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Southeast Area Farmers' Market offers a bountiful summer

There are a lot of goodies in store for fresh food fans at the Southeast Area Farmers' Market, which kicked off its 2013 season on Saturday, June 1 at Gerald R. Ford Middle School (851 Madison Ave. SE) in Grand Rapids. The Saturday market will be open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. through the first week of November.

Beginning June 7, a Friday Farm Stand Market will take place, on a smaller scale, from 3 - 7 p.m. at Garfield Park, located between 1558 Madison Ave. SE and 2799 Madison Ave. SE.

Then, on June 22, the market will host its official Grand Opening Celebration with special activities and music -- and an even greater selection of fresh, locally grown, chemical-free produce.

Our Kitchen Table
(OKT), located at 8 Jefferson SE, Grand Rapids inside The Bloom Collective, manages the market, and there is even more in store for the rest of the summer and into fall. Market partners Kent County Health Department and Greater Grand Rapids Food Systems Council will host additional market activities throughout the season.

Mark your calendars: Here's the lineup of OKT-sponsored events, all of which take place from noon to 2 p.m. at the Saturday market:

-       June 7, Weekly Walking Club kicks off
-       June 29, Healthy cooking demo with a local chef
-       July 6, Urban Foraging Workshop. Learn about local edible "weeds"
-       July 27, Healthy Cooking demo with a local chef
-       August 3, Make Your Own Hypo-allergenic Soap Workshop
-       August 24, Healthy Cooking demo with a local chef
-       August 31, Healthy Cooking demo with a local chef
-       September 7, Art at the Market
-       September 28, Healthy cooking demo with a local chef
-       October 12, Greens Cook-off and Fried Green Tomato Festival
-       October 26, Food Day Activities and Healthy Cooking demo with a local chef

Our Kitchen Table is a nonprofit, grassroots community activist organization working for environmental justice and food security in Grand Rapids area urban communities. OKT's Food Diversity Program is funded by a grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Get involved:

- Visit Our Kitchen Table's website.
- Grow a Garden.
- Go to the Farmers' Market!

Source: Stelle Slootmaker, OKT Communications
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of Our Kitchen Table


HASU launches a networking sisterhood

Hook a Sista Up (HASU) invites women entrepreneurs from all backgrounds and experiences to attend HASU's launch event on Thursday, June 13, 2013, from 6 - 8:30 p.m. at Choice Business Service, 2525 East Paris SE, Suite 100, Grand Rapids. The cost is $12.

You'll learn tips for success and pitfalls to avoid, meet and network with other HASU entrepreneurs, and hear about their journeys. The organization offers one-on-one mentoring, seminars and workshops, networking, and access to the resources of its members, who come from various backgrounds and have a variety of expertise.

There's no monetary fee to join HASU. To become a member, you'll have to pay forward a skill to help other members or the organization succeed. Members are expected to share their knowledge and experience. This could take on many forms: helping a member get her finances in order, helping the organization with marketing... you get the idea.

The brainchild of Linda Otterbridge, HASU took root in 2011 in Charlotte, NC, where Otterbridge was living at the time.

"I looked around at all the different businesses and realized that most were owned by women," says Otterbridge. "I thought, what if we took all of our knowledge, experience, and resources and started a sisterhood -- not just helping women already in business, but those who don’t have a business at all and would like access to the resources related to business and entrepreneurship."

Otterbridge says that most women entrepreneurs work at jobs outside their businesses. She chose the name, Hook a Sista Up, to convey the concept of networking.

"We'll hook you up with resources to take you to the next level," she says.

How to get involved:

- Check out HASU's website.
- Go to the event. Register here.
- Become a HASU member.

Source: Linda Otterbridge, HASU founder
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of HASU

Transformation begins at the core: Urban Core Collective launches Transformational Leaders Program

On Friday, May 17, the Urban Core Collective (UCC) launched its eight-month Transformational Leaders Program (TLP), designed to equip 23 young leaders with the critical skills and knowledge needed to fill influential positions across Grand Rapids. The endeavor is made possible thanks to a $2 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

It's a win-win proposition all around: diversity in community leadership produces diversity of thought, which in turn leads to innovative strategies, supports racial equity, and enhances the quality of life for all members of the community. The aim is to increase the capacity and accessibility of supportive services -- health, education, and other resources -- to people of color and marginalized families residing in Grand Rapids.

