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RapidBlog: Center for Community Leadership celebrates 30 years of Leadership Grand Rapids

Kim McLaughlin

As Leadership Grand Rapids celebrates 30 years in West Michigan, Kim McLaughlin, vice president of member and community enrichment at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber, offers a glimpse inside the beloved program and celebrates some notable community trustees doing good work in this week's RapidBlog.
Thirty years ago, visionary professionals within Grand Rapids realized something was missing from our community: A program for developing and connecting future community leaders.  

In 1982, City Manager Steve Bernard proposed an idea to the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce: Leadership Grand Rapids. After two years of brainstorming and collaborating with other local leaders, Leadership Grand Rapids (LGR) was officially established in 1985 and the first LGR class began.  

The Center for Community Leadership (CCL), a 501(c)3 organization and a part of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber Foundation, helps educate and connect leaders from business, nonprofits and government. Participants in Leadership Grand Rapids, along with other CCL programs, learn about our community’s opportunities and challenges, as well as important issues impacting the area. We examine how all of our systems (education, healthcare, poverty, public safety) are interconnected, and hope that our program graduates have a more comprehensive understanding of the issues facing our city and will be better prepared to serve as a Community Trustee – leaders serving for the community.

Today the Center for Community Leadership has helped cultivate and equip more than 1,000 graduates of the Leadership Grand Rapids program. These inspiring individual have made an exceptional impact on Grand Rapids, have invested their lives into pursuing the overall well-being of our community, and work to shape Grand Rapids into a growing, vibrant city.

To celebrate 30 years of LGR, we’re incredibly proud to honor 30 exceptional Leadership Grand Rapids alumni during the upcoming Center for Community Leadership’s 30th Anniversary Annual Fundraiser on April 30 at the JW Marriott. These honorees were selected by LGR alumni for representing the spirit of the program and continuous dedication and engagement with the community.

Without a doubt, there are a number of “unsung heroes” in our community who’ve dedicated their time and passions to the betterment of Grand Rapids. These individuals have made their mark by serving in elected office, leading businesses, establishing cultural programs, and working towards solutions to community challenges such as racism and poverty – all while having big dreams for the future of our city. 

For example, Louise “Punky” Edison, development director at West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology and one of this year’s honorees, has been a passionate contributor to the Grand Rapids nonprofit sector for over 30 years in areas of arts, education, cancer support, substance abuse and volunteer management. She also helped establish (and served as the first president of) Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities, a nonprofit whose mission is to enrich the lives of neighborhood youth through diverse and engaging programs at both the Cook Art Center and Cook Library Center.?

Another notable leader and honoree in the community is Tony Baker, a sociology professor and director for community engagement at Ferris State University. While at Ferris State University, he's founded the Center for Latino Studies, an essential program that has transformed the ways in which the university connects with the Latino community in West Michigan. He also serves as the president of the Grand Rapids Public School Board and has been very involved in leading the district’s Transformation Plan.  

Community leaders like Edison, Baker and the 28 other LGR honorees are at the heart of Grand Rapids, sparking greatness within our community. It has been so inspiring to see these passionate individuals come forth from the community to transform Grand Rapids through their talents and extraordinary leadership. These leaders have dedicated their resources and talents to transform Grand Rapids into a top of mind region; without these movers and shakers, Grand Rapids wouldn’t be the flourishing city we know today.

We hope you’ll join us as we celebrate 30 remarkable people during the Center for Community Leadership’s Annual Fundraiser. Our upcoming event is critical to help us raise scholarship funds that help enable many to participate in CCL’s various community leadership and skill-building programs, including Leadership Grand Rapids. Over $20,000 in scholarships were granted in 2014. For more information about the Center for Community Leadership’s 30th Anniversary, contact Kim McLaughlin at mclaughlink@grandrapids.org or visit grandrapids.org/ccl-fundraiser.
Kim McLaughlin currently is the Vice President of Member and Community Enrichment at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber. She has been on the Chamber team since 2012. Kim currently is on the Economic Development Corporation/Brownfield Authority Board for the City of Grand Rapids, the Varnum Diversity and Inclusion Council and the DGRI Downtown Master Plan Committee. She has served on the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital Foundation Board of Trustees and David D. Hunting YMCA Board of Directors. Kim is a member of the Leadership Grand Rapids Class of 2010, THE BEST CLASS EVER!

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