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Hope is in the hops: Local craft brewers partner with NDRC to protect the Clean Water Act

"Being surrounded by the Great Lakes here in Michigan, water is something that we've always cherished, and we never take it for granted," says Dave Engbers, co-founder and VP of brand and education for Founders Brewing Company. "Water is life -- nothing exists without water."

Over 20 breweries across the nation -- including three here in GR -- have teamed with the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) to stand up for clean water by launching the "Brewers for Clean Water" campaign. Their mission is to send a strong and straightforward message: Without clean sources of water, you can't make great beer.
 
"Whether brewers are creating ales, pilsners, porters, wits, or stouts, one ingredient must go into every batch: clean water," says NRDC Water Program Senior Policy Analyst Karen Hobbs. "Craft brewers need clean water to make great beer. This campaign is all about amplifying their voices in support of the most important protection for their most important ingredient, the Clean Water Act."

Few industries depend on clean water as much as craft brewers. While hops and malt can be sourced elsewhere, breweries are reliant on their local water supplies -- and the protections of the Clean Water Act to ensure the quality and availability of their main ingredient.

In recent years, attempts to roll back Clean Water Act protections have endangered not just the most important ingredient for craft beer, but also public health and resources for a wide range of industries. In joining the campaign, the brewers have taken NRDC's "Clean Water Pledge," acknowledging the importance of clean water and clean water safeguards. These issues are even more relevant today, as the public awaits improved Clean Water Act protections for American streams, wetlands, and headwaters. These reforms are due soon in Washington, D.C.

The multi-billion-dollar craft brewing industry brings a compelling business voice to clean water issues. Craft brewers are closely tied to their communities with a very real understanding of what bad policy can do to regional water sources.

Grand Rapids brewers that have taken the Clean Water Pledge are:

- Brewery Vivant
- Founders Brewing Company
- Harmony Brewing Company  


Get involved:
- Learn more about Brewers for Clean Water
- Take action.
- Follow the NRDC's Facebook page.
- Support your local breweries -- drink beer!
- Conserve water and 'shower with a buddy'.

Sources: Dave Engbers, Founders Brewing Company; Richard Exton, Jr., Seigenthaler Public Relations
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of Founders Brewing Company

Food justice activist LaDonna Redmond tells it like it is

"Food justice is not just about nutrition," says LaDonna Redmond. "It's about dignity, and it's about being visible."

On Saturday, April 27, the nationally renowned food justice activist and TEDx-featured speaker will present 'Historical Trauma and Food Justice' from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Sherman Street Church, 1000 Sherman SE, Grand Rapids. Lunch will be provided. (See how to RSVP, below.)

"We have a food system that has largely been built on the backs of people who don't have a lot of rights and access to our public policy infrastructure," says Redmond. "We need to collectively better understand the inequities in the food system, and make sure we include people who have faced these inequities in finding solutions."

Converting vacant city lots to urban farm sites is a great start. But, Redmond says, "I live in a community where I can get a semi-automatic weapon quicker than I can get a tomato. The public health issue of violence is connected to the public health issue of chronic, diet-related diseases. In my community, it is about living or dying. You can die by the gun or from the lack of proper food."

Redmond says that the food justice movement is really about the narratives of people of color and beginning to understand that the stories that we tell ourselves in the food movement are as important as the stories that we've left out.

"We must include in this the narrative of modern slavery," she says. "Our food system today is still based on the exploitation of the labor of immigrants in this country. While we are talking about access to free-range chickens and grass-fed beef, we need to also be talking about immigration reform and fair wages for those farm workers, but, the people who serve us, who fix our food, should be paid fairly."

A long-time community activist, Redmond has successfully worked to get Chicago Public Schools to evaluate junk food, launched urban agriculture projects, started a community grocery store, and worked on federal farm policy to expand access to healthy food in low-income communities.

In early April 2013, she launched the Campaign for Food Justice Now (CFJN), a membership-based organization that will use a race, class, and gender analysis to promote food and agricultural system reforms, and advocate for the adoption of right-to-food policies in the U.S.


Get involved:

- Attend Redmond's presentation at Sherman Street Church -- RSVP here or call (616) 206-3641.
- Watch Redmond's TEDx presentation on Food Justice.
- Visit the Campaign for Food Justice Now's website.
- Visit Our Kitchen Table's website to learn more about food justice.

Sources: Stelle Slootmaker, Our Kitchen Table; LaDonna Redmond, TEDx presentation
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images: Courtesy of Our Kitchen Table and LaDonna Redmond


Crash's Landing kicks off capital campaign to purchase Diamond Avenue NE facility

Crash's Landing was just about to go live with its crowd-funding campaign on indiegogo.com when its founding feline passed away on April 11. A quick edit was made, and the fundraising video now ends with a tribute to Crash.

