Archive for the ‘Awareness Staff’ Category

Tales of a Home Buyer – part 5

June 7, 2011

Written by Shawn DeVries

My Loan Officer now took my file (all 7,000 pages at this point) and submitted it to the underwriter for them to review and verify.  I was feeling a little more confident at this point that the loan would go through smoothly.  However, the first part of this process is not just for the underwriter to approve the loan, but to also to gather more information (called conditions) if needed to support their decision.  It’s kind of like the kid on the playground who says, “Oh yeah? Prove it!” when you say you can do a handstand or something else you can no longer do at age 39.  (There’s a whole other story there.  Don’t ask.)

I am happy to report; my loan was approved by the underwriter with minimal conditions.  Those were submitted and my Loan Officer and Title Agent were soon given the all clear sign to get the final documents ready for the closing.  If you think the papers you signed for your application were excessive, you haven’t seen anything yet.  Some of the documents are the same ones you signed for the application.  You get the privilege of signing those again.  Others are new forms that detail your loan and how you will repay it.  Then there are others that give you important information about the whole transaction, and then even more that verify you were given that information.  As you may have guessed, there were a couple politicians and lawyers involved in determining the process for buying (or even refinancing) a home.  I highly suggest a big breakfast before and a hand massage after the closing.

The day of my closing seemed to never come.  The dream of owning my own home was finally here after almost 3 years of planning and hard work.  The moment the keys to the front door were placed into my hand was, as they say, priceless.  Owning a home is not just the purchase of piece of property.  A home is where you raise a family, share memories, retreat from the world.  It is an investment unlike any other.  Stocks and bonds can never hold the emotional ties that a house does.  A home is not just brick and mortar; it is a part of who you are.

We, at Awareness Home Funding, have always said we had one of the best careers there is.  It is a high honor to help someone with the most significant transaction in their lives.  We’ve been through the process – not just as loan officers and processors, but as home owners ourselves.  We haven’t forgotten the feelings and emotions attached to the address.  I’ve shared my story, and you have (or will have) your own.  The point in sharing mine is that we understand, completely, and are here to help you with compassion and expertise.  We’d love to be a part of your unique story and happy ever ending.

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Tales of a Home Buyer – part 4

May 26, 2011

Written by Shawn DeVries

After getting the purchase agreement signed I again pulled the needed documents for my Loan Officer.  (Yes, all 4,000 pages because 3 months had passed and updated information was needed.  We really do understand what buyers are feeling.) My information was entered into that program again that analyzes the data and based on preset criteria makes a decision on whether or not to approve my loan.  This “little” program can really freak you out sometimes, and all for no apparent reason.  

Ironically the same feelings can occur when you are refinancing your home.  These transactions are big deals and are a significant portion of your personal financial status.  It is no surprise that a borrower will feel some angst that is in direct proportion to their emotional investment to the home.  Highly emotional people will be highly invested into the process.  (I would like to say at this point that in case you have not guessed, I am a passionate person.  My mom will probably describe me in other words, but let’s not get her anymore involved than she already is, okay?)  Fortunately, these results came back just fine too on my loan.   

The next part was to develop my case in order for my Loan Officer to submit my file to an underwriter.  At this point in the home buying process your lender has gotten to know you fairly well.  They understand your financial situation and know what your goals and dreams are.  At least your lender should want this home for you as badly as you do.  If not, find out why.  The underwriter however does not know you.  All they have in front of them are numbers to compare and analyze.  The documents you submit need to tell your story for you.  Share what you need to support their decision so they see you as a low credit risk. 

Shortly after my offer was accepted and the paperwork fun began, I had a full inspection of the home done.  I was relieved to know there were no major issues to resolve or problems to fix.  For a home that was over 45 years old it was in amazing condition.  Getting an inspection is a crucial step in buying a home.  You want an expert without emotional ties to give you an unbiased opinion of what you are buying.  Follow them on the inspection.  Look at what they are looking at, poke where they poke and ask lots of questions.  A good inspector will tell you what needs attention and what is good with the house.  They should be able to also tell you how serious an issue is.  Telling you your furnace is getting old isn’t very helpful.  Letting you know the average life expectancy of a furnace and verifying the age of your unit is helpful.  Letting you know where your unit is beginning to show signs of wear is also beneficial.  Take good notes while on the inspection, but also get their findings and recommendations in writing.

