Archive for the ‘Charity Spotlight’ Category

Non-Profit Spotlight: American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids

February 8, 2010

If you have ever done a general search of non-profit organizations in any given area, you will find hundreds of groups that all work to better the communities we live.  Some focus on families as a whole; others on specific needs of individuals; and still others work to better the areas that impact our lives, our pets, our neighborhoods, our schools.  Despite knowing that many of these groups exist, how much to do we really understand about what they all do to better the lives they touch.  Here is the focus of this post.  (Check back for more groups in the future.) 


Let us personally introduce you to the American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids.  They have a long and rich history than spans over 93 years.  The Greater Grand Rapids chapter was founded in 1917 during World War I in response to a call to action to support the war effort.  They offered assistance with hospital services in France as well as to military personnel passing through Grand Rapids, MI.

In the 1920’s and 30’s, Veteran assistance services were added that also expanded to include preventative health education programs.  The health programs were a direct result of needs arising during the massive flu epidemic of the time.  Services expanded again during the Great Depression to include food and clothing distribution.

When World War II broke out, the Grand Rapids American Red Cross chapter again rose to the call for help with nursing, lifesaving, and water safety training.  Transportation and youth services were also added during this time.

The 1960’s brought the Civil Rights Movement, and in keeping with their commitment to community, the chapter’s social awareness and activity also increased.

From the 1970’s to the 90’s more services and community assistance programs were added again.  This time programs were in the areas of CPR and first aid training, accident prevention, pet emergency training, childcare education classes, HIV/AIDS education, and diversity training.  The Gulf War and area disaster relief efforts were also an ongoing focus for the chapter.

 Throughout the years and various changes in size and scope of services offered, the vision of the American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids has consistently been to offer compassionate volunteers committed to helping others.  That has never changed. In the past fiscal year (2009) over $1.9 million dollars of support went out in various forms to better the lives of residents in Barry, Ionia, Kent, Montcalm and Ottawa counties.  The work of the local Red Cross impacts more than 70,000 individuals annually in this area.  This is one tightly run ship with only 9¢ from every dollar received going to operational expenses.  Keep in mind the chapter also supports projects on a national and international basis.


Locally the chapter’s current focus, as always, is disaster assistance.  This time of year often brings calls for help from victims of home fires.  The cold weather can force residents struggling to make ends meet look for alternative heat sources that often create unsafe situations resulting in house fires.  The American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids is ready and able to help.  They also offer an ongoing service of free transportation for elderly and disabled persons who need to get to various appointments or errands and do not have or cannot afford other means of transportation.  For example, getting to a doctor appointment, a dialysis treatment, or even picking up a prescription.  If you are in need of transportation assistance, simply call the Greater Grand Rapids Chapter at (616) 456-8661 one week in advance.  One of the 70 volunteer drivers utilizing one of 11 vehicles will be happy to assist you.

Nationally the Greater Grand Rapids Red Cross chapter remains focused and ready to assist with disaster relief in cases of hurricanes, tornadoes, floods or whatever tragedy may occur.  With the goal to always be ready, the Grand Rapids chapter offers a thorough training series for disaster services volunteers.  The training focuses on mass feeding, sheltering, mental health support, driving emergency vehicles and logistics.  The purpose of the training is so that when disaster strikes, an army of volunteers are ready to go into action and know how to act to avoid chaos.  One key component to the training is that it is exactly the same in every chapter across the country.  Teams can quickly be assembled from all over the United States and every member will be able to effectively offer help and assistance when needed.

On the international front the focus now is obviously Haiti.  One important point here is any funds donated locally for Haiti relief will be channeled to the national Red Cross for aid and assistance.

So how can you help the Red Cross? 