"Together we can move mountains and that is the beautiful thing about these organizations coming together to affect change," says Latesha Lipscomb, program support assistant for the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute (GRAAHI).

During the monthly TLP learning sessions, participants will engage in a multi-faceted learning approach: from reading assignments, workshops, exercises, case studies, and webinars, to team projects, creation of a Career and Life Portfolio, and a series of off-site experiential learning sessions. Participants may serve on the board of a nonprofit community organization, volunteer to lead an initiative targeted to help address an issue, or offer up some other contribution of time, effort, and financial support.

Corporate and organizational mentors include Varnum Law Center, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Spectrum Health, Steelcase University, Michigan State College of Human Medicine, Grand Valley State University-Johnson Center, Goei Center, Cascade Engineering, and others.

The Urban Core Collective comprises six organizations: the Baxter Community Center, 935 Baxter SE; Family Outreach Center, 1939 Division Ave. S; Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, 301 Michigan St. NE, Suite 400; Grand Rapids Urban League, 745 Eastern Ave. SE; Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, 1204 Grandville Ave. SW; and United Methodist Community House, 904 Sheldon Ave. SE.

Get involved:

- Follow the Urban Core Collective's Facebook page to stay abreast of the organization's progress.

Source: Kim Bode, 834 Design & Marketing
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of the Urban Core Collective

STOP IT works to curb the trend of violence in Grand Rapids

"If we want safe communities, we all have to get involved," says Grand Rapids Police Chief Kevin Belk.

Following a spike in violent crime in Grand Rapids, organizations, including LINC Community Revitalization (1167 Madison Ave., Grand Rapids) joined together with local clergy and other community leaders to form STOP IT. The community initiative, which seeks to increase safety in Grand Rapids through the collective effort of private and public organizations, is built on the belief that violence is a community issue and thus needs a collective community response -- authentic community dialogue and collaborations among partnering organizations.

Guns, gangs, drugs, and convicted felons are just a few of the concerns discussed at a series of meetings held by LINC earlier this year. The Johnson Center for Philanthropy prepared a report from those discussions, and George Grant Jr., dean of the College of Community and Public Service, presented the report at a meeting organized by STOP IT on April 11, 2013, at Gerald R. Ford Middle School.

The Johnson Center's report indicated that violence is triggered by several factors: a lack of attention paid to the needs of the city's youth, an accepted culture of violence, discrimination, the availability of guns, and a sense of hopelessness. Of particular note is the feeling of hopelessness in the community. Some people felt they would not live to be 21.

Participants suggested several ideas for action, including block parties to increase a sense of community; direct mentorship between adults and youth; building a bridge between inner-city youth and positive peers; partnering with local businesses and organizations to provide jobs; and enforcing the curfew.

Founded in 2000 and originally known as Lighthouse Communities, Inc., LINC offers housing, economic development, construction, and neighborhood services. LINC has several initiatives, from a "Keep the Lights On" pledge to a "Buy local, Hire Local" economic campaign.

Get involved:
- Call LINC at (616) 451-9140 to find out how you can get involved to STOP the violence and START the healing.
- Follow the STOP IT Facebook page.

Source: Tyler Lecceadone, Seyferth PR
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of STOP IT

Believe 2 Become creates real opportunities for students: Summer Learning Academy is enrolling now

Your summer is what you make it, and Believe 2 Become -- a collaborative partnership of people and organizations who believe in Grand Rapids' students -- creates real opportunities for students to become the people they aspire to be. Delivered by neighborhood partners, student experiences expand learning beyond the classroom. Opportunities to read, study, travel, and work after school and during the summer help students achieve their goals.

This summer, make sure your child is in on the action: College campus visits, awesome opportunities, and fun field trips are in store for your child when he or she signs up for the 2013 Summer Learning Academy, which begins June 17 and runs through July 26 for Pre-K through Middle School. Summer Learning Academy for high school-aged students will end August 9. Summer Learning registration ends May 31.

So far, nearly 2,000 pre-K to 12th-grade Grand Rapids Public Schools students have enjoyed an I Believe I Become summer learning experience.

