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Muskegon police partner with Elks Lodge #274 on food boxes

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) -- Some families in need have a little more in their pantries for the holidays, thanks to the Muskegon Police Department and the Elks Lodge #274.

Less-fortunate families were able to request food items they'd like for the holidays, and volunteers packed the boxes for delivery.

Police say the program helps them connect with the Muskegon community.

More than a dozen boxes of food were delivered on Thursday.

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Muskegon police: Man attacks 2 in hospital parking lot

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) -- The man police say assaulted two women reporting to work at the Mercy Health Partners Hackley Campus, is now officially charged.

Victor Lee Vandervort, 35, is charged with one count of unarmed robbery and one count of fourth degree criminal sexual conduct. He's also charged as a habitual offender.

Police say around 6 a.m. Wednesday, Vandervort walked into the hospital and used a restroom. A short time later in the parking lot, he's accused of grabbing a woman's buttocks, then stealing another woman's purse.

Officers were already looking for Vandervort because his is a parole absconder. He was found hiding in a house on Dale Avenue, two blocks from the hospital.

My Town: West Michigan home to three of most dangerous Mich. places

My Town: West Michigan home to three of most dangerous Mich. places

MUSKEGON HEIGHTS, Mich.—West Michigan is home to three of the 10 most dangerous places in the state, according to Movoto Real Estate.

The company based its rankings on cities with populations of 10,000 or more that also ranked high in murder, violent crimes, property crimes and total crimes, based on the 2012 FBI Uniform Crime Report.  Flint topped the list, followed by Benton Harbor, Detroit, Highland Park, Muskegon Heights, Harper Woods, Inkster, Flint Township, Ypsilanti and Kalamazoo. Grand Rapids came in at No. 16, Holland ranked 26th,  Walker took 32nd place, Grandville ranked 41st, Norton Shores landed at No. 42, Kalamazoo Township was 45th and Grand Haven came in at No. 50 among the 102 qualified communities.  To see the entire list, visit Movoto’s website here.

Free smoke alarms in Muskegon and Muskegon Heights

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) The fire department has always told you how smoke detectors could save your life. Tuesday in Muskegon County, two fire departments took smoke detectors right to people's homes.

The Muskegon Fire Department visited a home on Laketon Avenue today on a non-emergency call. Homeowners in Muskegon and Muskegon Heights are eligible to receive free smoke alarms.

The offer is only for owner-occupied homes. More than 1,000 smoke alarms are available. They were purchased with a federal grant. Some were donated by Home Depot.

To apply for a smoke alarm in Muskegon Heights, click here.

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Muskegon Heights receiving $1.8M from state to fight blight

DETROIT (AP) -- The state of Michigan has divided more than $75 million in federal funding to fight blight among 12 cities, with Detroit getting about two-thirds of the money.

The funding details announced Tuesday are part of the latest in a series of efforts to deal with vacant and dilapidated buildings across the state.

The efforts under the Michigan State Housing Development Authority will help fund work in Detroit, Ecorse, Hamtramck, Highland Park, Inkster and River Rouge in Wayne County as well as Adrian, Ironwood, Jackson, Lansing, Muskegon Heights and Port Huron.

Detroit is getting $50 million, including $2.6 million in reserves from an earlier round of funding. Funding includes $6 million for Lansing, $5.5 million for Jackson, $5 million for Highland Park, $2.25 million for Inkster and $2.19 million for Ecorse.

My Town: Waterfowl killer spreads in Great Lakes basin

My Town: Waterfowl killer spreads in Great Lakes basin

MUSKEGON, Mich.—A destructive invader has made its way to the Great Lakes basin.

In a three-year study, researchers from ten universities, including the Grand Valley State University’s Annis Water Resources Institute, recently found invasive faucet snails in many new locations throughout the Great Lakes basin.  The snails carry parasites that are deadly to native waterfowl, including ducks and coots.

The findings suggest faucet snails have spread to more areas along the Great Lakes coastline than experts realized. The snail is only about a half-inch in height, making them easy to transport and spread and difficult to kill.   When waterfowl eat the infected snails, the trematodes the snails carry attack the ducks’ internal organs, causing lesions and hemorrhaging.  Infected birds appear lethargic and have problems diving and flying before dying.

Muskegon County hits lowest jobless rate since 2001

MUSKEGON, Mich. (WZZM) -- Muskegon County reached a major milestone in the jobs market. New numbers show the county's unemployment rate is the lowest it's been in more than a decade.

The exclamation point in the name of employment group Michigan Works! best captures the feeling in Muskegon County among job-seekers-turned-employees like John Conley who have been helped by the organization.

"It all fell into place, and I'm very happy about that," says Conley.

In some ways, Conley's story mirrors the improvements in Muskegon County, from last year when he was without work, to this year when he got a temporary job, he says, "which led to a permanent job in Hart, Michigan, as a physical therapist assistant."

Over the past year, the county's jobless rate has been falling.