Archive for the ‘Charity Spotlight’ Category

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?

Christmas Gift Suggestions

December 21, 2010

I would suspect that my family is like most at Christmas time.  We give each other a list of things we would like to receive as gifts.  These lists are never created out of selfish, wanton desire; but simply suggestions to get the creative juices of the gift giver going.  But have you ever had to shop for that one person who seemed to have everything?  What do you give them?

My cousins and I faced this challenge when it came to my grandfather.  Grandpa was a man who really did have everything – especially the things that mattered most.  So we granddaughters decided to go outside the box one year – literally, and it was an idea that really fit.  During that year, Grandma had passed away after losing her battle with cancer.  We made a donation in her honor to the local chapter of the American Cancer Society.  Grandpa was deeply moved by our act.  We were reminded that a gift isn’t always about the thing, but the thought and meaning behind it.  This was the perfect gift.

Unfortunately, there are many other families who have a completely different challenge.  How do you create the feeling of Christmas and participate in the exchanging of gifts when the budget has nothing left to offer in the way of Christmas shopping, let alone any type of lavish meal?  Thinking outside of any boxes seems to fit here too.  Gifts that aren’t about things, but ones that have real meaning and permanent value.  Gifts that aren’t about writing a check, but ones that offer the gift of you. 

I’m talking about giving your time, your abilities, and your expertise.  Our Awareness Works 4 U program has introduced us to many non-profit organizations.  Some are more formal in their structure; others are simply the result of a couple individuals.  But all of them can be described as passionate people, called to champion a cause.  Most of whom are volunteers. 

Non-profit organizations need monetary contributions to keep going, but they also need help to get the work done.  Think about the amazing gift you could give by donating your time.  Think of the impact you could have on your community.  Think about the values you could be teaching your kids.  Think about the fullness your own heart would feel.  Christmas is the season of giving.  But no one ever said that gift had to come in a box.

Non-profit Spotlight: Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank

September 24, 2010

Consider these statistics: 

  • Nearly 1 of every 6 Americans does not have enough to eat.
  • Almost half of all the food the United States produces or imports for consumption every year is wasted.
  • Roughly 18% of that discarded food is recoverable.
  • It would only take a little more than 1/3 of that recovered food to end hunger in the United States.
  • Unfortunately only 21% of what is needed, less than 8% of what is available is actually recovered. 
  • An estimated $4 billion annually would cover the cost to save and distribute enough food to end hunger in the United States.
  • It current costs the United States 22.5 times that amount in healthcare, crime and lost productivity related costs as a result of ignoring the epidemic of hunger in our nation.

While these figures are staggering something is being done.  Even better news is that progress is being made by one very unique organization – Feeding America.  Since 1981 the West Michigan chapter has helped their community at large as a non-profit clearinghouse for saved, donated food that is distributed to area churches and charity agencies to help people in need.  Their goal has always been to end hunger in West Michigan.  For them, ending hunger means making sure that people who need food assistance can not only get it, but can get enough for what they need. 

In mid-1990, Feeding America West Michigan was able to determine just how much “enough” was.  For their 40-county service area, (which stretches from the Michigan-Indiana boarder to the Upper Peninsula) they needed to provide their agency food banks with 55 million pounds of food every year.  The problem was that at the time they determined what the actual need was, they were only handling 5 million pounds a year.  Compounding the challenge was a need for more agencies to help distribute the food at the point of need.  Most food pantries could only handle about 45,000 pounds per year and Feeding America West Michigan was only serving about 300 of them.  In order to help end hunger with 55 million pounds of food, they needed almost 1,300 agencies.

Over the next 7 years, Feeding America West Michigan launched a huge-scale project to recruit and develop 1,100 – 1,300 agencies located within the 40 county service area so that any person in need had access to food at an agency located no more than 10 miles (for rural areas) or 10 blocks (in urban areas) away.  They understood that many times the causes of hunger are not always within our control.  However being a source of help when needed was definitely something they could.  When a person or family has enough food to eat they are less likely to be sick, become homeless, commit crimes of despiration or lash out in anger, fear or frustration.  A simple gift of food is often a catalyst to breaking a cycle of need. 

