passionate, committed citizen
BONuS BRIDAL GuIDE INSIDE!
RASHA DEMASHKIEH 4
CAROL MILLER 6
NICOLE (Gray) Rodgers 10
GILLIAN (Cann) Poretta 12
in Blue Water Woman!
just ask our advertisers!
The ad deadline for the next issue
of Blue Water Woman is January 15, 2018.
Prices start at just $125 for a business card sized ad!
Our most popular ad size is a quarter page at just $250;
sign a one-year contract and it becomes just $225 a quarter!
What a deal!
For more information, contact Patti Samar
at 810-300-2176 or email her at email@example.com
volume 7, number 4 winter 2017
Blue Water Woman is published quarterly by The Write Company,
511 La Salle Blvd., Port Huron, MI 48060. Circulation 5,000.
from the editor
As I’m sitting down to write this, Thanksgiving is right around the bend and this year there is
plenty I am thankful for, such as all of the people and places in the photos above:
• The opportunity to visit our nation’s capital and participate in the Women’s March in January;
• The opportunity to see Hillary Clinton speak in Ann Arbor with two great friends;
• The opportunity to vacation on a sailboat with a group of incredible women;
• Girl time in the D with two of my favorite gal-pals;
• Hiking up Sugarloaf with my husband in our hometown community in Marquette County;
• Marching through downtown Port Huron in honor of International Women’s Day;
• Hangin’ with one of my besties at the Blue Water Woman of the Year Awards;
• The honor of taking my dad, a lifelong Wings fan, to the last game at Joe Louis Arena;
• The awesomeness of hanging on the beach with friends and a fire, watching freighters;
• A hug from my favorite brother; and
• Hangin’ with my parents in Arizona last month.
I’m also thankful for the women in this community. I am grateful and honored you allow me to
share your stories here every quarter. In this issue you will find two amazing community activitists
who are making an impact on people, places and pets in the Blue Water Area. They are roll--upyour-sleeves-and-get-it-done
women...just like all of you. We are lucky to have them both.
Also included: Our second annual bridal guide! Plan now to attend our Bridal Expo on January 4
at the beautiful, newly renovated Port Huron Museum! More details are available on page 14.
In the meanwhile: Count your blessings this holiday season. I wish you all a peaceful and joyous new year.
Editor & Publisher:
Patti Samar, owner, The Write Company
Advertising, questions, comments or story ideas:
Patti Samar at 810-300-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Blue Water Woman is the premiere publication
for women living, working and playing in the Blue Water Area of Michigan.
Its stories and features are written and designed
to be inspriational, motivational and encouraging.
© Blue Water Woman is the property
of Patti Samar of The Write Company
The Write Company is a writing, graphic design
and marketing consultation firm.
View our online portfolio at: www.TheWriteCompany.net
Editor & Publisher
Blue Water Woman
2 winter 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com
who will be named...
Blue Water Woman
of the Year?
Nominations now being accepted
for Blue Water Woman of the Year!
The Blue Water Woman of the Year Awards will honor women who reside in the
Blue Water Area of Michigan who demonstrate excellence and achievement
in one or more of the following areas:
• Mentoring other women
• Professional achievement
• Overall Honor: Blue Water Woman of the Year
Nominators MUST complete the nomination form and rules available at
A distinguished panel of judges from the Upper Peninsula selects award recipients.
Honoring the Award Recipients:
Those selected for awards will be notified at the end of January/early February 2018.
All will be featured in a story in the Spring (February/March) 2018 issue of the magazine.
All will be honored at a public reception (open to men and women) in February 16, 2018.
Nominators must be committed to selling a minimum of 20 adult tickets to the awards reception.
Receiving an award is no fun without a cheering section!
Award recipients MUST be available to attend awards ceremony; “must be present to win.”
Deadline for Submissions:
Submissions must be received by email or snail mail no later than Friday, January 5, 2018.
Submissions must be emailed in one zipped file to: email@example.com.