"Our hearts are tender right now, but the need for a safe haven for stray cats has not lessened," says Dr. Jennifer Petrovich, founder of Crash's Landing. "Tomorrow is a new day, so we'll roll up our sleeves, set aside our grief, and get back to work making a difference in our little corner of the world, one cat at a time. This is the true legacy of Crash, and we are proud to continue what he inspired."

Crash's Landing needs to raise $210,000 to purchase the building it is currently renting at 1545 Diamond Ave. NE, Grand Rapids, and the capital campaign is being handled in four phases. Phase I, which kicked off April 12, seeks to raise $52,500 on indiegogo.com. (And we pause here in the interest of full disclosure: I am Director of Grant Writing and Alternative Fundraising for Crash's Landing, and I live with two Crash Cats.)

The namesake feline, only eight weeks old when he was rescued after being hit by a car back in 1999, became the catalyst for starting the organization.

Since 2002, Crash's Landing has offered a no-kill haven for stray, abandoned, abused, and neglected cats. And since 2004, the building on Diamond has housed 130+ Crash Cats at any given time. Big Sid's Sanctuary -- Crash's sister organization in a separate facility -- is home to 130+ cats who test positive for FIV or FeLV.

Crash's Landing has been in the news a lot lately for taking in and medically treating a little cat who was tossed from a car going 70 mph, and then tumbled across two lanes on the expressway. Although healing nicely, Squirt -- as she is now called -- is not out of the woods yet.

Get involved:

- Visit the website to learn more about Crash's Landing and Big Sid's Sanctuary. You'll find Squirt's story there, too.
- Donate to the indiegogo.com campaign and share the link with your family and friends.
- Or donate on Crash's Landing's website.
- Send a gift from Crash's Landing's Amazon.com wish list.
- Adopt a cat and give him or her a loving home.
- Volunteer.
- Sponsor a cat.
- Like the Crash's Landing Facebook page.

Source: Dr. Jennifer Petrovich, founder and executive director of Crash's Landing and Big Sid's Sanctuary
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images courtesy of Crash's Landing


Celebrate Arbor Day by planting trees in a park!

The importance of trees cannot be overstated: According to the Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project, trees improve air quality by filtering out pollutants; enhance water quality by reducing runoff of pollutant-filled storm water; reduce energy costs by shading buildings from the hot summer sun; add to our quality of life with their beauty and cool shade; and increase property values.

With all that in mind, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (FGRP) believe that vibrant parks and public spaces are key to supporting a community's economic competitiveness, environmental health, and cultural well-being, because a healthy park system requires a long-term commitment.

And now you have an opportunity to help FGRP make a difference: Meet up with them on April 26 and 27 and help plant trees in Riverside Park. The organization's most ambitious tree planting to date will help protect the Grand River watershed and increase our City's urban tree canopy.

What's in it for you? For starters, two exciting days of tree planting to improve water quality and restore lost Ash trees in Riverside Park. This is just one of many projects that offers the opportunity to get your hands dirty restoring Grand Rapids' urban tree canopy. The goal here is to plant a grand total of 150 trees with help from the community -- and that includes you. No previous tree planting experience is necessary.

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks will provide the tools, trees, and training -- just bring drinking water, clothes you don't mind getting dirty, and gloves. Meet at the Riverbend shelter around 12:00 p.m. to get set up, and the planting will kick off at 1 p.m.

Founded in 2008, the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is an independent, citizen-led, nonprofit enterprise that works closely with, but separate from, the City. They make park improvement projects happen by bringing together neighbors, park users, the City, funders, volunteers, and contractors.

Get involved:

- Help plant a tree on April 26 and/or April 27! Register for the event online, by phone (616) 581-7164, or by emailing Heather Kaweck.
- Visit Friends of GR Parks' website and become a friend.
- Donate.
- Like the Facebook page.
- Learn more about the important role that trees play in our City on the Urban Forest Project's website.

Source: Heather Kaweck, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images courtesy of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks

Charity fashion show to benefit homeless women and children

Treat yourself to some fabulous fashion, family, and fun at the 24th Annual 'No Place Like Home' Fashion Show: Where Fashion Meets Art. The Wednesday, April 24 event runs from 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. at the Goei Center (818 Butterworth St. SW Grand Rapids, MI 49504) to benefit Liz's House and Bridge Street Place, two very special Dwelling Place housing communities.

