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Aquinas College aims to be a zero waste campus by 2014

Anyone who has ever been to a beer tent knows how much trash piles up by the end of the day. Large trashcans are usually overflowing with plastic cups and evidence of the massive amounts of food consumed with the beer. The scene isn’t exactly an environmentally friendly one.

Now imagine a beer tent serving more than 1,500 people and ending up with only two small bags of trash. Sound impossible? It’s not if the majority of the waste is recyclable or compostable.

For Homecoming weekend at Aquinas College this year, the Center for Sustainability there wanted to try something different -- a zero waste initiative. Working in collaboration with the Center, the Alumni Relations department and a student group called Students Driving for Sustainability (S3) spent many months planning ways to reduce the amount of trash that could eventually end up in the landfill from this event.

As a result, a beer tent that weekend produced only two small bags of trash. The rest of the waste was split between 16 bags of recyclable material and 12.5 bags of compostable material.

An 11-member, volunteer zero waste team was positioned at multiple waste stations throughout the campus for the Sept. 29 Homecoming weekend. They guided people on which items should go in the recycle, compost, or trash bins.

Prior to Homecoming weekend, the team contacted every vendor and asked that the items they used be either recyclable or compostable.

“We ended up composting or recycling 95 percent of the waste that day,” says the Center’s Program Director, Jessica Eimer.

Another waste eliminating effort the Center for Sustainability initiated was to reduce the amount of Homecoming weekend communication materials printed. An event app was created for attendees instead of a multiple-page printed program, with technical training provided to those who needed it. Mailings were cut to a fourth of what they were in previous years and Eimer says reducing overall paper use is a big focus throughout the campus. 
Aquinas currently has one of the most aggressive zero waste initiatives among colleges across the nation. As a part of the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, they had originally committed to becoming a zero waste campus by 2020. Confident about their sustainability program, the campus has now bumped up that deadline to 2014.

Their zero waste team plans to work in collaboration with faculty, staff, and students to reduce waste by 25 percent each semester for the next two years through education and campus-wide composting and recycling efforts. A zero waste website is being developed as well.

Eimer says the zero waste initiative is “an opportunity to educate the campus community on how to compost and recycle waste properly.”

Zero waste, as defined by the Zero Waste International Alliance, means that 90 percent or more of the waste is diverted from the landfill or incinerator and recycled or composted instead.

“We are aiming to get to as close to 100 percent as possible,” says Eimer.

She believes that zero waste education, along with making it easier for people to compost and recycle, will play an important role in changing the culture at Aquinas and allow them to meet their 2014 goal.  

To find out more about the Zero Waste Initiative at Aquinas and support this effort:

-    Visit the Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College online to find out more.
-    Donate to the Zero Waste Initiative at Aquinas. Your contribution will help cover the cost of additional collection containers, educational efforts, and the on-going waste audits. Make checks payable to Aquinas College and mail to Jessica Eimer, 1607 Robinson Rd. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506.

Source: Jessica Eimer, Program Director, Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by the Center for Sustainability at Aquinas College.

Keeping jazz alive and well in West Michigan

The diverse musical style known as jazz began in New Orleans more than 100 years ago.

And almost 27 years ago, a group of dedicated volunteers led by the late Betty Forrest formed the West Michigan Jazz Society in order to create a culture of live jazz in our community. Based on the thousands of people who attend the weekly Jazz at the Zoo summer concerts, and the incredible turnout at the first-ever jazz festival downtown in August, it seems they have succeeded. Jazz is alive and well in West Michigan.
The West Michigan Jazz Society (WMJS) exists to preserve the legacy of jazz in our area and they do this by organizing and promoting live jazz events throughout the year and through their support of young jazz musicians.  

Each year, the organization awards college scholarships to high school students studying jazz. Interest income from the jazz scholarship fund pays for the program and WMJS welcomes financial donations to go specifically toward this fund. They hope to expand it in the coming years and offer more students scholarships.

Another way they support young jazz musicians is by featuring local high school bands at the summertime Jazz at the Zoo concerts. This past June, musicians from the East Kentwood High School jazz band kicked off the popular Monday night outdoor concert series and high school jazz bands often play during breaks for the regular acts.

The Jazz at the Zoo concerts celebrated their 12th season this summer. From June through August, an eclectic crowd of more than 1,000 attends the weekly outdoor shows Monday nights at the John Ball Park Bandshell. People bring chairs, blankets, picnics, and sometimes even their dogs. Event sponsorships and donations collected each week keep the concerts free so everyone can enjoy them.

Jazz at the Zoo acts have included the Beltline Big Band, Grupo Ayé, Edye Evans Hyde, Mary Rademacher Reed, the Mark Kahny Band, the Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra, and more, offering a variety of styles for every taste.

When the weather turns colder, Monday night jazz heats up and moves inside the B.O.B. The second floor Bobarino’s is the venue for the monthly concerts held fall through spring. Audiences are treated to a lively jazz performance, along with a special dinner menu and wine specials. Students and WMJS members pay only $5 to get in and nonmembers pay $10. Members may also park for free in the B.O.B. parking lot the night of the shows.

Max Colley III played the first Monday Night Jazz concert in October to a sold-out crowd. The next show is Nov. 19 and will feature Benje and Ashley Daneman backed by the Western Jazz Quartet.

Future dates and performers for this series include:
-    Jan.  21 - The Jim Cooper Quintet
-    Feb. 18 - Vocalist Kathy Lamar and pianist Bob VanStee
-    March 18 - Saxophonist Chris Bickley and The Maiden Voyage
-    April 15 - Steve Talaga, Tom Lockwood, Scott Veenstra, and Diane VanderWater

WMJS currently has around 550 regular members and 50 lifetime members. They receive discounts to events and the monthly Jazz Notes newsletter, which highlights area performances and stories about the musicians. Memberships start at $10 for students, $25 for individuals, and go on up to the $250 lifetime member option.

WMJS memberships help to ensure that the organization’s events are free or have a low admission cost so everyone can attend.   

“Our goal is to break even,” says Board President John Miller. “We’re not trying to make money on the events.”

He adds that the WMJS board and people who help with the events are all volunteers -- “no one makes any money.”

Encouraging a thriving jazz community is what WMJS is all about. In addition to the events they host, they also help promote local shows through their Facebook page and the Jazz Notes newsletter. This summer, they acted as the nonprofit fiduciary for the first annual GRandJazzFest initiated by jazz aficionado Audrey Sundstrom, helping her make the event happen.  

