Street Talk: City funds Latino leaders


Initiatives that address issues of economic disparity, workforce development, civic engagement and leadership development in the Latino community are getting a boost from the city.

The Economic Development Corporation — a board comprised of business and community members, including Mayor Rosalynn Bliss — recently approved two one-year agreements: one with Ferris State University to support a training series for Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs and another with the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce for its business workshop series.

The city will provide up to $20,000 for Ferris Emprende — a nine-week program that trains Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs and encourages entrepreneurship. The program emphasizes lifestyle businesses that can drive economic growth along the Grandville Avenue corridor on the city’s southwest side. Lifestyle businesses are small individually or family-owned businesses, such as restaurants, salons, boutiques and professional services. Ferris Emprende, which is offered in the spring and fall, is part of the Ferris State University Latino Business and Economic Development Center’s Latino Entrepreneurship Initiative.

The city also will provide up to $7,000 for the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Talleres Empresariales, or business workshops, series. Topics include accounting, branding, business insurance, cybersecurity and social media.

“We are committed to supporting innovation and entrepreneurship at the neighborhood level,” said Kara Wood, the city’s managing director of economic development services. “These investments in direct services support our community’s diverse neighborhood business districts and potential entrepreneurs.”

Ferris Emprende is facilitated by Spanish-speaking entrepreneurs and provides weekly sessions with business coaches who help participants explore and develop their business ideas. Program graduates receive ongoing technical assistance, as well as assistance with funding, business establishment, networking, marketing and community connections to other resources in the region. The program graduates at least 20 people each year.

“We are grateful to the city for partnering with us as we develop and support Latino entrepreneurs,” said Carlos Sanchez, director of the LBEDC. “This is the kind of collaboration that changes communities for generations to come.”

Last year’s Talleres Empresariales attracted 200 participants, including 50 business owners in Grand Rapids, according to Guillermo Cisneros, executive director of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Local experts and professionals lead the monthly workshops.

Cisneros emphasized the need to bridge the gap between Hispanic-owned businesses and resources.

“Twenty-two percent of Hispanics ages 18-64 in Grand Rapids live below the poverty line,” Cisneros said. “We need to decrease poverty and teach upward mobility — and Talleres Empresariales helps us do just that.”

Apple a day

SpartanNash is using fruit giveaways to encourage healthy eating choices for children.

The grocery store chain recently launched its “Free Fresh Fruit for Kids” program in its retail stores. 

Using designated bins near the front of produce sections in SpartanNash retail stores, the Free Fresh Fruit for Kids program encourages children to grab a banana or clementine to snack on while their parents shop the store. 

“We are proud to offer these fresh fruit options for kids and encourage healthier eating habits,” said Ted Adornato, executive vice president and general manager of corporate retail at SpartanNash. “It supports our health and wellness initiatives to inspire families to eat healthier in every aisle of our stores.”

The program is available in Family Fare Supermarkets, D&W Fresh Market, VG’s Grocery, Dan’s Supermarket and Family Fresh Market locations in seven states. In total, 136 stores offer the produce bins.

Wellness specialists work with community partners to raise awareness about programs such as Free Fresh Fruit for Kids and provide resources about nutrition and optimal food choices through in-store wellness activities, such as grocery store tours, cooking classes and healthy food sampling. 

Home run

Spring allegedly has arrived in West Michigan, but the housing market remains hotter than the weather.

Eventually, the weather will be conducive to home improvements projects.

Woodland Mall is taking advantage of the timing to host the Home and Lifestyle Show, which offers shoppers ideas for updating their homes.

The event takes place from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. April 13 and 14, and noon-6 p.m. April 15.

West Michigan professionals specializing in flooring, kitchens, countertops, roofing, siding and landscaping will have booths at the show to help guests on new projects.

“We love being the destination for West Michigan shoppers to find everything they need in one location,” said Lyndsey Hicks, Woodland Mall marketing director. “This event expands on all that Woodland Mall already offers.”

Home improvement exhibitors include 1-800-Hansons, Mosquito Joe, Infinity Home Improvements, Re-Bath Grand Rapids, Champion Windows & Home Exteriors, All Green Corp., H2Oasis Inc., Pampered Chef, Klean Gutters Midwest and more.

The Home and Lifestyle show coincides with Woodland Mall’s current expansion to include more specialty stores. High-end clothing retailer Von Maur is expected to open in the old Sears location in 2019, and most recently, lifestyle clothing brand Vans opened its first West Michigan store within the mall.

Series reminder

Sunset Retirement Communities and Services will host The Savvy Caregiver, a six-week educational series that will provide family caregivers with training and education to care for their loved ones.

Kim Vazquez, access services supervisor at Senior Resources of West Michigan, is presenting the series. 

Weekly classes will be held 1-3 p.m. each Tuesday between April 17 and May 22 at Waterford Place, 1725 Port Sheldon Road, in Jenison. 

The only cost to participate is $10 for the purchase of a workbook. Participants must sign up by April 13.

Developed in conjunction with experts and researchers from Emory University, Duke University, the University of Minnesota and Michigan State University, The Savvy Caregiver is recommended by the U.S. Administration on Aging and the Administration on Community Living. 

Series topics include coping with dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases, managing the demands of caregiving, improving caregiving skills and everyday activities.

“We are encouraging our neighbors to honor their loved ones by becoming a savvy caregiver,” said Chris Matzke, chief operating officer of Sunset Retirement Communities and Services. “The Savvy Caregiver empowers family caregivers to understand the changes their loved ones are experiencing and how to care for them throughout the progression of Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia.”

According to prevalence projections by the Alzheimer’s Association, by 2025, more than 6,000 adults with dementia in Kent and Ottawa counties will require assistance with care in either an assisted living or nursing home. Current capacity in both counties is 440.

“For many families, caregiving is a new role that requires guidance and information,” Vazquez said. “The Savvy Caregiver helps family caregivers reduce stress in their lives while creating a better life for their loved one living with memory loss or dementia.”

The public can register for The Savvy Caregiver by calling (616) 254-8090, via email at or online on the company’s Facebook page. 

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