Title work is another major piece in the process.  The title agent confirms that there are no liens against the property that would prevent the house from being sold.  It also confirms who the rightful owner(s) currently is (are), that property taxes are current, and prepares the paperwork so that there is a smooth transfer of ownership (among many other steps).  Title agents are also a great partner to have when buying a home from a trust (like I did), out of a foreclosure or short sale or any other transaction that may involve a bit more documentation.

The third significant step that happens at this point is having your home appraised.  Your lender wants to know the true market value of the home you are buying.  This doesn’t mean they are checking on how well you negotiated and if you got a good deal.  They are looking to protect their investment in you.  This house will be the collateral on the loan.  A lender does not want to lend more than what the property is worth.

After a slow start in finding my dream home, the loan process went very smoothly.  Supporting financial documents?  Check.  Good inspection?  Check.  Appropriately appraised home?  Check.  Title clear and without liens?  Check and check again.

Tales of a Home Buyer – part 3

May 20, 2011

Written by Shawn DeVries

Not long after, that call did come.  A friend of a family member was selling her parent’s home and was looking to her contacts first for potential buyers.  Fortunately, besides just looking online and in papers, I had told my family and friends that I was shopping for a house.  I also told them what I was looking for and to keep their eyes open for me.  When those big steps in life come up, it is important to enlist the help of those who know you best.

The sellers were selling the property by themselves without a realtor. (A For Sale By Owner.)  Had I not been employed by a lender I probably would not have considered this prospect.  I wondered how much experience they had in selling a home.  I wondered if they had any help lined up to handle this transaction. Yet, while I had some serious concerns I also figured that at this point I was only looking at the place.  So off I went. 

Remember that houses have personalities all their own?  This one was warm and inviting.  This place had character and charm.  This house could easily become my home.  I let them know I was interested but left myself an out.  With spring break coming I would be out of town.  So we made arrangements to talk again after my vacation and that if any other offers came in they would call me to see if I really wanted the place.

During my vacation I could not get that house out of my mind.  By the time my short hiatus was done, I had the place re-carpeted with new laminate flooring, fresh paint and my furniture all neatly placed inside.  This was all in my head of course, but I was hooked.  Again we set an appointment to meet and I made them an offer.  While they remained cool and asked for time to deliberate I was given a good feeling when I left. 

They called first thing the next morning to ask where to fax the signed agreement.  I was screaming with excitement!  I had found a house.  (I was actually screaming inside since I was at work, but I was still really, really excited.)  Now the real work began.

Tales of a Home Buyer – part 2

May 17, 2011

Written by Shawn DeVries

From all I have read and been told this was my market.  Houses are in large supply, foreclosures are around every corner, prices have come way down; I would have a huge selection to choose from.  Or so I thought.  While there were plenty of homes on the market, not all of them fit my criteria or needs. 

Now let me stop just a moment and say that there is a significant difference between needs and wants when buying a home.  I may want something from the pages of Better Homes & Gardens, but I need a roof over my head that won’t fall over at the slightest breeze.  I may want a master suite with garden tub and walk-in closet, but what I need are three bedrooms and toilet that won’t leak.  You understand.  Dream about that perfect house and go for it, but make sure your dreams align with reality.

Ok, so off I went to start shopping, real shopping.  Up until now I had been just window shopping – looking on line, driving through neighborhoods, leafing through the newspaper.  Now was my time to go inside the houses and really take a good look.  I was crushed!  I was looking at mostly foreclosure homes and expected some dirt and debris in these vacant places.  What I found was absolute filth, half-completed and poorly constructed projects, and plain shock as I wondered how anyone could live this way.  Didn’t their mother ever show them a broom?!  What were these banks thinking in even listing a house in this condition?  These were not just small projects to make a house my home.  I was looking at major repairs perfect for the HGTV shows like “Over Your Head” and “DIY Disasters” where some poor home owner has bitten off way more than they could chew.  Uuugh!