There is no shortage of talented jazz musicians in West Michigan either and each year, WMJS honors one that stands out. Mark Kahny was the 2012 winner, with Edye Evans Hyde and John Shea each nominated the two years prior. A complete list of winners is on the WMJS website.

“It’s amazing that in a town this size, we are blessed to have so many good musicians,” Miller says.

WMJS is continually striving to share their love of jazz music with new audiences, especially younger ones. Since jazz varies so much in its style, many people find they like at least one form of it, if not all, and the organization focuses on presenting this diversity of styles in its concerts.

“We’re doing everything we can to keep it fresh,” says board member Darryl Hofstra.

As they have since 1986, WMJS will continue to support the longstanding tradition of jazz music and promote it locally through a mix of concerts and education.

“Our goal is to keep jazz alive,” says Miller.

If you would like to support the West Michigan Jazz Society, here are some ways you can get involved:

-    Visit the West Michigan Jazz Society online to find out more.
-    Become a member of WMJS.
-    Donate to WMJS or become an event sponsor.
-    Attend the Nov. 19 Monday Night Jazz concert at the B.O.B.
-    Attend the holiday party Dec. 10 at the Watermark Country Club. Tickets are $30 and more information can be found in the latest Jazz Notes newsletter.  
-    Like WMJS on Facebook.

Source: John Miller, Board President of West Michigan Jazz Society, and Darryl Hofstra, Board Member
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by the West Michigan Jazz Society.

Boys & Girls Clubs hires Casey Stratton to direct its new music program

It’s not often that kids get the opportunity to take music lessons from a pro for $5, but if they’re a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Grand Rapids Youth Commonwealth, now they can.

This fall, The Barber Foundation awarded a grant to Boys & Girls Clubs to start a new music program at the club’s three locations and they hired local musician Casey Stratton to be the program coordinator.

Stratton is a singer, songwriter, and producer who has recorded 12 albums and performed for many audiences around the country.

Now he’ll be sharing that musical talent with 1st through 12th grade students, teaching piano, guitar, and chorus classes. He’s excited about the opportunity and wants to make the classes as fun as possible so the kids will keep coming back each week.

“I want it to be very collaborative,” Stratton says.

Any child can become a member of Boys & Girls Clubs for $5 and participate in their weekday after school programs from 3-9 p.m. They offer six core programs:

-    An educational program that helps kids prepare for school
-    A sports and recreation program that offers a variety of activities including girls-only fitness programs
-    A health and life skills program to help give kids a healthy body image (By the way, there are no vending machines at any of the clubs and each day, a healthy snack and dinner are served.)
-    A character leadership program that teaches kids the importance of doing volunteer work in the community
-    An Arts program, which includes the new music program

While the grant came in mid-September, the music program is just beginning this week. Stratton’s first day was Oct. 17 and he’s been busy ordering keyboards, guitars, and percussion instruments, such as a tamborine and a xylophone. He wants to give the kids opportunities to play different kinds of instruments and experiment.

Children in grades 1-4 can join in on general music lessons and those in grades 5-12 can join in on the piano, guitar, and chorus lessons. The older kids have to make a commitment to be there each week for the one-hour class, and the younger group can participate as long as they’re in the room at the start of the class.

Stratton plans on using music the kids already know at first, and hopes that will get them interested in other music they don’t know. He’ll also be experimenting with improvisation and layering to help the kids discern the different parts. Above all, he wants them to be engaged.

“The more students feel they are in a role of leadership and part of the process, the more likely they’ll stay in the program and show up each week,” Stratton says.

He wants the kids to learn basic music principles and quality music. Studies he’s read have shown that music can help a child academically and socially and so he also wants to make sure each kid in the program is successful.

Stratton is hoping to have at least 100 kids in the lessons each week throughout the three clubs where he’ll teach.

“The kids seem really excited about it so I have a good feeling about it, too,” he says. 
If you want to support Boys and Girls Clubs, here are some ways to get involved:

-    Visit Boys and Girls Clubs online to find out more.
-    Volunteer with the organization.
-    Donate financially, or if you have any musical equipment you’d like to donate, contact Casey Stratton.
-    Like them on Facebook.
-    Follow @bgcgrandrapids on Twitter.

Sources: Casey Stratton, Boys and Girls Clubs Music Program Coordinator and Instructor, and Erin Crison, Program Director
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by Casey Stratton and Boys and Girls Clubs. ?

$20,000 given to West Michigan nonprofits

Several local nonprofits will receive a nice gift this November thanks to a bank’s 15th anniversary and its generosity.

Mercantile Bank of Michigan launched its “15 Days of Giving” program Nov. 5 and for 15 consecutive days, they’re giving away $1,000 each day to area nonprofits chosen by the public on Facebook.

On November 19 -- the 15th day -- they’re also randomly picking one charity to receive $5,000. Altogether, the bank is giving away $20,000 over the 15-day period.  

The reason for the “15 Days of Giving” program is to celebrate the bank’s 15th anniversary and give back to the community that has helped it succeed.
As a local community bank, Mercantile Bank began in 1997 and now has seven full-service banking offices in Grand Rapids, Holland, and Lansing.

December 15 will mark 15 years for the bank and according to President and CEO, Robert Kaminski, “This is a special deal for us.”

Shortly after they opened, Mercantile experienced rapid growth and now, they’re the largest bank chartered in Grand Rapids and one of the largest headquartered in Michigan.

Kaminski says Mercantile fills “a niche between the very small banks and the big, regional banks.”

In addition to the “15 Days of Giving” program, Mercantile will celebrate its 15th anniversary with customer appreciation events at its branches. A ribbon cutting is also planned at the company's headquarters on Leonard Street in December, with local dignitaries and customers invited to attend.
“We want to have local folks there who have been very supportive to us over the 15 years,” Kaminski says.

For the third time in 15 years, Mercantile’s three corporate officers -- Chairman and CEO Michael Price, CFO Chuck Christmas, and Kaminski -- will also ring the opening bell at the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York City's Times Square in mid-December. Mercantile Bank Corporation's common stock is listed on NASDAQ under the symbol "MBWM."

To enter the “15 Days of Giving” program, visit Mercantile's Facebook page and post the organization’s name on their timeline. Nominations can be submitted now through Nov. 19.

