50 MIW honoree: Claire Guisfredi

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Claire Guisfredi. Courtesy 616 Media

Claire Guisfredi

Executive director

North Kent Connect

 

Claire Guisfredi has been making an impact on the people of Kent County since she began leading North Kent Connect, an organization that provides resources to people in need.

North Kent Connect, which serves people who live in Kent City, Rockford, Belmont, Cedar Springs, Greenville, Comstock Park and Sand Lake, opened its doors to a new building in 2021 following a $2.9 million Building Connections Capital Campaign. The organization exceeded that goal by raising $3.5 million.

Since Guisfredi took the helm of the organization nine years ago as the executive director, its budget of $365,000 has increased to $1.1 million. She has tripled her staff and ensured they make a livable wage with access to medical benefits and a 401(k) plan.

The organization provides a thrift store, pantry, farm stand and free classes for North Kent Connect clients who can earn thrift store or farm stand credits.

Guisfredi said she is most proud of the organization’s commitment to providing fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and gluten-free options for its pantry, its collaboration with other nonprofit organizations such as Family Promise of Grand Rapids, West Michigan Works!, Arbor Circle, Kent County Health Department’s WIC program and also transitioning from a free clothing place to a thrift store where items are affordable for the community.

Guisfredi serves on the board of the Land Conservancy of West Michigan, which has protected 12,251 acres and 155 properties from development. She currently is serving her first year on the board of First Steps Kent, which oversees Ready by Five Early Childhood Millage allocations that ensure all children are ready for kindergarten.

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