Grand Rapids chamber names 2013 ATHENA Young Professional


Bridget Clark Whitney. Courtesy Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce named the 2013 ATHENA Young Professional during the 24th Annual ATHENA Awards Celebration Luncheon on Thursday.

Kids’ Food Basket Executive Director Bridget Clark Whitney took home the award.


The award was created in late 2007 by ATHENA International and adopted by the Grand Rapids chamber in 2008.

The Young Professional Award recognizes emerging leaders in communities with ATHENA programs.

ATHENA honors those who have demonstrated leadership in their field, opened doors of opportunities for women, contributed time and talent to the community and are role models to others — particularly young women — in the community.

Ten women were finalists for the 2013 ATHENA Young Professional Award this year.

“Bridget is a dynamic community leader, both on the job and off, who is contributing to the vitality of Grand Rapids and the many organizations she works with. She brings a strong sense of authentic self, drive for fierce advocacy and connects with others through strong relationships and giving back — all important ATHENA tenets,” said Rick Baker, president and CEO of the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce.

Nonprofit growth

During Whitney’s tenure as executive director, Kids’ Food Basket has grown to become the largest and most successful anti-childhood hunger program in Michigan, with an annual budget of $3.8 million.

It is also one of the largest volunteer programs in Michigan, with more than 12,000 volunteers, ages five to 95, averaging 175 volunteers each day.

From humble beginnings 10 years ago, the childhood hunger relief organization has expanded from serving 125 to nearly 6,000 evening Sack Supper meals each day to food-insecure children in greater Grand Rapids and Muskegon.

“The amazing volunteer involvement and organizational growth at Kids’ Food Basket is a remarkable testament to Bridget’s leadership and a great example of how people and their ideas can powerfully impact our communities and our businesses,” Baker said.

In the community

In addition to her work with Kids’ Food Basket, Whitney has served on the Heart of West Michigan United Way campaign cabinet, Gilda’s Club LaughFest cabinet and the boards of Indian Trails Camp, Nonprofit Innovations Inc. and the Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Grand Rapids.

She is currently co-chairing the two-day Michigan Nonprofit Association annual meeting and SuperConference 2013 coming to Grand Rapids in October.

Whitney was named a 2009 American Express NGen Fellows — one of 12 emerging leaders in the country chosen to examine together how young leaders can contribute to a conversation that generates collaborative solutions to society’s most pressing problems.


The ATHENA luncheon also featured the chamber’s 2013 ATHENA Award presentation to Jeanne Englehart, vice president of client management at The Charter Group, and the presentation of $6,500 in scholarships to five women over 30, who have returned to college to complete their degrees.

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