All students have the capability for high achievement, and efforts that support strong schools help students reach academic milestones and graduate prepared for college and career. Grounded in community partnership, Believe 2 Become involves local residents, congregations, and community leaders in planning, supporting, and celebrating student success. Parent resources help families prepare children for school and stay on track academically, so they complete key transitions from kindergarten to elementary, middle, high school, and beyond.

A neighborhood initiative designed to help children succeed in school, work, and life, Believe 2 Become was founded in 2010 as a collaborative effort of Grand Rapids Public Schools, Grand Rapids Student Advancement Foundation, W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation.

Get involved:
- Sign your child up for Summer Learning. Remember, Summer Learning registration ends May 31.
- Sign the pledge and let students know you believe in them.
- Follow their Facebook page.
- Learn more about I Believe I Become: watch these videos.

Source: I Believe I Become website
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of I Believe I Become

Community Foundation grant supports proven intergenerational mentoring program

The Grand Rapids Community Foundation Board of Trustees has awarded a $195,000 grant to Gerontology Network. The grant will support an intergenerational mentoring program at Harrison Park School called 'Traveling Grannies and Grandpas.'

Gerontology Network's previous mentoring programs have been very successful. Based on past results, at least 85 percent of participants are expected to show improvement in MEAP scores. Improvements in behavior are also anticipated.

"Gerontology Network has an extensive track record operating these programs and demonstrating significant academic achievement," says Community Foundation program director, Kate Schmid.

The educational and personal support students receive from their mentors complements the Challenge Scholars program also underway at Harrison Park. Challenge Scholars is a Community Foundation initiative that gives educational support and college scholarships to students from the school. Both the mentoring and Challenge Scholars programs focus on creating a college-going culture within Harrison Park.

"The intergenerational programs are so vital because they allow students to be mentored by older adults and to be influenced positively," says Jennifer Feuerstein, director of marketing, communications, and development at Gerontology Network.

Approximately 170 students of all grade levels are expected to be enrolled in the three-year mentoring program. Students will be selected for mentoring based on teacher recommendations and academic needs.

The program will also benefit the physical and mental health of mentors, all of whom are adults over 50 years of age. A stipend will supplement their incomes.

"When older adults volunteer with students, they live longer, healthier lives, have a more positive outlook on life, and are less isolated and lonely," says Feuerstein. "These opportunities are a win-win."

Financial support for the grant to Gerontology Network will come from the Grand Rapids Community Foundation's Lucy Barnett Fund for the Elderly.

Grand Rapids Community Foundation leads Kent County in making positive, sustainable change. With its endowment, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation supports local nonprofits, leads significant social change, and helps donors achieve their philanthropic goals.


Get involved:

- Volunteer at Gerontology Network.
- Donate to Gerontology Network.
- Give to the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

Sources: Jennifer Feuerstein, Gerontology Network; Kate Schmid, Grand Rapids Community Foundation
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images courtesy of Gerontology Network

From humble beginnings come great things: mini-grants help support 2013 Global Youth Service Day

Whether leading a food drive, building a community garden, or demanding equal rights for girls, young people around the world are finding their voice, taking action, and creating real change. To help in these endeavors, several Michigan organizations received support from Youth Service America (YSA) and the Corporation for National and Community Service to fund small projects for Global Youth Service Day (GYSD), April 26-28.

This year, the Michigan Community Service Commission, Michigan Nonprofit Association, Volunteer Centers of Michigan, The League Michigan, and Michigan Campus Compact received more than $10,000 in mini-grant funds to support GYSD projects across the state of Michigan.

Twenty-eight Michigan organizations received these mini-grants, ranging from $87 to $500, to put together service projects tackling critical challenges in their communities, including education, hunger, homelessness, economic opportunity, public safety, clean energy, health, and environmental stewardship.

In Grand Rapids, Blandford Nature Center, Cherry Street Community HealthCorps, Harrison Park School, and Kent Innovation High all received mini-grants.

Thanks to a $200 mini-grant, the students of Harrison Park School participated in various service projects on April 25, including visiting with veterans, cleaning a park, helping out Habitat for Humanity with several chores, and packing lunches for Kids Food Basket.