  1. The first level of response from the community is always funding.  Since this is solely a donation funded organization, financial support is needed to keep the services going. 
  2. You can volunteer.  Currently they have areas of opportunity in IT support, reception and as disaster managers.  Every other Wednesday, the American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids offers Life Savers Tours that will introduce you to the chapter and their work.  Call (616) 456-8661 to sign up for the tour that also includes a free lunch.  The date of the next tour is February 17. 
  3. This is the Red Cross, so you can always donate blood.  As you know a single donation can be used in many ways to help many people.  This month blood drives will be conducted locally on February 16, 23 and 26. 
  4. Increase your support.  The reason Awareness Home Funding has partnered with the Red Cross is because of our program to support non-profit organizations.  We donate $250 every time we close a home loan.  Maybe you are not in the market to purchase or refinance a home, but someone you know may be.  When asked, let us know you would like this donation to support the American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids.

The American Red Cross of Greater Grand Rapids, committed to helping others with compassionate volunteers.

The Forced End of a Tradition

January 28, 2010

It has long been the tradition of a large mid-western university to hold a televised auction each spring to support public broadcasting.  This auction has been a mainstay of support for the past 35+ years.  However, the university recently reached a tough decision to end this fund raising effort because of a growing negative return on investment.  This is a major blow to their financial situation as well as the on going livelihood of the program.  Over the past 3 years, the auction has been able to raise over $150,000. 

So how will the university be able to replace this influx of support?  In the current economy what are other organizations of any size doing to counter this growing challenge?  How are you being affected?  This is not a new problem, nor merely a local blow.  Non-profits all across the country are being forced to answer hard questions of how to generate revenue while keeping administration and overhead costs at a bare minimum.

How about a ray of sunshine and an idea that works?  What if there was an option that generated real, sustainable income?  What if anyone could participate, the program was self-funding and self-maintaining, and applicable to any non-profit organization.  (At this point, any organization that does not have a need for a single dollar more please stop reading.  Everyone else, read on!)

Awareness Home Funding gives $250 to any 501(c)3 organization that our clients specify when their home loan closes.  That’s it!  Think about this.  Interest rates are at an all time low, there are plenty of homes to choose from, and home buying credits are still in effect.  We handle your supporter’s home loan (and by the way, we do what we do very well) and they tell us about you.  After the loan closes, we have $250 going your way.  But it doesn’t just end there – this is a sustainable program after all.  Your supporters know people.  They have families, friends, neighbors, colleagues, associations and long time relationships.  Anyone they tell about this program is now a source of support for you.  Suddenly, ‘going viral’ has mass appeal.

Today, generating support for an organization is so much more than candy bars and televised auctions.  You need a partner, who cares about you, your cause, your community; a company with support for your home and your heart.  Contact us today and let us start working for you.


A team approach

January 21, 2010

When you see the real impact that groups working together can have, it is impressive to say the least.  This morning we met Paula Deen, well known chef, restauratuer, and spokesperson.  She has been partnering with Smithfield meats in their effort to end hunger in the United States.  The reason for her visit was for their donation of 40,000 pounds of meat products to Feeding American West Michigan Food Bank.

Perhaps what impressed me most, was her personal connection to those struggling to provide food for their families.  She was once “there”.   As she explained the goals Smithfield and Feeding America has, she was moved to tears that this problem still faces so many. 

As a company, Awareness Home Funding is structured to help organizations like Feeding America help others.  As individuals, we may not have much impact.  But, as Paula indicated, working together we surely do.  When we are able to help you, your friend, their colleague, and that person’s family member that single donation from each loan suddenly has tremendous impact.  The power of one telling one.  Tell someone you know and let us help you help them.

Playing Santa Claus

January 8, 2010

Okay, so technically Christmas is over and Santa is no longer making his rounds, but this week we had the privilege of making donations to 5 area non-profit organizations.  When you are able to give to this many organizations at one time, it does feel like Christmas regardless of the date on the calendar.  Following are the organizations we supported and little about the work each one does.

