2020 Newsmaker of the Year: VanDyke, Latinx leaders establish foundation’s La Lucha Fund

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Erika VanDyke Courtesy Duane Bacchus Photography

CATEGORY: Nonprofits/Philanthropy

WINNER: Erika VanDyke

ORGANIZATION: Grand Rapids Community Foundation

As program officer for the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, one of the things Erika VanDyke is most proud of is working with a network of Latinx leaders to help establish the foundation’s La Lucha Fund in April that had raised $735,000 as of mid-November and helped about 1,200 undocumented and mixed-status families in Kent County receive COVID-19 relief dollars as of Nov. 30.

Undocumented community members do not qualify for federal assistance or state unemployment benefits, making them particularly vulnerable during the pandemic.

Although VanDyke was the point person inside the foundation for creating the La Lucha Fund (which translates into English as “the struggle” or “the fight”), she stressed it was a highly collaborative effort. Eight community organizations were involved, including Movimiento Cosecha and the Grand Rapids Area Mutual Aid Network, as well as the five organizations that make up LatinxGR — the Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, the Latino Community Coalition, Latina Network of West Michigan, West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and West Michigan Latino Network — and the community foundation, which made an initial investment of $100,000 and accepted and processed over 500 individual donations on behalf of the fund partners.

VanDyke said she is proud that the entire process of setting up the fund — which garnered far more donations than expected and continued longer than it was designed to — was guided by the Latinx community, and the community foundation followed the voice of the people in setting it up.

She added La Lucha is a perfect example of leaders using their platform to make space for and amplify voices that often are intentionally silenced.

“We have to make space for communities that have been deliberately not supported. … The ones that are closest to the pain should be closest to the power,” VanDyke said.

Click here to read about the other winners of the 2020 Newsmakers of the Year.

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