We say it a lot: we can’t do any of the work we do without the generosity of people like you supporting for-impact partners in our community through our Greatest Needs Fund.

Below are a few stories from recent grant recipients that were made possible because of donations to the Greatest Need Fund.


Outdoor Discovery Center “Nature-Based Education Partnership” (2016-2018)

Priority Area: Education

The Outdoor Discovery Center (ODC) partnered with the Grand Haven Area Public School district to pilot an accessible, nature-based education program that included four different grade levels – elementary and middle schools – and met the curriculum requirements of each selected grade level.

“The greatest impact we can have on children in our community is giving them the benefits of being outside. This grant secured those experiences for more than 4,000 students over a three-year period during some of their most important years of childhood development.” — David Nyitray, COO of the ODC

By making these opportunities available to each school regardless of the resources families there might have, the ODC reached a broader section of the community. This was demonstrated by the higher numbers of minority students, specifically Latino, than they usually saw in ODC programming. This fact encouraged the ODC to look at its own program scheduling practices and culminated in adopting a new strategic plan that will address Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in their work in the community.

“One of the biggest successes we didn’t anticipate was showing kids nearby parks they could visit with families,” said Nyitray. “While we knew that families in general don’t spend as much time outdoors, we were surprised that many didn’t know some of the parks existed. A specific example of this was that our staff estimated that 10-20% of students hadn’t been to Lake Michigan before participating in this program. This may seem shocking to find in a community so close to the lakeshore.” This shows the change in families’ preferences for outdoor time and other challenges that prevent them from enjoying the natural beauty the community has to offer.

WAWL/Tri-Cities Broadcast Foundation “Concerts in the Park” (2018)

Priority Area: Arts & Culture

Summer concert at Bolt Park in Grand Haven

WAWL is a radio station that provides educational direction in the broadcasting field and fosters new broadcasting careers for residents of West Michigan.

During the Tri-Cities Broadcasting (WAWL 103.5) Summer Concert Music Series in 2018, 15 bands performed in 16 concerts in Bolt Park in the City of Grand Haven and Pottawattamie Park in Grand Haven Township.

“We provided the communities on the east and southern sides [of Grand Haven] with free, live, local music. The concerts allowed us to provide a great service to the community and gave new musicians an opportunity both in public and to thousands on-air by broadcasting them live.” – Eric Kaelin, General Manager, WAWL

St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish “Job Seekers Program” (2018)

Priority Area: Health & Human Services

The Job Seekers Program at St. Patrick-St. Anthony Parish serves the unemployed, underemployed, and those with barriers by providing various job readiness services. They provide employment coaching and mentoring, networking opportunities, and access to vital resources such as the internet and computers to support resumé and cover letter creation.

The addition of office space allowed the program to assist nearly 200 job seekers in finding employment, provide over 500 various services to those in need, as well as host 10 networking breakfasts and a Spring Job Fair in 2019.

“Both my son and I walked away [from the Job Seekers’ Breakfast] feeling positive about employment opportunities. You and your team are making a positive difference in our community.” —Adriana

From July 1, 2018 to June 30, 2019, the number of people verified as obtaining employment improved by 80% compared to the same time frame the previous year, the average number of job seekers attending the monthly networking breakfast increased by 50%, and volunteer/mentor hours were increased by 15%.

“Thank you to all of those at the St. Pat’s/St. Anthony’s Job Seekers program, especially Mark Bancuk. Mark helped me update my resume, write a cover letter and interview follow up letters. He assisted me in finding local jobs and gave me information on how to prepare for an interview. I received needed support through this program during this process. With the help of this ministry I was not only able to obtain a job, but also buy a house. This was possible because of my new employment.” —Dominic 

GROW “Lakeshore Expansion” (2018)

Priority Area: Economic & Community Development

GROW is a Small Business Association authorized Women’s Business Center as well as a Community Development Financial Institution. Their Small Business Lending program is an initiative designed to improve access to credit for people who are traditionally under-served and demonstrate the ability to operate successfully. All of their lending and trainings are non-gender specific.

The addition of a Business Development Specialist has allowed GROW to provide greater support to Lakeshore business owners through classes, mentoring, business counseling, and micro-lending opportunities. The expansion will ideally increase the number of startups, as well as revenue for current business owners that are in need of growth assistance.

“Thank you so much for meeting with me and for this thoughtful follow-up. I am truly blown away by the help and resources available from you and from GROW! I feel confident in next steps I need to take.” —Rachel 

In the first year since receiving the grant, the Specialist provided 80 hours of counseling and support to GROW clients on the Lakeshore, and worked with several existing microloan clients to make Lakeshore connections and introductions, as well as provide resources and referrals. Several new loan clients were also in the pipeline from the Lakeshore, and at the one-year mark, the program had loaned $350,000 to businesses on the Lakeshore. In addition, volunteers and facilitators have continued to be recruited on the Lakeshore to support GROW’s clients through mentoring/coaching and classes, GROW Loan Review Committee, and facilitation of workshops.

If you’d like to give a gift to the Greatest Needs Fund and help programs like these in the future, donate here.

If you’d like to apply for a grant, Letters of Intent for the spring grant round are due February 19. Learn more at ghacf.org/grants.