Street Talk: Home help promise

Valued lessons.
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Northpointe Bank’s funding partnership with Seeds of Promise is once again bearing fruit in the community.

The Grand Rapids-based bank said last month that it accesses grant funds from the Federal Home Loan Bank of Indianapolis (FHLBI) each spring to provide assistance to low- and moderate-income borrowers in Kent County. This is the seventh year the bank has provided this opportunity to the Grand Rapids nonprofit to help homeowners repair and improve their homes.

Through FHLBI’s Neighborhood Impact Program, Northpointe receives and provides grants up to $7,500 to eligible homeowners in the community. The funds are used to restore their homes’ roofs, windows, siding, exterior doors, furnaces and water heaters.

Northpointe held a check presentation Jan. 22 at the Seeds of Promise office in Grand Rapids for the next round of funding in the amount of $21,000.

In 2019, the partnership helped 22 Kent County homeowners improve their homes, setting a Northpointe Bank and Seeds of Promise record. In seven years of participating with the Neighborhood Impact Program, the partners helped 59 vulnerable low- and moderate-income homeowners in the area improve their homes, with a total community impact of $435,019.

“Seeds of Promise’s partnership with Northpointe Bank has been a real blessing to our residents in the Southtown area,” said Ron Jimmerson, executive director and co-founder of Seeds of Promise. “Most were unaware that this program existed to help them with their home improvements until the first flyer was developed and distributed to our residents. The Neighborhood Improvement Program has shown that we can slow down the process of gentrification in our area by assisting our residents with the needed funds to do the repairs and keep them in their homes.”

One local homeowner said funds were used to properly repair a roof damaged in a fire 10 years ago that resulted in constant leaks.

“We are proud to continue our partnership into 2021 with a donation of $21,000 which will help Seeds of Promise tackle the current waiting list of 86 low- to moderate-income homeowners who need to complete critical health and safety repairs to their homes and hire a Spanish-speaking employee to help us extend the reach and benefits of this program to our Hispanic community in Kent County,” Jimmerson said. “Enabling more homeowners to repair and improve their homes will help our community to grow and thrive — now and in the future.”

Lifted up

After completing the launch of its first 20 WiFi-connected “Lift Zones” in Detroit in early January, Comcast will expand its program to more locations across Michigan to continue to help bridge the digital divide.

The COVID-19 crisis put many low-income students at risk of being left behind and has accelerated the need for comprehensive digital equity and Internet adoption programs to support them. Lift Zones are designed to help those students who, for a variety of reasons, are unable to connect to distance learning at home.

“While the digital divide has been an ongoing challenge long before the outbreak of COVID-19, the past 10 months have brought this critical issue to the forefront for everyone,” said Tim Collins, senior vice president of Comcast in Michigan. “We have been dedicated to creating digital equity for nearly 10 years through our Internet Essentials program. Bringing more Lift Zones to Michigan neighborhoods where they’re needed most is an extension of our commitment.”

Comcast’s Lift Zones provide robust WiFi hotspots in community safe spaces designed to help students get online, participate in distance learning and do their homework. Many of these sites also serve adults and can connect them to online adult education, job searches, health care information and public assistance.

Any nonprofit organization, government agency, public housing or other establishment that is interested in becoming a Comcast Lift Zone and is located within the company’s Michigan service area can send an email to CENHRT_LiftZones@comcast.com for more information.

Criteria for becoming a Lift Zone include: on-site adult supervision to monitor activity during all hours of operation, enforcement of COVID-19 safety protocols, adequate space with chairs and computers conducive for learning and IT support.

 

Fab 40

Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes (JAMGL) recently honored long-time volunteer Steve Carlson for 40 years of volunteer service to JA.

“While JA touts a proven curriculum and materials, the key connection for our students is with our volunteers and their delivery of our programs,” said William Coderre, JAMGL president and CEO. “Steve, has spent the past 40 years tirelessly giving of his time and talent to our students as a classroom volunteer, as a committee member and as a JAMGL board member. Today, we are proud to honor Steve’s service to our organization and thank him for his contributions.”

Carlson began volunteering for Junior Achievement in 1980 and since that time has volunteered in over 85 classrooms in the greater Grand Rapids area impacting approximately 2,000 students.

“I volunteer to pay it back and pay it forward,” said Carlson. “I specifically remember my JA Company advisers from Old Kent Bank in 1971 when I was in high school. I was given an experience in high school that paid dividends throughout my college years and I even used the skills and concepts during my career in aerospace.”

While Carlson has spent considerable time delivering the JA Company and JA Job Shadow programs in area high schools, he also has a history of providing programming at all levels of elementary school.

“I still volunteer because it’s fun! Whether you’re getting smiles and hugs from elementary students for teaching them about money and donut making, or seeing the lightbulb switch on for middle and high school students when they get a concept of personal finance or international trade, you get to have as much fun as the students do,” said Carlson.

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