However I was determined.  (Remember I am living with my parents so being a motivated buyer doesn’t even come close to describing my drive to get this accomplished.)  As I looked, I started to expand my criteria; and searching online makes this process very simple to do.   In adding condos to my list of options, I soon found one that seemed to fit.  I made an appointment to see the property and fell in love.  While I would need to make some slight modifications, it would work for me.  Best of all, I could actually picture myself in the place. 

It sounds a little odd to say, but houses (and condos) really do have personalities.  When you walk into a place for the first time there’s a certain feeling that you receive.  Some places feel cold and sterile, others warm and inviting.  There are properties that exude formality and structure, and others that say this place knows how to throw a good party.  This condo seemed to work for me.  So I wrote an offer. 

My offer was admittedly low.  However, being in the industry I knew about some limitations some lenders have on properties being flipped as this one was.  So I made my offer supported with documentation and waited to see what would happen.  The wait, while only a few hours, was excruciating.  What are they thinking?  Do they understand my offer?  Can they see that I am a good buyer?  Why would they not accept my offer?  Are there other offers being considered? 

The answer came back swiftly with a simple, “pass”.  The response felt like a sucker punch to the gut.  But why?!  This makes perfect sense to me.  What’s your problem anyway Bub?!  Regardless of my feelings, this place was not the one I would eventually call home.  So my search continued.

I found another condo in the development that offered a bit more of what I wanted on my wish list, and another offer was made.  This offer felt different.  I was more guarded to the response.  I was hopeful, but prepared for a “no”.  I liked this place too, but was not nearly so in love with it.  Maybe I was preparing myself for rejection yet again.  Maybe I was starting to get desperate.  I hoped not.  The offer came back.  Again it was declined, but at least this rejection offered a rationale.  Another offer had been submitted earlier in the day and the seller had already accepted that offer.

At this point, I was beginning to doubt of whether my dream of home ownership would ever come true.  Where was the place I would call home?  Whoever had it, needed to call me…soon.

Tales of a Home Buyer – part 1

May 11, 2011

Written by Shawn DeVries

Let me start by saying that this was not my first time.  Not only have I purchased a home before, but I have obviously been on the selling side of the process.  I have experienced a refinance and even rented for a period in my life.  I now work in the lending industry and know the process of buying a home and what to expect.  Yet, I still experienced the same stress, fear, anxiety, worry, excitement, joy, anticipation and ultimate relief that every other home buyer and owner experiences when going through this process.  My emotional range may have something to do with me doing this as a single buyer this time, but I felt it all just the same.

If you are considering purchasing a home, you may wonder just what this journey is all about.  I thought you might like to know.  If you fully understand this process please don’t disregard this series, for I know you will find warm memories and at the very least some great humor as I relate my story to you.

My story really begins nearly three years ago.  After a divorce I relocated back home to start my life over again.  Let me set the stage very clearly by adding that “moving home” was taken quite literally by moving back into my parent’s house.  Oh yeah, I did it.  God bless my parents, for despite their honest intentions and good will, I really don’t think either of us knew what this would all entail.  Most of my belongings were packed into storage with the remaining pieces finding basement corners and emptied closets.  I was prepared for this journey to start over to take some time, but not quite this much time.  Let the fun begin.  Oh, did I mention I have two children in tow?  (I told you my story would have humor.  Ha!)

Fast forward now through the past three years as I find a new career, pay off debt, and save some money all in preparation of buying my own home.  When January of this year finally came, I was ready to go home shopping!  I thought this day would never come.  I knew to take care of my credit over this time and felt it was in great shape.  I had money set aside for the down payment, plus some for reserves.  I had crunched the numbers and knew not only what I could afford, but what I wanted to afford.  Yes, I am a little anal about details sometimes, but I was preparing to buy a home and I wanted no surprises.

