Blue Water Woman -- Summer 2019

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on paddling our Blue Waters





At Blue Water Developmental Housing,

Inc., we believe in empowering the people

we serve to follow their dreams

and live their very best lives.

We have successfully accomplished

that mission for more than 40 years,

thanks to the auspices

of a strong board of directors,

and leadership team, many of whom

are strong, empowered women.

The individuals we assist don’t just thrive ... they soar.

To learn more about volunteer or donor

opportunities, contact our office today

at (810) 388 - 1200 or visit our website

at www.bwdh.org.

Kathy Swantek

Executive Director

2016 Blue Water Woman

Nonprofit Executive

of the Year

Photo of individual we serve, Dacey Pritchett, in flight

Blue Water Developmental Housing, Inc.

1600 Gratiot Blvd., Suite 1 Marysville MI 48040

(810) 388-1200 www.bwdh.org



A few years ago, supporters in the community began giving me money to purchase additional

tickets for student attendance at the Blue Water Woman of the Year Awards.

I looked around the community and realized there really wasn’t another nonprofit that

was helping women, girls and members of the LGBTQ community, and so, late last

year, I decided to establish such nonprofit in order to allow the community to support

the purchase of student tickets to the Blue Water Woman of the Year Awards, and also,

perhaps, to support other programming that could be inspiring to women, girls and

LGBTQ members in our community.

And so, I am very, very, very proud to introduce to you, and to the community, the

launch of my new nonprofit, aptly called, “SheShip”…

The tag line under the logo reads: “Education/Enrichment/Equality for Women/Girls/

LGBTQ Community.”

The mission statement of the nonprofit is:

To provide women, girls and members of the LGBTQ community with:

• Educational opportunities related to women’s issues and related to LGBTQ issues

• Assistance with removal of barriers to education

• Assistance with other causes that relate to the female experience/LGBTQ experience

So why the name SheShip? What does that mean?

I chose the term “She” because I wanted the pronoun to be female, but not age-related.

For example, “girl” implies young gal, and “woman” implies adult.

“She” is ageless.

And I chose the word “ship” for a number of reasons. First, I was thinking of

“friendship”…and the way women, in particular, cherish their female friendships. When

you have friendship, you are not alone. You have a group of supporters.

And, because I am a sailor, “ship” for me also means crew…it takes a crew, working

together, to make the ship sail, and I think that’s how many women move through life…

we rely upon our friendships to help us through the rough seas, and we raise our wine

glasses and toast one another during times of smooth sailing.

And though SheShip is definitely a term that implies female, it was important to me to

include the LGBTQ community under the umbrella of this nonprofit.

As a business owner and the publisher of a magazine that honors women, I want ALL

Blue Water Area women to feel open and included under the umbrella of this magazine.

The 2018 fall issue of the magazine, for the first time ever, featured an openly gay

woman…and I want women from all walks to life to know that their stories can be told

on the pages of this publication. Blue Water Woman is open and inclusive.

To officially launch SheShip, I am planning a special event this fall. I will announce the

details in the coming months on social media, and I hope you will consider supporting

the organization and its mission to educate, enhance and enrich the lives of women, girls

and the LGBTQ community in the Blue Water Area.

I want to give a shout-out and very special thank you to those who helped me launch

SheShip: Attorney Janal Mossett of the Kelly Law Firm, who put together all of the official

paperwork, and to SheShip board members: Kathy Swantek of St. Clair, Pamela Wall of

Algonac, and my husband, Dale Hemmila of Port Huron.

Many thanks to all of you who advertise, read and generally support Blue Water

Woman, the stories it shares, and the inclusion it aspires to achieve.










The ad deadline for the next issue

of Blue Water Woman is August 1, 2019.

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!

For more information, contact Patti Samar

at 810-300-2176 or email her at pjsamar@aol.com


Blue Water Woman is published quarterly by The Write Company,

511 La Salle Blvd., Port Huron, MI 48060. Circulation 5,000.

Editor & Publisher:

Patti Samar, owner, The Write Company

Advertising, questions, comments or story ideas:

Email Patti Samar at pjsamar@aol.com


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

Patti Samar

Editor & Publisher

Blue Water Woman


Blue Water Woman is a proud sponsor of the nonprofit SheShip,

and is proudly an inclusive, LGBTQ-friendly publication.

