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Collecting and preserving West Michigan's history

For nearly 120 years, a group of devoted individuals has been collecting information about West Michigan's rich and diverse history. Their goal is to preserve accurate records so future generations will understand our past. 
The Grand Rapids Historical Society began in 1894 and currently has around 300 members. Memberships start at $30 and include The Grand River Times, a newsletter published eight times a year, and the Grand River Valley History, an annual magazine that just won an award from the State Historical Society. 
Members also get advance notice of the organization's monthly events. Every second Thursday, they offer a wide variety of program topics to educate the public about the history of Grand Rapids and the surrounding area. All events are free, with the exception of the annual May banquet. The Gerald R. Ford Museum co-sponsors most of the programs so the events are typically held at their location and average 50-100 attendees each month. 
The Grand Rapids Historical Society does not collect artifacts; they leave that up to the Grand Rapids Public Museum, the Grand Rapids Historical Commission, and other organizations.
Rather, says President Gina Bivins, "We put on programs to educate people."
The Grand Rapids Historical Society often collaborates with other organizations on its programs as well. In March, they're partnering with the Greater Grand Rapids Women's Historical Council for a program called, "A Progressive Era Activist: Educator Josephine Ahnefeldt Goss." And in May, the Civil War Rountable group is co-sponsoring "Medical Myths & Misconceptions of the American Civil War."
On Feb. 14, Jennifer Moeling Metz from Past Perfect, Inc. is presenting a talk at the Gerald R. Ford Museum called, "Red-Lining and Auburn Hills: Developing an African-American Neighborhood in 1960s Grand Rapids."
Back in the 1960s, "red-lining" was used on maps to designate in which neighborhoods African Americans could live. At the time, many black professionals fought this blatant discrimination and eventually bought some land to develop their own neighborhood, which still exists today. The Auburn Hills neighborhood is located north of Leonard Street and east off Fuller Avenue. The Feb. 14 program will discuss how the white neighbors initially fought this development and despite their efforts, the first house was built in 1964.
Bivins and her husband Fred became lifetime Grand Rapids Historical Society members in 1979 because they both love history. She's also giving a talk in May about the people behind turn-of-the-century mug shots she found in a book at the Grand Rapids Public Museum where she works. 
"History is fascinating because it shows us where we came from,: says Bivins, and adds, "At every event, I always learn something unexpected."
In addition to the programs and publications, the Grand Rapids Historical Society hosts an online store featuring books and videos about West Michigan's history. Members receive discounts on their purchases. 
The Grand Rapids Historical Society is always looking for program speakers, new board members, committee assistance, and events to list in their newsletter that are hosted by other historical organizations. 
If you're a history buff or care about preserving West Michigan's rich and diverse history, here's how you can get involved with the Grand Rapids Historical Society: 
- Visit them online to find out more. 
- Attend an upcoming event. The next one is Feb. 14. 
- Purchase some of the many books, videos, and magazines produced by the Grand Rapids Historical Society. 
- Become a member and show your support for history. 
- Like them on Facebook
Source: Gina Bivins, President of the Grand Rapids Historical Society. 
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor
Images provided by the Grand Rapids Historical Society. The image of the Auburn Hills neighborhood is part of the Franks Family Archives. 

Boots on the ground to help cancer patients

A nonprofit organization that helps families affected by Leukemia, Lymphoma, and related blood cancers is opening a regional office in Grand Rapids soon, and in March, they’re hosting a swanky fundraiser at Reserve to benefit families in West Michigan.

The Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan (CLF) has recently signed a lease for space in the McKay Tower and President and CEO William Seklar says he's "thrilled and delighted" to move into this historic building.

Founded in Detroit in 1952, CLF was started by a group of families who had each lost a child to Leukemia. Seklar says they came together at the kitchen table and decided they didn't want anyone else to "walk alone in this journey."

Now there are nearly 60 chapters around Michigan and the organization serves more than 4,400 families each year. The largest concentration of families -- around 25 percent -- is located in West Michigan, so it made sense to open an office here. CLF has been serving all of Michigan from its Southeast location, but Seklar says it's becoming less feasible to continue doing that.

"We need to have boots on the ground," he says.

This referral-based organization offers information, financial assistance, and emotional support to families when someone is diagnosed with Leukemia or another blood cancer. One of their main goals is to empower people with knowledge so they can make better decisions about their care.

"A cancer diagnosis affects the whole family," Seklar says. "More than half the clients CLF serves are at or below the poverty level, requiring them to make tough decisions about how to allocate already-stretched financial resources. At CLF, all our programs and services are free and no patient is ever turned away."

The good news is that the survival rate for someone diagnosed with Leukemia and related blood cancers is now 90 percent. When CLF first opened, the survival rate was only 10 percent.

It also used to be that adults were rarely diagnosed with the disease and it affected mostly children, hence the organization's name. Now, that has reversed and more adults are being diagnosed with Leukemia.  

In addition to opening an office in Grand Rapids, CLF is also hosting its first fundraiser here on March 9. CRUSH Grand Rapids Wine & Food Classic takes place at Reserve and it's one of several elegant CRUSH events held around the state.

This fundraiser, made possible by Dick and Betsy DeVos, will feature some of the leading chefs and sommeliers from Chicago and throughout Michigan. There will also be an awards ceremony honoring Dr. James B. Fahner, the director of pediatric hematology and oncology at Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, with its 2013 Pioneers in Medicine Award, and Varnum LLP with its Corporate Leadership Award.

All of the money raised from the event will stay in West Michigan to help patients and their families.

Soon, CLF will have a stronger presence here and be able to better serve local families affected by Leukemia and other blood cancers. If you would like to support them, here's how you can get involved:

- Visit the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan online to find out more.
- Attend the CRUSH Grand Rapids Wine & Food Classic event on March 9. 
- Donate to CLF. 
- Volunteer with CLF. 
- Like them on Facebook
- Follow @CLFMichigan on Twitter. 

Source: William Seklar, President and CEO of the Children’s Leukemia Foundation of Michigan
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by the Children's Leukemia Foundation of Michigan.

