Why I Love Michiana: Sarah Mathews

Sarah Mathews is a 2000 graduate of Dowagiac Union High School.
She graduated from Hope College in 2004 and Thomas M. Cooley Law School in 2007. She has been an adjunct professor at Cooley Law School and an adjunct faculty member at Southwestern Michigan College.
She was the managing member at Mathews Law Office for six years before become an assistant prosecuting attorney with the Cass County Prosecutor’s Office in 2014. Mathews left the prosecutor’s office in 2017 to become the Cass County Deputy Friend of the Court.

What do you think makes Michiana unique by comparison to other places?
SM: Michiana has managed to balance having opportunities similar to a big city such as shopping, great dining, salons and artistic events, while also providing access to the joys and benefits of the outdoors such as lakes, hiking and mountain biking trails, beautiful camping locations, and hunting. It has managed to balance all of these things and still be a close-knit community that makes you feel like everyone knows your name when you go someplace. That makes it a rare find.

What is your favorite place to visit in Michiana?
SM: Downtown Dowagiac is my favorite place to visit in Michiana. The local businesses are run by people who make you feel like family when you walk in the door and there is always something exciting going on that you can take family and friends to. There is the harvest festival in the fall, the Christmas parade in December, the ice festival in the winter, Summer in the City during the summer, outdoor and indoor music performance at different locations during the year, plays at the Beckwith Theatre and the list goes on.

Do you think living in Michiana has changed you in any way?
SM: When I was younger, there was a micro-burst in Dowagiac that destroyed homes of local residents. During that micro-burst community members like my uncle, Vern Wilkinson, went out into the storm to make sure elderly residents were safe. After the micro-burst when it was clear that many families had suffered damage to their homes, a local farmer opened up his barn for people to drop off donations to help them. I went with my mom to donate items and will never forget the massive piles of items I saw in that barn.
We drove around and saw people already helping neighbors repair damages and clean up debris. After that, I knew what it truly meant to live in Michiana — it meant that you lived with family even if you didn’t know everyone’s name. It meant if you needed help, your family — your community — would be there for you. Knowing that, experiencing that, has changed me for the better because when there is a problem that needs to be solved for the community I know the Michiana community is going to respond. Instead of worry about the problem I know I can look to my community members and simply ask “what are we going to do together to solve this.”

What is your favorite time of year?
SM: My favorite time of year is the fall because each fall I get to host the First Lady’s Annual Mentoring Dinner at Southwestern Michigan College for female students. The mentoring dinner connects female students with female community members from different professions and provides an evening of mentoring on an empowering topic presented by a key note speaker.
I love getting to meet the students, hear about their goals, and to watch them learn the benefits of networking and making connections with members of the community. Some of the students have ended up with internships due to the connections they made at the dinners and others have walked away with more confidence because they knew they could survive networking for a business event. The event always reminds me that our community is full of members who are willing to give their time to invest in our students’ success and full of students who have endless potential to impact our community. 

If you were to meet someone planning a visit to the Michiana area for the first time, what places would you tell them or her not to miss?
SM: If someone were visiting Michiana for the first time, I would encourage them to spend a day exploring the unknown gems that Dowagiac has to offer. It is a small city that really proves that you don’t have to travel far just to have a fun ladies’ day out with your friends, have an adventure with the guys, or to learn something new.
If you are looking for a relaxing ladies’ day out, Dowagiac has everything you need for a memorable day with your closest friends. You can start your day off with a delicious scone or massively huge cinnamon roll at the Baker’s Rhapsody. After you’ve talked away the morning over coffee and treats, you can get your hair or nails done at one of the great salons in Dowagiac such as the Hairitage, the Mane Attraction, or the Scissor Mill. When you’re ready for lunch you can stop in at The Round Oak Revisited where the owner Cindy Brosnan will make you feel like you’ve been her top customer for years even if it is the first time you’ve stopped in. After lunch, you can shop for top of the line clothes for yourself at the Marshall Shoppe or pick up a treat for your four-legged friend at the Bow Wow Bakery. And if you aren’t afraid to get a little dirty, you can play in the clay at Mud-Lucious to make your own mug with store owner Michelle Stambaugh. When you’re finally ready to stop for dinner, you can drop in at Woodfire and sample one of their signature martinis with your meal or sample one of the other great restaurants in town like Zeke’s, China Garden, Saylor’s Pizza, and the Wounded Minnow. All of these great ladies’ day out activities are within walking distance if you spend the day in Dowagiac.
If you are more into sports and adventure, Southwestern Michigan College located in Dowagiac has some of the best cross-country trails that are open to the public for walking, running and cross country skiing. You can go canoeing down the Dowagiac River in the summer or if the weather isn’t that great, Hales True Value in Dowagiac has an indoor archery range.
And while you’re in Dowagiac, if you want to learn about the history that shaped this great little town, you can stop in at the Dowagiac Area History Museum before you leave and learn about some of the great people who have influenced the community from P.D. Beckwith to Dr. Fred L. Mathews. Maybe after you’ve experienced all Dowagiac has to offer, you’ll decide to stay and become one of the next great people who shapes its future.

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