"This event gets bigger and better every year," says Dennis Sturtevant, chief executive officer of Dwelling Place. "We will have great food, live music, art, and fun to benefit a great cause. This is a must-attend event!"

West Michigan radio celebs Tommy and Brook of STAR 105.7 will walk the runway as the guest emcees of the evening. The 2012 GR's Got Talent winner and musical guest, Bennett, will perform live prior to community celebrities taking the runway.

The evening's event will comprise a strolling cocktail party with hors d'oeuvres from Panera Bread, and feature the latest clothing fashions from Leigh's and Fitzgerald's. The children fashion's segment will showcase apparel from Snapdragon Boutique.

"Liz's House transitional housing program helps women, but we cannot forget the children that come into the program with them," says Sturtevant. "The proceeds from the fashion show benefit the entire family, and the children wanted to help."

Jeffery Richards Salon
will provide hair and makeup services. Guests may also look forward to a silent auction and raffle drawing, and an array of art will be on display from local artists along with live art by Reb Roberts and friends.

General event tickets are $50 per person. This year's sponsors include: Fifth Third Bank, Video-Tech-Tronics, Brewery Vivant, Mercantile Bank, Rockford Construction, Wolverine Worldwide Foundation, and many more.

Dwelling Place, a nonprofit Community Development Corporation, has served West Michigan for more than 30 years. Liz's House serves homeless women with small children, and Bridge Street Place is home to survivors of domestic violence. Both housing communities offer solace and comfort to individuals and families facing enormous challenges.

Get involved:

- Attend the event. Get your tickets here.
- Volunteer.
- Donate.
- Like the Dwelling Place Facebook page.

Source: DeWayne Cook, Dwelling Place
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Image courtesy of Dwelling Place

Rockin' music for a noble cause: Jake's Music Festival is April 13

Now in its ninth year, Jake's Music Festival -- a benefit concert for the local chapter of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF) -- will rock it out on Saturday, April 13 at the Wealthy Theatre (1130 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids). Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and the show starts at 7 p.m. Here's your chance to enjoy some of the best musicians in West Michigan. Check out this lineup:
 
7:00 p.m.    Grand 'Piper' Entrance & Welcome
7:05 p.m.    Last Call Band
7:45 p.m.    Lynn Thompson
8:00 p.m.    The Nick Stevenson Band
8:45 p.m.    Otis Blueswell Jr. 
9:00 p.m.    Simien the Whale
9:45 p.m.    Jared Wekenman
10:00 p.m.  Igby Iris
 
Tickets are free, thanks to generous event sponsors, Frames Unlimited, The Gordon Group, Fat Tire Beer, WYCE, DVS, Connie's Cakes, and PJ's Sound and Backline. Donations to JDRF will be accepted, and all proceeds go directly to help find a cure for Type 1 diabetes. There will be a silent auction, free cake samples, and other surprises.
 
Jake's Music Festival was started by Rockford residents Tom and Mary Scheidel, and named for their son Jake who was diagnosed with Type 1, also known as juvenile diabetes, 16 years ago when he was only six years old.
 
JDRF was founded in 1970 by parents of children with Type 1 diabetes. Since its founding, JDRF has funded $1.6 billion in Type 1 diabetes research, including more than $116 million in 2011. The West Michigan Great Lakes Chapter helps people with Type 1 diabetes by providing one-to-one connections, resources, educational programs, and furthering the search for a cure with an active advocacy program.
 
For more info, call (616) 460-5969 or email jmf@scheidelgroup.com.
 
Get involved:
 
- Go to Jake's Music Festival on April 13 at Wealthy Theatre from 7 p.m. - 11 p.m.
- Visit Jake's Music Festival online and donate via PayPal (you don't need a PayPal account to donate)
- Like the festival on Facebook
- Visit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation West Michigan Great Lakes Chapter website
 
Source: Jake Scheidel and Tom Scheidel
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor
 
Image: Courtesy of Jake's Music Festival

The points are in: Wilcox Park Wins 'Park Makeover', Riverside Park and Cherry Park are runners-up

The City of GR's first-ever myGRcitypoints campaign -- sponsored by the City of Grand Rapids as part of the Parks Alive program with the Friends of Grand Rapids Parks -- was an amazing success. Thousands of participants contributed over 4 million points to their favorite City-owned parks. The park that received the most points -- Wilcox Park, with 962,601 points -- earned a Park Makeover valued at up to $50,000. The two runners-up, Riverside Park at 642,838 points and Cherry Park at 600,866 points, earned Park Spruce-ups valued at up to $10,000. 
 
