GRCF hands out five grants


Hope Network is a Christian organization that empowers people with disabilities or disadvantages to achieve their highest level of independence. The network serves about 20,000 people throughout the state. Photo via Facebook

The Grand Rapids Community Foundation recently approved $350,000 worth of grants to a quintet of nonprofits.

Those receiving grants include the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation, Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy Association, Hope Network, Steepletown Neighborhood Services and the YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids.

The Ford Foundation was awarded $50,000 for the construction of a student learning center at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum. A curriculum also will be created to teach students about the legacy of Ford’s presidency.

Grand Rapids University Prep was awarded $75,000 to help build a state-of-the-art facility for middle and high school students attending U Prep Academy.

Hope Network was awarded $50,000 for its jail reentry project, Ready4Work. The money will be used to increase time availability to help those obtaining competitive employment. It will also fund planning for a similar program for Kent County Jail female inmates.

Steepletown Neighborhood Services was awarded $75,000. The money will be used to create more job opportunities for Spanish-speaking adults through completion of their academic credentials.

The YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids was awarded $100,000 for its YMCA Diabetes Prevention Program, which provides low-income locals a chance to become involved in an “evidence-based program” and lower their risk of developing diabetes by 58 percent.

The recipients were selected by the foundation board.

“We have funding priorities,” said Marcia Rapp, GRCF vice president of programs. “For this round of the funding, these are the ones that met them the most closely.”

GRCF awards grants if the nominees meet GRCF leadership goals in the categories of any of the following: economic prosperity, healthy ecosystems, healthy people, social enrichment, vibrant neighborhoods and academic framework.

In this round of grants, the YMCA was awarded on the basis of healthy people, the Ford Foundation for social enrichment, and the Grand Rapids University Preparatory Academy Association for academic achievement. Steepletown Neighborhood Services and Hope Network were awarded on the basis of economic prosperity.

“There is a level of capacity and functioning that a nonprofit has to be, but we really compare it to the for-profit business,” said Kate Luckert Schmid, GRCF program director. “It’s not a loan, it’s a gift, but we need to see that business plan.”

Luckert Schmid said it takes a blend of art and science to create a system that will help as many nonprofits as possible while still making an impact in the community.

GRCF gives grants in cycles to help foster relationships, she said, allowing the foundation to share the stories of the nonprofits with the community.

“We do grants six times a year out of our fund for community good,” she said “We do it so we can be responsive.”

As one of the oldest community endowments in the state, GRCF has developed more than 600 funds. According to its website, the foundation has authorized $11,029,762 in grants.

It is an exciting job, Rapp said, getting to see a difference made in West Michigan.

“We get to see what’s happening in the nonprofit world in Grand Rapids. It’s this bubble of innovation with all these ideas coming up,” she said. “We just try to balance the amount of money we have with the ideas that are manageable and sustainable.”

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