There's a theory that only the good die young and in this case, it seems it's true. Beloved Grand Rapids Press editor and longtime journalist Andy Angelo passed away last summer from complications of asthma. He was only 55.
His kind, generous spirit touched the lives of so many people -- this writer included -- and after his death, his wife Mary, their two children, Press employees, and several others in the community wondered how they could honor his memory. Andy had given so much and cared so deeply, and they wanted to find a way to celebrate his kindheartedness permanently -- in a "bricks-and-mortar" kind of way.
A logical place to start was in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood where he devoted countless hours of his time. Andy and Mary Angelo helped create Grandville Avenue Arts and Humanities, which oversees the Cook Arts Center and the Cook Library Center. Andy served on the board of directors and at one time, as board president. He was also the driving force behind the organization's annual June fundraiser, Día del Sol, now in its 12th year.
Mary Angelo and a group of women affectionately known as "Andy’s Girls" recently came up with the idea to build a Habitat for Humanity house to honor Andy. When they requested several months back that the house be located in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood, little did they know it would be right on Grandville Avenue with a perfect view of the Cook Arts Center across the street.
Mary says Andy would have loved that, and seeing the pink construction flag on the corner made her heart "skip a beat."
Members of Andy's Girls include Mary Angelo, daughter Sarah Otis, Meegan Holland, Mary Ann Sabo, Sue Schroder, and Amy Snow-Buckner. (Snow-Buckner, the assigned Habitat staff liaison for the project, worked at the Grand Rapids Press with Andy for eight years prior to becoming the Donor Relations Coordinator for the nonprofit.)
Sometime in mid-July, Andy's Girls and Habitat volunteers will break ground on "The House That Andy Built," a two-story home located at 661 Grandville Avenue.
"Andy was a fabulous guy and probably more than anyone knew," says Angelo. "This is the perfect tribute to his memory and it feels like the right thing to do."
It's estimated the house will take approximately 45 volunteer days to complete and cost $125,000. Fundraising has already begun and several large donations have recently been secured, including a starting gift from the Cook Foundation.
Angelo says she's grateful to be working with Habitat as they know what they're doing when it comes to building houses and raising the money needed.
"We don't need to reinvent the wheel," she says. "Habitat has already done that -- it's rolling down the road and we need to jump on it!"
A website and Facebook page have been developed so those interested can follow the progress of Andy's house. When asked about the green Converse high top shoes on the website, Angelo says they were actually Andy's and in a color so out of character for him.
"If you asked anyone what his favorite color was, the answer would probably be brown," she says, sharing a story about Andy noticing the shoes in a store window in Manhattan and insisting they go back the next day to buy them -- a purchase that definitely surprised her.
And while the shoes may have been a surprise, the community's "heartwarming" response so far to The House That Andy Built has not surprised her.
"Andy was greatly loved by so many people," says Angelo.
If you knew Andy Angelo, or if you simply want to honor a compassionate man who left this world too soon, there are many ways you can get involved. Here are some ideas:
- Like The House That Andy Built on Facebook
- Gather a group of friends, coworkers, or others to create a team of 12-15 people to volunteer for a day. Habitat estimates they will need this many people each day for about 45 days of construction. Email Mary Angelo
or Joni Jessup
at Habitat to sign up.
- Volunteer by yourself and join a team. Habitat will provide all training, but if physical labor is not your idea of a good time, offer to feed the volunteers for a day.
- Donate toward the cost of the house. You can send a check to Habitat for Humanity of Kent County, 425 Pleasant St. SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 or donate online
. Either way, be sure to note that you'd like your contribution to go to Andy's House.
- Locate building and landscaping supplies such as nails, tile, shingles, plants, and more and donate these toward the project.
- Host your own fundraiser and donate the proceeds to Andy's House.
Sources: Mary Angelo, Andy's wife, and Amy Snow-Buckner, Donor Relations Coordinator for Habitat for Humanity of Kent County
Writer: Heidi Stukkie, Do Good Editor
Images provided by The House That Andy Built.