Blue Water Woman reserves the right to refuse nominations for consideration without cause. All decisions are final and subject
to approval by Blue Water Woman. Why? Because we said so. ;)
by Patti Samar
Rasha Demashkieh of Fort Gratiot is an immigrant.
She is a naturalized citizen of the United States.
She is a proud Arab-American woman.
A native of Syria, Demashkieh, a local pharmacist, and her family
recently “adopted” a Syrian refugee family that had relocated to
metropolitan Detroit, one of more than 25 similar families being
assisted by ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and
Social Services), a nonprofit based in Dearborn that provides a wide
variety of services to the Arab immigrant
population in southeastern Michigan and
across the nation.
Demashkieh, a former board member for
the Port Huron School district and volunteer
with numerous organizations in the Blue
Water Area, serves as the president of the
ACCESS board of directors. As an Arab
American woman who immigrated to the U.S.
as an adult, she understands that assimilation
to a foreign country can be difficult. But
when Demashkieh immigrated, she and her
husband, a physician, both spoke English and
“This family…the parents are in their late
30s and they have four kids and they live
in a small home in Detroit,” she said. “The
situation they came from in Syria is horrifying.
Millions of people have been displaced. The
father paid smugglers to smuggle them out of
Syria and into Jordan, where they were settled
in a refugee camp, the Zaatari Refugee Camp,
which is in the middle of the desert.
“To help them get out of there, he signed
up with many settling agencies through
the United Nations. They were interviewed
seven times before they were admitted to this
country. It was not an easy process. It took
them three years.
“They are so grateful and so kind.”
Demashkieh said that ACCESS is helping the
refugee families with a variety of assimilation issues,
including learning the language, accessing education,
housing and other social services.
“I was very apprehensive about meeting them,” said
Demashkieh. “I had never met a real refugee before.
What I found was a very gentle family. They actually
made me feel better. They are so grateful to be here.”
Demashkieh noted that the children are learning
the language more quickly than their parents, but the
father, who was a painter in Syria, has found work in
metro Detroit as a painter.
“I’m just amazed at their resilience,” Demashkieh
said of the family’s transition into American life.
“Everything is so different for them, but I believe they
will be okay.”
As an immigrant herself, Demashkieh can identify
with some of the issues the family faces in the United
“We need to
stand up and
say we are
and we are
citizens of this
I also want
you to know
me as an Arab
States in 2017. When she came to the U.S. with her husband in the
mid-1970s, their status as immigrants from the Middle East was not
“Before September 11, it was never a topic of conversation where I
came from,” she said.
After September 11, all of that changed.
“You always feel like you have to justify yourself to others,” she
said of her heritage. “I have friends who gave their children American
names and they did not want to be identified
as from the Middle East.”
Demashkieh doesn’t believe anyone should
have to wish away their identity.
“We need to stand up and say we are Arab
Americans and we are productive citizens of
this country,” she said. “And I also want you
to know me as an Arab American.”
When Demashkieh left Syria for the U.S.
in 1975 so her husband could complete his
medical training, she fully intended to return
and raise a family there. But, after a few
twists and turns in the road of life, she found
herself a naturalized United States citizen
with no intention of returning to Syria to
live and no one was more surprised than was
“It was heart-wrenching when I realized
I wasn’t going to live in Syria again,” said
Demashkieh, who moved to St. Clair County
in 1980. “Even when we got our green cards,
we didn’t think we’d stay.
“But we lived under a dictatorship in
Syria – your phone calls are monitored and
it is very different than what we experience
here -- and it got to the point where we had
children and we realized life would be better
for our children if we stayed here,” she said.
And so Demashkieh and her family
became embedded in the Blue Water Area.
She became engaged with the community
by volunteering for a wide variety of organizations
ranging from the PTA at her children’s school to
various health-related charitable organizations. She
served on the Port Huron Schools board of education
for 13 years. She is also a member of the Michigan
Civil Rights Commission and currently serves as cochair.
“I wanted to give back to my community and
my country, as well,” she said of her dedication to
volunteerism on a local, state and national level in her
“Syria is the original melting pot due to its
geography,” she said. “It is at the crossroads of the
“That is the beauty of this country...we are diverse.