Once selected, Mercantile will post the organization on its voting page and with a special app, users can vote for their favorite charity. Each person gets one vote per day between 9 a.m. and midnight with the winners posted on the Facebook page the next morning. The daily $1,000 winners will be chosen based on which one gets the most votes, and the $5,000 winner will be selected randomly with their award presented at a special ceremony.   

In order to be considered, the charity must be an approved 501(c)3 nonprofit organization headquartered in Michigan. Anything that is political or deemed inappropriate will not be selected for the program.   

Kaminski expects the bank will get at least 100 charities entering the “15 Days of Giving” program throughout the 15-day period. He hopes by showcasing these nonprofits on Mercantile’s Facebook page, it will bring a greater awareness to the services they provide.

“We see this as a win-win for the community and a neat way to commemorate for us and our shareholders,” Kaminski says.

To find out more about the “15 Days of Giving” program and Mercantile Bank, here are some links:

-    Visit the “15 Days of Giving” program online for more details and to nominate a nonprofit organization.
-    Visit Mercantile Bank online to find out more about the services they provide.
-    Like Mercantile Bank on Facebook.
-    Follow @MercBank on Twitter.

Sources: Robert Kaminski, President and CEO of Mercantile Bank of Michigan
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by Mercantile Bank.

PhotoVoice Project shares women's journeys to healthier lives

Fast food. Don't feel safe. Eating our emotions. No grocery store.

These are the words that fill the screen during the opening seconds of the seven-minute PhotoVoice Project video, which was initiated by Catherine's Health Center this past June and launched Oct. 11. The video tells the stories of seven women who were given new digital cameras to photograph the barriers in their communities they felt stood in the way of their ability to lead healthy lives.

Catherine’s Health Center is a nonprofit free health clinic serving low-income, un- and under-insured residents of Kent County and the seven women involved in the PhotoVoice Project are patients there. The project was funded by a grant through the W.I.S.E.W.O.M.A.N. (Well -- Integrated Screening and Evaluation for Women Across the Nation) program that Catherine’s participates in, and it’s the first video of its kind to be made in an urban setting.

AmeriCorps VISTA Lifestyle Counselor for the Center, Lyndi Weener-Kuiper, says that the PhotoVoice Project “is a video containing  photographs and quotes compiled by CHC patients that responds to the following question: 'What are the barriers in your life that make healthy living difficult?' The video addresses access barriers such as food deserts and high costs of gym memberships, but also positive existing community resources such as community gardens and healthy food pantries."

The PhotoVoice Project participants were taught to use the cameras by Ted Lausman of Mark’s Photo and Dr. Jack Walen, Medical Director at Catherine’s Health Center, who also has experience using digital cameras as a hobby.

The W.I.S.E.W.O.M.A.N. program focuses on helping woman with nutrition, physical activity, and smoking cessation. To better understand the women’s current barriers to getting healthy, Catherine’s Health Center chose to use the PhotoVoice method, which was developed by Caroline Wang at the University of Michigan.  

According to the video, PhotoVoice Research "allows people to record and reflect on their community's strength and concerns, encourages dialogue and knowledge about important issues through group discussion of photographs, (and) reaches out to policymakers and community change makers."

Some of the issues brought up in the video are the high prices of gym memberships; food deserts created by the few grocery stores in many communities; chemicals and additives in foods; lack of money; poor shoes, roads, and walking areas; physical disabilities; and the feeling of being unsafe in their neighborhoods.

To make the video more inspiring to viewers, the participants also photographed and discussed areas in their communities enabling to them to be well, like community gardens, pickleball courts, mobile food pantries, and even the beauty of our state.

Through the efforts of the project, the seven women have learned about themselves and their communities, and they have bonded together to achieve one goal: healthy lifestyles through making small, permanent changes in the way they live.

The video has had two public showings so far -- its premiere on Sept. 7 at Catherine’s Health Center during an event coordinated with Hunger Action Week 2012, and again on Oct. 10 at the Food and Nutrition Coalition, which is part of the Kent County Essential Needs Task Force. The organization is seeking other places where the video can be shown as well.

If you’d like to help Catherine’s Health Care continue to serve women in the community by guiding them to lead healthier lives, here are some ways you can involved:

-    Visit Catherine’s Health Center online to find out more about them.
-    Watch the PhotoVoice Project video and contact Catherine’s at (616) 336-8800 if you would like to show the video with the photographers present.
-    Volunteer.
-    Donate financially. Catherine’s Health Center is privately funded and any amount donated is appreciated.
-    Sign up for their newsletter.
-    Like them on Facebook.

Source: Lyndi Weener-Kuiper, AmeriCorps VISTA Lifestyle Counselor for Catherine’s Health Center
Writer: Ellie Phillips

Images provided by Catherine’s Health Center.

GVSU's Applied Global Innovation Initiative visits Nicaragua

The Central American country of Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere. Luxury accommodations are extremely rare and, wherever you stay, the water and electricity may get shut off randomly throughout your visit.  

Then why does the Applied Global Innovation Initiative (AGII) take groups of people there a few times a year?

The vision behind this Grand Valley State University (GVSU) initiative is to empower people in Nicaragua to improve their lives using their own resources. Through education and hands-on assistance, teams led by AGII encourage Nicaraguans to think about innovative ways to solve environmental, economic, and social issues, as well as help them design products that can be made locally.

What began in 1998 as GVSU’s disaster relief response to Hurricane Mitch has evolved to an innovation initiative with teams of faculty, staff, students, and community members from around the country traveling to Nicaragua to collaborate with local individuals and universities.

AGII is co-directed by Drs. Paul Lane and John Farris. Teams traveling from West Michigan have included designers from Tiger Studio, Kendall College of Art & Design, Herman Miller, and other local companies. Annually, two main innovation trips occur in May and August, with smaller trips throughout the year.

Dr. Lane says that because staff from AGII visits Nicaragua all the time, they’ve developed a strong relationship with the people there. He adds that it’s “not about writing a check” and leaving, but rather “working shoulder to shoulder.” The AGII team doesn’t tell the locals what to do; instead, they ask how they can help.

“It’s not about bringing the ‘great white hope’ to them,” says Gareth Hickson, assistant to AGII’s co-directors.