"Magic in the Making" benefit for ACT

World-renowned tenor soloist Carlos Seise has never seen children with disabilities so well-behaved and to discover that creating art has that kind of effect surprises him.
This Grand Haven resident recently visited the Grand Rapids office of Artists Creating Together (ACT) to meet with Executive Director Michele Suchovsky. During his visit, around 15 children with disabilities were there painting.
“I was amazed to see how focused the kids were while painting,” says Seise. “I never thought art would help like that.”
Seise runs an organization called Evangelical Rural Community Center that educates around 1,200 children per year in Buenos Aires, Argentina. A small number of these children have disabilities and he says it's often difficult to get them to focus. Now that he's visited ACT and witnessed how art can make such an impact, he's impressed. 
"It was so much inspiration to my soul," he says. "It's proof that art can help your brain."
Seise started the Evangelical Rural Community Center 21 years ago to give rural children in Argentina a chance at an education. He says the program has been a success as many of the graduates now work as doctors, lawyers, and in other professional fields. Education changed Seise's life, and that's why he started the organization. 
"If you want to change a nation, you have to start with education," he says. 
Now Seise is helping children in West Michigan by performing a benefit concert called "Magic in the Making." The March 8 performance at Spring Lake High School will benefit ACT in Ottawa County. 
ACT is dedicated to connecting people with disabilities with art, artists, and art projects. They serve more than 8,500 children, youths, and adults per year and their art classes are open to anyone in West and Northwest Michigan. 
Prior to Seise's solo performance on March 8, the Pidgeon Creek Shakespeare Company will entertain the audience with a theatrical performance of Shakespeare's work.
Seise has traveled the world singing solo and performing the leading tenor role in numerous operas. His complete bio and videos can be found on his website. 
ACT is looking for sponsors for the "Magic in the Making" event, and volunteers are always needed at ACT, as well as cash or in-kind donations such as art supplies. If you'd like to become involved or attend the March 8 show, here's some information to get you started:
- Visit Artists Creating Together online to find out more. 
- Purchase tickets to the March 8 "Magic in the Making" event online. 
- Find out more information on the event page on Facebook. 
- Become an event sponsor by contacting Michele Suchovsky at 616-885-5866 or via email.
- Donate cash or art supplies to ACT. 
- Volunteer for ACT. 
- Like ACT on Facebook. 
Source: Tenor Carlos Seise
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by Artists Creating Together and Carlos Seise.  

Rise up on V-Day!

One in three women around the world will be raped or beaten at some point in life. That means one billion women and girls will be affected by violence. 
One billion. 
If you find that unacceptable, join the One Billion Rising revolution and rise up on Feb. 14, also known as V-Day.
The V-Day global movement was created to gather strength in numbers and demand an end this violence. This year marks the 15th anniversary of V-Day events where women, men, and children walk out, dance, or rise up in protest. In conjunction with the anniversary, the One Billion Rising campaign was developed to show solidarity worldwide.
V-Day provides volunteers all over the globe with a coordinated way to create events that increase awareness, raise money, and inspire a world without violence against women and girls -- violence that includes rape, battery, incest, female genital mutilation, and sex slavery. 
More than 5,800 V-Day benefit events took place last year in the U.S. and globally, events occurred in 167 countries.  
In case you're wondering what the "V" means, the organization's website says, "The 'V' in V-Day stands for "Victory, Valentine, and Vagina." 
Pick whichever word you want, or all three, and then pick an event to attend that day. Grand Rapids has a few different options for you. 
The women-only "Dance to End Violence Against Women and Girls on V-Day" event at the Wealthy Theatre Annex is a night of free-form dance hosted by Awakened Potentials' president, Daina (Dinah) Puodziunas. 
She regularly hosts bi-weekly "Dancing From Within" dance nights there, providing a "fun, safe environment for women to free their inhibitions, fears, and other ways they withhold their authentic soul."
The music featured on Feb. 14 will be world beat and Puodziunas is asking for a $10 minimum donation to cover the cost of the room rental. Any proceeds will be donated to Women For Women International. 
As someone personally affected by violence, Puodziunas is "shocked" that so much of it still exists in today's world. She teaches women self-empowerment through mind and body awareness and wanted to participate in V-Day to raise awareness of this issue.  
"I know that if we don't rise up and take a stand, things won't change," she says. "It's up to us and the time is way past due."
Another V-Day dance event that's open to everyone is the "One Billion Rising: Grand Rapids Style" night at Eastern Avenue Hall, hosted by Chelsea Jandernoa. All ages are welcome and there is no entrance fee. A cash bar will be available. 
If you prefer a flash mob, Jessica Holmes is coordinating the "Grand Rapids Flash Mob One Billion Rising" dance event that takes place from 6-7 p.m. on Feb. 14. The location listed is the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and there are a few dance rehearsals posted on the event page.  
Sacred Beginnings, a transitional program for women recovering from human trafficking, sexual exploitation, and substance abuse, is hosting The Vagina Monologues at Davenport University. This award-winning play is based on V-Day Founder and Playwright Eve Ensler's interviews with more than 200 women, celebrating their sexuality and strength in a humorous yet graceful way. 
On Feb. 14, choose any one of these events and rise up to demand an end to violence against women and girls. One instance of violence is one too many. 
Here’s information about the organization and the various events happening in Grand Rapids: 

- Visit the V-Day website. 
- Visit the One Billion Rising website to learn more. 
- Like V-Day on Facebook
- Follow @VDay on Twitter. 
- Visit the Dancing From Within event page or the Facebook event. (Wealthy Theatre Annex from 6-7:45 p.m.) 
- Visit the One Billion Rising: Grand Rapids Style event page. (Eastern Avenue Hall from 5-11 p.m.) 
- Visit the Grand Rapids Flash Mob One Billion Rising event page. (Amway Grand Plaza Hotel from 6-7 p.m.)   
- Visit the Sacred Beginnings Vagina Monologues event page. (Davenport University at 6 p.m.) 
Sources: Daina (Dinah) Puodziunas with Awakened Potentials, and the One Billion Rising and V-Day websites
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor
Images gathered from websites and provided by Awakened Potentials. 

Hope Network promotes new conversations about mental health

While celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, Hope Network wants to initiate new dialogue surrounding mental health issues and how the community can provide better treatment. 