We should capitalize on that. That’s what makes us
4 winter 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com
winter 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com 5
IT TAKES A village
by Patti Samar
Carol Miller believes in the saying “it takes a village.”
Miller, 56, of Port Huron Township, is the head of what began
as an online, Facebook-based group called AC “Pawsitive” Change
Group. AC stands for animal control and refers to the St. Clair
County Animal Control shelter, which is operated by the county
What started with just an online presence is now an active,
volunteer-based group of local citizens
who are working closely with the county
government to institute positive change at
the animal shelter.
The St. Clair County animal shelter has one
of the highest rates of animal euthanasia in
the state of Michigan. Additionally, in the
past, the shelter has not always been painted
in a positive light in online forums when
discussed by animal rescues and individuals
who were in contact with the shelter
regarding lost and found animals.
Miller was among those who knew of less
than stellar experiences that people had
when trying to adopt an animal.
“I told someone about it and people told
me, ‘Do something,’ so I did,” she said.
Initially, she started the Facebook group to
grow a group of citizens interested in seeing
positive things happen at the shelter. The
group grew quickly.
“I didn’t realize how many animal lovers
there are in the county,” she said. Miller
has worked hard to maintain the Facebook
page as place where positive comments and
solutions are welcome, but bitterness and
chronic complaining are not.
Miller, a registered nurse who now works
as the operations manager of a hospice
organization in metro Detroit, knew that
the most effective way to create positive change
was to work within the constraints of government,
presenting herself and her group as a group of
citizens interested in helping create solutions.
She also began attending meetings of the county
board of commissioners and she talked with them
and with other county officials to help them become
aware that there are some very good “best practice”
scenarios at other shelters across the state that could
serve as examples that the St. Clair County shelter
could use as the basis for positive change.
“We began meeting with Tom Buckley, the
undersheriff, and Stephanie Ignash, the office
manager at AC, once a month to see what they
needed,” Miller said. “Our goal has always been,
Port Huron Township
“Our goal has
let’s be part
‘let’s be part of the solution instead of the problem.’”
The group recently celebrated a significant milestone when it
partnered with the county animal shelter and participated in a
nationwide “Empty the Shelter” event sponsored by the Bissell
Pet Foundation. Bissell generously pays for the adoption fees of all
animals adopted at participating shelters on that day.
It was the first time the county animal shelter had participated
in a community adoption event.
“It turned out really well,” said Miller,
who helped organize the volunteers
from her group. “We had 56 people who
volunteered. Tom (Buckley) and Stephanie
(Ignash) believed in us and that meant
Volunteers from the Pawsitive Change
group are now also regularly volunteering
their time at the county animal shelter.
Volunteers walk dogs and socialize cats.
Overall, Miller is really pleased with the
progress the group has made with helping
to call attention to some of the issues of
concern at the shelter and by offering to
help the county government find solutions.
“We know they don’t want to euthanize
animals,” she said, and noted that there
are a number of ways that her group can
help reduce the number of animals in
the shelter for extended periods of time.
“We’re hoping to do microchipping and
adoption fairs,” she said. “All of that
would help open up more eyes and educate
people. We’re hoping to do a lot more
education in the community.”
Others are stepping up to help, as well.
“We now have (veterinarian) Dr. Robyn
Limberg-Child on board, who offered to
step up to the plate and be part of the
solution. We are trying to improve the photos of
the animals at the shelter.
“This whole thing has been a journey,” she
said. “I used to cry looking at the pictures of the
animals at the shelter, but now I think ‘we need to
find you a good home where you can be loved.’ It
takes a village and right now we’ve got a big village.
Hopefully we can continue to do good things for
the county and for the animals.
“I worked as an oncology nurse for more than 30
years,” she said, “and I realize life is very precious.
You literally need to stop and enjoy everything in
life. I just hope my parents are looking down at
me and seeing what we’re doing and that they are
6 winter 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com
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Thursday, January 18, 2018
Sommelier Andy Bakko of Wolverine Market
Craft Beer • Hors D’oeuvres • Silent Auction
Blue Water Convention Center
800 Harker Street, Port Huron
For tickets & more information:
sponsor a student to attend the
Blue Water Woman
of the Year Awards
Student Sponsorships are now being accepted!
