The Good that East Lansing Brings

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I’m going to admit something: Back when ELi was founded in its first form, in 2012, we brought softer news along with hard-hitting news because we figured the softer news would help people tolerate the more upsetting news about things like the City’s enormous pension debt and the endless blight at the corner of Abbot and Grand River.

But somewhere early in ELi’s reincarnation as a 501(c)3 nonprofit corporation, somewhere around 2015, the teaser-chaser combo flipped.

Instead of feeling like we had to find “soft” news to deliver with the hard, I realized that if I kept bringing hard-hitting local investigative journalism, the people who came to read that might discover the wonderful reports ELi reporters were bringing about all the good of East Lansing.

By then, ELi had done something magical for me: it had made East Lansing my home. I had lived here since 1996, but it took running a news brigade and reading everybody’s tips and reports to come to realize how there really is a “there” here.

It took area native Ann Nichols writing about her favorite places in Ann About Town; my spouse Aron Sousa writing about the birds, bees, clouds, and trees of East Lansing; Ann Kammerer writing about the Edgewood Village Scholars; Robert Victor writing of celestial viewing opportunities hosted by our planetarium; scads of people reminding me of the great joys of our library and arts community; and then a marvelous steam of MSU undergraduate and ELHS “cub” reporters, including those trained by Cody Harrell in our Summer Youth Journalism Program, writing from the young people’s perspective.

It took all that from ELi to make me really see our city as a home – a truly good place.

Everyone knows the year of 2020 has been a very hard one. But the difficulty of this year has given us an exceptional opportunity here at ELi, an opportunity of which the team has made the most in terms of bringing forward the good in people.

When the first lock-down in the spring made everything feel so upside-down, our reporters brought the series of “Little Local Joys” to share bright spots in the darkness: Efstratia Janis celebrating her 100th birthday here; Kit Carlson creating a “silly walks zone”; a Bailey homeowner repurposing her milk door for this odd moment of history – a story that brought joyful anecdotes from other old-house residents of East Lansing.

When our local restaurants faced the terrible economic stress of reduced occupancy and then closures of in-person dining, Ann Nichols employed her Ann About Town column to remind people of the humans behind the take-out menus. Her appreciation of Charlie Kang’s brought an unexpected gift to us all: a note of thanks to East Lansing from Wisconsin, from Yuni Yi, Charlie Kang’s second oldest daughter.

When we have lost members of this community in 2020 – including James Butler III, David Krause, Elaine Natoli, and John Kloswick – we have had a way to honor their goodness, thanks to having ELi. (By the way, please know you can always ask us to assign a reporter for an East Lansing obituary; we stand ready to provide this important service of witnessing, and it’s never too late for you to ask.)

During this hard time, ELi Arts and Culture reporter Sarah Spohn and Features reporter Ann Kammerer have been bringing so many stories of community contributions, including of our local crisis mask-makers.

Since taking the helm as ELi’s Managing Editor, Emily Joan Elliott has been knocking it out of the park in terms of manifesting the good. She has edited over forty stories for our Spend Locally series – a series aimed specifically at reminding people that spending money here means saving hometown businesses and jobs here. I have heard from a number of businesses that this series has made a real difference for them.

As our Managing Editor, Emily has been serving “in the watchtower,” as I sometimes refer to our role in this city – keeping an eye out for opportunities to help people here care for each other. In fact, it was because of Emily’s report for ELi on the ELPS push to get food to hungry families that I learned of this call and went to various restaurants to buy gift certificates to contribute. When I called over Peanut Barrel to tell them I had read in ELi about this opportunity and wanted to buy gift certificates, owner Joe Bell astonished me by immediately matching my gift-card purchase with an equal amount to give to the schools.

All that because ELi helped us know and share what was happening to take care of the people especially at-risk here.

I founded ELi primarily because I thought it was so critically important that people here know the facts about what was happening in our City government. But the unexpected joy obtained is providing a place for us to witness and amplify the good of this exceptional community.

From the bottom of my heart to all of you who have taken it upon yourselves to be our financial supporters, thank you for making it possible for this team to provide that service to us all. I am grateful for it every single day.

If you want to help keep this coming, join me in donating to ELi today. We have many ways for you to donate.

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