On Nov. 1, AGII and a team of six individuals from the Spring Lake-based furniture company, izzy+, will be traveling to Estelí, Nicaragua to design preschool education kits.
Market Development Strategist at izzy+, Brandon Reame, says the idea to sponsor this trip came about after the organization spent a few years giving away free vacations as part of one of its annual events. This year, he says they decided to do something different and “rally around a cause.”

With almost 1,700 people around the country interested in the design trip to Nicaragua, staff from izzy+ narrowed the selection to six interior designers to travel with the team.

Once in Estelí, teams containing two designers each will work with local preschool teachers to develop prototypes of four education kits that will travel between the schools. The design and collaboration will happen in a fast-paced, 48-hour time period.  

The four kits to be developed from unfinished wood boxes will consist of a performing arts kit, a visual arts kit, a sensory kit, and a scientific kit.

Since the teachers earn little money and the schools are very poor with dirt floors and not much furniture, these kits will be designed to be exciting, colorful, and fun, yet tough and functional enough to travel by bus and be handled by preschoolers. The goal is to encourage interaction and learning that’s interesting to the children.

Lane says the kits have to be “very exciting so when they arrive in an impoverished environment, they say, ‘Take me; try me.’”

The izzy+ designers will also spend time in Estelí partnering with the Vinculos cooperative of preschool teachers and design a portion of their new facility.

“What izzy+ is donating is amazing,” Lane says regarding the sponsor covering costs to send the designers to Nicaragua.

Reame hopes this will be the first of many trips they will partner with AGII on -- “it’s only the beginning.”
The Nicaragua innovation travel program is just one of four components of AGII. The other three projects they focus on include Water for the World, a program using smart phones empowering people to get simple solutions to water problems; Community Synergy, an online resource where people collaborate to solve global issues; and researching the countries they work with.

Funding for AGII comes from different sources. Initially, Drs. Lane and Farris put in their own money to start the program. GVSU and the universities in Nicaragua have provided some funding, and individuals and organizations contribute as well. The individuals traveling to Nicaragua pay a fee to go, plus their own airfare, as a way to cover some of the costs of the program. They receive lodging, food, and ground transportation with their fee, which averages around $1,200 per person with a GVSU-affiliated discount.

AGII is currently seeking people who want to participate in next year’s May 5-11 Nicaragua trip. For every program, they need people from a variety of backgrounds: web technicians, business people, engineers, designers, artists, and marketing people, who Lane says must be “willing to go with people to the street corner and get feedback to find out if an idea is good or not.”

Lane describes the innovation program as “industrial tourism” and says you don’t have to know Spanish, though it is helpful. Before every trip, they determine how your skills can be put to the best use so that you contribute positively to the organization and also have a good experience.

Most importantly, they’re looking for “people with a smile in their hearts and an adventurous spirit,” Lane says.

While the accommodations may not be luxury, he adds that the AGII trips are rewarding to everyone who goes and “life changing.”

If you’d like to get involved with GVSU’s Applied Global Innovation Initiative, here are a few ways you can:

- Visit GVSU’s Applied Global Innovation Initiative online to find out more.
- Contact Dr. Lane if you’re interested in getting involved with the organization, whether on a future trip or on the planning team here in West Michigan.  
- Make a donation to GVSU and specify that your donation is for the Applied Global Innovation Initiative.

Sources: Dr. Paul Lane, Co-Director at the Applied Global Innovation Initiative, Gareth Hickson, Assistant to the Co-Directors, Brandon Reame, Market Development Strategist at izzy+
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by GVSU’s Applied Global Innovation Initiative.  

Affordable home energy assessments offered to 1,000 Grand Rapids residents

Interested in lower heating bills this winter?

Since the answer to that question is probably yes, BetterBuildings for Michigan has just launched a program you may be interested in.

The GR1K campaign, which began Oct. 29, will give 1,000 homeowners the chance to get a comprehensive, home energy assessment for only $99 through the end of December 2012.

This assessment is performed by a certified energy contractor and uses sophisticated thermal imaging technology and equipment to help people find ways to improve their home’s energy performance, lower their utility bills, and make their homes more comfortable.

Typically, an assessment like this would cost between $350-$500. As added incentive for the $99 fee, BetterBuildings contractors will also install energy-saving measures on the spot such as new programmable thermostats, low-flow showerheads, faucet aerators, pipe wrap, and CFL light bulbs.

BetterBuildings for Michigan is a statewide program that began in 2010 as the result of a $30 million grant awarded by the United States Department of Energy through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. 

Locally, the Grand Rapids BetterBuildings program is administered through a partnership with West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), the Community Development department within the City of Grand Rapids, and Michigan Energy Office.

On Oct. 29, the day the GR1K program launched, WMEAC had an open house at its headquarters at 1007 Lake Drive offering residents a 50 percent discount if they signed up that day. Around 20 people showed up and another 70 or so have called and registered online so far.

The program is limited to only 1,000 customers, so at least 900 spots are still open.

WMEAC Communications and Member Services Director, Daniel Schoonmaker, cautions people not to wait too long though.

“If you’re resident 1,001, you don’t get in,” he says.

The Grand Rapids BetterBuildings program had an original goal of doing assessments in 2,500 homes, but only to select neighborhoods, employers, and social networks. The GR1K program is open to all Grand Rapids residents and once it’s done, they will exceed the original goal due to a few hundred additional spots the City of Grand Rapids pulled in from other parts of the state.

The GR1K also offers incentives, rebates, and affordable financing to residents to make it easier for them to implement the recommended changes. On top of applicable utility rebates, the current package of incentives includes a 1.99% APR exclusive home energy loan for up to $20,000, or an up to $1,500 discount on improvements. Incentives may vary for homes outside of city limits.
If you want to participate in the BetterBuildings for Michigan GR1K program, don’t wait. Here’s the information you need to participate and find out more:
  • Visit GR1K online to register.
  • Call WMEAC at (616) 451.3051, ext. 40.
  • Be sure to tell your friends about the program. WMEAC is also looking for volunteer ambassadors for the program to help spread the word and these volunteers will receive extra incentives.
  • Like WMEAC on Facebook to stay informed on what they’re doing.
  • Follow @WMEAC on Twitter.
Sources: Daniel Schoonmaker, Communications and Member Services Director for the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), and Selma Tucker, Contract Administrator and Regional Coordinator for BetterBuildings for Michigan.
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by WMEAC and BetterBuildings for Michigan.

Gardening in the Baxter community

Raised bed gardens may be sprouting up in yards all over the Baxter neighborhood next spring.

