Street Talk: Home for Thanksgiving takes on new meaning

Stepping up.

Kids’ Food Basket (KFB) is partnering with Mel Trotter Ministries (MTM) to bring a healthy and nutritious Thanksgiving meal to Kent County families in need. In lieu of the annual Thanksgiving Banquet held at DeVos Place, which has been canceled due to COVID-19, families now will receive a prepackaged Thanksgiving dinner via participating pantries. A list is at

Traditionally, Mel Trotter Ministries has served a Thanksgiving dinner to nearly 2,000 people at DeVos Place on Thanksgiving Day. As an extension of its mission, the goal is to create a sense of community and belonging, while providing a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for homeless and under-resourced families in Kent County.

“We acknowledge individuals and families are hurting as a result of COVID-19, and Mel Trotter focuses on hunger relief as a part of (its) overall mission,” said Bridget Clark Whitney, president and CEO of Kids’ Food Basket. “Anytime there is a need to provide emergency or sustained relief for families who lack nourishing food, Kids’ Food Basket is humbled to be involved, because good food is the medicine. That is more important than ever.”

From 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 18, Mel Trotter will collect turkeys for its annual Turkey Drop, a yearly event taking place the week before Thanksgiving. The community is encouraged to donate frozen turkeys or $15 toward the purchase of one and drop them off at either Celebration Cinema! North or South.

Last year, more than 1,600 turkeys were donated. This year, the need is even greater, with 2,500 turkeys being requested by families.

“We are honored to partner with KFB to help make sure families across West Michigan have a wonderful Thanksgiving meal with their loved ones,” said Dennis Van Kampen, president and CEO of Mel Trotter Ministries. “One meal does not solve hunger and homelessness, but it can be a bit of hope and respite. We join with KFB to work to provide nourishing resources for our entire community and make sure every child has the opportunity to thrive.”

Donated turkeys and other side items will be delivered to the Kids’ Food Basket headquarters. KFB will provide fresh, healthy and local produce along with other culturally diverse items. In addition, KFB will provide educational materials and is partnering with chef Andrew Eggert of Eggert Culinary Innovation to provide recipes and resources to help families prepare healthy, nourishing Thanksgiving meals.

Those looking to donate turkeys can visit

A list of local food pantries and distribution partners is available at

First home

A recent graduate from AYA Youth Collective’s housing resource, in partnership with First Companies and other local construction services companies, broke ground on a 2,745-square-foot future home.

This house is being built under the management of First Companies, with the support of many local subcontractors.

“We are grateful for businesses like First Companies that go above and beyond to support the next generation of leaders entering the construction industry,” said Jon VanKeulen, CHIO, AYA Youth Collective. “They recognize the need and respond in tangible ways to support the young people of our community.”

The student — who was simply named Q for security purposes — is one of over 500 youth who use AYA resources each year. AYA strives to create safe spaces that are rooted in relationships for youth ages 14-24 in Grand Rapids.

The mentor-supportive housing program Q graduated from is a place where youth can rest, recharge and heal. Designed to feel like family, mentors act as the first point of contact for youth and focus on building community through weekly house dinners, shared experiences and daily interactions. This program has high success rates, with 90% of graduates moving into stable, independent housing, according to AYA.

In preparation for his graduation from AYA housing resource, Q, with the help of AYA, began to evaluate his future housing options. Q is currently working in construction and aspires to become a construction manager. The project is expected to be completed spring of 2021.

“When Jon VanKeulen approached us with an opportunity to use our gifts, talents and influence to impact youth in need, we immediately knew our answer was ‘yes,’” said Matt Sink, COO of First Companies. “Hearing this young man shares our passion for the construction industry, we are eager to take him under our wing and show him the ropes. It means a great deal to us that we, as a team and an industry, are playing our part in building up the next generation of leaders.”

Other partners in the build are Advanced Interiors, American Classic, Armock Mechanical, Builders FirstSource, Dixon Architecture, Ed and Lisa DeYoung, Excel Excavating, HL Bolkema, In’t Hout Concrete Construction, Kent Companies, Kortman Construction, Schepers Brothers, Standard Lumber, Van Haren Electric, Whitson Insulation and Williams Distribution.

The home was designed by Dixon Architecture. KJ Tucker with Concierge Home provided the real estate services.

Community outreach

Independent Bank recently was recognized by the American Bankers Association in its ABA Foundation Community Commitment Awards in the category of Volunteerism for 2020. This award recognizes banks that put their employees to work for the good of the community, including outreach programs, mentoring and other partnership initiatives.

Independent Bank received one of four honorable mentions in the Volunteerism category for its commitment to volunteering in local communities, particularly with its annual “Making a Difference Day.” Every year, Independent Bank closes on Columbus Day for a companywide volunteer day in which all employees volunteer with their teams at various organizations and nonprofits across Michigan and parts of Ohio.

“We are honored to receive this recognition from the American Bankers Association,” said Tricia Schabel, senior vice president and director of marketing at Independent Bank. “Our employees look forward to our various volunteer events throughout the year, and it’s always nice to see the positive feedback that comes from our efforts.”

Some of the projects included cleaning up Millennium Park and working with Habitat for Humanity in both Kent and Mecosta counties.

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