To kick off the conversation, they are sponsoring keynote appearances by former U.S. congressman Patrick Kennedy in March. The son of the late Senator Ted Kennedy has personally struggled with depression and bipolar disorder, and since leaving office in 2011, he has been devoting his time to raising awareness about the issues surrounding mental health. 
As the co-founder of One Mind for Research, Kennedy travels the nation advocating for removing the stigma about mental health and transforming policies relating to it. During his 16 years representing Rhode Island in the U.S. House of Representatives, he wrote and acted as the lead sponsor of the Mental Health Parity & Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which ensures access to mental health treatment to tens of millions of Americans who previously went without.
Kennedy is scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the Economic Club of Grand Rapids on March 25 and at the Lansing Regional Chamber Economic Club on March 26. Both events are open to the public and sponsored by Hope Network. 
Since 1963, Hope Network has been helping individuals gain more independence through its statewide specialty health and community services. With a holistic approach of caring for the whole person, they treat brain and spinal cord injuries, mental illness, and developmental disabilities as well as assist with transportation, residential services, and job training and placement. Headquartered in Grand Rapids, they operate with 2,700 staff members in 240 locations throughout Michigan and provide services to more than 20,000 people each year.  
How best to approach mental health is a complex issue and that's why Hope Network wants to initiate new conversations surrounding it in our state. Michigan is already one of the leading states in physical healthcare and now, with the proper focus and attention, it’s possible for our state to also be a leader in mental healthcare.
“We have a window of opportunity for Michigan to lead in this area,” says Executive VP Development & External Relations Ron Schutt. 
Schutt is a former Hope Network executive now acting as an independent consultant leading select mission-based initiatives for the nonprofit organization. He believes there should be an increase in public access to mental healthcare and treatment works best if integrated with physical healthcare. 
Right now, these two types of care often operate separately, but Schutt cites a study where the cost of treating a person's chronic physical disease -- diabetes, for example -- can be nearly 125 percent more when that person also suffers from a severe mental illness. He says this points to the need for a combined system so patients receive better care that costs less. 
After the public Economic Club talks, Kennedy and Hope Network executives will meet to discuss specific ways for Michigan to better integrate mental and physical healthcare.
The stigma surrounding mental health is a common reason why many people don't seek treatment. In addition, people often don't know where to turn when they are facing mental health issues, especially if they are uninsured. And to make matters even worse, the State of Michigan has cut non-Medicaid mental health care funding by $44 million since 2007.
"This isn't necessarily about throwing more money at the issue," Schutt says.
He suggests we need to find more innovative solutions to the problem, including educating the public and reducing the stigma, while also integrating mental healthcare with physical healthcare. 
When it comes to mental health issues, Schutt says it's important to diagnose the problem early and provide support before it becomes more severe. Early identification and prevention allow for much more cost-effective treatment as well.
If you want to know more about Hope Network’s mental health initiative or find out more about the March 25 and 26 events, here is some information: 
- Visit Hope Network online to learn more about them.  
- Register to attend the Econ Club’s March 25 event featuring Patrick Kennedy. 
- Find out more information about the March 26 event in Lansing
- Donate to support Hope Network's Michigan Mental Health initiative. 
- Visit the One Mind for Research website. 
- Download this PDF file to learn more about Patrick Kennedy. 
- Contact Ron Schutt for more information. 
- Like Hope Network on Facebook
- Follow @HopeNetworkNews on Twitter. 
Source: Ron Schutt, Executive VP Development & External Relations (Schutt is a former Hope Network executive who is now an independent consultant leading select mission-based initiatives for the state-wide nonprofit.); and Craig Clark of Clark Communications. 
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor
Images provided by Hope Network and the Harry Walker Agency. 

One by one, Amway helps children around the world

With around 3 million distributors and 20,000 employees worldwide, Amway has plenty of people power. And when the generosity of these individuals is combined, it creates a powerful movement that positively impacts the lives of others.

During the last 10 years, Amway's altruistic distributors and employees have made a positive difference in the lives of 10 million children around the world and they will be celebrating this milestone throughout 2013. 

The Amway One by One Campaign for Children began in 2003 as a corporate initiative to consolidate giving and volunteer efforts on one social cause -- helping children. 

"We were already doing a lot of things but we were really unfocused," says Jesse Hertstein, Amway's Senior Corporate Citizenship Specialist. "This (campaign) was created to focus efforts."

The One by One Campaign is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year and since it began, Amway distributors and employees have donated nearly 2.7 million volunteer hours to projects, causes, and organizations that benefit children. They've done this by working with hundreds of nonprofit organizations, government entities, and local organizations in the 100 countries around the world where Amway does business. 

Combined with corporate contributions, distributors and employees have donated $190 million to helping children through the One by One Campaign as well.  

Globally, the campaign's volunteers have positively impacted children's lives through projects such as providing the means for better nutrition in rural China, supporting welfare centers in South Korea, building homes for families in Guatemala, offering life-saving immunizations in Africa, giving books to libraries, and many other projects. 

Locally, Manager of West Michigan Community Relations David Madiol says the main focus is on education and the One by One Campaign partners with GRPS and Junior Achievement on various projects. Additionally, West Michigan volunteers help with children's hunger and wellness issues. 

Of the roughly 4,000 employees in West Michigan, more than half donate their time and talents to the One by One Campaign, equaling around 20,000 volunteer hours each year. 

And on an almost weekly basis, the campaign's volunteers can be found helping out at Kids' Food Basket. Amway's Operation Excellence Group also helped to streamline the packaging system at this nonprofit organization that ensures local children have enough to eat. After reviewing the sack supper packaging process, the group built a new workstation area that made the process more efficient. 

As one of the largest direct selling companies in the world, Amway has a lot of knowledge to offer the nonprofits they serve and currently, more than 50 percent of the company's executives sit on boards and committees in West Michigan. 

"We want to tie our expertise with our willingness to serve," says Nick Wasmiller, a Senior Public Relations Specialist with the company.

On Nov. 20, the One by One Campaign invites the community to help celebrate its 10th anniversary by participating in an event called the Amway Universal Children's Day. Hertstein says it will be a global day of service and anyone around the world can join Amway distributors and employees and participate.

"We know one day won't move the needle of every global social issue, but it's a demonstration of our commitment moving forward to help children for the next 10 years," he says. 

Helping children one by one is the goal of the Amway One by One Campaign for Children. If you would like to get involved and you're not an Amway distributor or employee, Hertstein asks that you volunteer your time or donate financially to local nonprofit organizations that make a positive impact in the lives of children and be sure to join them on Nov. 20. 

Here’s how you can find out more information:  

- Visit the One by One Campaign blog to find out more about the projects they are involved in around the world.
- Watch this short video about the 10th anniversary and helping 10 million children.
- Visit Amway online. 
- Like Amway on Facebook. 
- Follow @Amway on Twitter. 