The Baxter Community Center gardening program is part of a larger initiative by the USDA to examine disparities in food access and enhance food security in underserved neighborhoods.

The USDA awarded grants to five universities throughout Michigan earlier this year to oversee the initiative and Grand Valley State University (GVSU) was one of them. In turn, GVSU then selected the Baxter Community Center as their partner to implement the program and track how gardens impact family health and food security.

GVSU presented Baxter with a five-year grant to help them promote raised bed gardening and healthier lifestyles throughout the neighborhood. The idea behind the program is that low-income residents with a limited amount of space can still grow their own food -- making healthier eating easier and saving them money.

Danielle Veldman, the Center’s grants and communications coordinator, says one of the reasons GVSU chose Baxter is because of their successful greenhouse program, which she also coordinates. The program began in 2011 after a Health Department food security assessment in 2006 showed the neighborhood to be located in a food desert, a place where there is little access to healthy foods.

The neighborhood that the Baxter Community Center serves is located between Wealthy and Franklin streets on the north and south, and Fuller and Eastern on the east and west. Nearly 34 percent of the almost 1,000 households live well below the poverty line.

The Baxter greenhouse provides area residents with affordable fresh produce that’s distributed through the Center’s Marketplace food bank. Since February, the greenhouse has produced nearly 450 pounds of food.

The greenhouse’s In The Garden program also offers classes on gardening and shares seeds and start-up supplies with the community. This year, 10 raised beds were built and 45 families received almost 1,100 seedlings in 34 varieties.  

A second part of the Greenhouse Initiative is called Around the Table, which teaches families how to eat healthier foods through cooking classes, canning workshops, and more.  

Veldman was already trying to figure out a way to encourage more of the neighborhood’s families to build raised bed gardens when GVSU approached the organization “out of the blue.”

“That’s totally providence,” she says.

Baxter is hosting a community meeting and potluck on Nov. 1 from 6-8 p.m. They plan to share the raised bed garden initiative with the 100 or so people invited to attend. Interested families will meet again later to get started.

Participants in the raised bed garden program will be asked to weigh the food they grow each week and harvest their own seeds for the following year. Baxter will guide the growers on the process and provide low-cost or free materials. Because Baxter buys materials such as soil and wood in bulk, and receives in-kind donations as well, they’re able to pass the savings on to the families.  

Once the beds are installed, staff from Baxter will regularly follow up with the participants to track their success and mentor them if necessary.

The goal of the greenhouse and gardening programs is to give everyone access to fresh, healthy food and the tools needed to lead a healthier lifestyle.

“We just want to promote healthy families and we think gardening is a good start with that,” says Veldman.  
If you want to support Baxter’s greenhouse and gardening programs, here’s how you can get more involved:
-    Visit the Baxter Community Center online to learn more.
-    Volunteer in the greenhouse year round. If you’re a master gardener, Baxter is interested in having you teach a class. Volunteers are also needed to help with canning and cooking seminars. 
-    Donate financially.
-    Donate in-kind goods such as gardening supplies and kitchen items like canning jars by contacting Danielle Veldman.
-    Like Baxter Community Center on Facebook.

Source: Danielle Veldman, Grants & Communications Coordinator and Greenhouse Program Coordinator at Baxter Community Center
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by Baxter Community Center.

Air sealing program saves money and energy

With energy costs rising, air leaks in a home can be costly. A house is also more comfortable in every season when air is not leaking out.

To help lower-income homeowners save money and energy and enjoy a more comfortable home, Home Repair Services offers a program that locates and seals air leaks.

This air sealing program is an offshoot of an energy conservation class that began four years ago. Originally hosted by Home Repair Services and administered by the Area Community Services Employment and Training Council (ACSET), the class used to be required as part of a utility assistance program.
Resource Development Manager at Home Repair Services, Stan Greene, says that many people think air leaks mostly occur around windows, but they are often related to structural aspects of the house. He recommends that before people install new windows or installation, they get an energy audit of their home.

The air sealing program uses tools such as a blower door and an infrared camera to quantify heat and air loss.
A blower door is basically a frame with a nylon panel that fits over a door of the house. With all of the other exterior doors of the house closed and the interior doors open, a large industrial-size fan is then used to suck the air out and depressurize the home.

Once this is done, trained energy auditors can walk through the home and easily detect where air is coming in. Places such attics, basements, floor joists and bathroom fans are common places for air leaks, and spray foam, Styrofoam and plywood are used to fill the holes when found.

Greene says that finding and fixing the air leaks is “typically cramped and dirty work.”

The Home Repair staff often has to climb in someone’s attic to remove the current installation, fill any holes with spray foam and then reinstall the installation. Or, they may have to climb around in old basements and crawl spaces to find the air leaks.

While Home Repair Services performs the initial energy audit free of charge, homeowners have to pay for any work completed to fill the air leaks. Financially qualifying families typically pay a co-pay of roughly 10 percent of the total cost charged, with most projects costing an average of nearly $1,100.

Since the air sealing is permanent, customers will continue to see energy savings for many years to come.

“We can do a post test to determine how much savings that family will realize,” adds Greene.

This post energy audit is usually performed 90 days after the initial work is completed to check energy efficiency. From July 2011 to June 2012, 81 participating households surveyed a year later saved an average of 8 percent on their energy bills.

Home Repair Services recently formed a partnership with DTE where they will pay almost a third of the customer’s air sealing costs. The organization is currently seeking companies willing to match DTE’s 30 percent reimbursement to be able to help even more families.

Winter is coming soon, and with it, cold, drafty air. If you’d like to help Home Repair Services save its customers money and energy and stay warmer this winter, here are some ways to get involved.

-    Visit Home Repair Services online to learn more about its air sealing program.
-    Volunteer with the organization.
-    Donate.
-    Like Home Repair Services on Facebook.

Source: Stan Greene, Resource Development Manager at Home Repair Services
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by Home Repair Services.

Halloween computers, not candy

At Rapid Growth, we've learned The Geek Group (TGG) is always up to something interesting. We've watched this Westside hackerspace located in the old YMCA on Leonard NW shrink quarters, make lightning, and tinker with robots. (For our full profile on The Geek Group, click here.) For Halloween, the nonprofit is doing something a little different. They're supplying children with computers, not candy.

