Workforce initiative secures $20K


Senita Lenear, a Grand Rapids city commissioner, serves as the city’s liaison to the task force. Courtesy city of Grand Rapids

The city of Grand Rapids and Huntington Bank are partnering on a workforce development initiative as part of the city’s ongoing efforts to reduce violence in neighborhoods.

LifeQuest Ministries won the June 25 Safe Alliances for Everyone (SAFE) Task Force Pitch and Highlight Night and is receiving $10,000 from the city and a $10,000 match from Huntington Bank for the ministry’s Hope Initiative 2019.

The workforce development program focuses on creating jobs for males ages 15 to 24. The program also includes mentoring, depression awareness and treatment resources, community listening forums for youth and young adults, a basketball league, community meal stations, an anti-gun violence media campaign, group trips and free haircuts for ages 14 to 18.

According to the nonprofit’s Facebook page, LifeQuest was founded in 1998 to help meet the “growing spiritual needs of underperforming young men that are outside the current grasp of the traditional church.” The organization said it engages about 350 young men per month in various initiatives such as NIGHTQUEST, Project R.O.C. and LIFE-Skillz.

The Rev. Jerry Bishop is founder and pastor of LifeQuest Ministries.

“As a ministry, we truly believe that outside of sharing our faith, sharing resources and creating economic opportunities creates life changes and impacts people right now,” Bishop said.

LifeQuest will create “day labor” opportunities through the initiative, such as lawn care, painting, cleaning, trash removal and clerical work for young men, “just as we have in the past,” Bishop said.

“We will provide lunches, incidental needs, clothing, etc.,” he added.

The SAFE Task Force, which is made up of city staff and community members, was established in 2017 to address violence in neighborhoods through partnerships with community organizations and businesses. 

The group focuses on solving issues that residents ages 15 to 24 face, including gun violence, lack of pro-social opportunities and mental health.

Third Ward City Commissioner Senita Lenear serves as the city’s liaison to the task force.

“We are pleased to support LifeQuest Ministries’ efforts to reduce violence in our community,” she said. “We are grateful to Huntington Bank and all of our community partners who have joined us in working to improve the quality of life for our residents. This support allows us to stretch our dollars for greater impact.”

Workforce development is a critical piece to addressing violence in the community, said John Irwin, Huntington Bank West Michigan Region president.

“As a corporate citizen and as a neighbor, we want to be part of the solution,” he said. “I encourage others in the banking and business community to come alongside the city of Grand Rapids to help bolster this important work.”

Other winners of last month’s SAFE Pitch and Highlight Night:

  • Urban Family Ministries — $2,500 to support Mothers on a Mission, which supports moms who have lost children to violence as they seek to share with others the dire consequences of violence
  • Neighbors of Belknap Lookout — $2,500 to pilot a program to help neighborhood associations respond to violence in the community
  • Brown-Hutcherson Ministries — $5,000 for youth mentoring through its Giant Steps program

The city commission previously approved grants totaling nearly $107,000 for SAFE Task Force programming this summer. This includes mentoring, employment and educational opportunities for ages 15 to 25 provided by the Leadership and Employment, Achievement and Direction (LEAD) program of the joint City-Grand Rapids Public Schools Office of Our Community’s Children, the Grand Rapids Nehemiah Project and Realism is Loyalty.

More information about SAFE Task Force partnership and matching opportunities is available by emailing Lenear at

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