The North Ottawa Wellness Foundation (NOW), a donor-advised fund of the GHACF, is dedicated to connecting our community members with research-based tools, tips, and strategies to minimize the unhealthy effects of stress on their physical, mental and emotional well-being. NOW is a council of community partners dedicated to facilitating sustainable wellness for our community.

Wellness – true, robust, sustainable WELLness – offers each of us the opportunity to feel our best, be our best, and live up to our highest potential. When illness, stress, anxiety, or depression hit, it is more difficult for us to navigate the natural ups and downs of our lives.

True wellness supports three of GHACF’s grant making priorities: Economic & Community Betterment, Health & Human Services, and Education.

Economic & Community Betterment

Our community organizations – businesses, non-profits, and service industries – understand that a healthy, well employee is a focused, clear and dependable employee. Hours lost to employee illnesses and reduced productivity due to worry, anxiety, distraction, and depression all take away from the vitality of an organization. NOW seeks to support local businesses as they support employee wellness, healthy work cultures, and increased productivity.

Health & Human Services

Community members who are empowered to find the support they need from one our numerous service providers can better utilize the tools and support given by TCM counselors, nutrition and financial coaches, and other local service providers, when they can hear and implement the strategies and support given. Individuals with increased emotional balance are able to effectively navigate the many stressors in their lives.


Families who reduce stress, anxiety, and the chaotic “crazy busy” pace of their homes are better able to be present with their children, assist children with homework, and debrief a busy or problematic day with classmates. As more and more families decrease the negative effects of stress in their lives, student stress, anxiety, and depression levels will decrease. Families who successfully navigate the numerous, inevitable stressful moments of life model those successful tools and strategies for their children. This benefits our schools as students arrive in a more calm, supported, and creative state of mind, ready to learn.

Community members can empower themselves to improve their own well-being by engaging in these four areas of wellness:

Effective Stress Management and Emotional Balance
Exercise, Movement and Quality Sleep
Clean Food and Nutrition
Helping Self, Helping Others

Well-being is defined as “a good or satisfactory condition of existence; a state characterized by health, happiness, and prosperity.” How do we get there? How do we sustain this state of well-being?

Recent science shows us that when we get irritated, frustrated, anxious or depressed, our bodies release the stress hormone cortisol, sending us physically and mentally out of our natural, relaxed state of homeostasis, into the fight or flight response.

So how do we counter-act this stress response? How do we regain our positive mindset, learn from our mistakes, stop releasing cortisol, and clear the stress hormones from our system? Metabolically, exercise clears out cortisol. Quality sleep, beyond allowing us to awaken feeling rested, allows our brains to clear, like a garbage collector, and prepare for the following day from a state of relaxation, contentment, homeostasis.

NOW aims to educate community members about the harmful effects of the stress response, the tremendous benefits of quality sleep, clean food, and exercise, and to affirm what we here in Northwest Ottawa County already know – that helping others breeds a great deal of contentment in our lives.

Learn more at

Monica Verplank is privileged to be a part of our local wellness coalition that recently launched the North Ottawa Wellness Foundation. She is a Chopra Center Certified Master Educator. She is also a certified Ayurvedic Life-Style Consultant through the American Institute of Vedic Studies with Dr. David Frawley, in Santa Fe, NM. She earned her B.A. in Education from the University of Arizona and holds her M.A. from Northern Arizona University in Multicultural Education.

Monica has practiced yoga for over 20 years, meditation for 10 years, and has been an educator for more than 20 years as a teacher, principal, assistant superintendent of instructional services, and educational consultant. She deeply enjoys integrating modern neuroscience, ancient wisdom traditions, and yogic philosophy into her professional life, as well as her daily, personal life as a parent, spouse, and friend. Teaching the practices and benefits of navigating the stress response through breathing, mindfulness, meditation and yoga brings much joy to her life.