Plant Based Cheese: Better For You and the Environment with Kari Wheaton. Kari Wheaton advocates for healthier plant-based food choices through her food preparation videos illustrating why she lives the vegan life and why she believes everyone should adopt a plant-based lifestyle. Vegan cheese formulations have been perfected by a vast number of chefs who make it a passion to experiment in flavors, textures, and ingredients. It’s become a hobby much like home-brewing for some aficionados. They can be as easy to make as vegan mozzarella to the more time consuming fermented artisan vegan cheeses.

Brenda Richter, "Raw Foods for Optimum Nutrition". Raw food is more than just smoothies, salads, and vegetable sticks. Brenda creates mouth watering meals and desserts using fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and without animal derived products, or commercially processed ingredients. Raw Fooding helps people reduce weight, have more energy, look and feel younger, and improve overall health. Brenda Richter attended Living Light Culinary Arts Institute, in Fort Bragg, CA., where she earned her associate chef certification and Raw Food instructor certification in 2008.

Vegan baking demonstration and samples by Polly Matranga-Happach and Lorie Parker-Weinrich, owners of Bella Luna Bakery. They incorporate their Scandinavian and Italian cultures into the offerings which along with their historical location reflect the city’s own early influences and local pride. Patrons may order homemade cannoli, Italian chocolates, biscotti, and cassata cake; or almond tarts, Limpa bread, and Lorie’s Norwegian sugar cookies to have with their morning coffee. Bella Luna Bakery in Rockford, IL aims to provide customers with a traditional bakery and cafe where family and community is embraced. Read more at:

Rockford University Professor Troy Skwor, Ph.D. "Meat Eaters Influence on Antibiotic Resistance in the Environment". Dr. Skwor's research primarily focuses on bacteria associated with human diseases. One aspect of his research is analyzing the prevalence of antibiotic resistance from bacterial populations within the Rock River and the effect of different human and agricultural contaminants on resistant levels. These studies utilize microbial and molecular techniques identifying molecular genes associated with antibiotic resistance and furthermore determine if these bacteria can potentially cause human disease.

 Environmental Ethics with RVC Professor, Dr. Brian Wagner. We have only one earth to inhabit. In this presentation, we will examine those narratives that would dismiss the existence of climate change, as well as the science that testifies to its reality, how religion and environmentalism are not mutually exclusive, and how it is possible to find a reasonable solution to the issues of pollution and population growth within a faith-based context. He has been a professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Rock Valley College for nine years. He holds both Bachelors and Masters degrees in Philosophy and his Associates of Arts in Foreign Languages. His class subjects include World Religions, Environmental Ethics, Non-western Philosophy, and Logic.

“Organic Gardening and Composting” by Lynn Bement, the Compost Queen. The backbone of any organic garden is composting. Lynn will cover the basics of composting along with vermicomposting. She will also discuss the planning and preparation needed to grow a healthy, vibrant garden without the use of synthetic chemicals. A University of Illinois Extension Maser Gardener since 1995, Lynn completed her Master Composter certification from Michigan State University and is a certified Soil Foodweb advisor. 

Dr. Elisha Robinson, "Breast Cancer, Treating the Whole Patient."She received her medical degree from the University of Illinois College of Medicine; she is a Board Certified General Surgeon and did her residency at Michigan State University. Dr. Robinson also completed a Breast Surgery fellowship at Christ Advocate Hospital, Oak Lawn, IL. And then she went on to become a Natural Health and Holistic Nutrition Practitioner! Currently, she is working on her Ph.D. in Natural Health and Holistic Nutrition. She partners with several practitioners to provide an integrative approach to the treatment of every patient.

 Pat and Gerald Beam, "Healthy Lifestyle and Senior Olympics" Pat and Jerry, longtime VIM members, have participated in Senior Games for more than twenty years. Congratulations to them! They say their performances improved after attending CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Project) classes. The Beams continue to enjoy an energetic lifestyle and the camaraderie that goes with it.

 Dan Larson, a poor man’s Rip Esselstyn (Esselstyn is a firefighter and author of The Engine 2 Diet), will share information about his journey to veganism, and the challenges this presents in the community and work environment. He is a proponent of making veganism more “inclusive” and seeks to dispel common misconceptions and practices that make it more difficult than it has to be. Dan grew up in Rockford; he has been a firefighter/paramedic on the Rockford Fire Department for 25 years. He and his family are members of VIM.