Sources: Jesse Hertstein, Amway Senior Corporate Citizenship Specialist, David Madiol, Amway Manager of West Michigan Community Relations, and Nick Wasmiller, Senior Public Relations Specialist  
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by Amway One by One Campaign for Children. 

United Way plans to cut high school dropout rate in half

Nearly 2,000 Kent County students dropped out of high school last year and the year before that, the numbers were the same.

To prevent that negative trend from continuing, the Heart of West Michigan United Way has developed a bold plan to decrease the dropout rate by 50 percent by the year 2020.

United Way's Education Vision Council recently created a strategy to reduce the high school dropout rate and they are now moving forward with their plan. The Council was created in early 2012 and co-chaired by Kevin Konarska, Kent ISD superintendent, and Lauren Walker, an executive at Amway. A cross-section of community leaders served on the Council as well.

Without a high school education, the lost lifetime earnings for these 2,000 students who dropped out last year equals around $500 million. This figure is calculated by taking into consideration the lower wages earned by these students, versus what those who graduate from high school or college earn. The need for government assistance for some of the high school dropouts factors in as well, and by making less income, these students will also contribute less in taxes.

There are a number of reasons why students drop out of high school, but the United Way and its Education Vision Council are focusing their efforts on one of the most preventable reasons -- having difficulties reading and understanding other basic skills.

A study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation discovered that kids who don't read proficiently by the third grade are four times more likely to drop out of high school. That's why the Council's plan puts early intervention and literacy skills as main priorities.

A part of United Way's Schools of Hope program has already been focusing on improving literacy and teaching basic skills for nearly 11 years. They currently have around 1,000 volunteers that tutor approximately 600 kids at several different area schools.

In addition, Schools of Hope has an after-school program operating at 22 sites locally and a family literacy program that teaches parents academic and English skills.

Vice President for Community Impact and Education Tony Campbell says there is "a direct correlation to a parent's educational ability with a student’s achievement level" and that's the reason for also helping the parents. All of the Schools of Hope programs will continue in addition to the new strategies recently developed. 

Going forward, the Education Vision Council recommends five solution teams that will work toward cutting the high school dropout rate in half by 2020. Two of these teams will focus on academic achievement, with a kindergarten readiness team and a K-12 team. The other three teams will tackle issues such as family housing, health, and employment.

These teams will work with a specific high dropout neighborhood yet to be announced and create intervention plans for various age groups. So, if a child falls behind and they're in that neighborhood, there will be a key intervention in place.

One of the key priorities is to make sure all students can read by the third grade. That's important, Campbell says, because "if you're behind at third grade, you never catch up."

Along with Education Vision Council members, anyone else in the community who wants to volunteer is encouraged to sign up for one of the solution teams. The contact information and other ways you can be involved with United Way are listed below.

-    Visit the Heart of West Michigan United Way online.
-    If you're interested in signing up for one of the Solution Teams, contact Ann Dard.
-    Other volunteer opportunities are always available. To find out more, visit the Volunteer Center on United Way's website.
-    Like them on Facebook.
-    Follow @HWMUW on Twitter.

Source: Tony Campbell, VP for Community Impact and Education at the Heart of West Michigan United Way
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Writer

Images provided by the Heart of West Michigan United Way.

The MyGRcitypoints website adds new features

What began almost two years ago as an online program where people could earn rewards for recycling has now entered phase two. The City of Grand Rapids' MyGRcitypoints.com website has recently added two new two features that let people earn points and get involved in their communities.

The first new feature encourages people to volunteer with the incentive to earn rewards for their actions. The way it works is residents sign up for an account on the site and then volunteer for one of the featured opportunities. Afterward, they earn points that can later be redeemed for discounts on restaurants, services, and retail purchases.

Local First currently partners with the City to find area businesses to join the rewards program and now, the Heart of West Michigan United Way is partnering with the City to coordinate this new volunteer program. United Way already has its own Volunteer Center site with several hundred volunteer opportunities listed, and that will be used in conjunction with the MyGRcitypoints site.

The second new feature on MyGRcitypoints.com promotes involvement in the community by highlighting different campaigns. The first campaign is called Park Makeover and it will benefit the Parks Alive program of Friends of Grand Rapids Parks.

With this campaign, users vote by donating their volunteer or recycling points for their favorite City owned park. The park that gets the most points will earn a park makeover worth up to $50,000. Two runners-up will each earn $10,000 park spruce-ups.

The City of Grand Rapids is sponsoring this first campaign and using money from a minor capital improvement fund. The money is allocated to Friends of Grand Rapids Parks anyhow, but with the Park Makeover campaign, people in the community get to decide which parks will benefit from the money.

Phase one of the MyGRcitypoints program was developed to encourage recycling in the City limits. There are now around 10,000 users and the program has increased recycling by 80 percent. This new second phase is open to anyone in West Michigan, and not just City residents.

City Manager Greg Sundstrom says the key with phase two of MyGRcitypoints is not so much about earning points, but instead about "keeping local dollars local and building communities." He believes these two actions are important for our city's future.

More volunteer opportunities and new campaigns will be added to the site soon. Sundstrom acknowledges that they don't have everything fully figured out yet and that's why they wanted to start with one campaign and limited volunteer opportunities.

"But we are one of the first communities to do this and that sets Grand Rapids apart from other cities," he says. "It's kind of a radical idea."

The City is open to suggestions for the site and ideas for future campaigns that will motivate people to get involved in the community.

"All we've done is build the platform," says Sundstrom. "Others can now help figure out what to do with it."

If you'd like to earn rewards for your volunteer or recycling efforts, or participate in the Park Makeover campaign, here's how to get involved:

-    Visit MyGRcitypoints online to find out more.
-    Sign up to start earning points.
-    Contribute any points you already have to your favorite Grand Rapids Park in the Parks Makeover campaign.
-    Volunteer to earn points.
-    If your nonprofit needs volunteers, fill out this form.
-    If your business wants to donate a reward, fill out this form.
-    If you are interested in starting a new campaign, contact Project Manager Jasmine Olsen.
-    Like MyGRcitypoints on Facebook
-    Follow @myGRcitypoints on Twitter.

Source: Greg Sundstrom, Grand Rapids City Manager
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Logo provided by the City of Grand Rapids.

Design For Good

Good design can be more than merely aesthetics. It has the ability to solve problems, change thinking, and “do good” for the community. And nowhere is that concept more evident than at a Design For Good (DFG) event.