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When Lori Eschenburg was growing up in Traverse City, her father took

her into the woods and taught her how to hunt and fish and to find her way

home again. She and her brothers used the local waterways as their personal

playground, canoeing the Boardman River.

As a child, she never thought she would grow up and use of her knowledge

of the great outdoors, on both land and water, in her professional life.

Eschenburg, a planner with the St. Clair County Metropolitan Planning

Commission, makes good use of a wide range of land-and-sea skills in her

work as a cartographer, or “map maker,” for the county, as well as in her role

overseeing the Blueways of St. Clair, a program that ties together more than

138 miles of paddling routes in the county.

A 1985 graduate of Northern Michigan University, where she obtained

a bachelor’s degree in geography, Eschenburg began her work with St. Clair

County in 1998, when she was hired part-time to serve as a cartographer.

“Anything can be mapped if it has an address,” she said. “I can tell a story

with a map. We have data that even shows the building heights. Mapping

makes connections. It tells a story and it can solve problems. It’s amazing and

it’s fun.”

It was in 2011 that Eschenburg began working full-time for the county for

the planning commission, which gave her the additional task of managing

a number of grant projects. Eschenburg then became responsible for grants

related to recreational trails and waterways, as biking and paddling became

more popular, and communities recognized the importance of developing

such amenities as an integral part of economic development.

In addition to mapping out roadways, Eschenburg said communities

are now beginning to also map out trail systems. “This is important so

each community knows the condition of their trails and when repairs and

replacement need to take place.”

Eschenburg was instrumental in obtaining the grant dollars that brought

about the Blueways of St. Clair water trail system, as well as the Island Loop

National Water Trail designation, which was obtained in 2013.

“We got a grant, and that’s when water trails were just becoming popular,”

she said. “Ours was the 12th water trail designation in the nation, and the

first in Michigan. The national park system considers it an exploratory trail.”

Eschenburg is working to build on the success of the nationally designated

waterway and the local water trails by putting together a strategic plan to help

capitalize on those successes.

“We’ve never had a plan and we’ve never had a budget, beyond the grant

that got us started,” she said. “Our access points are on public land that are

owned and maintained by the municipalities, and we’re looking at industry

adopting-an-access point. For example, Enbridge is adopting an access point

at Mermaid Park in Marysville.

“We’re also looking at how to market ourselves and the future of the

Blueway…where should it be?”

A resident of East China who also owns a farm in Yale, Eschenburg feels

just as connected to the outdoors in the Blue Water Area as she did growing

up in the Traverse City area.

“My dad would take me hunting, and it wasn’t just about hunting or

killing something or eating it, it was about appreciating the outdoors,” she

said. “Now, I go kayaking and I walleye fish with my husband, and we hunt

and shoot out on our farm in Yale, and it’s a great place to have a bon fire and


“I do love St. Clair County,” she said. “And a lot of people don’t know

about St. Clair County, and it’s very unique. We have the largest freshwater

delta in the country in Clay Township. We have a wide variety of paddling

experiences, and we want people to come eat, shop, and sleep here, and

explore our 17 water trails.”


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a light




Mellea Panduren’s office walls are covered in handmade, bright, colorful

paper flowers. There is a sign on the wall that reads: “Breathe and just let go.”

Nearby, there is a box of Kleenex available for both Panduren and her clients.

But the windowless room is full of light, most of it coming from Panduren


Panduren is an eligibility specialist at the St. Clair County office of the

Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. She manages a special

caseload at Marwood Nursing and Rehab comprised of long-term care facility

clients, and she has been named the 2019 recipient of the Laura Newsome

Legacy Award. The award is given annually by Sanborn Gratiot Memorial

Home, which is managed by Blue Water Developmental Housing, Inc.


The legacy award, named for the Council on Aging of St. Clair County

(COA) retired executive director Laura Newsome, is presented each year to an

individual in the Blue Water Area who has improved and enriched the lives of

seniors in and around St. Clair County and Michigan.

“Ms. Panduren has received multiple compliments in the years that I

have managed her, but the most rewarding compliments have come from

Marwood residents,” said Rachelle Nogueira, the Family Independence

manager at DHHS, and Panduren’s supervisor. “These are typically seniors

who need the extra help applying for and obtaining verifications to determine

eligibility. She works diligently with clients, their families, lawyers, authorized

representatives, and Marwood administration to ensure each client receives

thorough attention. She provides excellent care and goes above and beyond

every day to make sure clients have what they need.”