The prize money was provided by the City of Grand Rapids from its existing parks budget. "The money was going to be spent on parks anyway, but now it's going to be distributed, essentially, how citizens say they want it distributed," says Jasmine Olsen, program coordinator.
 
Next step: City residents will select which improvements will be made to the park using the awards. Improvements will be made during events at each park starting in the summer of 2013. To continue encouraging individuals to earn points by volunteering, the City is offering points for participating in the upgrade work at the three parks.
 
"The City is excited to see the high level of excitement and engagement resulting from mygrcitypoints' Park Makeover contest," says Grand Rapids City Manager, Greg Sundstrom. "The City is committed to engaging citizens to improve our green spaces. Citizens will help choose the parks' improvements and, working with Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, volunteers will help make the improvements.
 
"Community involvement is what makes Grand Rapids a great place to live."
 
The myGRcitypoints program was introduced two years ago as a way for individuals and businesses to connect. Individuals earn points through recycling and volunteering, and the points can be redeemed at local businesses for discounts on products and services.


Get involved:
 
- Visit myGRcitypoints online to find out more info.
- Sign up to start earning points.
- Volunteer to earn points.
-Like myGRcitypoints on Facebook 
-Follow myGRcitypoints on Twitter.
 
Source: Craig Clark, Clark Communications
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor
 
 

There goes the neighborhood, but in a very talented way

That five bucks that's burning a hole in your pocket? It begs to be spent on a ticket to the debut public performance of There Goes The Neighborhood, a nine-piece, teenage-student rock band that plays music from the '80s, '90s and 2000s. Save the date: Monday, April 15 at 7 p.m. at Jonny B'z, 638 Wealthy SE, Grand Rapids.

Hosted by Grand Rapids' only independent music school, Triumph Music Academy, the event is open to the public and sponsored by Guitar Center. Tickets are $5 (as mentioned upfront) and may be purchased at Jonny B'z.

Triumph Music Academy is a one-of-a-kind, local music school that strives to develop students' dreams into reality through live-performance rock bands. There Goes The Neighborhood comprises nine students between the ages of 11 and 17, and is the first of three teenage-student performance bands at the academy. Fun, yes, but the students also learn valuable lessons while immersed in their passion, including teamwork, dedication, and perseverance. They complete all the tasks of a real band.

The academy recently celebrated its two-year anniversary. Staffed with experienced, college-educated, professional, and diverse instructors, the premium school embraces a progressive attitude toward teaching music. Triumph Music Academy is all about achieving personal success, regardless of age or obstacle. It provides students with the means to achieve any goal, big or small. And it doesn't limit the study of music to just band or orchestra, or just classical or jazz: Instructors there teach the fundamentals behind the music, no matter what the genre.

Located at 949 Wealthy St. SE, Suite 200, Grand Rapids, the academy resides in one of the first LEED-certified business structures in the City.

Get involved:

- Attend the performance on April 15 at 7 p.m. at Jonny B'z
- Like their Facebook page 
- Take music lessons -- call (616) 454-2943

Source: Morgan Fedewa, Clark Communications
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor

Images courtesy of Triumph Music Academy. 


Open house at the DRCWM

The Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan (DRCWM) is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets in Grand Rapids. The organization helps settle disagreements between neighbors, people in landlord-tenant disputes, educational issues, parenting disputes, small claims issues, victim-offender (i.e., restorative justice), and many more.
 
Full disclosure: I work here, and it's awesome.
 
Usually when there are disagreements, someone wins... and someone loses. The DRCWM provides a neutral setting, and trained mediators help people discuss their issues and create their own win-win solutions to conflicts. It's an excellent alternative to court action, which is costly and much more time-intensive.
 
"I have been proud to be associated with the DRCWM since I began my mediator internship here in February 2007," says Christine Gilman, DRCWM's new Executive Director. "It is amazing to watch the effect of mediation on two people in conflict. Participants often metamorphose from combatants to mutual dispute resolvers over the period of a two-hour mediation session."
 
Gilman says that plans are in the works to start a restorative discipline initiative in local schools to encourage school attendance and decrease school suspension and expulsion rates.
 
"Students, family members, peers, and school representatives can work together to promote communication and accountability," Gilman says.
 
The Grand/Kent Community Reconciliation Center first opened its doors in 1986. A staff coordinates volunteers and conducts training, while the actual mediation work is virtually all done by volunteers who have been through extensive training. In 1992, the organization began doing business under the name Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan. The DRCWM mediates disputes in seven Michigan counties: Kent, Ionia, Lake, Montcalm, Mecosta, Newaygo, and Osceola.
 