This is by no means an independent venture.  Without help from volunteers and supporters Feeding America West Michigan would not be what it is or be able to help in all the ways that they do.  Through their 7 warehouses, they serve 1,300+ food pantries, homeless shelters, soup kitchens, domestic violence shelters, rescue missions, and other charity agencies across the western third of the Lower Peninsula and entire Upper Peninsula.  In 2009, they distributed over 24.5 million pounds of food and other goods.

You can definitely be a part of ending hunger in not only West Michigan, but also the entire United States.  However, please consider this:  if you would like to give a gift of support a monetary donation goes so much farther than a donation of food.  When you or I buy food at the store we are only able to receive $1 of food for every $1 spent.  With a gift of money, your $1 can be turned into as many as 7 complete meals worth of food.  Plus your monetary donation can be considered a tax deduction  while a bag of groceries cannot.  (Consult your tax advisor for specific details.)  Of course a donation of your time has tremendous value too.

If you would like to get involved, visit the Feeding America West Michigan website to find a location near you.  To Find a Feeding America Food Bank in other states, visit the national website.  Feeding America West Michigan will continue to be a regional nonprofit clearinghouse for saved, donated food to assist needy people, with an ongoing mission to end hunger in West Michigan.

An Endearing Appeal that Lingers On

August 10, 2010

The idea was to provide a little education and old-fashioned marketing to create some excitement over a product – specifically wool.  That was 1807 when Elkanah Watson first exhibited his sheep.  As with many good ideas, it grew – into annual agricultural events that are now held all across the country.  According to the Michigan Association of Fairs and Exhibitions, there are over 3,200 fairs held in North America every year; 86 of them just in the state of Michigan.

Fairs have become a kaleidoscope of events, exhibits and competitions showcasing knowledge, experience and advancements in industry, livestock, horticulture and agriculture.  Talk about an interactive classroom!  All this on display to tantalize the senses with what our world has to offer.  Now add some rides, food and smiles all around and you have a classic event for everyone that has entertained for generations. 

The alluring and endearing appeal is part of what has kept many of us at Awareness Home Funding coming back each year.  Not just to participate in child-like wonder and awe, but to support and encourage the benefits of honest home-grown goodness and hands-on education.  Fair is a place where the values of hard-work and integrity are still just as important as market-share and return on investment.

The beauty is that fair offers something for everyone.  Machines with power and force; athleticism showcasing grace and control; animals on display testing patience with understanding; sweet savory samplings to tempt and delight … Are you ready to join us?

The Kent County Youth Fair is here – August 9 -14 in fact.  Find us this year in the Children’s Barnyard or appreciating the club booths or talking with friends or eating elephant ears or … just come down, we’ll be there.  Take a peek at their website before you go though for all the details: www.kcfg.org

See ya at Fair!

A Little Goes a Long Way

June 30, 2010

Last month we hosted a blood drive and bone marrow registration with Michigan Blood at our offices in Grandville.  Michigan Blood made a promise in 1955 and has kept it – to provide blood whenever it was needed.  After providing for Michigan hospitals first, they regularly send blood wherever it is needed across the United States, including to the military.

If you have ever hosted a blood drive event or donated blood yourself it is understood you will be helping someone somewhere at sometime.  The amazing part is when you learn just how your donation can help.  Besides the obvious of providing blood for an accident victim or surgical patient, a donation can do so much more.  A single pint donation can be used to help up to three people.  The reason is that one unit of blood can be separated into several components:  red cells, plasma, platelets and cryoprecipitate. 

A little biology lesson here.  Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s organs and tissues.  Anemic patients may need transfusions to increase red blood cell levels.  Plasma is a mixture of water, proteins and salts that circulate nutrients, enzymes and hormones.  Platelets promote blood clotting and can give patients with leukemia, children with cancer, premature infants, and children having heart surgery the life saving help they need.  Cryoprecipitate is a by-product of thawed plasma that can be given to patients separately.  Also consider this, a patient who needs an organ transplant could be forced to pass up lifesaving surgery if compatible blood is not available to support the transplant.  From this perspective, volunteering an hour (at most) of your time is suddenly invaluable.