To Panduren, it is all in a day’s work.

“My job is really split between two parts,” she said. “The service part is

the quantifiable part, such as how many applicants are served per year. The

human part is where I am a cheerleader, an encourager, and a friend.

“There are a lot of pieces that we fill.”

Nogueira noted that building those relationships with clients, in this setting,

is not without heartbreak for Panduren.

“She has shared with me how hard it is to establish rapport with a client and

his family and then have to process a burial request later for that client,” she

said. “She focuses on the now and what she can do at that very moment for

the client and his family to ensure they are comfortable and getting what they

need to make the transition to the facility a little bit easier.”

A lifelong resident of St. Clair County and a graduate of Port Huron

Northern High School, Panduren has a bachelor’s degree in business

administration from Baker College, and also an associate’s degree in human

services. She has plans to apply to graduate school, where she would like to

obtain a master’s degree in social work.

In her nomination of Panduren, Nogueira noted: “She’s compassionate,

empathetic, positive, driven and competent. She advocates ceaselessly for

her clients and their families, and she strives to make her workplace more


For Panduren, all of that comes easy, and with good reason: “I love what I

do,” she said. “I can’t wait to get here. I’m blessed to do what I do. It’s home

and it’s comfortable here. I never thought working in a nursing home would

be that way.”

Part of the reason Panduren feels so at home in that situation is because she

sees her clients, though elderly and sick, as people with something to offer the


The sign on the door of her office reads: “Let your light shine wherever you


Panduren said she put those words up in tribute to those she serves. “These

residents, they shine, and they don’t always remember that.”



a difference




When April Gardner was 22 years old, she graduated from college

with a degree in English literature and promptly began a promising

career as a copywriter.

But after hustling her way through several very good corporate jobs

in Chicago and Boston, Gardner, a Michigan native, felt there was

something missing in her life.

“I was in a corporate, go-sit-in-a-cubicle job and I felt like I wasn’t

doing anything to help people,” she said.

So, at 30 years of age, she packed up her life in Boston, headed back to

Chicago, and went to graduate school, where she obtained a master of

social work degree.

Gardner used her social work degree in the Chicago area for a period

of time, helping people of all ages, when she realized it was time to shift

gears again: she joined the Peace Corps.

“I served in Kosovo, and I was working with kids in a primary school,”

she said. “My primary role was as an educator, but I was leading writing

workshops, I volunteered at an orphanage, I organized a national poetry

competition, and we wrote a grant that helped obtain sports equipment

for the students.”

The Republic of Kosovo, located in southeastern Europe, was

politically unstable throughout much of the 20th century, culminating

in particularly violent outbreaks of war in the late 1990s. In 2008, the

nation declared its independence and the country has spent the past

decade rebuilding.

For Gardner, joining the Peace Corps was an opportunity to

experience both personal and professional growth.

“I didn’t see it as a break from my career so much as building on my

career,” she said. “I joined the Peace Corps because I felt like I could be

doing more to be helping people.”

Upon her return to the United States last year, she returned to

Michigan, where her family still resides, and she joined the staff at Blue

Water Counseling of Fort Gratiot as a licensed clinical social worker.

“I think in some ways, I’m still adjusting to American life again, so my

primary focus has been on my job,” she said.

Gardner noted that one of the joys of her work at BWC is in building

long-term relationships with her clients.

“I’m able to develop relationships with people over the long term,”

she said. “That is gratifying because you see more change. It’s exciting

watching somebody go through a positive change. There’s a spiritual

component to watching people connecting with themselves and others

through more healthy channels.”

Gardner said the majority of the clients she sees at BWC are dealing

with some kind of anxiety or depression.

“A lot of anxiety and depression comes from people not taking care

of themselves,” she said. “They are doing more for other people in their

lives than they are taking care of themselves. I am able to help them

understand that it is okay to take care of themselves.

“I enjoy working with people of all ages, but with teens, they

sometimes feel pressure to be a certain way, and trying to manage things

from what they want versus what their parents want.

“Adults tend to put their spouse’s needs or their partner’s needs ahead

of their own.

“With all of this, it’s all about coming back to yourself,” she said.

“Watching clients come out of that and coming to a better place in life,

well, that is the most gratifying part of social work.

“Therapy is a coping tool to help you get unstuck,” she said. “I see

myself as a support to helping someone solve their own problems.”

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