On April 26, Cherry Street Community HealthCorps used its $300 mini-grant to educate the community about its Be.Nice. anti-bullying program and local mental health services.

Kent Innovation High's $87 mini-grant helped plant 100 trees in Riverside Park on April 27.

And Blandford Nature Center utilized its $500 mini-grant to help clear out invasive species and debris at the Center on April 28 to improve native habitats. Volunteers installed shrubs to help stabilize creek banks and protect eroding waterways.

Established in the U.S. in 1988 and globally in 2000, Global Youth Service Day is the largest service event in the world, and the only day of service dedicated to children and youth. GYSD is celebrated each year in over 100 countries.


Get involved:

- Follow Blandford Nature Center, Harrison Park School, Cherry Street Community HealthCorps, and Kent Innovation High on their Facebook pages for info on how to volunteer.

Source: Jamie Wilson, Communication Specialist, State of Michigan
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of Blandford Nature Center, Cherry Street Community HealthCorps, Kent Innovation High, and Harrison Park School.



TEDxGrandRapids proves Einstein's theory of play

Recently, the Grand Rapids Children's Museum shared its popular Corporate Recess program as part of the sold-out TEDxGrandRapids event to show how free play spurs innovation. Free play and "time to think" are key parts of education. Come to think of it, these are key parts of workplace success and idea generation, too.

This is nothing new. Albert Einstein said it many years ago: "Play is the highest form of research."

But it certainly bears repeating, because it seems that it is so easily forgotten. This year's TEDxGR theme, "Tag - You're It," invited participants "to get in the game, make new connections, and be a catalyst in your community." And so, on Thursday, May 9, at the Grand Rapids Civic Theatre, the spirit of ideas spread and connected small groups. Participants took Corporate Recess breaks during the day to loosen up and just have fun in the nearby Kendall Building where 616 Lofts will reside in the future.

Bill Holsinger-Robinson, lead organizer for this year's TEDx, says the tag theme plays on multiple levels. "I love 'Tag' because it's a game everybody knows how to play," he says. "And it's a metaphor for leadership. You can be tagged with information as well. There's something that happens in the act of being tagged that transforms you to be able to see the world in a different way, and it catalyzes you to action."

Research shows that more unorganized play leads to:
- Stronger communities, stronger teams, and better communications.
- More problem solving, innovative thinking, organization skills, and creativity.
- Improved curiosity, resiliency and healthy social, cognitive, and emotional development.

Conversely, play deprivation leads to mental health challenges.

Now in its third year, TEDxGrandRapids is part of a global group of independent TED conferences that aim to spread ideas around technology, entertainment, and design based on the model of the legendary TED conference, founded in Long Beach, CA.


Get involved:

- Check out the TEDxGrandRapids YouTube page and get inspired.
- Read more fairytales. Einstein says it's good for you. And your kids.

Sources: Joe Serwach, Organik Consulting; Bill Holsinger-Robinson, TEDxGrandRapids; Albert Einstein
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images courtesy of TEDxGrandRapids and Grand Rapids Children's Museum

Waterfront Film Festival wins $15,000 arts grant

The Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs (MCACA) has awarded $15,000 to the Waterfront Film Festival (WFF), a nonprofit organization that relies solely on grants and donations to continue its programming.

"We very much appreciate the ongoing support of MCACA, both for its monetary contribution to the festival and for its constant validation of our efforts to bring independent film to Michigan, its residents, and the region," says WFF co-founder Dori DePree. "Without this type of support, the programming of a large-scale, quality festival would be nearly impossible to achieve."

WFF celebrates independent film and filmmakers in a non-competitive environment. Located along the Michigan lakeshore, it is one of the leading destination film festivals in the Midwest, regularly hosting Midwest premieres of Academy Award-winning and -nominated documentaries. Recognized as a top-five film festival, WFF is a nonprofit event committed to creating a "middle coast" venue for independent filmmakers while further enhancing the cultural draw of West Michigan.

Independent filmmakers and thousands of people who appreciate fine filmmaking convene annually to enjoy Waterfront Film Festival, which brings more than 70 independent films, filmmaker panels, and lively mixers to the scenic Lake Michigan shoreline for four days each June.