You don't have to be in the middle of a feud to attend the open house on Wednesday, May 1, from 4-6 p.m., 678 Front Ave. NW, Suite 250. The public is welcome.

Get involved:
 
- Contact the DRCWM at 616-774-0121, and visit their website at www.drcwm.org.
- Attend DRCWM's open house on Wednesday, May 1 from 4-6 p.m. at 678 Front Ave. NW, Suite 250.
 
Source: Christine Gilman, Executive Director, DRCWM
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor


Dr. Marie Lynn Miranda on "Maps Where Children Matter: Linking Children's Health to Our Environment"

How can children learn and thrive when they are exposed to environmental pollutants, such as arsenic, lead, secondhand smoke, pesticides, underground contaminants, and other toxins? That's what Dr. Marie Lynn Miranda resolved to find out.
 
Although pollutants aren't good for anybody, they pose an increased risk for kids because their bodies aren't fully developed, and their rapidly growing organs are especially vulnerable. Couple these facts with the propensity for kids to play on the ground, touch stuff, and then put their hands in their mouths, and it's easy to see why they can be exposed to higher amounts of environmental pollutants.
 
Enter Dr. Miranda, Dean of the University of Michigan School of Natural Resources and the Environment (SNRE). She's the founder of the Children's Environmental Health Initiative (CEHI), and her innovative, pioneering work has made her a national expert on children's environmental health.
 
I've been told that she loves maps and statistics -- she's a professor, after all -- because maps help determine the link between the environment and human health. Once the link is identified, healthcare delivery can be adjusted to support preventive interventions. The goal is to help improve human health, especially in children.
 
Although driven by statistics and maps, Dr. Miranda is a highly engaging, passionate, and persuasive speaker. Don't just take my word for it -- she's the first speaker in The Wege Foundation's 17th Annual Wege Speaker Series (free and open to the public). You'll have a chance to hear her firsthand on Thursday, April 18 at 4 p.m. at the Aquinas College Performing Arts Center (1703 Robinson Road SE, Grand Rapids). A reception will follow.
 
A Detroit native, Dr. Miranda became Dean of the SNRE in January 2012. She also holds an appointment as a professor in SNRE and in the Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases at C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, part of the University of Michigan Health System.
 
To RSVP, email harbuell@aquinas.edu or call 616-632-2805 by April 8, 2013. Limited seating is available.
 
Source: The Wege Foundation, www.wegefoundation.com
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor
 
Image provided by The Wege Foundation

Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters wants you to: Read. Write. Live.

A new literary nonprofit in Grand Rapids encourages, promotes, and celebrates the literary endeavors of writers within the Great Lakes region, thanks to three enthusiastic literati who used to work together at a small, independent bookstore. Roni Devlin, a full-time infectious disease physician; bookseller Josh Weston; and bookseller and poet Zachary Tomaszewski breathed life into the Great Lakes Commonwealth of Letters (GLCL) on January 1, 2013.
 
In the last year, Grand Rapids has lost two of its urban independent bookstores: Literary Life Bookstore & More (LitLife) closed its brick-and-mortar storefront on Wealthy Street in June 2012, and the downtown branch of Schuler Books shuttered its doors this past February.
 
"We recognized the need for ongoing literary services in the community," says Devlin, owner of LitLife. "The idea for the nonprofit actually began while the bookstore was still open."
 
Devlin says that a great idea for an author event, book launch, or literary festival was occasionally put on hold because LitLife didn't have enough cash flow or access to resources. "So, as the bookstore closed, the subsequent development of a literary nonprofit made perfect sense," she says. "With GLCL, the link to the literary community is not contingent on book sales or profit margins."
 
The three founders have lofty goals for GLCL: author events, writing contests and workshops, book clubs, and poetry readings. Eventually, GLCL hopes to establish a writing retreat, a community literary festival on Wealthy Street, and an independent literary press.
 
GLCL will work with independent bookstores that continue to thrive in West Michigan. "Our policy clearly states that bookstores have the priority when it comes to author events and book signings," says Devlin. "We will partner with locally owned stores for book sales when appropriate."
 
April is National Poetry Month, and GLCL will celebrate with free poetry readings: Chris Dombrowski (Sunday, April 7), Traci Brimhall (Wednesday, April 10), and Patricia Clark and Alison Swan (Wednesday, April 24). Two poetry workshops will be offered, with Chris Dombrowski (Sunday, April 7) and Robert Fanning (Sunday, April14). Each workshop is limited to 12 people and costs $40 to attend. To inquire, email info@readwritelive.org.