The Children’s Assessment Center was started in 1991 by the Grand Rapids Chief of Police to serve the needs of sexually abused children. Here, in a child-friendly, safe environment, children are evaluated, counseled and supported by a staff of highly trained individuals at no cost.   In addition, the staff provides training and education for parents and those who work with children.  In the midst of a crisis situation, they offer hope and healing. The support and compassion this group has is amazing!  To learn more visit them at:

The Grand Rapids Griffins Youth Foundation also has a heart for kids.  They teach “teamwork, commitment, generosity, academic achievement, goal-setting, perseverance and good health…not to mention some hockey” to underprivileged and at-risk youth in the community.  They offer hockey instruction and games for kids in 1st through 9th grades.  Almost 300 kids participate each year at no cost to them (or their parents).  If you know a child who would like to get involved check them out at: Sled Wings game is scheduled for January 12th at Griff’s Ice House.

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks focuses their attention on maintaining and expanding parks and public spaces in Grand Rapids, MI.  With organized events their goal is “to help Grand Rapids rebuild and sustain an exceptional system of parks and public spaces and, by extension, increase home values, improve citizen health, safeguard air and water quality and strengthen the community’s ability to retain and attract residents, businesses and visitors.” From January 11-16 they have a build week scheduled for a Bike Park.  Visit for the details and how you can get involved.

C-SNIP works to solve the imbalance in the number of puppies and kittens born every day compared to the number of homes available to accept them. C-SNIP believes that “Pet sterilization is the solution to a problem that drains communities both emotionally and financially.  Until every dog and cat born is assured of a safe and caring home, this essential surgery must be available to everyone.  C-SNIP is making that happen by providing pet owners with a spay/neuter clinic with prices they can afford.”  Their website ( explains more about their passion and ways to get involved.  Coming up in February is an event, Bow-Wow’s & Brews for you and your pup.  Check it out!

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services provides support to help those who cannot hear well, adapt to daily life.  They educate individuals and companies about how to better serve deaf and hard of hearing consumers and employees.  Their wide range of specific services include: providing interpreters, career development, and sign language and lip-reading classes.  These efforts have gained them a reputation for excellence and caring.  A Euchre Tournament is planned for February 27!   Visit their website ( for more details about this event or others like the weekly support group meeting on Tuesday evenings.   

If you are, or know of, a non-profit organization that works to better the lives of people in your community please let us know.  We’d love to be able to give you a donation too.  (Our ‘Santa’ works year round.)       

Giving – It’s in the ‘Jeans’

December 24, 2009

In our company, Friday is jeans day.  Nothing unusual, it is just a day to dress a little more casual in your favorite pair of appropriate jeans.  (The pair of jeans we all really love probably should never be worn outside of the house.)

John Arnold, Executive Director of Feeding America W. Michigan (right) and Gary Gunnett, Director of Charitable Parnerships with Awareness Home Funding (left)

Anyway, for the month of December we, as employees, were given an opportunity to wear jeans any day of the week in exchange for a small donation that would be equally matched by the company.  We had over 95% participation!  But the bigger news is that we were able to support two local organizations –

Shirley TenHarmsel, Director of Buist Community Center and Larry Buist, Owner of Buist Electric

Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank and The Buist Community Assistance Center.  Both organizations seek to help those who might otherwise go without a meal.

Giving to others always feels good – regardless of good jeans or not.


How you can help

If you have ever considered helping a food bank your first thought is to probably stop by with a bag of groceries.  However your desire to help can do a tremendous amount more if you donated money instead of the actual items.  Through their connections they are able to gather exponentially more food than what you or I would be able to purchase on our own. 

In this case, the donation of actual dollars really has more impact.  Of course, with the growing number of families these organizations (and others like them) are able to help, the gift of your time is always appreciated too.

The Latest News

December 17, 2009

With a flurry of activity always a happening this time of year, we’d like to let you know about the latest news with a couple of the organizations we are partnered with. 

Deaf and Hard of Hearing Services

They are a unique organization that provides communication, human services and education to deaf, hard of hearing and hearing communities with the goal of inclusiveness in Western Michigan.   With services that range from interpreters to career development to sign language and lip-reading classes,  they have gained a reputation for excellence in the deaf and hard of hearing community. 