MCACA awards grants to organizations each year as a way to "encourage, develop, and facilitate an enriched environment of artistic, creative, and cultural activity in Michigan" because "a vibrant arts and cultural scene is important to strong communities and Michigan's excellent quality-of-life, and ultimately, to Michigan's economy."

The 15th Annual Waterfront Film Festival will be held June 13-16 in South Haven, Michigan.


Get involved:
- Attend the 15th Annual Waterfront Film Festival June 13-16 in South Haven, Michigan.
- Like WFF's Facebook page.
- Follow them on Twitter.
- Become a sponsor.
- For volunteer opportunities, email or call the office (269) 767-8765.
- Purchase advertising space in the WFF program.

Source: Patrick Revere, Media Coordinator for Waterfront Film Festival
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of Waterfront Film Festival

Help an inner-city nonprofit make its 20th anniversary dream come true

The Heartside Gallery & Studio (48 S. Division Ave., Grand Rapids) is asking the community to help them raise $6,000 through a Kickstarter campaign by May 16, 2013, so that it can print an originally created, commemorative book called, An Irregular Heartbeat.The funds will cover the costs of mass printing through a local printer. Donors giving a minimum of $30 will receive a book once printed, and options to give up to $130 offer donor recognition in the final print.
 
"It is a life goal of mine to ensure this book is printed for the Gallery," says Sarah Scott, Arts Coordinator for Heartside Gallery & Studio. "I know that many artists share my sentiment as the Gallery has become their place of refuge, growth, and love."

The book highlights the history of the Gallery, its artists, artwork, and the needs of the community. Professional photographers have captured each artist's intrinsic character, and professional graphic designers have laid out images of artists and their artwork in corresponding pages. Artists tell how the Studio has affected their lives, and why it is an important fixture in the community. The book will also include autobiographies, stories, poems, and jokes from over 30 artists.

Artists in the Studio come from a wide variety of backgrounds and experiences. Some are homeless, and others are impaired by varying degrees of substance abuse, and mental and physical health issues. Many are people from the neighborhood who simply wish to share their talents and expertise with their neighbors.

"I would not be where I am today without the Heartside Gallery," says long-time Heartside Gallery artist, Katalina Corona. "I am so honored to be a part of this book and have my artwork shown to the world!"
 
The Gallery began in 1993 as small offshoot of the nonprofit Heartside Ministry (54 S. Division Ave.). Since that time, the ministry has welcomed thousands of Heartside neighbors into a safe environment in which to create, exhibit, and sell artwork.

Get involved:

- Make a donation to the Kickstarter campaign by May 16, and share the link with all your friends.
- Donate to Heartside Ministry.
- Volunteer.
- Follow their Facebook page.

Source: Sarah Scott, Arts Coordinator for Heartside Ministry; Jennifer Luth, Clark Communications
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of Heartside Gallery and Studio


How WMEAC rounded up over 1,500 volunteers during the Great Flood of 2013

As the floodwaters have receded in Grand Rapids, it seems a good time to reflect on some of the rescue efforts and how they came to be organized. Case in point: The West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC) (1007 Lake Drive SE, Grand Rapids) and its elevator ride call to action.

Sounds bizarre, but it really isn't. Utilizing smart phones, email, and social media, WMEAC staff members sketched out a call to action game plan during an elevator ride down from City Hall, and then disseminated the info to the community at large.

You see, WMEAC organizes two Grand River Green Ups each year that bring out hundreds of volunteers to help clean up trash in Grand Rapids in the fall, and in Grand Haven in the spring, traditionally during Earth Day weekend. But because of flood conditions this year, the Grand Haven event had to be postponed to June 1. This announcement came hours before Mayor George Heartwell hosted the first of many emergency press conferences to discuss the flood in Grand Rapids.

Crisis is the mother of opportunity. Interested in documenting the flood emergency procedures for the development of the Climate Resiliency Plan being written for the City, two WMEAC staff members attended the Mayor's press conference. There, they learned about his efforts to fortify the Wastewater Treatment plant to prevent damage from the flood. Turns out that WMEAC just happened to have 400 volunteers on standby after the Green Up was cancelled. Then came that elevator ride.