Get involved:

- Visit GLCL online for more information
- Donate to GLCL
- Like GLCL on Facebook
 
Source: Dr. Roni Devlin, GLCL
Writer: Victoria Mullen, Do Good Editor
 
Images: Photography by Jonathan Clay

West Michigan Co-Op provides fresh, local food year-round

As the farmers markets begin to close during the winter months, you may think that the options are slim for getting fresh, local produce. Enter West Michigan's Online Cooperative: an online farmers market created to serve the nutritional needs of the greater Grand Rapids area. 
 
Danielle Cenci, VP of the Board of Directors, is one of more than 1,000 volunteers that make up this organization. She is enthusiastic about the mission of the group, which is to support local farmers and producers and provide sustainable food sources for West Michigan. 
 
The West Michigan Co-Op's online shop consists of close to 50 active sellers offering around 1,250 products. You can check off most items on your grocery list, as well as purchase some other non-edible goods such as candles, clothes, pet products, and even personal toiletry items. 
 
To order, you must first become a member. An affordable annual fee of $35 opens up the entire market to you in a convenient online database. Because this is a volunteer-based organization, members are also asked to donate some of their time helping with product pick-up. 
 
West Michigan Co-Op offers a window of ordering farm-fresh products on their website beginning the first Saturday of the month and ending the following Friday. Giving the businesses time to collect the requests, a pick-up date happens on the third Wednesday of the month at Media Rare, a business owned by Co-Founder Jerry Adams. 
 
"Members receive an invoice of what they ordered online when they walk in," Cenci says. "Farmers and producers set up tables and usually have some extra products available."
 
Cenci points out that the types of members are diverse; however, "Most of our members are families. A recent survey shows that a majority of them come from East Grand Rapids and Eastown." 
 
Keeping the benefits of this project in West Michigan, the vendors are all located within a 50-mile radius of Grand Rapids. Farmers and producers pay the same $35 membership fee, but must first go through an application process that is reviewed by a committee to ensure the products and missions meet the Co-Op's guidelines.
 
Ever expanding, West Michigan Co-Op is looking for new members and volunteers to support upcoming educational events and to assist with product pick-up. There are several ways to get involved and keep connected with this valuable virtual marketplace:
 
- Visit West Michigan Co-Op online to join as a member, apply as a farmer or producer, or to stay 
updated about upcoming events. 
- Volunteer your time during pick-up days at Media Rare (1111 Godfrey Ave SW, Grand Rapids).
- Like them on Facebook.
 
Source: Danielle Cenci, Vice President of the Board of Directors of West Michigan Cooperative. 
Writer: Eirann Betka, Do Good Contributor
 
Image provided by West Michigan Co-Op. 
 

The House That Andy Built

There's a theory that only the good die young and in this case, it seems it's true. Beloved Grand Rapids Press editor and longtime journalist Andy Angelo passed away last summer from complications of asthma. He was only 55.

His kind, generous spirit touched the lives of so many people -- this writer included -- and after his death, his wife Mary, their two children, Press employees, and several others in the community wondered how they could honor his memory. Andy had given so much and cared so deeply, and they wanted to find a way to celebrate his kindheartedness permanently -- in a "bricks-and-mortar" kind of way. 
 
A logical place to start was in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood where he devoted countless hours of his time. Andy and Mary Angelo helped create Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities, which oversees the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center. Andy served on the board of directors and at one time, as board president. He was also the driving force behind the organization's annual June fundraiser, Día del Sol, now in its 12th year.
 
Mary Angelo and a group of women affectionately known as "Andy’s Girls" recently came up with the idea to build a Habitat for Humanity house to honor Andy. When they requested several months back that the house be located in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood, little did they know it would be right on Grandville Avenue with a perfect view of the Cook Arts Center across the street. 
 
Mary says Andy would have loved that, and seeing the pink construction flag on the corner made her heart "skip a beat." 
 
Members of Andy's Girls include Mary Angelo, daughter Sarah Otis, Meegan Holland, Mary Ann Sabo, Sue Schroder, and Amy Snow-Buckner. (Snow-Buckner, the assigned Habitat staff liaison for the project, worked at the Grand Rapids Press with Andy for eight years prior to becoming the Donor Relations Coordinator for the nonprofit.) 
 
Sometime in mid-July, Andy's Girls and Habitat volunteers will break ground on "The House That Andy Built," a two-story home located at 661 Grandville Avenue. 
 
"Andy was a fabulous guy and probably more than anyone knew," says Angelo. "This is the perfect tribute to his memory and it feels like the right thing to do."
 
It's estimated the house will take approximately 45 volunteer days to complete and cost $125,000. Fundraising has already begun and several large donations have recently been secured, including a starting gift from the Cook Foundation.
 
