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Make New Friends: Grand Rapids' First House Party

Crain's, Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) and The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce are partnering next Wednesday on a unique event tailored toward new Grand Rapidians. Inspired by Detroit House Party, an event that's been running successfully for seven years on the East side of the state, Grand Rapids House Party has a "similar model, but a different purpose," according to Rick Baker, President and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

"in Detroit, Crain's started having the party there to showcase the different housing opportunities [in the City of Detroit]," Baker says. "So, when we started talking about it, our purpose was not necessarily showcasing the housing options, but helping new people in the community connect."

What's different about House Party compared to other mixers of its kind is that the first portion of the event actually takes place in a home where someone lives. "Like most of us when we have a party at our own home or like when we went to [Detroit House Party], meeting in someone's home is a little more personal," Baker says. "You're meeting in smaller groups of 10-30 people, and you're really connecting with the other people that are there. You start to build friendships and lifelong relationships with people."

Baker says that some of the people he met at Detroit House Party are people he has maintained a connection with. And while the target audience remains people who are relatively new to the area, House Party could also benefit those who are looking to expand their circle of friends or meet new people. Attendees signed up so far come from a diverse age range, all at different stages of their career.

"We don't want them to just be all new people," Baker says, who has only been in Grand Rapids a year or so himself. "We want a mix of established people who will welcome them."

One of the Chamber's goals, Baker says, is to help Grand Rapids become a magnetic community for talent -- one that attracts, but also retains. House Party is one of the strategies the Chamber is implementing to achieve this goal.

The attendants of House Party will arrive at one of five house parties on Wednesday, August 29 at 5:30 p.m. The five locations include downtown condos, a home in Heritage Hill and Peaches Bed and Breakfast, says the Chamber's Program and Events Manger, Alexis Rangel. "It's just amazing how many homeowners we had willing to open up," Rangel says. "We had to cut if off just to fill the homes we had." Rangel says each house party will include light appetizers and cocktails.

At 7:30 p.m., the five parties will come together and the scene will shift to the newly renovated headquarters of technology company OST (605 Seward NW). This three-floor, industrial chic venue used to be the home of a board game manufacturer, and features a rooftop patio overlooking Grand Rapids.

The Chamber intends this event to be an annual one. When the event is over, they will evaluate and make improvements for next year. The cost of attending both segments is $60. Attending only the afterglow party at OST is $40. Members of Grand Rapids Young Professionals (GRYP) can get a discounted ticket to both events for $40 by registering through Rangel. Interested parties should visit House Party online here, or call 616.771.0303 to register.

J. Bennett Rylah is the Managing Editor of Rapid Growth Media.
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