City staff quickly recognized the volunteer effort as an opportunity to fortify additional city properties and private facilities in downtown Grand Rapids. By Friday afternoon, the initiative had been organized into three daily shifts of approximately 150 to 300 volunteers each.

"Every once in a while, groups like ours are called upon to help organize responses to environmental catastrophes," says Daniel Schoonmaker, director of member services for WMEAC, "so we're really interested in opportunities to help prevent one, even if it's just to lend an extra hand."

In the end, WMEAC spearheaded what turned out to be a 1,500-volunteer sandbag effort to keep flood waters at bay. "And this was a situation where we were ideally positioned to provide support," says Schoonmaker.


Get involved:

- Join WMEAC.
- Volunteer.
- Take action.

Source: Dan Schoonmaker, WMEAC
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of WMEAC

New Mobile Food Pantry brings fresh food to Dickinson Elementary School students and families

Kids who come to school hungry may be angry or irritable, and they may have trouble concentrating, says Dickinson Elementary School Principal Nan Evans. "You might think that a student is ADHD when they're just hungry,” she says.

Enter the Cintas Corporation in West Michigan, which has teamed up with Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank to sponsor a Mobile Food Pantry program at Dickinson Elementary School, 448 Dickinson St. SE, in Grand Rapids.

Dickinson's first Mobile Food Pantry on Thursday, April 25 was a huge success. Subsequent distributions will be held on the fourth Thursday of each month through January 2014 and will provide fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and baked goods to students and their families in the Dickinson neighborhood. Each of Cintas' 5,000-pound, farmers market-style distributions will provide 100 households with enough food to supplement their meals for three to four days.

According to Evans, that food is desperately needed. More than three quarters of the students at Dickinson Elementary are enrolled in free or reduced-price meal programs.

Evans has witnessed firsthand the desperation food insecurity can bring. "I have parents that hover over their children to make sure that they get every morsel of food that we offer," she says. "Kids will hoard food in their locker … (because) they're saving it for family members."

She also recalls a time when the school cook found an expectant mother drinking leftover milk in the cafeteria.

Feeding America West Michigan reclaims edible surplus food from farmers, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. It stores, processes, and distributes that food through 1,250 local food pantries and other hunger relief agencies in 40 West Michigan counties. More than 100,000 West Michigan families rely on food from the organization.

The Mobile Pantry is the first of its kind organized specifically for students and their families. For Cintas, it's a chance to deepen their investment in the Grand Rapids community.

Headquartered in Cincinnati, Cintas Corporation designs, manufactures, and implements corporate identity uniform programs, and provides entrance mats, restroom cleaning and supplies, and other services for more than one million businesses.

Get involved:
- Give money.
- Give time.
- Give food.
- Host a mobile pantry.

Source: Linda Vanderbaan, Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of Feeding America West Michigan

Alive Celebration shares inspiring stories, asks for increased support for cancer patients

On Wednesday, April 17, Komen West Michigan gathered West Michigan cancer survivors -- including women helped by the Komen-financed Ottawa County program -- for an "Alive Celebration" aimed at sharing inspiring stories and obtaining increased support for cancer patients in five West Michigan counties. Hosted at Experience Grand Rapids, 171 Monroe Ave., Grand Rapids, the event drew about 25 people, including 18 survivors who told their personal stories.

"My goal was to create a real tie between Komen West Michigan and the people of West Michigan," says Jennifer Jurgens, executive director of Susan G. Komen West Michigan. "It's my experience that people do not give their time or money to a faceless organization; they give to help further a cause that has affected them personally. And there's nothing that makes us feel more connected to a cause like the story of a person we know who has lived through it."

Jurgens beat breast cancer by getting a test her mother didn't get in time. Her mom passed away from breast cancer at age 36, when Jurgens was just 12. She takes it personally that Ottawa County will lose free cancer screenings in May because Komen West Michigan levels fell short of the $50,000 needed to continue the program for the next year.

This year, Komen West Michigan is supporting six West Michigan breast health programs with $235,550 in grants. That figure, down from a year earlier, wasn't enough to help Ottawa County's City on a Hill Clinic and six other programs that met Komen's funding guidelines.