DFG is the brainchild of Doug Powell, the president of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA). The idea is quite simple -- get a group of designers in a room for a limited amount of time and ask them to come up with good designs for nonprofit organizations doing good in the community.

This mutually beneficial event gives creative people the opportunity to improve their design skills and thinking by collaborating with others to develop solutions. At the same time, nonprofits with a worthy cause and a minimal budget benefit from good design.   

Founded in 2009, AIGA West Michigan is one of the fastest growing chapters in the country with nearly 300 members. They are also one of the first AIGA chapters to implement a DFG event and others have modeled their events after it.

In September 2011, around 40-50 designers, illustrators, web developers, industrial designers, writers, project managers, and other creative types volunteered their talents for 24 hours to develop “designs for good” for five local nonprofits: Carol's Ferals, Friends of Grand Rapids Parks, Grand Rapids Public Schools, Kids' Food Basket, and Seeds of Promise.

This year, DFG West Michigan is expanding the event to a whole weekend and it will take place April 12-14. They are currently accepting applications for creative volunteers and nonprofit organizations. The deadline to apply online is March 1.

Nonprofits wishing to take advantage of the DFG talent need to being doing work that supports or gives back to West Michigan in some way. They also need to have a project that can be finished in a weekend. Obviously, projects such as a full ad campaign or a 50-page website aren’t realistic.

Once selected, the nonprofit will be asked to create a design brief and then meet with a team leader prior to the April DFG event to refine the project’s goals and manage expectations. Someone from the organization will also have to attend the initial kick-off meeting and the final presentation, and there is a $200 fee to help cover the cost of food and supplies.

The location for the event is yet to be determined and DFG Director Jon Czeranna is looking for a place that will allow the group 24-hour access. Instead of locking the volunteers in a room for 24 hours as they did in 2011, volunteers will be able to come and go this time. Czeranna says he realizes that some people work better in the morning and some thrive late at night so he wants to allow people to participate when it best matches their work habits.

Czeranna is also seeking partners and sponsors to help cover the cost of the event or to donate goods and services.

“We’re trying to make sure the designers are fed, their brains are working, and the coffee pots are full,” he says.

As the Creative Director at Alexander Marketing, Czeranna believes good design is comprised of three elements: a strategy; empathy for the client, their customers, and their challenges; and the actual craft of design. He says bad design usually lacks one of these three elements.

With that in mind, the DFG teams will be developing a strategy and empathy before starting on the designs.

AIGA West Michigan would like the DFG conversation to continue throughout the year so they’re considering another event in September with a speaker sharing thoughts on “designing for good.” A workshop is another possibility.

“DFG West Michigan is a movement poised to harness the power of design thinking to help great organizations solve real problems with good design,” Czeranna says.

One of the DFG speakers being looked at for this fall is Matt Dimmer. He started TheExtraMile.org, which is a site that collects frequent flyer miles from people to help others visit ill or dying loved ones.

“He exemplifies what DFG is all about,” says Czeranna. “He saw a real need for a problem to be solved and he solved it through design.”

So, if you’re a creative type who likes a challenge and wants to “do good” for your community, DFG would like you to sign up and join them April 12-14. Or if your nonprofit has a worthy cause and could benefit from good design, DFG wants you as well.

Here are some ways you can “do good” with Design For Good:

-    Visit the Design For Good West Michigan website for more information and to get involved.
-    Volunteer your creative talent for the April 12-14 weekend. Sign up on the website by March 1. 
-    Register your nonprofit to benefit from creative problem solving. The deadline is March 1.
-    Become a partner or sponsor of the April event by contacting Jon Czeranna.
-    Visit the AIGA West Michigan website to find out more about the organization.
-    Like AIGA West Michigan on Facebook.
-    Follow @aigawestmi on Twitter.

Source: Jon Czeranna, Director of Design For Good West Michigan, AIGA West Michigan Board Member, and the Creative Director at Alexander Marketing
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by AIGA West Michigan.

Grant Writers Roundtable shares best practices

Grant writing is often solitary work. Many of the people in the fundraising or development world have many face-to-face meetings, but not grant writers. They sit quietly at their desks alone and write to foundations and corporations requesting money to fund projects.

“It’s a different personality that does this type of work,” says Steven de Polo, the Director of Foundation Giving at Grand Valley State University.

In June 2008, de Polo though it would be a good idea to have discussions with other grant writers so he started the Grant Writers Roundtable of Grand Rapids (GWR). GWR is a professional, yet informal, networking and support group for West Michigan grant writers and foundation relations officers who raise money through the written word.

The group meets on the third Wednesday of every month from noon to 1:30 p.m., with an average of around 20 people attending each time. The meetings are free and guests may bring a bag lunch.

GWR is not only for grant writers -- anyone is welcome. Foundation relations officers, recent grads, communication professionals, and representatives from various local nonprofits, neighborhood organizations, corporations, and universities attend the meetings as well.

Some of the attendees have never written a grant, and de Polo says that's okay, but stresses that these meetings are not classes. If people want to learn how to write grants, GWR has book recommendations on its site and grant writing classes are offered at the Johnson Center for Philanthropy and elsewhere.

The GWR meetings take place at a different location each month -- mostly at nonprofit organizations so members can learn more about them.

“We’re all basically nonprofit nerds,” says de Polo, explaining the rationale.

GWR is always seeking new places willing to host around 25 people with AV equipment available for presentations.

Volunteer guest speakers are also wanted. Each month, speakers such as foundation program officers, writing communication professionals, or experts on various subjects share their insights with the group. In addition to focusing on best practices, topics shared in the past include social media, project and time management, public speaking, presentation skills, and more.

GWR also shares articles, job postings, and a list of writers on its website and Facebook page.

The skill in grant writing is “about telling the story and being very clear,” de Polo says. “Anyone can do it as long as you’re passionate about what you’re doing and understand it.”

He adds that grant writers can’t just walk over to a local foundation and ask for money. A grant proposal has to be written for a specific project and de Polo says there are deadlines, guidelines, and bureaucracy.

“If you’re impatient, you’re not going to do this type of work,” he says.

The work can be challenging and that’s why de Polo wants GWR members to share best practices and what they’ve learned so people “don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”  

GWR also fosters collaboration among nonprofits -- which the foundations encourage -- and provides opportunities for mentoring those who are new to grant writing.

