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AFFEW Annual Meeting

Thursday, October 19, 2017
Red's Room Jamesport Brew Pub


AFFEW honors environmental champions with first awards


Published in the Ludington Daily News on October 20, 2017
A Few Friends for the Environment of the World (AFFEW) had something new to offer at its 27th annual meeting Thursday Jamesport Brewery in Ludington — an awards ceremony businesses and community members who shown a committed to environmental stewardship over the past year.
Awards in three categories were then announced — Environmentalist of the Year, which went to Jordan DeVries, Michigan Agricultural Environmental Assurance Program Technician from the Mason/Lake Conservation District; Journalist of the Year, awarded to Steve Begnoche, former managing editor of the Ludington Daily News; and Sustainable Business of the Year, given to Dave and Marie Diephouse, owners of the Q Smokehouse of Ludington.
There were more than just “a few” attending the first-ever award ceremony — a new feature that is long overdue, according to Julia Chambers, founding member and president of the board.
AFFEW: Organization holds first awards program after three decades of existence
“We’ve wanted to do this for a long time,” she said to the group. “We’ve seen awards being given in other organizations, and feel that it is a great way to spread the word and to honor those who help us to promote our mission to provide visitors and residents with information regarding environmental issues having local importance by promoting public awareness, hosting balanced discussions, providing referral to other organizations and sponsoring activities which promote a healthier ecosystem.”
The opening address outlined the reasons why the organization decided to adopt an awards program after nearly three decades of existence.
Spence Riggs, economic development director of the Mason County Growth Alliance, explained the importance of connecting sustainability with good business practices, like customer appreciation, customer choice and ultimately, customer loyalty and how raising achievers up to the public eye would not only honor their dedication, but also educate the public and business community (about) the possibility of success, using the honorees as examples.

“When the sustainability network started to take shape and Julia and I strategized ways to promote the sustainability and Eco friendliness in businesses in our community, we decided a place to start was on a positive note, by recognizing the efforts of businesses who are leading the charge on this project and by praising business owners who are already leading by example,” Riggs said. “That’s why tonight we’re raising the Q Smokehouse up and give them a chance to encourage other businesses to do the same, showing them a path forward.

“The benefit that I have, as economic development director, is that I get to go places where people don’t get to see, whether it’s downtown or other industry or what have you. But I see that we are doing a lot of things in these places that are sustainable and eco-friendly that need to be celebrated. I think a lot of it goes under the radar... There are certain things they are doing that can be raised up and praised... It’s really an effective way to celebrate some folks while ultimately encouraging others who fall behind.”
“We’re not here to berate honest individuals and businesses in ways that they miss the mark and come up short,” Riggs added. “We just thought that stakeholders and consumers place importance behind this, and this is just another way to create a platform to say, ‘This is important — this is something meaningful, and I’ll make the choice to go to an eco-friendly establishment, rather than one that is not.’ This is more about a celebration, rather than pointing out all that is wrong. I am happy to be part of this initiative, which supports and praises the efforts of local businesses, journalists and individuals in the community. I think it’s important that we are doing this. We definitely have a long way to go, but I, for one, am grateful for those who are being honored tonight."

Jordan DeVries, who received the Environmentalist of the Year award, has worked with AFFEW volunteers on many projects. He was not able to attend Thursday’s ceremony, but Chambers spoke about his contributions to the organization.

“Jordan has been around for quite a while in our community,” she said. “He’s so energetic, and does these things from his heart.”
“I was excited to hear that I was nominated for this award, and then astonished to be chosen among what I imagine are several well deserving environmental voices in the community by AFFEW members,” DeVries wrote. “In the five years that I have come to know this organization, I have witnessed your ability to take on serious concerns with energy, fun and laughter, despite the many hindrances encountered along the way. I am continually surprised by your ability to create unity among members but most of all within the social fabric of the Ludington area. Environmentalism means different things to different people. To me, it simply identifies with leaving a special place cleaner than it was when you found it. Whether that place is Stearns Beach, Ludington Dunes, those scenic lakes and rivers or even our inland ocean, Lake Michigan. I’ve learned that our job is to not only to teach and help people in small ways, but when the time calls, speak out about big issues that can’t be changed by singular action.”
Steve Begnoche accepts the first Journalist of the Year Award from AFFEW President Julia Chambers.
Journalist of the Year Steve Begnoche was glad to be the first to receive the honor.
“Everyone knows Steve. He has been the backbone of the paper for many years, moving up the ladder to the top,” Chambers said. “When we started AFFEW, he was there, writing many articles about AFFEW, our members and our activities back in 1990. I remember one article in our early years, when he even took pictures of us in the trees, as we were ‘tree-huggers,’ right?
“He cares deeply about environmental issues and shows it in his writings on many other projects, along with positive ones throughout the years. Steve participates in many other AFFEW activities, which we really appreciate. We’re so glad to have him in our community. I’m privileged to give him our first AFFEW’s Journalist of the Year award.”
“I’m honored,” Begnoche said. “I appreciated, over the years, your approach. I think it’s better to talk with than to shout at, and I think that it’s the way to get things done in the community. It would be easier to shout at, but the talking with has got more results. There are so many examples of you guys doing things to educate the community and work with them that is commendable.”

Dave Diephouse and Marie Quillan, owners of the Q Smokehouse, receive their award from AFFEW President Julia Chambers.

Sustainable Business of the Year was given to Q Smokehouse owners Dave and Marie Quillan.
“Dave and Marie opened the restaurant in 2015,” Chambers said. “They have made such an impact on the community in such a short time. I first heard about this place in the grapevine because of their use of sustainable, biodegradable products. Then I found out they serve jackfruit, which is a meat substitute, and that’s a great thing for a vegetarian. So, the points were adding up. Dave and Marie joined our sustainability group from the beginning, and they had lots of great ideas. They do all they can to make their restaurant great. They do this because they care very deeply about our environment. They also give money to AFFEW, along with many other nonprofits.”
“Thank you for the recognition. We do what we can do at the restaurant,” Diephouse said. “It’s more than just using sustainable products — we built our building as a ‘green’ building. Water heaters are all tank-less. It’s all stuff that costs more for a brand new business, but I didn’t want to take the easy approach. I’d be glad to show what we do to others.”
He proceeded to show the products used in the restaurant, which included all compostable and biodegradable items.
“It’s something that we’re committed to at this point, as long as we can sustain it. It’s extremely tough, financially, but we need the help of everybody in order to do that,” Diephouse said. “We have tested the biodegradability of some of the products, and they are degrading. Even the plastic bags we use are treated with algae microbes, which will attract the microbes that cause degradation. They will degrade in a third of the time that a regular bag would, sitting in a landfill.”

Active AFFEW board members, from left, are Kathy Winczewski, Brenda Begnoche, Sarah Stechschulte, Lorri Dykstra, Al Haslam, Julia Chambers, Patti Studnicka, Cathy Horowski and James Clark.   PO Box 177; Ludington, MI 49431