TGG will donate 100 re-purposed laptops to students enrolled in Grand Rapids Area Pre-college Engineering Program/Engineering and Biomedical School who may otherwise not be able to afford one. These students are primarily focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), meaning they would highly benefit from receiving a laptop.

The computers are donated to TGG by Dart Container Corporation, a single-use foodservice packaging products manufacturer. Dart is committed to STEM education, and the laptops are just one of many donations Dart has made to TGG in the last four years. 

“As an employer of hundreds of engineers, IT and finance professionals in Michigan, Dart Container recognizes the need to encourage our state’s students to find their futures in these critically important fields of study,” said Lelah Melton, Vice President of Information Technology for Dart, in a press release. 

TGG is an ideal place for these students and TGG members to explore their STEM interest. The 43,000 square foot laboratory contains "more tools than a Lowe's Store," according to TGG Founder Chris Boden. Their Youtube channel contains educational videos, fun demonstrations, and has over 18,000 subscribers. Click play to see a promo video Boden made about their Computers, Not Candy event.

The Computers, Not Candy giveaway begins Halloween morning at 11 a.m. at TGG Labs. 

Want to get involved? Here's how:

Keep up with The Geek Group on Facebook
Visit The Geek Group online to become a member or donate

Source: Lelah Melton, Dart Container Corporation; Chris Boden, The Geek Group
Writer: J. Bennett Rylah, Managing Editor

Ready4Work gives men a second chance after incarceration

Second chances often don’t come easy for men after they leave jail, but a new project started by Hope Network is working to change that.

The Jail Reentry Project - Ready4Work teaches men the skills they need to find employment once they get out of the Kent County Jail. Reentry consultants begin working with them while they are still incarcerated, but the support doesn’t stop there. The Ready4Work staff continues to assist the men long after they get out of jail to guide them through their challenges.

Still relatively new, Ready4Work began in January of this year with an initial grant of $100,000 from the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation. Recently, the Grand Rapids Community Foundation granted the organization another $50,000 to expand and strengthen the program.

Laurie Craft, program director at the Community Foundation, appreciates the ongoing mentoring aspect of the program.

“(Studies) are finding that the longer you can support someone, the better results you get,” she says.
Ready4Work Reentry Consultant Ron Stuursma and another consultant meet weekly with men in what the jail calls the “reentry pod,” a separate area where those who are about to be released stay.

Each Tuesday, they meet for a full day with the roughly 30 men split into two groups - the freshmen, who are in the first four weeks of the program, and the seniors finishing the last four weeks of training.

The men learn how to create resumes and cover letters, how to answer interview questions, and other basic job readiness skills. Many of these men, usually in their mid-twenties, only have a 10th grade or less education level and most do not have much of a work history, if any at all.

It’s for this reason that the Ready4Work program goes beyond simply teaching workforce skills -- they teach them an attitudinal component as well. Lessons on how to deal with risk factors and barriers are taught. They teach acceptable attitudes required by employers and also get the men thinking about who they will surround themselves with once they get out of jail.

“We found they needed more than the technical skills,” says Stuursma.
The consultants from the Ready4Work program collaborate with those from Network 180, who teach the same men how to change the way they think with cognitive behavior training.

Once the eight-week Ready4Work program is complete and the men are released from jail, they are expected to report to Hope Network within five days for an additional two weeks of intensive training to prepare them for competitive or transitional work options.

Hope Network Industries (HNI) is one such transitional work option for the men. This training division of the organization acts as a real packing production business for area companies and it gives people an opportunity to prove they’re capable of holding a job.

Ready4Work reentry consultants meet with the HNI employee and his supervisor weekly to review progress. They want to make sure the employee is doing a good job, showing up for work regularly and on time, and after 90 days of a positive track record, the consultants then help them find a position in the competitive job market.  

While the Ready4Work program is still too new to measure its success, Stuursma says the “preliminary numbers look good.” So far, they’ve worked with 40 men; four of them are now employed and another 12 are working at Hope Network Industries, with more to start soon.

“Our goal is to stay with these men for at least six months after they get out of jail,” says Stuursma.

Typically, almost 50 percent of the men released from jail end up back there within two to three years. With the Ready4Work program, the hope is to get that number down to 25 percent or less. Stuursma and his colleagues know they can’t help everyone, but they are going to try to help as many men as possible see the advantages of having a job and staying out of jail.

If you believe everyone deserves a second chance and want to support the Jail Reentry Project - Ready4Work, here’s how:

-    Visit Hope Network online to find out more about what they do.
-    Donate to the organization.
-    Like Hope Network on Facebook.
-    Follow @HopeNetworkNews on Twitter.

Here’s how you can also support the Grand Rapids Community Foundation continue to give grants to organizations like Hope Network:

-    Visit the Grand Rapids Community Foundation online to find out more.
-    Like Grand Rapids Community Foundation on Facebook.
-    Follow @GRCommFound on Twitter.

Sources: Ron Stuursma, Reentry Consultant at Hope Network, and Laurie Craft, Program Director at Grand Rapids Community Foundation
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by Hope Network.

EmploymentGroup "Give One - Get One" program gives back to the community

Give one. Get one.

This straightforward reciprocal idea has been put into practice recently by a local staffing and managed services company.

As part of an initiative to give back and support the nonprofit community, EmploymentGroup sent out letters to around 25 of its customers in August and asked which nonprofit organization was their favorite. From their responses, three were nominated to receive a week’s worth of the agency’s services for free. And, as a thank you for participating, the companies who nominated one of the winning nonprofits also will receive a week of complimentary services.

The Give One - Get One program came about from the desire to be “good corporate citizens,” says EmploymentGroup CEO Mark Lancaster.

“We feel giving back to the community is part of our responsibility as citizens,” he says.

The three nonprofit organizations chosen to receive a week’s help running their day-to-day tasks are the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, the Literacy Center of West Michigan, and the Kalamazoo Literacy Council.

EmploymentGroup will make a charitable donation of $100 each to the other 10 nomiated organizations in an effort to support them and foster growth.

The company chose the three winning nonprofits from the ones nominated based on their missions and the work they do for the community. Literacy is an issue Lancaster believes prevents many people from finding employment and that’s why the two organizations that teach literacy were selected.  

“Illiteracy is such a barrier to finding work,” says Lancaster, adding that when people come in to apply for work, “it’s very obvious and painful” when they cannot read.