A current promotion assists those who are in need of a smoke detector in their home specifically designed for a deaf or hard of hearing person.  If you are in need of one please contact DeafHHS at 616-732-7358 (v/vp) or stop by their office to pick one up.  They are working in conjunction with the Grand Rapids Fire Department to help you with the installation if needed at no cost.  The Fire Department also had traditional 9-volt smoke detectors available if needed. 

Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids

Recently we had the opportunity to support Gilda’s Club Grand Rapids with a donation made possible by one of our clients.  Gilda’s Club offers free cancer support for children, adults, families and friends.  With the holiday’s, many members rely on them for help in handling the extra emotional and social demands that this season can bring for support and “normalcy”.   Check out their website to learn more about this organization and the many activities they have happening.

Guiding Light Mission

Our friends at Guiding Light Mission have recently launched their new website that squarely focuses attention on homelessness and the needs of the homeless.  They provide “food and shelter while equipping men with social, emotional, spiritual, and intellectual skills, thereby preparing them to serve.”  We are proud to be a partner with them and their efforts to strengthen the community as well. 

A Zest for Life

December 15, 2009

Presentation of $250 Donation

Today Awareness Home Funding had the distinct pleasure of meeting John Mulder, Vice President of Medical Services, and John Norden, Vice President for Development from Faith Hospice.  We were also able to tour their Trillium Woods facility.

Based in West Michigan, Faith Hospice strives to help their patients experience all the joy, hope and fulfillment of life possible while dealing with a life-limiting illness or condition.  The Trillium Woods location is a fully staffed, in-patient facility.  In their primary role they are not so much an organization that focuses on dying, but on living through the last phase of a loved one’s life.  They partner with a patient and their family to increase understanding with compassion.  Having had first-hand experience, Faith Hospice really does embrace an entire family through what can be a very difficult time.

However, they also help patients with serious ailments with treatment options often unavailable in traditional medical settings so that they can return to their lives again.  John Mulder stated his purpose this way, “As long as there is still air in [a patient’s] lungs, they have life yet to live.  I intend to help them to live that to the fullest.” 

It was also a pleasure for us to be able to donate $250 to this non-profit organization to help them continue their work in the community.  To learn more about them and their services click here.

Trust is Essential

December 14, 2009

“Having Awareness as a corporate partner for Special Olympics makes sense. They have opportunities and resources for our supporters that make the relationship a win-win for both the Special Olympics and our supporters.”
–Development Manager, Special Olympics Michigan

Trust is a word that conveys reliability and strength of character.  Yet it is also a concept with great fragility and a trait that must be carefully tended.  Awareness Home Funding views our past successes with great appreciation.  The recommendations of our partners reflect our responsibility to organizations and clients alike, but also drive us to perform at a higher standard.  When you succeed, we succeed.  Working together the communities we serve ultimately succeed.

As a partner, we have communication methods that will work with you however you connect with your supporters.  Our program is easy to implement and incorporate into your current fund raising efforts.  Changing your mode of operation just does not make sense.  We respect your hard work too much to not value the trust placed in us.  It is what a partner does.

Contact us today and let our passion further yours.

“I wholeheartedly recommend Awareness Home Funding to other charitable organizations, they’re for real.”                                         –Director, Humane Society of Kent County

Ronald McDonald House Gets Aware with $250

December 4, 2009

Yesterday we had the privilege of meeting with Lisa Evans, the Executive Director of Ronald McDonald House, Western Michigan. We were there to deliver a check for $250. We had been there before, but this time of year it’s nice to see how they decorate the house in order to lighten the atmosphere and make guests feel welcome. If your timing is right, you might even smell cookies baking from the kitchen.

We love donating to this fine organization. It’s easy to get our help, to find out more about having Awareness support your favorite charity, please feel free to contact us at 866-982-9273.