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Legacy of Ed Dobson: Pastor, teacher, writer

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Ed Dobson, the former senior pastor at Calvary Church, died on Dec. 26. He had been living with A-L-S for several years, but his impact on the West Michigan community will live on.

Dobson was a teacher, a pastor, a writer and a mentor.

Marvin Williams is the lead pastor for Trinity Church and was mentored by Ed Dobson: "We would consider Ed Dobson a pioneer," Williams said. "He did things nobody else did. He took risks nobody else would take."

He was one of the first to introduce a contemporary Saturday night worship service to try to reach people that might not feel comfortable with a traditional Sunday morning service.

Jail unlikely in fatal crash linked to marijuana

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- A Lowell man who had marijuana in his system when his car struck a tree, killing his girlfriend, will avoid jail under a plea agreement reached this week.

Brian Welch Jr., 22, pleaded guilty Monday to intoxicated driving causing death for an Aug. 19 crash in Lowell Township that killed Kristina Garza.

The victim's family has been supportive of Welch and indicated they did not want to see him locked up. He's scheduled to be sentenced before Kent County Circuit Court Judge George Buth on Feb. 3.

The Kent County Prosecutor's Office has agreed to recommend no jail time so long as Garza's family does not object. If they ask for some incarceration, Welch will be able to withdraw his plea and take the case to trial.

Lawsuit: Grand Rapids police beat unarmed teen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- The city of Grand Rapids and three department police officers are the target of an excessive force lawsuit.

The federal lawsuit, filed Dec. 23, 2015, involves an incident from June 2014, alleging three officers detained an unarmed 15-year-old black teenage male to search him for a gun. It claims one of the officers threw the boy to the ground and hit him in the head with a flashlight.

He sustained serious head injuries and has since suffered from long-term effects, including loss of speech, stuttering, severe headaches and other issues, the suit claims.

Natalie Thompson of Grand Rapids, the boy's mother, filed the lawsuit. The following statement is attributed to her and was released through her attorney:

Police to take homeless to shelter amid storm

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Amid a winter storm bearing down on West Michigan, officers with the Grand Rapids Police Department are looking for those caught in the elements.

The department are conducting sweeps of the downtown area in an effort to locate homeless people who might not be in shelter.

"We've had weather related deaths in the homeless community, that's something we've had in the past and that's something we are trying to avoid, some of them so needless in an alleyway downtown literally feet from a door that they could have stepped inside," says Lt. Patrick Merrill.

At 2 p.m. Monday search found no persons, and police plan to look again around 3:15 p.m., said Matt Ostapowicz, a captain with the department.

Dégagé offers Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas breakfast

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- Many people will celebrate Christmas with a warm, home-cooked meal.

For some, that's not an option.

That's why Dégagé Ministries served up some Christmas cheer on Christmas Eve.

The mission served ribs, stuffing, and rolls to those who would not otherwise be able to afford a Christmas dinner.

This year's dinner was a little different, too. One volunteer opened up dinner with Christmas carols. He says sometimes a song can reach a person better than words.

"We need to sing praises to His name and try to encourage and lift each other up," said volunteer Thomas Carpenter. "I believe a song can touch a person better than words. If it's familiar, it can open up a door and we can get in more."

Kent Co. park system gets boost for improvements

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) -- A park system in western Michigan is getting a boost for improvements and expansion efforts.

Kent County recently announced that former U.S. ambassador Peter Secchia pledged an additional $500,000 to Meadows at Millennium Park.

In August, the county's board approved an agreement with the Secchia Family Limited Partnership to finance about $3 million in improvements to the park. Bids came in higher than expected, however.

The county says $200,000 is authorized for the Kent County Parks project from the 2016 budget for capital improvements.

Amway Grand Plaza joins Hilton's Curio Collection

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WZZM) -- The most famous hotel in Grand Rapids is now part of a chain.

On Monday, the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel officially became part of the Curio Collection by Hilton.

In a news release, the Curio Collection is said to cater to "passionate travelers seeking local discovery and authentic experiences."

Both companies say the hotel will be able to attract more guests through Hilton's rewards program.