Helping returning veterans find work is another issue important to EmploymentGroup and that’s the reason the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans will also receive its complimentary services.

“We wanted to honor the vets in some way,” Lancaster says.
Each of the winning organizations will receive one EmploymentGroup field associate for a 40-hour work week to help them with whatever they need. The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans has requested help with yardwork for their week of services.

EmploymentGroup provides everything from administrative work to professional, technical, light industrial work, and more. In addition, their Managed Services division offers outsourced services such as mail and document management, archives, courier, shipping and receiving, custodial, and grounds services.

On an average work day, EmploymentGroup puts around 1,500-1,600 people to work at it customers’ locations. They currently have more than 100 open jobs to fill and Lancaster says many of these temporary jobs eventually lead to permanent employment.
The customers asked to nominate a nonprofit organization are those that currently have a strong relationship with EmploymentGroup and are doing good things in the community as well.

One of the surprising twists of the Give One - Get One program is that Flexfab, the company that nominated the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, has decided to donate its week of services to the nonprofit instead of using it themselves.

Lancaster says EmploymentGroup will most likely run a Give One - Get One program again next year with the hope of getting more nominations and more customers to participate.
To support the Give One - Get One initiative, here are some ways to get involved:  

-    Visit EmploymentGroup online to find out more about them and see if your company could benefit from their services.
-    Support the nonprofits selected in the Give One - Get One program by volunteering or donating:
      - The Grand Rapids Home for Veterans 
      - Literacy Center of West Michigan 
      - Kalamazoo Literacy Council 
-    Like the EmploymentGroup on Facebook.
-    Follow @EmploymentGroup on Twitter.

Source: Mark Lancaster, CEO of EmploymentGroup
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by EmploymentGroup.

Pure Michigan Blood saves Michigan lives

Did you know that nearly one out of every seven people admitted to the hospital will need blood, or that 4.5 million Americans would die each year without receiving a blood transfusion?

It’s true. And if you or someone you know has ever received blood from a Michigan hospital, it most likely came from Michigan Blood.

Their blood bank supplies blood to more than 37 hospitals across Michigan’s Lower Peninsula -- including 100 percent of the blood used at Grand Rapids hospitals -- and they make these Michigan hospitals their first priority before meeting any other needs. They like to say their blood is “Pure Michigan” and they encourage people to “recycle themselves.”

As a member of America’s Blood Centers, a nationwide community of connected blood banks in the U.S. and Canada, Michigan Blood also helps this organization provide almost 50 percent of the blood supply in America and 100 percent of Quebec’s blood supply each year.

Through its nine locations and more than 3,700 mobile blood drives, Michigan Blood receives 120,000 blood donations each year. That may seem like a lot, and it is, but more blood is always needed because it’s perishable and can only be stored for a short while.

“It’s getting harder to get people to donate,” says Jim Childress, VP of community relations, adding that it has become “more complicated because of demographics and the economy.”

One factor he cites is that some of the corporations who used to hold blood drives all the time have now gone out of business. Another reason they need more blood is that as Baby Boomers age, they’re needing blood in greater numbers, and the generations younger behind them are smaller in size.

Much of the blood they receive today comes from blood drives at schools, churches, and other organizations.
Although anyone over the age of 16 can donate blood, only four percent or less of the population does. Michigan Blood wants to increase this percentage to help save more lives. Whether people need the blood in case of an emergency, for cancer treatments, surgical needs, or any other reason, the organization would like more people to donate to ensure they can provide what is needed to Michigan hospitals.
“We need blood donations all day, every day,” Childress says. “The need never stops.”

In addition to being a blood bank, Michigan Blood participates in the Be The Match® Registry national bone marrow donor program, which is a “source of pride” for the organization.

Another program they’re proud of is the umbilical cord blood program where mothers can donate cord blood after birth. This type of blood is very useful to patients with complex medical conditions. Michigan Blood is the first public cord blood bank in the state.

Michigan Blood has a few fun events coming up to help raise money and awareness.

An upcoming Zombie Dash will benefit the Michigan Blood Stem Cell Program, which recruits potential marrow/stem cell donors for the National Marrow Donor Program’s Be The Match® Registry. Zombies everywhere are invited to meet at Ah-Nab-Awen Park at dusk on October 27. A link with more information can be found below.

Another fun event that will also benefit the Be The Match® program is the Swing Shift and the Stars Competition. In a fashion similar to Dancing with the Stars, celebrities dance once a month to raise money for charity and Michigan Blood is one of five charities selected this year. You don’t have to attend this event to participate; you can simply visit the website listed below and vote to show your support.

And if you need an incentive to give blood, anyone who tries to donate blood at select locations the day before Thanksgiving (Nov. 21) will get a pie as a gift. The holiday season is always one of the busiest times of the year for Michigan Blood, so this is their way of saying thank you.

“The need for blood doesn’t take a holiday,” says Childress.

If you would like to support Michigan Blood, here are several ways you can:
-    Visit Michigan Blood online to find out more information.
-    Donate blood. Mothers who wish to donate cord blood should call 616-233-8604 (or 866-MIBLOOD), or email cordblood@miblood.org.
-    Make a donation for Michigan Blood in the Swing Shift and the Stars Competition.
-    Volunteer with Michigan Blood.
-    Attend the Zombie Dash on October 27.
-    Join the Be The Match national bone marrow registry.
-    Like Michigan Blood on Facebook.
-    Follow @MIBlood on Twitter.

Sources: Jim Childress, Vice President of Community Relations at Michigan Blood, and Meredith Gremel, Director of Public Relations and Marketing
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Images provided by Michigan Blood.

Habitat for Humanity offers construction skills to women

Just because construction is typically a man’s work, that doesn’t mean women can’t also learn the same skills and build a house from the ground up.

This fall, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County (Habitat Kent) is offering onsite classes for women on everything from house framing to trim carpentry, priming and painting, flooring, landscaping, and more with its new Women Build program.

Habitat Kent hosted a National Women Build Week event for women in the past that coincided around Mother’s day and was designed to bring mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and aunts together to work on a house. The new Women Build program takes the weeklong program much further and, over a six-month period, teaches women the construction skills needed to build a house from start to finish.

The daylong classes start Nov. 16 and happen Fridays and Saturdays through May 11. There’s about a two-month break between mid-December to mid-February to give skilled professionals such as electricians and plumbers time to work on the house.