The next GWR meeting is on Feb. 20 at noon at the Pregnancy Resource Center. Jason Zylstra, senior program officer with the RDV Corporation, will be speaking. The rest of the schedule can be found online.

If you want to get involved with GWR, here’s how you can:

-    Visit Grant Writers Roundtable online to find out more about the organization.
-    Join the group by contacting Steven de Polo.
-    Sign up to receive the newsletter.
-    Like the group on Facebook.
-    Attend one of the month meetings held on the third Wednesday of each month from noon - 1:30 p.m.  The locations vary so check the website or Facebook page for more information.

Source: Steven de Polo, Founder of the Grant Writers Roundtable and also the Director of Foundation Giving for University Development at Grand Valley State University
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by the Grant Writers Roundtable.  

Renters have rights, too

If you're renting a house or an apartment and have an issue with your landlord, what happens if you can't afford to move or hire an attorney?

While most landlords respect their tenants' privacy and maintain the homes they own, unfortunately not all do. And when there is little money to move or pay for legal advice, sometimes renters feel stuck and are unsure what to do.

A few years ago, a group of 21 organizations came together to discuss housing issues and they realized there was a lack of resources for people in this situation. The Kent County Renters' Alliance (KCRA) was born out of that discovery and opened its doors in September 2011 to offer renters free legal advice and more.

When the foreclosure crisis happened, the people who lost their homes became renters and many foreclosed homes were also converted to rental properties. Both of these factors changed the dynamics of neighborhoods and the community as a whole.

Director Kym Spring says that “between 2006 and 2009, there was a 70 percent increase in families renting single family homes -- that drove the bus.”

With this substantial increase in renters and minimal resources, she says many renters were “falling through the cracks.” Just in 2010 alone, more than 10,000 evictions went through the court system and a good number of them may have been preventable.

The mission of KCRA is “to promote fair renting practices, ensure tenant rights are upheld, and support permanent, quality, housing for all.” Their focus is on legal services, education and information, and organizing and advocacy.

No matter what their income, renters can visit KCRA on the first and third Mondays of every month from 12 - 2 p.m. to get their questions answered and receive free legal advice about landlord-tenant issues. KCRA is located inside the Steepletown Neighborhood Services building at 671 Davis NW.

No appointment is needed and renters are asked to bring in their lease and any other documentation that might be relevant. Spanish translation is also available if necessary.

Volunteer law students meet with the renters first to find out more about their situation. They make a list of questions for the attorney, who is also a volunteer. At the end of the meeting, written recommendations are given to the renter, along with a packet of information.

KCRA’s program was developed in collaboration with the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Legal Aid of Western Michigan, and the Legal Assistance Center. Cooley provides the law students for the Monday sessions and coordinates the volunteer attorneys from around the community.

In addition to offering free legal advice, KCRA advocates for housing policy changes and encourages tenants to get involved as well. Their goal is to ensure everyone has access to safe and affordable housing. Organizers recently advocated to have all rental properties inspected and the City of Grand Rapids started doing this in July.

Resource materials to help educate renters on their rights can also be found on the organization’s website and are included in the information packet handed out to clients. One of the resources is the State of Michigan Tenant and Landlord Guide, which is a comprehensive booklet of renters’ rights. Links to other helpful nonprofit organizations are listed on the website as well.

KCRA averages around five clients each Monday they are open. So far, they’ve offered free legal advice to 155 clients since opening in 2011.

Going forward, the organization would like to find longer term funding so they can be sustainable. Since it began, KCRA has received funding from the Dyer-Ives Foundation, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters, Heart of West Michigan United Way, Steelcase Foundation, and Slemons Foundation.

Currently, Steepletown Neighborhood Services acts as KCRA's 501(c)3 fiduciary organization.

More attorneys are always needed and those wishing to donate a few hours of their time each month can contact Cooley using the information below. Since Spring is the only employee, she would welcome other volunteers as well to help greet people and deliver brochures.

With free legal advice, education and training, and advocacy on behalf of renters, housing stability will improve, ensuring an abundance of healthy neighborhoods throughout our communities.

If you’d like to get involved with the Kent County Renters’ Alliance, here’s how you can:

-    Visit the Kent County Renters’ Alliance online to find out more.
-    Stop by Steepletown Neighborhood Services at 671 Davis NW on the first and third Monday of every month from 12-2 p.m. to get free legal advice about your rental situation. No appointment is necessary; just bring all of your paperwork with you.
-    If you’re an attorney who would like to volunteer your time, contact Karen Rowlader at Cooley Law School.
-    Donate financially to Steepletown Neighborhood Services and indicate you'd like your money to go toward KCRA.
-    Like them on Facebook.

Source: Kym Spring, Director of Kent County Renters’ Alliance
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by the Kent County Renters’ Alliance.  

Eat out, do good

Let’s say you and your friends are eating at a local restaurant tonight. If you knew the restaurant you chose would positively impact someone's life, would you choose that restaurant instead of another one that wouldn't?

FoodCircles hopes so. Since 2011, they have been helping to feed hungry children with their easy-to-use web and mobile applications. All you have to do is sign up, choose a participating restaurant and charity, and a child gets a meal. Plus, you get deals, too. It's really that simple.

Here's how the process works. Visitors sign up at the FoodCircles website or through the mobile app, which works with iOS or Android. Then, when you're ready to eat out, choose from the participating restaurants and select a discount option based on the number in your party. Next, choose your charity. Once you're done, you can either have FoodCircles call ahead to the restaurant or you can get a voucher to print or show on your mobile phone.

So far, more than 1,200 meals have been donated to children through FoodCircles and its two nonprofit charities. How's that for "feel good dining?"

Founder Jonathan Kumar came up with the idea when he and his friends didn't want to cook. They wondered if restaurants would give them any deals if they combined their “buying power” and then wondered how to harness that “power” for good.

Kumar says the idea is sort of like a “Groupon for good.”

FoodCircles currently partners with Kids' Food Basket locally and World Vision internationally to help feed children. They were chosen because Kumar believes they are doing something quantified with little money and their work goes beyond just throwing money at the problems.

“We picked two good ones doing awesome things,” he says.

Right now, the participating restaurants pay a monthly fee to be a FoodCircles member and for every group that eats at their restaurant, $1 is donated out of that amount to the charities.

Restaurants benefit from the program by getting more diners, gaining social credibility, and having the satisfaction of knowing they are helping children.  

