Life of giving enriches everyone

Editor's note: This column is part of a series by Lakeshore residents about their experiences living through the COVID-19 pandemic.

My life has always been centered around giving. It’s just in my DNA. The turn our world has taken has just given us more opportunities to find the places where we can make a difference.

When life was “normal,” before COVID-19, one of my greatest pleasures was to spend time volunteering or visiting with elementary classrooms at Vanderbilt Charter Academy, where I serve on the board. Another board I'm grateful to serve on is Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital.

With “at home” schooling now taking place, our family decided to deliver a couple of care packages to two very special children that have touched our lives in different ways. Their world has been flipped upside down, and we wanted to bring them a little bit of joy with art supplies, treats, and toys.

Serving the community

Our family filled and donated food boxes to the Community Action House, allowing other families in Holland to rest assured they were set for at least that week. 

Related: Emergency grants, community donations provide thousands of meals

When the chance to sponsor some hero packets for frontline workers at Spectrum Health Zeeland Community Hospital presented itself, we were so very honored to be able to give. These packages included hand lotion, lip balm, masks, and ear protectors. A hero package and a thank you just don’t seem enough for all that these very brave people are doing. 

I also received a request to support immigrants in the Grand Haven area. What a great way to show those who already feel displaced that they are important. 

LAUP Chairman Ed Amaya with scholarship winners.

This is also a big part of the reason that I feel compelled to be involved with Latin Americans United For Progress (LAUP). My involvement with this organization began when I attended their annual golf outing more than 10 years ago. This day led to me becoming a board member shortly thereafter, then board chair, and currently pro bono Interim Executive Director for the past 18 months while still running my business. LAUP serves the Latino population in the greater Holland area, and being Latino myself, this role is dear to my heart. While not an easy task, the call to serve and give, as I said, is just in my DNA.

Supporting employees

As the owner of a small business, Kenowa Industries, I realize how important my team is to its success. Each employee represents a person, and possibly a family, that Kenowa has the privilege of supporting. 

With the uncertainty in the world right now, the last thing I wanted was to have them worry about whether they would have a paycheck or have to file for unemployment. I made the announcement to all employees, including those from temp services who were with us when we stopped working, that Kenowa would be paying them their full salary, even though our business is closed. I made this commitment to each employee before the federal Paycheck Protection Program went into place. 

Each Easter, we hand out hams, and I was not willing to let that tradition be squashed by the pandemic. We set up a drive-thru for each employee to be able to do a contact-free ham pick-up. It was great to be able to see them for a quick minute and wish them a blessed Easter. 

Paying it forward

Finally, our family decided to bless a restaurant that is constantly blessing the Holland community. The Crazy Horse, while known for its great food, is owned by a family that constantly is blessing others. Our family decided to continue supporting them by ordering takeout lunch each Friday for the month of April, and placing a large donation in their tip jar each week. We want to make a difference to a team that makes a difference every day. 

We are truly blessed and are honored to be able to bless others during this uncertain and trying time. We are choosing to be the light in the midst of the storm, demonstrating our belief that you will never be poor when you live a life of giving. 

Ed Amaya is the owner of Kenowa Industries and a community volunteer. 

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.