Grand Haven

Emergency grants help nonprofits get more food, services to those in need

In Ottawa County, nonprofits are moving quickly to respond to the economic fallout of the coronavirus pandemic.

The nonprofits have been on the frontlines of helping people whose lives have been turned upside down. In two weeks, jobs and schooling disappeared, along with closures and mass event cancellations that are part of an effort to stop the spread of the COVID-19 disease that has killed more than 19,000 people globally, according to worldometer.

“We’re worried. We should be,” says Josh Bytwerk, executive director of Love in Action of the Tri-Cities, who believes that getting through this unprecedented challenge will hinge on coming together as communities.

“You know compassion is the best antidote for fear. So once you start to care for people, you stop being afraid, and that's what happens here every day,” Bytwerk says. 

The Grand Haven nonprofit is able to respond to a need that has more than tripled, thanks to $10,000 in emergency grants. The money is coming from a newly formed coalition that includes the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area (CFHZ), the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation (GHACF), and the Greater Ottawa County United Way.

The coalition, created to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, began by giving nearly $120,000 from the Emergency Human Needs Fund to more than a dozen area nonprofit organizations in the first week. 

History of collaboration

One reason the coalition was able to quickly disperse the emergency funds is that the county’s nonprofits have a long history of collaborating with each other, says Hadley Streng, president of GHACF, which is overseeing the disbursement of the grants. 

“We have that knowledge and working relationship with them. We've been able to understand what their needs are and proactively provide funding so that they can best serve the community,” Streng says. 
Volunteers at Love In Action of the Tri-Cities sort food donations.
Love in Action has not only ramped up food distribution for northwest Ottawa County but streamlined the process to make it easier for families to quickly access food.

“It's really a big change,” says Bytwerk. “We spent thousands of extra dollars on food already and shifted our staffing to our food operation so we can serve more people. Every day, we are serving three to five times the number of people we were serving just a few weeks ago.”

Food distribution

The Grand Haven-based nonprofit is using the funding to expand three food distribution programs: Backpack Blessings, food truck deliveries, and a church pantry program.

Backpack Blessings is providing six to-go lunch and breakfast meals plus two snacks weekly that parents can grab for their kids, who don’t have to be present at pickup. The meals are available Mondays — from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4-7 p.m. — at Robinson, Ferry and Lake Hills Elementary schools, as well as Hope Church on Mercury Drive. 

Volunteers at Love in Action of the Tri-Cities organized food to give to those in need.A Feeding America truck will distribute food at St. Patrick's Parish in Grand Haven every other Friday at 10 a.m. The next delivery is April 3 (schedule here). The boxes are filled with a mix of nonperishable and frozen food.

Instead of requiring recipients to meet with case managers to assess needs, Love In Action is now providing vouchers so people can access food quickly from local church pantries, which are open every weekday.

Bytwerk is asking for people who can contribute their time and drop off food and other items at collection bins at YMCA, Grand Haven City Hall, WGHN radio station, Love in Action donation center at 1106 Fulton St., All Shores Wesleyan Church, and Covenant Life Church. 

Funding distribution

The coalition’s first round of funding was dispersed to seven area nonprofit organizations:

$750 to Barnabas Ministries
$5,000 to Community Action House
$5,000 to Good Samaritan Ministries
$5,000 to Kids Food Basket (Holland)
$5,000 to Love in Action
$5,000 to Love Inc of Allendale
$5,000 to Love Inc of Hudsonville 

A few days later, there was a second round of emergency grants additional $87,700 from the Emergency Human Needs Fund to 13 area nonprofit organizations to assist with food, housing (or shelter), and health:

$2,700 to City on a Hill
$5,000 to Community Action House
$5,000 to Coopersville Cares
$5,000 to Four Pointes Center for Successful Aging
$20,000 to Good Samaritan Ministries
$5,000 to Harvest Stand Ministries
$10,000 to Holland Rescue Mission
$5,000 to Love in Action
$5,000 to Love Inc Allendale
$5,000 to Love Inc Hudsonville
$7,500 to The People Center
$5,000 to Resilience
$7,500 to The Salvation Army (Grand Haven)
More grants will be needed. The community coalition has created a website to help with the rising need for volunteers, donations of both goods and funds, and ongoing updates:

Streng says the donations have already begun coming in, and the generosity of the community will allow nonprofits to continue to respond to this crisis.

“We're really looking at the food, housing/shelter and health needs of the community right now. The nonprofits are working hard, providing the services. We wanted to be there to support them financially.”

This article is part of The Lakeshore, a new featured section of Rapid Growth focused on West Michigan's Lakeshore region. Over the coming months, Rapid Growth will be expanding to cover the complex challenges in this community by focusing on the organizations, projects, programs and individuals working to improve conditions and solve problems for their region. As the coverage continues, look for The Lakeshore publication, coming in 2020.
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