Angelo says she's grateful to be working with Habitat as they know what they're doing when it comes to building houses and raising the money needed. 
 
"We don't need to reinvent the wheel," she says. "Habitat has already done that -- it's rolling down the road and we need to jump on it!"
 
A website and Facebook page have been developed so those interested can follow the progress of Andy's house. When asked about the green Converse high top shoes on the website, Angelo says they were actually Andy's and in a color so out of character for him. 
 
"If you asked anyone what his favorite color was, the answer would probably be brown," she says, sharing a story about Andy noticing the shoes in a store window in Manhattan and insisting they go back the next day to buy them -- a purchase that definitely surprised her. 
 
And while the shoes may have been a surprise, the community's "heartwarming" response so far to The House That Andy Built has not surprised her. 
 
"Andy was greatly loved by so many people," says Angelo.  
 
If you knew Andy Angelo, or if you simply want to honor a compassionate man who left this world too soon, there are many ways you can get involved. Here are some ideas: 
 
- Visit The House That Andy Built online to find out more. 
- Like The House That Andy Built on Facebook
- Gather a group of friends, coworkers, or others to create a team of 12-15 people to volunteer for a day. Habitat estimates they will need this many people each day for about 45 days of construction. Email Mary Angelo or Joni Jessup at Habitat to sign up. 
- Volunteer by yourself and join a team. Habitat will provide all training, but if physical labor is not your idea of a good time, offer to feed the volunteers for a day. 
- Donate toward the cost of the house. You can send a check to Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, 425 Pleasant St. SW, Grand Rapids, MI  49503 or donate online. Either way, be sure to note that you'd like your contribution to go to Andy's House.  
- Locate building and landscaping supplies such as nails, tile, shingles, plants, and more and donate these toward the project. 
- Host your own fundraiser and donate the proceeds to Andy's House.
 
Sources: Mary Angelo, Andy's wife, and Amy Snow-Buckner, Donor Relations Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor
 
Images provided by The House That Andy Built. 
 

The John Ball Zoo Society wants you to go wild

Feeling the urge to go wild lately? Well, don't ignore those animal instincts -- head on over to the John Ball Zoo and you'll find the wild just a few short minutes from downtown.
 
The John Ball Zoological Garden has been one of Michigan's major cultural attractions for more than 60 years with roughly 420,000 visitors annually, and they are continually growing and changing. 
 
New for this coming May are the Meijer Grizzly Bear Exhibit and the Jandernoa Children's Treetop Outpost, a treehouse-like elevated play area.
 
The grizzly bears in the old exhibit were separated from the guests by a moat. In the new and more natural-looking space, a glass wall will allow people to see the bears up close. Also, the bear trainer area that used to be behind the scenes will now be visible by guests. 
 
An area called the Idema Forest Realm has recently increased the Zoo's footprint by 43 percent. This is where the Children's Treetop Outpost can be found and it's the future location of a new tiger exhibit expected to open in 2014. A newly installed three-car funicular takes guests from near the Zoo entrance to this area and offers expansive views of the city during the ride.
 
With these new attractions and more than 2,000 animals from over 250 different species, there is no shortage of fun at the Zoo. While it's open from March through the beginning of November, guests can enjoy a range of additional Zoo "experiences" from mid May to mid-September, such as a 300-foot Zip Line, the Sky Trail Ropes Course, Swan Boat Rides, Camel Rides, the Sting Ray Lagoon, the Budgie Aviary, the Petting and the Pygmy Goat Corrals, and the Idema Funicular.
 
The best way to enjoy all that the Zoo has to offer is to become a John Ball Zoo Society member. Not only do members conveniently get into the Zoo for free, they get discounts or free admission to more than 140 reciprocal zoos and aquariums in almost every other state. Plus, members receive invitations to members-only events and discounts on parties, classes, seasonal experiences, gift shop items, and food. The Zoo News Magazine is also delivered quarterly and shares information about upcoming exhibits, events, the animals, and more.
 
Memberships range from $35 per year for an individual to the $150 Naturalist family membership. For those who really want to "go wild," the John Ball Founder's League and the Beyond the Ticket Club memberships offer additional opportunities to get involved. 

John Ball Zoo Society Executive Director Brenda Stringer says that along with supporting the Zoo, the memberships give "you the convenience of knowing you can come anytime you want and for as long as you want." She adds that sometimes people don't have a whole afternoon to spend at the Zoo, so being able to get in free allows for more frequent, shorter trips. 