Knowing that the first step in buying a home is to get pre-approved I started by gathering my documents (yes all seemingly 4,000 of them) and verifying the information (just short of the blood work) for my Loan Officer as he prepared to pull my credit report.  Despite having a good clue of what to expect, that 15 seconds between him hitting “submit” and seeing the actual report can feel like eternity.  What are my scores?  Did I really behave?  Will that oops from 5 years ago show up now?  What surprises will he find?  Oh please, oh please let my score be above that golden 640 so that I can shop for a house.  See?  Even people who work for lenders have real emotions and understand the angst our clients endure.

Well the report appeared.  Great scores, good behavior paid off, no glaring marks, no surprises, and above the benchmark score needed.  Whew!  My information was then entered into a program that analyzes the data and based on preset criteria makes a decision on whether or not I could be approved for a loan.  However to the borrower the answers feel like: go away you are only kidding yourself; we had better have someone else take a look at this because we’re not so sure; or yeah, we can do that… provided nothing weird happens.  I was relieved to learn that my information was approved.  My pre-approval was then written and off I went to find my house.  This would be a snap.

Why Do You Run?

April 21, 2011

Awareness Home Funding shared in our April e-newsletter that three of our employees are participating in the 2011 Riverbank Run.  They are running not only for personal reasons, but to also help In The Image and their S.H.O.E.S. program which provides shoes for at-risk students in three area school districts.  Last year they helped 9,000 kids and have a goal of helping with 12,000 pairs of shoes this year!

A link for each member of the Awareness Team is included if you would like to help area kids by supporting their run.  Let us introduce them to you.

Robin Baker began running 16 years ago because of the positive influence of her father, Al Owens.  Al has been very involved in the Grand Rapids racing community for over 35 years and has passed the passion to his daughter.  Robin also likes the aerobic base it gives her for all the other activities she enjoys.

This year Robin is participating in the 5k race.  Her main goal:  to run and have a good time with her friend Shanna and to pass the passion to Shanna’s son, Kendrick.

Robin said she particularly loves the Riverbank Run because it is a great race with high energy.  “I grew up in the crowd as a little girl, waiting at the finish line for the first, second and third places to come through” shared Robin.  “You always knew when they were approaching because you could hear the roar from the crowd getting closer and closer.  And then I would wait for my dad to finish, which he would never do until he found my mom in the crowd and stopped to give her a kiss and thank her for her support.  Now I use the Riverbank run to kick-off my summer of racing fun.  My husband and I are signed up for several weekend adventure races.”

To support Robin, follow this link: http://www.active.com/donate/intheimage2011/BakerR

Shanna Black has a unique perspective on this year’s race because of her son, Kendrick.  “We are very excited to do this event together. I’m hoping that he will enjoy his first race and we can start an annual tradition of running the Riverbank Run together.” 

Shanna started running like most to stay active and healthy.  This will be her second year running the Riverbank 5k Run and has a personal goal of simply beating her finishing time from last year.

Visit this page to encourage Shanna and Kendrick: http://www.active.com/donate/intheimage2011/Shanna-Kendrick

The third member of the Awareness Team is Anthony McCullough.  Anthony started running just last year because he didn’t think he could run a 5k.  He kept running after his first race as a method of exercise for himself and his dog.  “It was the best way to give my dog exercise.  When you have a tall 100lb Doberman just walking him does not get rid of the energy he has.  So we had to move to running.”

Anthony’s goals have expanded rather quickly since his first 5k last year.  He ran in a 10K also and this year can be seen in the 25k.  He has set a personal goal of finishing in 2 hours and 20 minutes, but the primary goal is to “mainly just finish”.

Let Anthony know you care by clicking on this link: http://www.active.com/donate/intheimage2011/amccullough

Please support our runners by encouraging their efforts.  However, the primary goal is to support area at-risk kids.  It is inspiring to see how a pair of shoes can make all the difference.

Agents of Change

March 4, 2011

On a personal level the word change can be defined as making a difference in the state or condition of someone or to substitute another state or condition.  To change is to make a significant difference so that a person is distinctly different from what they were.  Change is inevitable in life for all of us.  The defining moment however, is whether or not that change is positive. 

Sometimes it is specific person or group that initiates these transformations.  They are agents of change and possess such characteristics as being sensitive, realistic, flexible, tolerant, committed, influential, confident and passionate.  Allow us to introduce you to two agents of change.

