Meet The Staff
Born in Manistee, an MHS graduate and lifelong lover of the Lake Michigan coastline, Jim has ties to Lake Bluff and Lakeshore Road that go back decades. He also worked on River Street in his family's hardware store when the Victorian Buildings turned into Painted Ladies during the early 70's. This instilled in Jim an understanding of the culture and background of the Manistee area and the importance of its preservation.
Winding down a 30-plus year career in medicine at Michigan State University and answering a call to action from longtime friend Bill Zielinski, Jim is focusing his attention on helping with the preservation and enhancement of the Lake Bluff structures and surrounding properties.
My name is Dannette Hoffman. I'm a hospitality industry veteran. I've operated a boutique hotel, an upscale pub, and a non profit restaurant in Manistee. I've operated retail operations down state. I've done catering, event planning, and can even perform weddings. I'm happy to lend these skills to the Lake Bluff Farms experience.
How my Love for Lake Bluff took on roots and grew. I was raised in Detroit, Mi and the suburbs. The only trees I knew were the elms on our street and the cherry tree in our backyard. When we moved to the suburbs my father loved going to the nurseries and picking out native and exotic trees for our yard.
When I went to college I majored in Forestry and minored in environmental education. I worked at several landscape nurseries & volunteered and interned at many Michigan nature centers. My love for the wonders of nature grew and also my desire to educate the public. I married a fellow forester and we moved to Manistee in 1981. We bought a farm on M-22 and grew Christmas trees and tended our woodlot.
I longed to develop fellowship with other birders, nature lovers and tree huggers. I was instrumental in starting our local Audubon Club, which was affiliated with the Michigan Audubon Society (MAS). At that time our club had many members, among them were friends of Mrs. Gray (owner of the Lake Bluff estate). Through the grapevine, Mrs. Gray heard about MAS, and made the awesome donation of the estate.
I was invited to this initial meeting and was new to the area so I was not familiar with the address or the history. What an amazing surprise. I was awestruck at the donation. As I became more familiar with the property and its secrets, I fell in love with the estate and the opportunities that the future held. I was a member of the board and became a vice chair. We were very active in the community, various local clubs met at the manor and we had open houses and nature tours. Well, long story short the support from MAS dwindled and the board was disbanded. We are trying to make a comeback and reestablish Lake Bluff to its grandeur and I am proud and honored to be a part of this effort.
Bill was born and raised in Manistee. His greatest recollections were spending time out of doors and in nature, especially in the great dune systems that surround the town. These provided opportunities for Bill to camp, hike trails, ski and run cross-country. These memories, in addition to a true affection for the townspeople, are what drew him back to his “hometown” of Manistee.
After graduating from Michigan State University, he spent his entire career in Chicago. Starting out as a CPA, he went on to create Farm Marketing Programs at two Commodity Brokerage firms. He worked with farmers in 26 different states, helping them to secure the best price for their crops. He also used skills from his background to launch a successful Commodity Hedge Fund.
Because Manistee was such an influence in his life, Bill and his wife, Cathy, chose to return and become part of the community again. They have owned residences here for the last 15 years. After the purchase of their second house in Manistee 2015, they moved their residency from Illinois to Michigan. Bill's love of camping , forests, wildlife, and meeting new people is what drew him to the mission of Lake Bluff Farms.
Just like the waves on the Lake Michigan beach at Lake Bluff that crest and fall, or like the migrant birds that arrive and depart with the seasons many of us have had dreams for this place and watched over the years the dreams come and go. I remember first visiting Lake Bluff in the 1980's with my wife Maripat and the Savorys, Terry and the then very pregnant Gloria who is now a fellow board member. We both belonged to the Manistee Audubon Club and were also members of Michigan Audubon, the new recipient of the donation of the Lake Bluff home and property as the Lake Bluff Audubon Center.
Our dreams and those of others at the time were for a permanent nature center, interpretive trails and frequent nature programs, camps and field trips. Over the next few decades many of those dreams were realized and I volunteered mainly to lead birding and nature field trips at Lake Bluff and to help with children's nature camps as well as giving programs and leading as president and board member of the Manistee Audubon Club.
I was impressed especially with the accomplishments of volunteers like Gloria and Deb Kreiger as well as others that have since passed on such as Ernie Feenstra and Bonnie Harnish. I was disappointed that the Michigan Audubon Society with it's commitments to so many other sites was not able to help us complete our dream here, but I continue to be grateful for the volunteers every time I look at the gardens, walk the trails or see the migrants in the arboretum.
I see the Lake Bluff Farms and preserve as a regionally important area where the public can enjoy nature and learn about nature. I've been a member of the Michigan Bird Records Committee, a contributor for the journal Michigan Birds and Natural History, a current board member of Saving Birds Thru Habitat, a former board member of the Grand Traverse Regional Land conservancy and their current volunteer and ornithology advisor. I hope to use my skills to advance to mission of Lake Bluff Farms and am excited for the future and potential of one of the most beautiful sites on Lake Michigan to be shared by families and students of nature.