The John Ball Zoo Society currently has approximately 8,000 family and individual members. Stringer is proud of how much the Zoo has grown over the years and how well the community appreciates it. She encourages everyone who enjoys animals and nature to join, even if you don't have children.

"The Zoo isn't just for kids or families," says Stringer. "It's usually very quiet in the morning."

Volunteers are needed all year long at the Zoo as well. Tasks include everything from animal care, educational programming, miscellaneous office work, and assistance with tours, events, and more. 

Now that spring weather is finally almost here, be sure to visit the John Ball Zoo and enjoy one of West Michigan's finest cultural attractions. You can also go wild and become a member, volunteer, or donate. Here is the information you need to get started: 

- Visit the John Ball Zoological Society online to find out more. 
- Check out the latest Zoo attractions and go visit. 
- For Zoo hours and admission prices, visit their information page
- Volunteer at the Zoo year-round, or, if you're a teenager, volunteer during the summer months with the teen program. 
- Become a John Ball Zoo Society member; a list of benefits is online. 
- Donate to the John Ball Zoo Society. 
- Like the Zoo on Facebook
- Follow @jbzsociety on Twitter. 
 
Source: Brenda Stringer, Executive Director of the John Ball Zoological Society
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by the John Ball Zoo Society. 
 
 

Dan Verhil, humanitarian and all-around good guy

If you've ever been to The Cottage Bar or One Trick Pony Grill & Taproom in downtown Grand Rapids, chances are you've been welcomed by owner Dan Verhil and his friendly smile. He and his wife Lisa are almost legends around here for their active and charitable involvement in the community. And now, for the second time, the Michigan Restaurant Association (MRA) is awarding Verhil as the Michigan Cornerstone Humanitarian of the Year.
 
Yes, that's right -- Verhil won this prestigious award, which was created by the National Restaurant Association, in 2007 as well. The Cornerstone Humanitarian of the Year Award honors restaurant owners who go "above and beyond in community service and aim to inspire other restaurateurs to get or stay involved in their local communities."

Each state selects a Cornerstone Humanitarian to represent it at the annual National Restaurant Association's Public Affairs Conference in Washington, DC., held this year April 17-18. A grand prize winner is then chosen and that restaurant owner will receive $5,000. 

Along with the Humanitarian award, each state also awards a restaurant for its charitable contributions. This year's Michigan Restaurant Neighbor Award recipient is Buddy's Pizza in Farmington Hills and they, too, have a chance to win a $5,000 grand prize.  

Verhil was chosen because of the auction items and food he regularly donates to fundraisers and events in the community, and for The Cottage Bar's annual Chili Cook-off -- a 32-year tradition that has raised more than $145,000 for Gilda's Club. 

Until recently, Verhil partnered with WYCE for its Monday Night Hat Trick Concert Series, which happened in the fall, winter, and spring at One Trick Pony. During each week's concert, Verhil "passed the hat" and forwarded the donations to more than 90 local charities in the community, with contributions totaling $75,000 in the last 12 years.

After WYCE decided to end the series, Verhil and longtime friend Ralston Bowles began a new partnership with the Earthwork Music Collective. Starting on April 8, they will be hosting Monday night concerts once more every other week through May. This new series, which will begin again in the fall, will feature a variety of mid-Michigan acts and funds collected will go toward charity as before. 

The Cottage Bar, which opened in 1927, is the oldest bar in Grand Rapids, and it has been owned by the Verhil family for 46 years. Verhil purchased it from his father John in 1980 and began the annual Chili Cook-off shortly afterward. In 1995, he also opened the One Trick Pony Grill & Taproom next door and that building has a rich history as well as -- it is oldest continually occupied building in Grand Rapids. 

When asked what he would do with the $5,000 Cornerstone Humanitarian grand prize if he won, Verhil says he will "use it to continue to support nonprofits."

Verhil believes that "if you're fairly successful, you need to give back," and that's why he donates to so many charities in West Michigan. He also credits the many altruistic people in the community who inspire him to give.
 
"Philanthropy in this area is contagious," Verhil says, "and I want to help as many nonprofits as I can."
 
Grand Rapids needs more business owners like Dan Verhil. Please support him by visiting The Cottage Bar and One Trick Pony Grill & Taproom when you dine out. 
- Like One Trick Pony on Facebook
- Visit The Cottage Bar online. 
- Like The Cottage Bar on Facebook
- For more information about the new Earthwork Music Collective Monday Night Live Series at One Trick Pony, including the upcoming schedule, see John Sinkevics' piece on his Spins on Music website. 

Source: Dan Verhil, Owner of the The Cottage Bar and One Trick Pony Grill & Taproom. 
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by Dan Verhil. 
 
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