 “Why Reiki?” with Pam Sourelis. Reiki (pronounced ray-key) is a healing practice involving gentle touch. Reiki practice promotes calm and balance, which strengthens the body’s natural healing mechanism and creates an environment for healing and growth. Pam has been a Reiki practitioner and teacher for 16 years. Her practice includes both human and non-human animals. She will try to clear up some of the confusion surrounding Reiki practice by sharing stories about her experiences with daily self-healing, with sharing Reiki sessions with others (both two-legged and four-legged), and with receiving Reiki sessions herself.  Learn more about her work at You can also find Winged Horse Healing on Facebook.

Beth Randall, founder of Critter Camp Exotic Pet Sanctuary, German Valley, IL, will give an overview of the work she has been doing for the last 15 years. Adopting two ferrets for a school project was the beginning of the camp. Beth, a vegetarian, is devoted to all the little creatures in her care. She accepts only small unadoptable unusual pets, no wildlife, cats, dogs, or farm animals. Critter Camp, located at 824 Church Street in German Valley, is open by appointment only. Phone 815-266-1342.

Bloom Where You Are Planted” by Jill Leigh. As Director of Food Service at Alpine Christian School, Jill plans, prepares, and implements healthy meals for 60 children. ACS is a Seventh-day Adventist Pre-K - 9th grade campus. Jill was president of CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Program) Alumni and served on a team that facilitated CHIP classes. She also was involved with Breathe Free, a smoking cessation program at the YMCA; she is currently working on a Bachelor’s degree in Biblical Counseling. Her presentation will include her experiences in cooking and sharing healthy meals with children.

"Transformation and Strength Training” Krystal Bolduc, HHP, LNc, CNS. A licensedHolistic Nutritionist/Life Transformation Coach, Krystal will discuss the seven top reasons your body needs to strength train, especially as a vegetarian.

CranioSacral Therapy Presentation and Demonstration by Peter Gulatto. Peter was introduced to CranioSacral Therapy (CST) more than a decade ago. He has been a student ever since. He subscribes to the Upledger methodology which is premised on the belief that muscle and tendons are subject to fascia and tissue. “No two people are alike, neither are the personalities of their bodies.” CST is the gentlest body modality being offered today. It is not a panacea but it is effective in assisting the body to a state of balance which in turn promotes healing and better health in general.

Srivani Sridhar, MD, “An Integrative Approach to Heart Health”  Dr. Sridhar will discuss the integrative approach to prevention and management of high cholesterol and blood pressure. A family physician/integrative medicine specialist, she practices at the SwedishAmerican Group/Woodside Clinic. Dr. Sridhar also provides Integrative  Oncology consultations at the SwedishAmerican Regional Cancer Center.

 Rev. Andria Skornik of Emmanuel Episcopal Church - “Vegetarianism and Faith: Exploring the connections between religion, spirituality, and the choices we make about food.”  The Rev. Skornik moved to Rockford a year ago to serve as the priest of Emmanuel Episcopal Church. She grew up and attended college in Portland, Or and moved with her husband Jordan to the Chicago area in 2008 to attend the University of Chicago Divinity School. Since moving to Rockford, she has enjoyed living near the Rock River with its great bike paths and taking up crew with the Rockford Rowing Club.

Jane Evans, “Eating to Survive: Birds, Butterflies, and Pollinators Need the Right Food” Our birds, butterflies and pollinators are in rapid decline. Learn how we can restore them to our yards and gardens by offering them the foods they require. Jane was a state and federally licensed wildlife rehabilitator for 20 years. She is a member of Wild Ones, Natural Land Institute; Jane also is an active gardener.

“ Using Food to Combat Stress” by Jody Perrecone. We all experience stress. It is unavoidable. How we manage stress is critical to our good health. Learn what foods are supportive to combat the effects stress has on our body as well as a relaxation technique we can use to help during stressful situations. Jody, a VIM Board member, is an area developer for CHIP (Complete Health Improvement Program).

Naprapathy and FSM” by Naprapaths Dr. Richard Soppa and Dr. Stephen Walker. The doctors will talk about the history of Naprapathy and the unique theory of Naprapathic diagnosis and treatment that centers on the ligaments and soft tissue. This will include a demonstration of Naprapathic charting and treatment of the spine. They will also introduce and demonstrate Frequency Specific Microcurrent, an exciting new way of treating nerve and muscle pain and many other conditions using specific frequencies and micro amperage current.