Guiding Light Mission is located on Division Avenue in downtown Grand Rapids, MI.  They provide emergency services by way of shelter and meals to anyone in need as well as overnight shelter to men.  Their long history dating back to 1929 has equipped them to provide social, physical, spiritual and intellectual needs to men in the community with the ultimate goal of allowing individuals to discover a new life in Christ. 

The START program (Spiritual Truth And Recovery Training) is a 4-6 month recovery program for men with an expectation of re-engagement into the community.  A recent example is the Recovery Runners, a group of men from the START program who are training for the River Bank Run In The Image run team.  Their stories of overcoming addictions and hardship are inspirational; and now they run to complete yet one more transformation. (You can see their personal stories here:  http://www.lifeonthestreet.org/LIVE-ON-THE-STREET/Recovery-Runners.aspx

In The Image is the other change agent in this story.  They are an organization that links gently used clothing, housewares, furniture and appliances with families in need in the Greater Grand Rapids area. Their history dates back to 1987 when a couple of individuals paid attention to the needs around them.  That same attention to detail has lead to the addition of In The Image’s SHOES program – Shoes Help Our Elementary Students.  Last year this program distributed almost 9,000 pairs of shoes to kids in Grand Rapids, Wyoming and Kentwood school districts.

Guiding Light Mission and In The Image continue to impact the community, offering people in need a hand up as agents of change.  The baton has been handed to the men running as part of the In The Image run team.  Besides running to overcome yet one more personal challenge they are running to raise awareness and funds for at-risk kids.    With every $10 raised, In The Image is able to purchase a brand new pair of shoes for an area student.  It is amazing what a simple pair of shoes can do.  Now it is your turn.  Get involved with a commitment to positively help more kids this year. 

Awareness Home Funding will be supporting a group of runners from our company who will be running for In The Image.  You can support In The Image directly by visiting http://active.com/donate/intheimage2011and donating what you feel lead to do.  Be an agent of change yourself.

A Cause, A Story & An Opportunity

January 17, 2011

As a home loan lender you know that what you doing impacts lives.  Buying a home is not something that people do everyday.  Building a relationship with a client and walking with them through the process is very rewarding.  Added to that is our business philosophy to give back with every home loan we close.  This fact brings us in contact with some amazing groups.  Allow us to introduce you to a recent opportunity we had and invite you to join in.

This year we were again invited to participate with the Grandville/Byron Center Varsity Hockey team in their quest to not only be a winning team, but to also support a local charity.  This is a project the entire team gets behind.  The organization chosen this year is the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF).  JDRF is a global leader in diabetes research, the go-to organization for the diabetes research community, and the best source of hope for better treatments and a cure for people with type 1 diabetes and its complications.  Most people know of diabetes, but really don’t understand the disease. 

Diabetes is a chronic and debilitating disease that affects every organ system.  There are two types of diabetes – type 1 and type 2.  Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which a person’s pancreas stops producing insulin.  Insulin is a hormone that enables a person to get energy from the food they eat.  Type 2 diabetes is a metabolic disorder in which a person’s body still produces insulin, but it is unable to use it effectively.

Nearly 24 million Americans have diabetes with a new case being diagnosed every 30 seconds on average.  Worldwide, 285 million people currently have the disease and that number is expected to grow to 435 million by the year 2030. 

Diabetics do have to make changes in their life.  It requires constant attention to diet, exercise, stress, fatigue, medication, illness and more.  But, it doesn’t have to stop life.  Following is one person’s personal journey.

My Journey With Diabetes

By Stephen Flood

 I was just the normal high school student living the life.  I had no worries in the world when I was on my way to South Carolina for spring break with the baseball team.  I was just a sophomore traveling with all upper class men in a minivan.  I never felt so embarrassed when I started to have the feeling to pee…ALOT.  I would have never thought that I had diabetes then, so there I was eating starburst and chocolates.