Your sponsorship of just $30 will allow a young woman
from the Blue Water Area to attend this inspiring event!
The Blue Water Woman of the Year Awards honor women who reside
in the Blue Water Area of Michigan who demonstrate
excellence and achievement in their personal and professional lives.
Every year, Blue Water Woman magazine sponsors a number of local high
school students so they can attend this award ceremony in an effort
to inspire them to do great things in their lives.
Help us bring more high school students to the event
by sponsoring a student attendee.
All Sponsor a Student sponsors will be recognized at the Blue Water Woman of the Year awards
held at McMorran Place on February 16, 2018.
Sponsorships can be purchased online by visiting BlueWaterWoman.com.
Thank you for caring
for the up and coming
young women in our community.
ots of little girls dream of dancing
in a big white wedding dress and riding
off with Prince Charming someday.
The months of planning that walk down the aisle can
feel like an eternity to a bride, but a gal’s
wedding day just flies by, according to a
number of Blue Water Area brides.
These local women have been kind enough to offer their
advice and insight to future brides. To learn more about the
dos and don’ts of planning your wedding, turn the page and
BLuE WATER WOMAN
PATTI SAMAR & DALE HEMMILA
McMorran Place, Port Huron
Photo: Tony Pitts
See Page 14 for more information about the
Blue Water Woman / Port Huron Museum Bridal Expo
on Thursday, january 4 from 5 to 8 p.m.!
WINTER 2017 BLuEWATERWOMAN.COM 7
by Patti Samar
nicole (gray) rodgers, 26,
formerly of port huron,
married derrick rodgers, 27,
on june 24, 2017 in warren
Nicole & derrick rodgers
Photo: Dion Ghani, Ghani Vision Photography
10 winter 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com
Who planned your wedding?
I had a wedding planner/coordinator and my mom and my
mother-in-law helped. A good friend got married last year and
she walked me through a lot of things. It was a group effort
because I’m in nursing school.
What is she glad she
spent more on:
I spent more money on my wedding
dress. I loved my dress. That was
what I splurged on and I am glad I
did. I went more traditional. I had
the big ballroom dress and the biggest
oversized one I could find. I’m also
glad we had a reception with dancing.
I’m not a dancer, but everyone had
Where would you have
I spent too much on invitations.
Instead of RSVPing to me with the
paper invitation, people would call or
text and say, ‘Yes, we are coming.’ I
would have them RSVP online.
going to be
want it to
be a happy
words of wisdom:
Really do your background check
on who you are spending your money
with. Attend bridal shows for ideas.
Make sure you budget. The more time
you have to plan the more time you
have to save and make sure you stick
to your budget. Make sure you are not
overspending or digging into other
savings or using credit cards to pay for
Make sure you are doing what
you want to do and not what others would like you to do. Your
wedding day is going to be a lifelong memory and you want it to
be a happy memory of the things that were important to you
and your husband.
He’s the light of your life.
Get married in the shadow of Michigan’s oldest lighthouse.
Let Michigan’s oldest lighthouse and the clear blue water of Lake Huron
be your something old and something blue on your special day!
We can accommodate your group of 20 to 300+ guests for any wedding,
meeting, fundraiser or social gathering.
For details, dates and pricing options
for the lighthouse or the newly renovated historic Carnegie Center,
please contact the Port Huron Museum at 810-982-0891, ext. 118
or email firstname.lastname@example.org • www.phmuseum.org
Zacharov Photography -
Fort Gratiot Lighthouse
2802 Omar St. • Port Huron MI 48060
Located on Lake Huron just north of the Blue Water Bridges!
A joint venture between St. Clair County Parks & Recreation Commission
and the Port Huron Museum
Now Booking: Receptions in the elegant & newly restored historic Carnegie Center in downtown Port Huron!
winter 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com 11
by Patti Samar
gillian (CANN) Poretta
formerly of port huron
married charlie poretta
on September 16, 2017 in port huron
Who planned your wedding?