Presentation by Liz Fiorenza, owner of Wind Ridge Herb Farms, “Cold/Flu Remedies” Learn how many common herbs and spices can help reduce the severity and duration of common cold and flu viruses. Many of these herbs can also prevent illnesses. Most can be found in your kitchen cabinet. Liz and Tony Fiorenza have operated Wind Ridge Herb Farm for 15 years, growing over 450 varieties of organically raised herbs, with a product line of  teas, dips, seasonings, vinegars and more. Some of these will be available for purchase at the meeting; they are also sold at Choices Natural Market or at

“Restore the Ecosystem and Restore Health—Healing from Lyme Disease on an Organic Farm in Northern Illinois” by Tom Spaulding. The CDC acknowledges that more than 300,000 people are diagnosed with Lyme Disease in the U.S. each year. Tom Spaulding is one of them. After seven years of mysterious symptoms, Tom’s illness became so severe he was nearly incapacitated and unable to work. After years of misdiagnosed symptoms, an integrative medical doctor diagnosed Tom with Lyme Disease; he began a more than two-year healing journey. Tom is founding executive director of Angelic Organics Learning Center, a nonprofit dedicated to helping rural and urban people build a healthy local food system. He is inspired by farms as dynamic places of cultural, ecological, and economic revitalization.

"Yellowstone: The Great Caldera” by Dave Donahue. An avid photographer for over 50years, Dave’s primary interests are landscape, nature, and wildlife photography. These interests led to trips to national parks, BLM wildernesses, and out of the way locales in Colorado, New Mexico, southern Utah, and northern Arizona. Dave is a member of the Rockford Photo Club; he has participated in exhibits in the area. He taught photography classes at Rock Valley College’s Center for Learning in Retirement. His program will feature images made during a trip to Yellowstone and a brief discussion of the geologic history of Yellowstone and the Grand Teton areas.

“A Vegetarian Visits Russia” by Tyrone Johnsen. Tyrone has been an active member of VIM since 2000 after completing the Dr. Dean Ornish Program for Reversing Heart Disease and later CHIP. He loves to visit new places and has experienced the trials of trying to maintain a low-fat vegan diet while traveling through a variety of countries. In September 2012 Tyrone traveled western Russia. He will share experiences and photos as he traveled from St. Petersburg through a number of smaller towns to Moscow.

“An Integrative Approach to the Prevention and Treatment of Breast Cancer” by Srivani Sridhar, MD. Dr. Sridhar received her medical degree from Rutgers New Jersey Medical School; she completed a Family Medicine residency and a two-year Integrative Medicine fellowship at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. She practices at the SwedishAmerican Group/Woodside Clinic, and provides Integrative Oncology consultations at the SwedishAmerican Regional Cancer Center. Dr. Sridhar is new to Rockford, enjoys exploring local restaurants, and attending musical events and festivals in the area. She is currently accepting new primary care patients at the SAMG/Woodside Clinic

"Vegan Hors d’Oeuvres Display and Demo for the Holidays” by Mary Ann Suprenant. A demonstration of five vegan appetizers and how to present them in a decorative way for the holidays. Donna Melcher will assist. Mary Ann, a VIM board member, is the membership development manager for the Chamber of Commerce. She also has a love for cooking that was evident in some of her other endeavors— catering and event planning for River District Catering, hosting The H Word online cooking show that ran for two years, and teaching CHIP cooking classes for four years. Mary Ann credits her mother for encouraging her to cook and tend garden at an early age

“Living Gluten Free” by Gina Jay, PT, DPT, WCS. Gina holds a transitional doctorate degree in physical therapy. Her doctorate thesis focused specifically on defining gluten intolerance, recognizing its manifestations revealed in the physical therapy patient population. She determined quality of life measurements in comparing pre and post diet change. Gina’s discussion will include symptoms of gluten intolerance, which foods can be eaten, precautions with ingredients in medications, and the realities an individual faces when following this diet as a lifestyle change. She will also recommend recipes. Gina’s initial interest in gluten intolerance stems from her own experiences. Her goal is to spread awareness to the community.

Betsy Puig’s program on soy, nut, and flax seed milks will include a demonstration of an easy way to make non-dairy milks and a cashew cheese recipe from Miyoko Schinner’s book, Vegan Artisan Cheese. Betsy will discuss rejuvelac, a fermented liquid made from sprouted rye, and its role in vegan cheese making. Betsy owns Go Dog Rockford, a pet sitting and dog walking service. A vegetarian for 20 years because of her concern for animals, she recently became a vegan. She is a hula dancer with the local Aloha Hula Girls and also with a group in Oak Park, Halau I Ka Pono!

Dr. Robert Harner, cardiologist, “Your Health is Your First Wealth”. Dr. Harner helped form Rockford Cardiology Associates in 1973; he was an Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine—Rockford for 37 years. Dr. Harner now practices at NorthPointe Clinic. He will discuss the causes of heart attacks, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease and prevention through diet and behavioral changes.