The complete schedule is online and women can choose to participate in any or all classes, or “whatever they’re comfortable with and whatever they can fit in,” says Amy Snow-Buckner, donor relations coordinator.

At the Habitat Kent house volunteer sites, Snow-Buckner says many of the volunteers who come have never done anything like this before so there’s always an orientation and safety guidelines shared at the beginning of each day.

Women must be age 16 and up for most Women Build classes, with a few exceptions where only those 18 or older can participate. Six of the classes also allow teenage girls as young as 14 to attend.

This year’s Women Build house is located at 307 Robey SE and the goal is to finish it the weekend before Mother’s day. A landscaping party will be held then so women of every generation can spend quality time together volunteering.

Habitat Kent, in collaboration with the new homeowners, volunteers and community organizations, rehabilitates or builds an average of 30 houses each year. Women are the head of the household in 66 percent of these homes. That’s part of the reason the organization wants to get more women involved in the construction process. The other reason is to empower women and teach them invaluable skills they can use in their own homes.  

“This is a great opportunity for women of all walks of life to come together and help hardworking families obtain affordable housing,” Snow-Buckner says.

To qualify for a Habitat home, a family must have a clear need for new housing, meet certain income and job requirements, and come up with money down. Each family also has to perform 300-500 “sweat equity” volunteer hours, either by working at the new house site or in the office.

Since Habitat Kent began in 1983, they have helped more than 350 families become homeowners. And since 2007, all of the homes are designed to be LEED-certified and energy efficient to ensure the lowest possible utility bills.

In partnership with the program, Lowe’s, a major sponsor of the Women Build house, will soon be offering clinics at its Plainfield Avenue location, too.

Habitat Kent has created a Women Build Steering Committee to help recruit more volunteers and raise funds so it can become an annual program. So far, 13 women -- some well known in the community and some from the construction industry -- have signed on, with openings for a few more members.

“There is a lot of enthusiasm in the community surrounding Women Build," says Snow-Buckner. "Women are embracing the program and wanting to be a part of it."

If you’re a woman who wants to learn construction skills and help a hardworking family own a home, here’s how to get involved with the Habitat Kent Women Build program:

-    Visit the Habitat for Humanity of Kent County Women Build program online to find out more.
-    Sign up for a Women Build class by calling 616-588-5240 or via email.
-    Inquire about being on the Women Build Steering Committee by contacting Amy Snow-Buckner at 616-588-5248 or via email.
-    Make an in-kind donation for Women Build by contacting Habitat Kent’s Director of Gifts In-Kind, Roger Peterman, at 616-588-5223 or via email.
-    Donate to Habitat Kent.
-    Volunteer with Habitat Kent in a variety of ways. Sign up here.
-    Like them on Facebook.

Source: Amy Snow-Buckner, Donor Relations Coordinator of Habitat for Humanity of Kent County
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Photos provided by Habitat for Humanity of Kent County.

GRadPICS offers professional senior portraits free to GRPS students

When professional photographer Terry Johnston discovered that most high school senior portraits cost around $1,200-1,400, his first thought was, “I need to take more senior photos!”

Then he realized that the average family in the Grand Rapids Public School (GRPS) district where he lives probably had difficulty affording those prices. He soon found out he was right.

Many students at GRPS choose to skip having their senior pictures taken because it’s not in the family budget. And without a senior portrait, there’s no lasting yearbook photo.

“85 percent of our students qualify for free or reduced lunches,” says Ron Gorman, GRPS executive director of high schools and alternative education, referring to the National School Lunch Program and the district’s economically disadvantaged residents.

Johnston is one of three subcontracted photographers who shoots for Stellafly Social Media, a company that currently has a partnership with GRPS that's focused on promoting awareness about the school system, its programs and events through social media.

When Johnston approached Stellafly Founder Laura Caprara and shared his idea for providing free senior portraits to high school seniors, it seemed like a logical extension of the GRPS partnership and together, they created GRadPICS.

“It was one of those things that just made sense,” says Johnston.

GRadPICS provides GRPS high school seniors with two free senior portraits to choose from. Now in its second year, the organization has partnered this year with Color Inc. and Unitprints.com to be able to offer the seniors a free portrait package as well.

In order for GRPS seniors to qualify for the free portraits, they had to attend classes for the entire day on Oct. 2, which was the State’s Student Count Day. School funding is determined based on the amount of students in school on this day and organizers thought it was the perfect way to incentivize the 600-plus seniors in the district.

On Nov. 1, a team of professional photographers and assistants will visit each of the six high schools in the GRPS district -- Creston High School, Central High School, GR Montessori, Union High School, City High School, and Ottawa Hills High School -- and spend the day shooting portraits. Gorman estimates 20-30 percent of students will take advantage of the professional photography.

Johnston says that by the time they host the GRadPICS photo shoots in the fall, many of the students who can afford to hire someone have already done so over the summer. This way, the organization doesn’t take away from other photographers who shoot senior portraits for a fee.  

Professional photographers involved in GRadPICS this year include: Terry Johnston, Tim Motley, Ian Anderson, Katy Batdorff, TJ Hamilton, Rob Smith, Michelle Smith, Steven David Branon, and Raeanna Anglen. Assisting the photographers that day are: Danielle DeWitt, Richard App, Marcel Thibert, and Mark Curtis.

Gorman says he is “excited about GRadPICS this year because more planning has taken place and more students are involved.”

Johnston knew he was doing the right thing last year when a student came up to him and said he couldn’t wait to show his mom because he had never had a professional photo taken before.

“This is about the kids,” says Johnston, adding that he’s grateful for all of the people involved who’ve chosen to take a day off to shoot the senior portraits and help the students.

Here’s where you can find more information about GRadPICS:
-    Contact Stellafly Social Media if you want to volunteer your time.
-    Visit Grand Rapids Public Schools online.
-    Visit Color Inc. Digital Pro Lab online.
-    Visit UnitPrints.com online.
-    Visit Stellafly Social Media online.
-    Visit Terry Johnston Photography online.
-    Like GRadPICS on Facebook.
-    Like GRPS on Facebook.

Sources: Ron Gorman, Executive Director of High Schools and Alternative Education at Grand Rapids Public Schools; Terry Johnston, Photographer at GRadPICS and Terry Johnston Photography; and Laura Caprara, Social Media Strategist at GRadPICS and Stellafly Social Media
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor

Photography provided by GRadPICS.  
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