We finally made it to our home in South Carolina, and I never felt so relieved when I could finally pee whenever I wanted to.  But it only got worse and worse. During my practices, I was taking a knee just to catch my breath while doing simple drills.  I never felt so physically exhausted in my life.  I also had the worse case of cotton mouth, my lips were so dry that I had to make an effort to open them.  My legs were dead.  My lungs felt like they were going to collapse. Sleeping was nonexistent since I was getting up every 30 minutes to go to the bathroom.  I felt bad for my roommate because I kept waking him up getting out of the bed or flushing the toilet.  I told my mom what was going on, and she told me to drink cranberry juice because she thought I had a bladder infection.

We got home from our trip, and I started to feel better so we kind of just let it be for a little bit, and if it came back again we would go to the med center.  Well, it came back, and there we were sitting in this little room waiting for the doctor. I told him my symptoms, and we ran some tests.  The blood test is what had the doctor worried.  The blood sugar level wasn’t processing.  So we tried it again, and still nothing.  The meters that the doctors had only went up to 500.  The doctors sent me right to the E.R room and told me good luck.  I was confused on why they were saying good luck, because I still had no idea what was going on.

I was laying down on this bed built for 10 year olds, I had my legs dangling from the end of the bed and a needle in my arm.  Yet I was still able to enjoy myself since we were watching the Detroit Red Wings playoff game.

 The nurse made me very comfortable and I still am very thankful for him as he calmed me down.  I asked for a pillow and he jokingly hit me with the pillow.  It was now 11:17 pm when the doctor dropped the ball.  “You do have diabetes Stephen.” The doctors explained.  It didn’t really hit me when he told me.  I just had no clue what to do.  I didn’t know what was going to happen, no clue on how everything was going to change.

Lying in my own bed that night after the doctors let me go home, it hit me.  The doctors told me that I couldn’t eat anything that night, and the last time I ate was in the morning.  I thought to myself “Wow, this stinks!”

The next day, I didn’t go to school.  I had the whole day basically learning about everything there is to diabetes.  I was there from 9am in the morning to 2 pm and I had a baseball game that day.  My dad rushed me back to the game, where I started in left field.  That’s when I realized that I can make it easily.  It’s just another new challenge I have to face every day now.

Now, I’m a senior at Grandville High School, playing three sports this year.  I’m just a little bit different than a normal person, and yet I’m still living the life.  

 So what can you do?  For starters gain a little information.  The JDRF website  has information on the disease, the latest research, support, and tips for living with diabetes.  You can also stay informed to what is happening locally on their Facebook page .

Second, get involved!  January 29, 2011 the Grandville/Byron Center Varsity Hockey team will be hosting the Second Annual Charity Game.  This is a great evening of hockey all while supporting JDRF.  Game starts at 4:00pm at the Georgetown Ice Arena in Hudsonville, MI.  An auction of collectable sports memorabilia and more will take place after the game.

One Really Good Day

January 6, 2011

Yesterday was awesome!  Let me start by saying it wasn’t due to the sun shining on newly fallen snow or that I won the lottery.  (Just for the record I didn’t even play.)  Yesterday was a truly great day because I was able to visit three area non-profits with gifts of support to help them continue their efforts.  For extra measure I even threw in a visit to a new friend who is organizing an upcoming event you really should attend.

The reason for these visits was the result of the AHF Charity Gridiron Challenge game we have been playing this NFL season.  Every week we encouraged friends, family, co-workers and supporters of all non-profits to register and play by picking the teams they felt would win their respective games.  The player with the most correct picks received a $50 gift card.  The non-profit organization they were playing for received $250 from Awareness.  While the game created some friendly competition and interesting office dynamics, the most important part was the ability to support some great organizations. 

The day started with a brief stop to see Jay Starkey, Executive Director at In The Image.  This is an organization that connects families in need with donated clothing, furniture, appliances and more.  Every year they also help area at-risk kids get a new pair of shoes for school.  Last year they were able to help nearly 9,000 kids and have a goal of helping 12,000 kids this year.  Jay, his staff and many more friends played with great enthusiasm all season long with a desire to win “at least just one week”.  That was just what they did the last week of the regular season thanks to a long-time friend of Jay’s.  $250 to In The Image means helping 25 kids with new shoes.  This day was getting brighter as I began to see what these organizations can do with a relatively few bucks.