A few years in and FoodCircles is now experimenting with some new ideas. Their upcoming “Buy One, Feed One” program, also known as BOFO, will let people buy appetizers, drinks, or desserts for a dollar and 100 percent of the money will go to charity.

“Buy One, Feed One is more symbolic than literally about food,” says Kumar.

He’s hoping to partner with some new nonprofits and they may not necessarily feed people, but help them in other meaningful ways.

FoodCircles is soon going to be sharing its mobile technology with nonprofits. Right now, Kumar and his team are creating mobile app for Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank that will allow people to donate, volunteer, or choose to eat at a FoodCircles restaurant by using the app. The nonprofit organization will get to keep 100 percent of all donations and when people choose to dine out on their behalf, FoodCircles will take a percentage.  

Kumar says he's also asking the mobile app customers to help him get more restaurant customers. The nonprofit will have a choice of either paying a one-time fee to have the mobile app developed, or they can sign up a certain number of new restaurants with the FoodCircles program and get the app free.
With around 700 Grand Rapids users, FoodCircles has 18 restaurants to choose from right now and they are adding four more over the next few weeks: CitySen, One Trick Pony Grill and Taproom, Two Beards Deli, and Louie Benton Steakhouse.   

Eventually, Kumar would like to expand the program nationwide and hopes to be in 10 new states by the end of the year. Locally, they are launching the FoodCircles program in Allendale, Grand Haven, and Muskegon in the next few months.

“Grand Rapids is our sandbox, our test market,” Kumar says.  

Since FoodCircles would like to add a lot of new restaurants to its Grand Rapids program this year, Kumar is willing to take a gamble and offer to buy dinner to anyone who signs up a restaurant. Restaurant owners and staff are eligible, yet there are some restrictions to this offer so contact Kumar for full details.

Before you eat out next time, consider using the FoodCircles program and let your dollars “do good.” Here’s how you can get started:

-    Visit FoodCircles online to find out more about how the program works.
-    Download the mobile app or register online to start using FoodCircles. 
-    Before eating out, visit the site and choose one of the FoodCircles restaurants.
-    Consider using FoodCircles when ordering food for your next big event.
-    If you don't see your favorite restaurant on the site, have them contact Kumar to be added. Or, if your own restaurant wants to participate, contact him to find out more.
-    Like them on Facebook.
-    Follow @FoodCircles on Twitter.

Source: Jonathan Kumar, Founder of FoodCircles
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by FoodCircles.

Women's Resource Center honors employers who empower women

Each year since 1987, the Women’s Resource Center has honored local employers who have made significant contributions to help the women in their organizations succeed. These companies are recognized for empowering women through their innovative and progressive recruitment, retention, and advancement policies. The Women’s Resource Center considers them to be “pillars of support” and their efforts are highlighted at the annual Huntington Pillar Awards luncheon.

The 24th annual Huntington Pillar Awards luncheon will take place this year on Thursday, March 21 at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel and the award recipients have recently been announced for this public event.

Express Employment Professionals, Porter Hills Retirement Communities, and an employer-led, re-entry initiative called 30-2-2 will each be recognized for empowering women in the workplace and for their commitment to talent diversity.

As this year is the 40th anniversary of the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), the Pillar Awards will occur during a yearlong celebration of the organization’s longevity. Executive Director Sharon Caldwell-Newton estimates WRC will serve its 40,000th client sometime this summer, too.

Currently, WRC works with approximately 1,000 women a year. These women are typically unemployed or underemployed and many are going through a life transition such as a divorce or the loss of a job they’ve held for many years.

While the WRC tends to work with low-income, single mothers or women who’ve had a criminal record in the past, Caldwell-Newton says the “doors are always open” to anyone.

WRC helps the women with resume building, interview practice, wardrobe assistance, job searching, career development, and more. Basically, Caldwell-Newton says her organization provides ways for the women to “get on their feet again.”  

“Women’s Resource Center impacts hundreds of women and their families each year,” she says. “Not only do we help them prepare for and secure employment, but we help them find their self-confidence and hope for the future.”

To start working with the organization, new clients are asked to attend a free, hour-long orientation session, usually offered twice a week. They get a tour and learn about all of the services available to them.

Regardless of what employment services are needed, rebuilding the women’s confidence is one of the first steps in helping them achieve economic independence and that’s what WRC focuses on.
Tickets for the March 21 Huntington Pillar Awards luncheon are $60 each, or $650 for a reserved table with 10 seats. It runs from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and more than 500 business and community leaders are expected to attend. Guests will learn more about the award winners’ best practices in empowering women and how that benefits the community as a whole.

“These employers understand the value women bring to their operation and that the return on investment of workplace diversity and best practices is worth the initial cost and effort,” says Caldwell-Newton.

WRC expects to raise approximately $50,000 at the event and it will use this to continue helping unemployed and underemployed women find meaningful careers.

The organization is always looking for volunteers, donations, and employers willing to hire WRC’s female clients. If you’d like to get involved, here is more information:

-    Visit the Women’s Resource Center online to find out more about them.
-    Attend the Huntington Pillar Awards luncheon on Thursday, March 21 at the Amway Grand Plaza Hotel.
-    Become a sponsor of the Pillar Awards by calling 616-458-5443 ext. 114 or visiting the website.  
-    Volunteer your time and skills.
-    Donate to the Women’s Resource Center.
-    Like them on Facebook.
-    Follow @grwrc on Twitter.

Source: Sharon Caldwell-Newton, Executive Director at the Women's Resource Center
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by the Women’s Resource Center.

MAKERS: The Women Who Make America

Look around you. Chances are, you’ll notice a woman or a girl who is doing something exceptional. She may be famous, or she may live right next door. Either way, she is making a difference in America.

As part of the WGVU Engage outreach and community engagement programs, a three-year inclusion initiative called Women and Girls Lead honors and empowers these exceptional women and girls.  

On Feb. 7, they’re hosting a screening event at Celebration! Cinema North to launch MAKERS: Women Who Make America, a national video and broadcast initiative. WGVU Public Media, PBS, and AOL are behind the launch of this dynamic, multi-platform collection of women’s stories highlighting the contributions that have shaped America.

In the documentary, women such as Katie Couric, Ellen DeGeneres, Billie Jean King, Maya Lin, Condoleezza Rice, Gloria Steinem, and many more share the story of the women’s movement and how it changed our country.