I did it all myself. I had a “day-of” coordinator. The day-of
coordinator is definitely a more affordable option than hiring a
wedding planner. I created a schedule for everybody and for her.
She helped us coordinate the walk down the aisle and she made
sure all of the vendors were there and set up. She took care of the
little things so I didn’t have to. At the end of the night, she made
sure everything was cleaned up and taken care of. It was perfect.
The day-of coordinator took all of the stress away. She hid all of
the issues from me and made sure we were on time the whole day.
It was great.
What kept you organized:
I created a bunch of spread sheets. We had a budget meeting
with our parents. I’m really careful with money and I wanted to
make sure we were getting a good deal. Overall, we were pretty
What is she glad she spent money on:
The photo booth. That was worth it. Also, our reception was
at the Blue Water Convention Center and I wanted to create an
intimate feel on the dance floor, so I designed a suspended bistro
lighting system and had it hung from the ceiling. I think it was
really worth it. I’m also glad we had real flowers. They added a
really nice touch.
It was the fourth dress I tried on. It was on the half off rack. I
put it on and that was it.
Photo: Megan Block-Brewer and Kathryn Bessette
of Mulberry & Sage Photography
words of wisdom:
Communicate with everybody involved. The spread sheets were
helpful in keeping track of everything. Just be organized. It was
extremely stressful, but that’s what planning a huge party for
300 people is. If you don’t sweat the small stuff, then things will
go wrong. If I was to do anything differently, I’d try and stress
less. I’m high stress anyway. You just have to focus on a solution
to any issue that comes along. It was all worth it, though because
the day-of was absolutely perfect. I’m just so happy with the
way it all turned out. It was perfect. It all felt just right. It just
12 winter 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com
Every day is the perfect day
to send flowers.
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NEW LOCATION! Corner of Hancock & 14th Avenue
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of your story.
Catering services that satisfy all palates
Not just Italian...we offer a wide variety of menu choices!
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winter 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com 13
14 winter 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com
It’s your day...
we will make it special!
• Wedding Receptions
• Business Functions
• Special Occassion Events
4521 Ravenswood Rd
Kimball, MI 48074
Your love, as art.
• Bridal gowns
• Mother’s gowns
829 Superior Street • Port Huron, Michigan
(810) 294-5095 • email@example.com
~ Private appointments available ~
810. 624. 7253
winter 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com 15
Tee off your new life together.
Weddings • Receptions • Showers • Rehersal Dinners
Reception accommodations for 3 to 350
6560 East Peck Road Lexington, Michigan 48450
888.355.4004 • www.LakeviewHills.com
Let’s get this
• Professional Disc Jockeys
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• Reception Music
• Reception Lighting
• Photo Booth/Fun Props/Memory Book
• Complete Entertainment Services!
Check out our Facebook page
Book your 2018 wedding appointments today!
Special Occasion Hair
223 Huron Avenue • Port Huron, Michigan 48060
810.966.0223 • www.spa223.com • firstname.lastname@example.org
16 winter 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com
all your life’s moments
(810) 385-8800 | 7147 Lakeshore Road, Lakeport
Providing complimentary lodging
for families of hospitalized patients
Two locations conveniently located within steps
of both McLaren Port Huron & Lake Huron Medical Center.
To make reservations, call:
& Honeymoon Specialists
201 N. Riverside • St. Clair MI 48079
810.329.7163 • www.StClairTravel.net
The Write Company
provides creative solutions
to business marketing challenges via:
• Publication Copywriting & Design
Print & eNewsletters/Magazines
• Advertising design & strategy
• Logos/Brand Identities
• Digital Marketing: Social Media/Web
• Editing of grant proposals
• Creation of fundraising collateral
Patti Samar, Owner/Editor/Publisher Blue Water Woman
email@example.com 810.300.2176 www.TheWriteCompany.net
WINTER 2017 BLuEWATERWOMAN.COM 17