By Jenny Kalish
Lansing Star staff writer
James McFarland is a man of many passions. Not only is he owner and operator of Hotwater Works, a hot tub superstore that promotes healthy living, but he is also father of two daughters, a grandfather of five, a pilot, jazz musician, artist and lately, a fund raiser for the Mid-Michigan Food Bank.
Ever since Hotwater Works’ grand opening in 1978, McFarland has made it his mission to better people’s lives by introducing them to the extraordinary healing power of hot water. “I got into the tub one time, and I made a decision in seven minutes: if there’s anyway I can ever do this, I am going into the hot-tub business.” McFarland said.
McFarland, 63, along with his longtime friend and co-worker Julian Van Dyke — also a local artist — help the community by auctioning their artwork to raise money for the food bank.
McFarland and Van Dyke hosted “Art Night” at Hotwater Works for the second time in October, and managed to raise a total of $1200 for the food bank — $100 more than their goal. At the auctions, community members bid on an assortment of artwork created on-site, while enjoying free food, wine, and good company. The benefit was a great opportunity for people to help the food bank while simultaneously learning about the multiple health benefits of McFarland’s self-designed and manufactured therapy tubs. “It’s a great idea, a great facility and a great way to get information out about the products we have,” Van Dyke said, “we’d like to make it an annual event, and hopefully next year incorporate more artists.”
Though the crowd on October 20 was fairly small, the overall vibe was friendly and welcoming. When they weren’t creating art together, McFarland and Van Dyke managed to greet each attendee personally. They were charismatic, easy to talk to and eager to discuss the health benefits of their Furo Health System and newly designed Japanese soaking tubs.
All the art was created by Van Dyke or McFarland, and often together. Freelance publicist Ronda Liskey loved the idea of an art auction fundraiser for the Mid-Michigan Food Bank, and helped Hotwater Works publicize it through local media outlets. “I do a lot of work for non-profits and organizations that struggle for the donated dollar,” Liskey said. Liskey was one of many Art Night attendees that left with an original painting created on-site—which she paid only $45 for.
According to the Mid-Michigan Food Bank website, more than 58,300 people receive emergency food each year through their hunger-relief network—and 30 percent of those recipients are children. For every dollar donated to the Mid-Michigan Food Bank, seven meals are given to someone in the community. Of all the pieces on auction at Hotwater Works, none of the starting bids was above $50. With the help of Van Dyke, Liskey and many other friends of Hotwater Works, McFarland managed to turn a couple dozen paintings into 7,000 meals for people in need.