The WGVU Engage Women and Girls Lead organization began in 2011 and is part of a national public media initiative that, according the website, is “designed to focus, educate, and connect women, girls, and their allies across the globe to address the challenges of the 21st century.”

The idea is to empower women and girls to step into leadership roles, improve their communities, and to be innovative. The local group hosts a few events each year and their focus is on making positive changes in three areas: healthy living, ending violence, and leadership.

“Women and girls everywhere are stepping into leadership roles and while we’ve come a long way, there is still a long way to go and more we can do,” says Steering Committee Co-Chair Deidra McClelland. “Women and Girls Lead has the ability to raise awareness around issues facing women and girls.”

As part of the Women and Girls Lead initiative, WGVU will also air more than 40 documentaries geared toward women and girls and those who support them. MAKERS: Women Who Make America is one of those documentaries and it will be shown in its entirety on Feb. 26 at 8 p.m. on PBS.

At the Feb. 7 “MAKERS: Women Who Inspire” event, there will be a short 15-20 minute screening of the film followed by interviews with local “MAKERS” and a panel discussion led by Shelley Irwin, host of the WGVU Morning Show.

The Women and Girls Lead Steering Committee has nominated 22 Michigan “MAKERS” and four will participate on the panel. The four panelists include: Avery McNew, Nicki Hurley, Synia Jordan, and Dr. Patricia Quattrin. A special recognition for the accomplishments of the late Eva McCall Hamilton will take place as well.

Local women and girls of all ages were nominated. The youngest is Avery McNew, an 8-year-old who won a national “Healthy Lunchtime Challenge” and became one of 54 children attending the first Kids State Dinner with First Lady Michelle Obama.  

Locally, more than 100 women and girls -- and a couple guys -- have joined the Women and Girls Lead advisory council and are working toward moving this initiative forward in West and Southwest Michigan. If you would like to get involved, here are some ways you can:

-    Visit Women and Girls Lead online to find out more.
-    Attend the local MAKERS: Women Who Inspire event on Thursday, Feb. 7 at 6 p.m. at Celebration! Cinema North. Order your free tickets online or call WGVU at 1-800-442-2771. (Each guest will receive a $2 coupon for any combo.)
-    To see a preview of MAKERS: Women Who Make America and find out more, visit MAKERS online.
-    Watch the full MAKERS movie on PBS on Feb. 26 at 8 p.m.
-    Contact Linda Kennedy at 616-331-6777 or email her if you want to support Women and Girls Lead and be on the Advisory Council.
-    Like Women and Girls Lead – Engage on Facebook.
-    Like MAKERS on Facebook.

Source: Deidra McClelland, WGVU Engage Women and Girls Lead Steering Committee Co-Chair
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by the WGVU Engage Women and Girls Lead initiative.

Warmer weather brings more kittens

Whether climate change is the reason or not, it has definitely been warmer in Michigan this past fall and winter. This means the breeding cycle of cats is now occurring all year long.

“Don’t think cats only have kittens in the spring and summer,” says Carol Manos, the founder and executive director of Carol’s Ferals.

Carol’s Ferals is an organization that has a mission of ending the feline overpopulation in West Michigan. They accomplish this by educating the community and through their Trap-Neuter-Return program. 

With around 60 active volunteers, the organization spayed or neutered more than 1,300 cats in 2012 and also found new homes for at least 200 cats.
“We broke all records this year,” Manos says.

She says it’s been an unusual year because of the warmer weather late in the season. Unfortunately, this means many kittens were born when it’s too cold for them to survive. Manos believes this “sad truth” and the feline overpopulation can be easily prevented if all stray or feral cats are fixed, and that it’s the responsibility of the community to help make sure this happens.

The idea behind the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) program is that by fixing the stray or feral cats around your neighborhood and then returning them to where they were found, it prevents even more cats from being born.

Manos says TNR is basically “controlling your neck of the woods.”

The reason this is important is that by fixing only one female cat, it prevents another 11,000 cats from being born. A cat’s first litter can contain as many as 12 kittens. Within six months, these kittens can start having their own litters. Considering the breeding cycle of cats is only three months, one can see how quickly the situation can get out of control.

So, what do you do when you see a stray or feral cat in your neighborhood?

“Don’t wait,” says Manos.

If you’ve never trapped a cat before, the Carol’s Ferals website contains a lot of information and resources to get you started. The first step, Manos suggests, is to fill out the needs assessment form on their website. This will alert a volunteer who will respond to you within a day.

“Don’t trap a cat without a plan,” Manos adds.

Once a cat is brought in and fixed, it can then be returned to where it was found, or if it’s a friendly stray, it might be lucky enough to find a home. Carol’s Ferals has a cat re-homing program that includes a posting on PetFinder.com.  

In some cases, feral cats can also find a new home in a barn somewhere spending their days catching mice. Manos says these “mousers are the green alternative to rodent control.”

Applications can be found on the organization’s website for those wishing to adopt a friendly cat or a barn cat, and also for those who have the ability to foster cats or kittens. When kittens are too young to be fixed, a foster parent is required to take care of them until they’re older. Carol’s Ferals provides everything that is needed, however, the person must have transportation to get the kittens to and from the facility.

Right now, Carol’s Ferals has approximately 120 cats or kittens at their facility or in foster homes waiting for adoption. Open adoptions take place each Sunday from 2-5 p.m. and Wednesdays from 6-8 p.m. at the northeast side facility. 

Manos stresses that taking in unwanted pets is not a part of their mission. She also asks that people don’t just drop off stray or feral cats without filling out the needs assessment form first and speaking with a volunteer. They take in cats three nights a week and like to know what they’re getting ahead of time. 

Since there are no paid employees at this nonprofit, voicemail and email are not always checked daily by the volunteers. The best way to reach the organization is through the website -- either through the needs assessment form or by filling out an application to adopt, foster, or volunteer.

Volunteers are always needed at Carol’s Ferals and for a variety of duties. Veterinary students who want to volunteer can receive hands-on training as well. Financial donations and supplies are always appreciated, too, and a list of items needed is on the website.
Since 2006, Carol’s Ferals has fixed more than 6,300 cats, making a big dent in reducing the feline population in West Michigan. Next time you see a stray or feral cat roaming around your neighborhood, contact them. Here’s how to get more information and become involved:

Source: Carol Manos, Founder and Executive Director at Carol’s Ferals
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by Carol’s Ferals, with photography by Claire McGinn.
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