Last year, a $50,000 grant from Komen West Michigan helped City on a Hill Health Clinic treat 264 low-income women, providing breast exams, education, and mammograms. That's an average of $189 per patient, a fraction of the tens of thousands spent treating a single patient whose cancer isn't detected early.

Get involved:
- Volunteer.
- Make a donation.

Sources: Jennifer Jurgens, Komen West Michigan; Nicole Meloche, Organik Consulting
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of Komen West Michigan

New healing center in GR helps grieving children and teens

"Unresolved childhood loss is often linked with poor school performance, adolescent and adult depression, violence, alcohol and drug abuse, and suicidal tendencies," says Gerilyn May, managing director of Ele's Place. The healing center for grieving children and teens focuses its mission and energies entirely on grieving children, making a profound difference in their lives.

Ele's Place held its first annual Healing Hearts Society Fundraising Breakfast on Tuesday, April 9 at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. The event, underwritten by the Peter C. and Emajean Cook Foundation and the David and Carol Van Andel Foundation, raised nearly $300,000 in donations from the 450 guests who attended.

Ele's Place already has centers in Lansing and Ann Arbor, and the funds raised will enable a new center to open in Grand Rapids this spring. Enrollment is now open for children and teens coping with the death of a parent, sibling, or other loved one. Third Reformed Church on Michigan Street will host Ele's Place's programming and office.

Before coming to Ele's Place, many grieving children feel alone and keep their feelings inside, not wanting to burden their parents or other family members. Often, friends don't seem to understand if they haven't had a similar experience. But each week at Ele's Place, hundreds of grieving children find a warm and welcoming place to meet new friends who really understand how they feel, while they begin to heal after the death of a loved one.

The 21-year-old nonprofit is solely devoted to supporting grieving children ages 3-18 through weekly peer support groups. The program is provided at no charge to families.

The Grand Rapids branch will offer groups for children, teens, and their parents or guardians.


Get involved:

- To enroll, parents or guardians can call (616) 301-1605.
- For more information about Ele's Place programs and volunteering, contact Gerilyn May, call (616) 301-1605, or visit their website.

Source: Molly Day, Director of Marketing; Gerilyn May, Managing Director
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of Ele’s Place

Sounds of Hope Benefit Concert helps combat illiteracy

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, kids who don't read proficiently by third grade are four times more likely to leave school without a diploma. So, if "Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks, or bend a knotted oak" (as William Congreve wrote in The Mourning Bride), could illiteracy, too, succumb to music's charms?

The Sounds of Hope Benefit Concert is giving it a go. Sponsored by Mercantile Bank of Michigan and performed by the Professional Orchestral Musicians Association - Grand Rapids (POMA-GR) , the benefit concert takes place on Thursday, May 2 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Park Congregational Church, 10 E. Park Place NE, Grand Rapids. Proceeds will go to the United Way's Schools of Hope and the Literacy Center of West Michigan (LCWM).

Concertgoers should come a little early to enjoy light hors d'oeuvres and desserts by Martha's Vineyard, a silent auction, and a reception from 6:15 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 per person, or $25 for a group or family. Children under 5 are free.

The LCWM's mission is to build a literate community and transform lives by strengthening reading and language skills. United Way's Schools of Hope tackle the problem of illiteracy by focusing on early grade reading.

And POMA-GR is the voice that speaks for every member of the Grand Rapids Symphony (GRS), with this mission: "To continue to build upon our tradition of excellence in the performance of orchestral music for audiences of all ages."

Sharing the joy of music with children is an important part of that mission and each year, POMA-GR performs in concerts given to over 70,000 children in West Michigan. In addition, the members of the GRS teach hundreds of students private music lessons, passing on their knowledge and passion for music to the next generation of performers and music teachers.

Get involved:
- Attend the concert May 2 from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. Come early for the reception and silent auction. Get your tickets here.
- Donate to the United Way.
- Donate to the Literacy Center of West Michigan.
- Volunteer.
- Tutor a child.
- Follow the POMA-GR Facebook page.

Sources: Heart of West Michigan United Way; Literacy Center of West Michigan; Grand Rapids Symphony
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Image: Photo by Martin Hogan, courtesy of POMA-GR
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