I then made my way across town to Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids.  If you have not heard about all the excitement going on there lately where have you been?  Gilda’s Club is a place where people of all ages gather to learn about cancer, share experiences with others, and have the opportunity to laugh along the way.  This March Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids will celebrate 10 years of keeping that signature red door open and warmly welcoming all who want to enter with Laugh Fest.  This is the first annual 10 day event that is sure to tickle every funny bone you have. 

I was extremely honored to deliver to them as our grand prize winner, a check for $2500.  It was fun to watch the faces of three weekly winners who also happen to be on the staff of Gilda’s Club beam with pride at their successful efforts.  However, it quickly sank in that this money also meant they had more work to do, more lives to help, more smiles to share.  Incidentally I also had another contribution for them.  You see the real difference in the Awareness business is that we make a contribution of $250 with every home loan we close; and a client had  just asked us to help Gilda’s Club as a result of their loan.  That is one part of my job that will never grow old.

I took a slight detour from delivering checks from the Charity Gridiron Challenge game to deliver one for the next event we are sponsoring.  The Grandville/Byron Center Varsity Hockey team is hosting their second annual charity game.  This year they are raising funds and awareness of Juvenile Diabetes by supporting JDRF (Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation).  A team mom decided to chair the event this year since her son, a senior on the team, has type 1 diabetes.  (If you missed his story in our January e-newsletter, sign up to receive it for free.)  The charity game is January 29 at the Georgetown Ice Arena.  Visit our Facebook page for all the details under the Events tab.

By now I wondered if there was anything to top my excitement.  I had already brightened the day of 3 groups and had one more stop to make – Harbor House Ministries.  Peg Driesenga is the Executive Director of a Christian residence for people with severe mental and physical disabilities.  Like Gilda’s Club, Harbor House is not a place of dimmed lights and hushed tones.  The rooms are open and bright with an air of energy and excitement.  Laughter and conversations drift from all around.  Life is in full swing here.

Peg showed me The Cove, a new activity and physical therapy building on their property.  They have a personal goal of remaining debt free and our contribution was another partner making sure that stayed a reality.  I was really impressed by the love and compassion the staff at Harbor House possesses to care for their residents.  Hopefully we can bring you their full story sometime.

This was one really good day.  And to think it all started with a simple game of picking football teams.  I guess the bottom line is that it’s not about how big the act of kindness is, but that you do act.  It’s not about the value of the check, but the value of the intention behind it.  We all have the same 24 hours in a day, what are you doing to make a difference with yours?

Shawn DeVries

October 5, 2010

There are certain times in life when you sit back and contemplate the lessons you have learned – those personal observations about who you really are.  These can be stepping stones to the future that provide motivation to continue along a given path or opportunity to change if you don’t like the current results.  Here are a few of mine:

I have learned I will no longer have the ability to claim the status of being the youngest person in the office/department.

I have learned to accept and appreciate my identity not as my real name, but simply as my children’s mom to all their friends.

I have learned that I have an odd sense of humor that can be used to lighten a mood or merely embarrass my kids into obedience – both of which give me great pleasure.

I have learned I can be very shy.

I have learned there is great value in learning something new everyday.

I have learned that things and experiences that life defines as “failure” can actually be blessings.

I have learned the value of prayer, faith and hope.

I have confirmed that a budget is not a 4-letter word, but rather a gift of control.

I have learned that I am indeed a control freak.

I have come to appreciate the therapeutic benefits of close friends, intense laughter, a good cry and chocolate; and that they are much more affordable then actual therapy.

I have learned there are many levels to myself and that each one experiences life with great passion and emotion.

I have learned that meeting personal goals is incredibly rewarding.

I have learned to accept help when offered and that asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but rather a display of incredible strength.

I have learned that humility brings perspective on what really matters most.

I have learned the value of real friends.

I have finally determined what I want to be when I grow up.

I am determined to conquer my fears.  My fears of spiders, snakes and heights however are exempt from that statement.

I have learned that I still have a lot to learn and I am learning to enjoy the process along the way.