Street Talk: Opening their drawers


A racial equity lending fund is tapping a new foundation for help funding its services.

Rende Progress Capital and the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union Desk Drawer Fund said Nov. 22 that they have formed a partnership to enhance RPC’s business technical assistance and inclusive lending services within Kent County.

The services target “excluded entrepreneurs” seeking help to prepare them for small business loans in order to “increase business ownership, eliminate the racial wealth gap and provide them alternatives to the barriers they face in some conventional lending.”

The Desk Drawer Fund — a new foundation of MSUFCU — was established to support initiatives that promote its pillars of financial education and fostering entrepreneurship.

Eric Foster, RPC co-founder, chair and managing director, said the fund will enable RPC to continue its business technical assistance and pre-loan readiness sessions to help entrepreneurs improve areas of their business in preparation to obtain potential loans.

The partnership also includes support of RPC’s activities and day-to-day operations.

“I am excited that (MSUFCU’s) values of community engagement and awards in diversity and inclusion connect with our unique mission to address the challenging issues of advancing economic equity for ethnically diverse entrepreneurs,” Foster said.

This is RPC’s first partnership with a credit union as a funding and organizational partner.

“The partnership (between) Rende Progress Capital and the Desk Drawer Fund will help entrepreneurs identify opportunities and obtain resources to realize their dreams,” said Whitney Anderson-Harrell, executive director of the Desk Drawer Fund and MSUFCU’s chief community development officer.

Air share

The majority of flights between the Gerald R. Ford International Airport and Chicago now will be via a new 50-seat, two-cabin aircraft.

United Airlines’ newest fleet addition is the Bombardier CRJ-550, a regional jet that flies to 15 routes from Chicago, including to Grand Rapids. An additional 10 routes will come online in the coming months.

The plane is the same size as a 70-seat plane but contains only 50 seats, 10 being first class and the rest economy.

“The aircraft features more legroom, storage and amenities than any other regional aircraft flying today,” United said.

There’s space on the aircraft for every customer to bring a roller bag on board, eliminating the need to check bags. The plane also includes complimentary Wi-Fi.

Passengers riding in the first-class cabinet have access to a self-serve snacks and beverages center, similar to those offered in United’s international aircraft premium cabins.

Available only for the CRJ-550 for now, customers booking through can view their seats before buying using the virtual seat map. The virtual seat map provides a walkthrough of the first-class refreshment center, suitcase cabinets and overhead bins.


Rockford Construction, the city of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Art Museum were on hand last week to bring holiday cheer to the heart of Grand Rapids in the form of a 41-foot concolor white fir tree.

The Christmas tree traveled more than 100 miles from Dutchman Tree Farms in Manton to Rosa Parks Circle for installation.

The annual tradition takes months to plan and many partners to pull off without a hitch, and the time from delivery to tree lighting alone takes over a week. Decoration will take place in Rosa Parks Circle on Dec. 2, followed by the annual tree lighting from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 6.

"This collaborative project is a team effort taking months of strategy and planning, which many people don't realize," said Shane Napper, president at Rockford Construction. "This tree installation is a staple for the Grand Rapids community and just one of the many examples that make this city special. The tree installation the tree installation and decoration are one of the most exciting projects we get to work on each year and a great way for us to help make our community brighter for the holiday season."

Rockford Construction has been involved in the annual Christmas tree project for over 10 years.

Plans for the annual tree installation were included in long-term planning during construction of the Grand Rapids Art Museum. At the time, the teams developed an underground foundation hidden under the brick pavers in front of the museum. Year after year, installers remove pavers to unearth the secret foundation so that the tree can be placed safely and securely each year.

“We are grateful for our community partners who help make this such a fun holiday tradition,” Grand Rapids Office of Special Events Supervisor Evette Pittman said. “We look forward to the tree delivery and decoration every year. Thanks to everyone involved in handling the logistics effortlessly and adding holiday cheer to the city we call home.”

In addition to Rockford, the city and the museum, other partners on the installation include Buist Electric, Gelock Heavy Movers and Shine Decorators. The entire installation is handled on a volunteer and donation basis.

Strength in numbers

Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services is participating in a National Institute of Mental Health study related to major depressive disorder. The study convenes investigators from around the world to carry out a genetic study of MDD treated with electroconvulsive therapy.

NIMH awarded more than $5 million to fund the Genetics of ECT study over five years. The National Network of Depression Centers, along with seven allied ECT centers in the U.S., has joined forces with the Psychiatric Genomics Consortium to conduct this study on a global scale. Pine Rest and Michigan State University are participating through their joint associate membership in the NNDC.

This study aims to collect genetic samples from 15,000 patients receiving ECT for severe depression across the U.S., plus an additional 10,000 patients from ECT centers around the world. The driving goal of the study is to identify genetic variation that 1) contributes to risk for severe MDD and indicates which patients may be good candidates for ECT, and 2) influences response to ECT and predict which patients may benefit from treatment.

“This is a landmark study,” said Peter Zandi, co-principal investigator, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, “representing not only the largest study of ECT ever conducted but one with potential to greatly improve how we understand cases of depression that are difficult to treat traditionally.”

The hope is that comparing genetic profiles of patients who receive ECT with how well the treatment works for each patient will shed some light on how ECT works, who it works for and how to identify the best candidates for ECT treatment.

The co-principal investigators are Zandi, Dr. Patrick Sullivan of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Dr. Richard Weiner of Duke University School of Medicine; Dr. Daniel Maixner of the University of Michigan; and Dr. Irving Reti of Johns Hopkins Medicine.

The study began enrolling patients who will give a blood sample for genetic testing. Patients will answer some depression questionnaires with nursing staff before, during and after treatments, which is already done as part of current patient care.

“Many studies are limited by small sample sizes, but with genetic studies, large sample sizes allow for better detection of trends or correlations,” said Dr. Eric Achtyes, Pine Rest’s principal investigator for the study. “Research like this, with many partners in a global network, allows the aggregation of data in a way individual institutions could not accomplish on their own.”

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