16

    High School: New Tech High School, Ypsilanti

    Parents: Loren Greene

    Nominated by: Natalia Harris

    School and community activities: Kelley is a member of the Junior National Honor’s Society. She is an active participant in Upward Bound through Eastern Michigan University. She serves as a school tour guide at New Tech High School and leads youth ministry at her church. In 2012, Kelley was awarded the Student Ambassador for Professionalism Award and was part of a group that founded Young Women Making Washtenaw County Better. She serves as an older youth mentor for the Telling It West Willow program and is employed as a youth outreach worker for the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office. She is seeking funding to support a program she designed for the sheriff’s office called the Youth Advisory Council that aims to enhance law enforcement relationships with youth and offer youth a voice.

    College plans: Undecided.

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    Andy Hsiao is this year's AnnArbor.com Young Citizen of the Year. Hsiao is the founder of Youth Impact, a group that strives to help youths create their own fundraising projects.

    Courtney Sacco | AnnArbor.com

    Editor's note: The AnnArbor.com Young Citizen of the Year Award recognizes leadership and community service on the part of area high school students. Today, we present the winner and nine finalists.

    When Huron High School junior Andy Hsiao first heard about the devastating tsunami in Japan in March 2011, he knew he wanted to help.

    Hsiao, then only a freshman in high school, decided to organize a fundraiser for the victims. Soon after, Hsiao set up a Facebook group selling T-shirts with the words “Fight on, Japan!” written in Japanese. Sale of the shirts raised about $3,000 for the cause. The effort was just the beginning of a series of creative fundraisers and volunteer activities that would become the foundation of Hsiao’s Youth Impact student group, formed to raise money for causes across the globe.

    It is for Hsiao's work with Youth Impact and other volunteer efforts that he has been named AnnArbor.com Young Citizen of the Year.

    Hsiao, 17, started Youth Impact with his friend last summer. Though Hsiao has been a member of Rotary International’s Interact service club for young people since his freshman year in High School — and will be serving as its president next year — he said his goal with Youth Impact was to give volunteers a stronger connection to the causes they serve by allowing them to select and create their own projects, instead of only volunteering for the projects of others. In particular, Hsiao said his goal was to help people use their passions to volunteer.

    Andy Hsiao

    • Age: 16
    • Parents: Kaori Ohara and Jimmy Hsiao
    • High school: Huron High School
    • School activities and community activities: School and community activities: Created Youth Impact, a youth service group formed to help students select their own volunteer projects. Under his supervision, the group has held multiple fundraisers. He has volunteered for Fall Chore Day, Perry Nursery School, Clague Middle School orchestra mentoring, chess mentoring, canned food drives and Ele's Place. He is a member of the National Honor Society and has been a member of Rotary International's Interact Service Club since his freshman year. He is a member of the Huron High School Orchestra and chess club and co-founder of the Mitchell Elementary School Chess Club.
    • Nominated by: Lisa Dengiz and James Stanhope
    • College plans: Undecided
    “I just wanted to try to get the message across, if you have something you’re committed to, there’s a lot of ways to help,” he said.

    Since its official start at the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, the club has raised more than $5,000 with two major fundraisers for the Take Heart Association Project, a non-governmental organization that raises money to provide medical care to needy children in Kenya with heart disease.

    The first project was a pizza-tasting competition in which participants paid an entry fee to eat and judge donated pizzas by area pizza-makers. The second was the "Youth Factor" benefit show, an "X Factor"-style talent competition made up of students of Ann Arbor high schools.

    The idea for Youth Impact came about after a U.S. history project during Hsiao’s sophomore year. Long-term substitute teacher James Stanhope gave students time one day a week to pursue a creative project, based on Google’s 20 percent policy, where workers are allotted a fifth of their work time to explore creative projects. Hsiao, a violin player, decided to organize a classical music benefit concert to raise money for Katariba, a Japanese organization that connected displaced children and teachers with temporary schools after the tsunami.

    With support from his teacher, Hsiao recruited performers from the Livonia Symphony Orchestra, the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University to perform. The fundraiser had been the second one of the year to support the cause. Hsiao and his friend Atulya Shetty, an award-winning chess player, had organized an event earlier that year in which participants paid a $10 entry fee to play chess against Shetty. The two events raised about $3,000 total for the organization.

    Hsiao said the events were examples of ways he and his friend used their personal talents and passions for a greater good. But he said he realized it was more fun to do projects as a group and decided to start a club to get more people involved.

    “I wanted more people to really use their passions to fundraise,” he said.

    Stanhope, one of two people to nominate Hsiao as Young Citizen of the Year, said Hsiao’s hard work and humble attitude separated him from his peers, earning high respect from Stanhope.

    “He’s a very good leader,” he said. “I think that’s why he’s so impressive because, at such a young age, he had all these skills and talents but understands his place.”

    Lisa Dengiz, a social worker, was the other person to nominate Hsiao for Young Citizen of the Year. Dengiz works at Ele’s Place in Ann Arbor, an organization that helps children and teens who have lost a loved one. She said she contacted Hsiao last year after reading about his efforts on AnnArbor.com and invited him and his volunteer group to work with Ele’s Place. She said Hsiao and other members of Youth Impact were eager to learn about Ele’s Place and worked with them to spread awareness of the group’s resources to area teens. She said she was instantly impressed by Hsiao.

    “I just think he’s a perfect combination of authentic, sincere, hardworking, compassionate and passionate, all the great attributes we want to see in youth leaders; he definitely is deserving,” she said.

    In addition to his work with Youth Impact and Interact, Hsiao is also an honor student, a member of the Huron High School Orchestra and chess club, as well as an after-school orchestra mentor at Ann Arbor’s Clague Middle School and co-founder of the Mitchell Elementary School Chess Club, also in Ann Arbor.

    Huron High School Principal Arthur Williams said Hsiao’s sense of responsibility is greater than most of his peers and his rational mind and a genuine caring for others are additional strengths.

    “Andy loves life and lives it in a way that will cause the world to be a better place for everybody,” he said.

    Long-time family friend Frances Kai-Hwa Wang said Hsiao’s creativity and ability to network and motivate others also distinguish him from his peers and adults as well.

    “Fundraising is never easy and to be able to do it at the grassroots level…I think that’s really commendable,” she said.

    As he approaches his senior year of high school, Hsiao said he would like Youth Impact to focus on more projects that benefit local organizations, such as Ele’s Place, but the decision will be voted upon by the group as a whole.

    When it comes to life after graduation, Hsiao said he is not yet sure where he wants to go to college or what he wants to study, but he said no matter what he does, volunteering will always be a part of his life.

    “It’s just a good feeling, you can’t really explain it in words," he said. "It’s always a good feeling.”

    Erica Hobbs is a freelance journalist for AnnArbor.com. Contact the news desk at 734-623-2530 or news@annarbor.com.

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