To qualify as a donor, you need to be 17 or older, weigh at least 110 pounds and in good health.  A donor can also give every 56 days.  Yet, despite all the positive effects and relative ease of donating blood, there is always a need for more. 

Did you know that…

  • On average, someone needs blood every three seconds? 
  • Across the United States, about 37 percent of the population is eligible to donate, but only 3 – 4 percent actually do?
  • The average blood donor gives about twice a year?
  • If all blood donors would give three times a year, blood shortage would be rare?
  • If only one more percent of all Americans would donate, shortages of blood would disappear for the foreseeable future?

While we didn’t break any records, by any stretch of the imagination, it was a successful event for our first time.  We were glad to do our part and that our event encouraged several inactive registered donors to participate again.  But, there was another significant reason why we hosted this event.  We registered people as bone marrow donors. 

Michigan Blood’s Marrow and Stem Cell Department was formed in 1990 and is now the busiest donor center in the United States despite being only 33rd in size out of 80 centers.  Every day, thousands of patients with leukemia and other life-threatening diseases desperately need marrow or cord blood transplants.  The sad truth is that nearly 70 percent of these patients will not find a matching donor in their families.

To be a marrow or stem cell donor, you again need to be healthy yourself, between the ages of 18 and 60, and not be afraid of needles.  (You can cringe at needles, just not faint.)  The exciting news is the advances in bone marrow donations that have been made.  If you are found to be a match for someone the most common way to donate now is through a non-surgical procedure call PBSC (peripheral blood stem cell) donation. 

In this method the donor receives injections of a drug that increases blood-forming cells in the bloodstream.  After five days, the donor’s blood is removed from one arm (just like when you donate blood), passes through a machine to separate out the blood-forming cells, and is then returned to the donor in the other arm.  For many patients, bone marrow transplants are their best or only hope for a cure.  The good news is that research and registry members are able to save more lives than ever.

Think about participating the next time a blood drive and bone marrow registry are held in your area.  The website of Michigan Blood conveniently lists drives planned in your area.  Get involved and save a life!  Who knows, the life you save could be someone you love.

4 + 6 = 148

May 25, 2010

Allow us to introduce you to a new way of thinking about math.  Not the standard adding and subtracting, but the exponential growth that occurs when like minded people each take small steps in the same direction. 

This past winter we had the opportunity to share 4 hockey tickets.  We ran a promotion on Facebook and were amazed at the results.  We knew we were on to something and had yet another way to support charitable organizations.

Then last month we were introduced to George Hofacker.  George owns and operates a local lawn and garden equipment company and had been giving vouchers for tickets to see the Whitecaps, a local minor league baseball team, to his customers.  After the last baseball season he still had quite a few ticket vouchers available … 148 of them.  George graciously donated the vouchers to Awareness Home Funding.  Our thought was to invite area charitable organizations – their staff, volunteers and supporters – to the game as a way of saying thank you for all the work they do to make our community better. 

The first step was to exchange the vouchers for actual tickets.  At first the Whitecaps told us they could only provide us with 6 tickets.  Then we shared the story of our company, of how we give back with $250 donations to a charity every time we close a home loan.  We shared our intentions to not just share these tickets with anyone, but with someone’s who also give back.  The Whitecaps are a community minded organization and they instantly understood.  Those 6 tickets quickly turned into 148 tickets.  Every voucher was honored.

The game was perfect.  The weather was sunny and warm; the Whitecaps won their opening game; and friends, relatives, co-workers and supporters from 8 different organizations shared common stories and experiences.

Perhaps the most amazing part is how the story is still continuing.  After the game we made two more donations, one to an organization that was at the game that afternoon and another to George’s favorite charity.   George introduced us to the Walker chapter of the AMBUCS.  The AMBUCS are an inspiring group of local business people that also share our passion to give back and build communities – one person at a time.  Since meeting the Walker AMBUCS, they have introduced us to more groups. 

This is the power of exponential math.  This is what happens when like minded people share: ideas, contacts, goals and aspirations.  Did you know we give a $250 donation to your favorite charity when we close your home loan?  Who would you like to introduce us to?