A special program by VIM members Ron Holm and Brian Endl. Ron Holm, Americana singer, guitarist, harmonicist, and composer, will perform several numbers immediately after the potluck. Copies of his latest CD with Between Planes band will be available. Brian Endl, co-founder of the popular vegan restaurant and brewpub, Pig Minds Brewing Co., will discuss “Opening a Vegan Restaurant in a Blue Collar City.”  He is also owner of Creative Pig Minds Design; Brian created the VIM logo

“Natural Health, Stress, Anxiety, Headaches, and Fibromyalgia” by Dr. Shanti Hulsebus of Hulsebus Chiropractic Clinic. Dr. Shanti practices N.U.C.C.A. Chiropractic, a gentle, non-invasive form of care,  in Machesney Park. She is a graduate of Life Chiropractic College West in Hayward, California. She has studied the arts of healing and meditation under the guidance of renowned monks in China and Africa. Dr. Shanti has also done volunteer work  assisting women and children in many different countries. She specializes in educating others about their health.

 William Baskin, M.D., “Probiotics and Nutriceuticals: Food as Medicine”  A retired gastroenterologist, Dr. Baskin is a Clinical Professor of Medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine-Rockford. Probiotics are natural bacteria present in some foods; they are now available as an additive.  They are very beneficial in digestive health, keeping our colon healthy, and potentially boosting our immune system and helping us fight off diseases. Probiotics are also used to treat medical conditions.

Movie - The Engine 2 Kitchen Rescue with Rip Esselstyn: Learn to Live Plant-Strong

 A professional triathlete and former firefighter, Rip is the author of The Engine 2 Diet.
Learn to live plant-strong by following him as he teaches two families the basics of a whole-food, plant based
diet. Step-by-step, Rip shows these families how to take control of their own health. He does a pantry
clean-out, takes a grocery shopping tour, and gives cooking lessons to make family favorite dishes delicious and plant-strong.

Dean Thomas, MD, “The Obesity Epidemic”

Dr. Thomas is a graduate of the University of Nebraska College of Medicine. He received his cardiology training at the University of
Iowa. He joined Drs. Harner and Peterson to form Rockford Cardiology Associates; his major focus was non-invasive cardiology
and wellness. He served as the medical director of the Dr. Dean Ornish Program to Reverse Heart Disease. In his presentation, Dr. Thomas will look at obesity
trends, causes and consequences with a recipe for a healthy lifestyle.

 A Cooking Demonstration on Indian Food by Chef Kris Hernandez. He will prepare three dishes: Aloo Gobi (spicy potatoes and cauliflower),
sautéed vegetable and red lentil pilaf with green curry coconut sauce, and a butternut squash dessert. As a child, Chef Kris loved cooking with his mother and grandmother. Turning his passion into a career, he had an apprenticeship under Chef Kevin Seuring of King’s Table. In 2011 he helped launch the Khlôros Kafé, located inside Vitamins ‘N More. Chef Kris feels that cooking is a gift he can use to make an impact on others. He does this not only by offering delicious, healthy foods but also by teaching peoplehow to cook that way. He offers cooking classes and also caters for small parties.                          

Roger Greenlaw, MD, “Epigenetics: The Power of Lifestyle to Change Genetic Expression”

We used to think that our genes were fixed (given at birth). But now we know that our food (and our exercise, stress, etc.) can act as signals to the
DNA in our cells and influence which genes are expressed and when. We have the power to prevent and heal disease.  Dr. Greenlaw is the founder and past president of Rockford Gastroenterology Associates (Retired). A growing interest in preventive medicine and health promotion led him to pursue education in complementary and alternative medicine with board certification from the American Board of Holistic Integrative Medicine.

Karen Herdklotz, founder and directorof Hoo Haven Wildlife Rehabilitation Center will give an overview of the important work that she has been doing for 28 years. Samantha, the Haven’s educational Red-tailed Hawk, will join her; Samantha’s size and beauty are impressive. Hoo Haven cares for up to 800 animals and birds a year; many of them are released in their natural habitat. Visit

“Natural Approaches for Staying Healthy” by Kathryn Moehling.

A board-certified Holistic Registered Nurse, a Naturopath, an energy work practitioner in
Therapeutic and Healing Touch, and a massage therapist, Kathy will cover what Naturopathy is and how she uses it. She will also discuss various techniques, such as keeping a healthy life balance, guided imagery, herbs/aromatherapy, homeopathy/flower essences, holistic nutrition, massage therapy, acupressure and energy work!