WMU News

WSA and DKRA sponsor 'Cool' fund-raiser downtown

March 25, 2005

KALAMAZOO--Western Michigan University students are again collaborating with community leaders to stage a "cool" fund-raiser that will benefit the city of Kalamazoo.

The second annual Kalamazoo Rendezvous Gala will take place from 6 to 8:30 p.m. Saturday, April 2, at the Smartshop, 516 E. North St. in Kalamazoo. The cost of admission is a $10 donation for those who are in school and a $20 donation for nonstudents.

The event is being sponsored by the Western Student Association, WMU's student government; the Downtown Kalamazoo Restaurant Association; and WMU.

During last year's gala, the WSA and DKRA garnered $2,000 in donations to establish the Kalamazoo Development Grant. The grant, an annual, citywide award, seeks to bring the Kalamazoo and WMU communities closer together as well as to promote the Michigan Cool City Pilot Program.

During this year's gala, the WSA will announce the first Kalamazoo Development Grant recipient and raise money to fund the grant for 2006. Those attending will be briefed on the development project being planned by the 2005 award winner as well as learn about the projects proposed by last year's other grant applicants.

The event also will feature remarks by Patrick Daniel, director of WMU's Student Activities and Leadership Programs office; examples of artwork produced by WMU students and Kalamazoo community members; and a sampling of finger foods from DKRA-member restaurants, including District 211, Old Burdicks, Main Street Cafe, Blue Dolphin, Epic Bistro, the Union, the Soup Kettle, and London Grill.

"The collaboration of students with the city of Kalamazoo is what has made the Kalamazoo Rendezvous Gala and the grant possible," says Andrea Blohm, chairwoman of WSA's Campus Concerns Committee and a junior from Pentwater, Mich., majoring in textile and apparel studies.

"Bridging the gap between the students and the city is a stepping stone in making Kalamazoo a cool city, and we've already gone a long way toward building that bridge just by planning and implementing the gala."

Anne Elias, who co-founded the DKRA and currently serves as its secretary, explains that the organization's mission is to create a downtown that is the premier and preferred dining destination in the greater Kalamazoo area. As part of that effort, Elias says it has been a pleasure to partner with WMU students to enhance the overall quality of life in the city.

"Strong participation by students, together with their community leaders, helps build a vibrant city rich in cultural activities, commercial strength and the ability to attract creative and productive graduates and professionals," she says.

The three-year Michigan Cool City Pilot Program, part of Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm's overall economic development strategy for the state, was launched in 2004 to foster the development of vibrant, attractive cities and urban centers.

Kalamazoo was one of 20 Michigan cities to receive catalyst grants from the state that year of up to $100,000. Kalamazoo used the full $100,000 it received to relocate the Smartshop, a unique metalworking school, gallery and sculpture garden, to the city's north side. Businesses adjacent to the Smartshop, the site of this year's gala, are expected to heighten the area's "cool" factor by creating other appealing gathering places.

The WSA hopes to continue fostering such gathering places by annually supporting the Kalamazoo Development Grant. Applications for next year's award will be accepted starting this coming October, and all Kalamazoo residents and organizations are eligible to apply, including WMU students and student organizations.

The recipient will be selected by the Kalamazoo Rendezvous Planning Committee, which currently is composed of Blohm and three other WSA representatives; Elias, who also is director of guest development for the Millennium Restaurant Group; and Robert Miller, WMU vice president for community outreach.

For more information about the 2005 Kalamazoo Rendezvous Gala or Kalamazoo Development grant, visit the WSA Web site at <www.wsa.wmich.edu>, contact Andrea Blohm at (269) 387-2194 or <wsa-campusconcerns@groupwise.wmich.edu>, or contact Anne Elias at (269) 375-1193 or <ajelias@chartermi.net>.

Media contact: Jeanne Baron, 269 387-8400, jeanne.baron@wmich.edu

WMU News
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