Non-profit Spotlight: Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids

February 11, 2010

Cancer is one of those words that stirs deep emotions. Nearly every person has been impacted by the disease in some way, either personally or along side someone they know and love.  Gilda Radner felt the emotional and physical impacts of cancer first-hand when she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 1986.  However, a significant difference in her journey was when she became part of a cancer support community.  Knowing the benefits of having the support of others who understand and truly care, Gilda wished that anyone dealing with cancer would be able to receive the same kind of support she did.  After her death three years later in 1989, Gilda’s husband, Gene Wilder, and her cancer therapist, Joanna Bull, began to plan a free cancer support community called Gilda’s Club.  The first club opened in 1995 in New York.

Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids began out of a similar expression of love and compassion.  Twink Frey went through her cancer journey without a community and social and emotional support and knew there had to be more.  She was soon joined by two other cancer survivors, Deb Bailey and Susan Smith to change this.  Together they founded Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids and opened their doors in February of 2001.  Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids opened a second Clubhouse in Lowell in September, 2009.  These clubhouses serve the six-county area of Allegan, Barry, Ionia, Kent, Muskegon and Ottawa. 

“We need Gilda’s Club to fill the gap that exists between the doctors and the patient.  Gilda’s is a great place to get information and support during the entire process.”

~Al Kaczanowski

Gilda’s Club is more than a support group; it is a community of compassion and understanding that travels the cancer journey with everyone impacted by the disease – patient, spouse, children, extended family and friends.  Their entire goal is to make the path that cancer leads you down a little easier.  From the moment you walk through their doors you instantly feel at ease.

“Gilda’s Club has been a tremendous source of support for us as we have adjusted to what this cancer diagnosis means for our family. We feel welcomed, supported and understood here.”

~Kathi, Age 40; Andrew & Megan, Ages 12 & 9

Each month more than 200 support groups, lectures and workshops are offered for free to adults, children and families with program activities also offered in Lowell and Allegan.  Events range from health and fitness classes to formal lectures to casual social gatherings.  Classes and support groups focus on every stage: diagnosis, treatment, grief; for all ages.  The point of each one – you are not alone.  

“Gilda’s Club is a place to come and get support, love and friends. It’s a home away from home that is always open when you need it. The people at Gilda’s Club are there to help you in whatever way they can, and they actually care about every single person who walks into that red door.”

~The Stob Family

It is very easy to get involved with Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids if you would like to help.

  1. Volunteer.  Your help would always be welcome to help with mailings, serve as a program host, assist at events or make phone calls.  Volunteer orientations are available twice a month that will introduce you Gilda’s Club and help you find ways to use your talents.
  2. Financial Support.  Your generous gift will be used to help anyone on a cancer or grief journey.  The non-profit organization exists entirely on donations.  Therefore 100% of every dollar donated stays in the local community.
  3. Share.  Tell everyone you know about the amazing community of support that Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids offers.  This Monday (February 15) Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids will be 9 years old.  To celebrate, they are hosting an Anniversary Open House at the Grand Rapids Clubhouse on Monday, February 15 from 9am – 9pm.  Come out for a slice of cake and a tour!      
  4. Empower others.  Awareness Home Funding is proud to partner with Gilda’s Club.  We donate $250 every time we close a home loan.  This program applies to all our home loan programs, purchase or refinance.  If you don’t need a home loan right now, we can still help.  Please refer us to your family, friends and colleagues and together we can help Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids. 

 “Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids is extremely grateful to Awareness Home Funding and its customers for donating funds to help families living with cancer and grief in our community. Every single dollar raised stays right here in West Michigan and makes such a difference to our members who come to Gilda’s Club to learn, share and laugh together on their cancer or grief journey. Cancer happens to the whole family and we believe that the social and emotional support for all ages available at Gilda’s Club is as essential as medical treatment. The need for our free program is currently up by 40%, while donations have decreased by 30%. We offer our heartfelt thanks to Awareness Home Funding for helping us close that gap and for recognizing the important need for a Gilda’s Club support program here in West Michigan.”  

~ Lindsey Rodarmer