2021 40 Under 40 award recipient: Lauren VanKeulen

Lauren VanKeulen. Courtesy 616 Media

Lauren VanKeulen, 35


A.Y.A. Youth Collective

In addition to Lauren VanKeulen’s role facilitating an environment of belonging for over 450 youths and 26 staff members, she works to collaborate with common-cause organizations in the Grand Rapids community, rather than seeing other service providers as competition.

Formed in 2020 out of a merger between Grand Rapids HQ and 3:11 Youth Housing, A.Y.A. Youth Collective exists to create safe spaces for youth in crisis to belong, be themselves and build a future. Since June 2020, A.Y.A. has supported 355 unique youths in Drop-In and has housed 30 youths and 10 children. Within the next three years, A.Y.A. hopes to have 70 units (bedrooms) of housing available to youth and to serve an average of 600 youths per year at Drop-In.

VanKeulen co-founded 3:11 Youth Housing in 2012 to address youth homelessness, and she oversaw the merger between 3:11 and HQ that was done to provide a “cohesive, streamlined approach” to connect youth with services and housing resources. The organization also partners with similar organizations in the area to achieve its mission.

According to her nominator, Missy Jackson, A.Y.A. board chair, “Lauren navigated the merger with grace and courage. Merging two healthy nonprofits into one is no small task. She rose to the challenge and ensured that the youth A.Y.A. serves were at the center of every step in that process.”

Alongside serving as a board member and vice chair of the executive committee for the Kent County Coalition to End Homelessness, VanKeulen is a board member of the Housing Stability Alliance and Jubilee Centers International.

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