Tag Archives: Grand Rapids Community Foundation

Encore: Starting A Community Conversation About Life After Retirement


Man, retirement sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Sleeping in, golfing all day, lazing around the pool.

That sound you hear is Tom Rademacher and Nancy O’Brien saying, “Whoa, whoa, whoa.”

If you haven’t had a conversation with these two about life after retirement, don’t worry — you will.

The dynamic duo will have a conversation with the entire Grand Rapids community in the coming year, as the two new Encore Fellows at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation.

Their mission: spread the word that there’s a whole new way to share your talent, skills and time after age 60 or so.

They’re working with encore.org, building a movement to make it easier for millions of people to pursue  “encore careers” – jobs that combine personal meaning, continued income and social impact in the second half of life.

Visit encore.org for more about the philosophy, and to see examples of men and women doing extraordinary things in their “encore years.”

Massachusetts tech executive David Campbell, 72, used his management savvy to build a nimble, effective nonprofit that has dispatched 28,000 volunteers to 45 global disaster zones.

Texas telecom veteran Charles Fletcher, 76, used his ranch to launch a global network of 91 therapeutic riding centers serving 5,000 children with disabilities – free of charge.

New York child psychiatrist Dr. Pamela Cantor, 66, leads an organization that helps schools counter the effects of poverty on student learning, reaching tens of thousands of teachers and children in low-performing public schools.

And the list goes on.

Photos by Bryan Esler for stellafly

“It used to be you turned 65 and that was it — you disappeared,” says Rademacher, 60, a longtime columnist at The Grand Rapids Press. “Encore is changing the rules about how we retire.” He took early retirement in 2009 to pursue other writing endeavors but continues to write his award-winning column for The Press and mlive.com as part of his freelance writing career.

“Encore teaches people how to reconfigure that free time they’ve earned,” Rademacher says. “What gifts do you have? And how can you use them to help the rest of us?”

Photos by Bryan Esler for stellafly

O’Brien, 54, an experienced public relations professional, opted for early retirement from Grand Rapids Community College in 2010 after spending 10 years there as executive director of communications. Before that she was a public relations consultant with clients all over town, from The Grand Rapids Ballet to the Amway Hotel Corp. to Wedgwood Christian Services.

Through their Encore fellowships hosted by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, they’ll work as a team to get the word out about Encore.

Rademacher will gather and tell the stories of area people and organizations that exemplify the Encore philosophy. Then O’Brien will use her PR skills to get those stories out in the community, through print, radio, television and social media.

“We want to capture the stories that embody the spirit of Encore, and set the table for conversation,” says Kate Luckert Schmid, program director at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation, which has long supported the Encore movement. “We want to give it a voice.”

The conversation about how to spend your “second life” is already simmering, Schmid says.

“These conversations are happening at coffee houses and at brew pubs,” she says. “Everybody who’s approaching retirement age is asking about what’s next.  But there’s no label, no name for it.

“At the Foundation, we see the potential of engaging experienced adults in critical community issues,” Schmid says. “The wealth of knowledge and expertise out there is just incredible. If we can engage them in our community’s issues, we’ll be better off.”

Rademacher has spent his career telling the community’s stories. He’s looking for people doing great things in their later years in the same places he’s searched for subjects for his many popular columns. Everywhere.

“Wherever I go,” Rademacher says, “I have this question in my back pocket: ‘I understand you just retired. What’s next?’”

He can’t wait to hear the answers.

“As people age, and collect wisdom, they become less and less afraid of the next step,” he says.  “They’re not afraid of the new, of reinventing, they’re not afraid of what people think of them, they’re not affected by peer pressure.

Photos by Bryan Esler for stellafly


Photos by Bryan Esler for stellafly

“They’ve dealt with death and sacrifice and tragedy. They seem unstoppable. They breed optimism in others. I’ll be looking for those kinds of people. And they’re everywhere.”

O’Brien sees her Encore Fellowship as a professional and personal mission.

“I’m walking through the journey myself,” she says. “I’m looking for a second act, a way to utilize my expertise.

“For my parents’ generation, you retire, you go to Florida, you play golf,” she says.

That’s what her parents did, at first.

“They retired to Marco Island, Florida, and they soon said, ‘We’re bored,’” O’Brien says. “My dad said, ‘It feels like we’re just playing golf and waiting to die.’”

So they moved to a small town in North Carolina and started shaking things up, doing outreach for an area prison and a local church.

“Suddenly, they felt vital,” O’Brien says. “They felt involved.”

That’s what everybody wants, she says.

“Never has there been such a huge generation moving into this 60-plus age,” O’Brien says. “We’re all so vibrant and have something to offer.

“It’s not the end of our purpose — we want something else.”

Want to hear more? Stay tuned.

“We’ll be blogging, posting on Facebook, sharing these stories on TV, radio, magazines, newspapers,” O’Brien says.

“The community is going to start hearing some great stories.”

Do you have a great “encore career” story? Contact Rademacher or O’Brien:



Young Nonprofit Professionals Network 2014 Leadership Awards


November 13, 2014
Saint Cecilia Music Center

The Young Nonprofit Professionals Network of Grand Rapids held their sixth annual Leadership Awards last week and brought over 200 people together to celebrate all that is great about the nonprofit sector in West Michigan. The event was made possible with the help of generous sponsors including Heart of West Michigan United Way; Hopkins Fundraising Consulting; Grand Valley State University’s School of Public, Nonprofit, and Healthcare Administration; Grand Rapids Community Foundation; Philanthropia Partners; Parrish Consulting; Hungerford Aldrin; Nichols & Carter, PC; and Beene Garter.









The evening began with a reception sponsored by Spectrum Health. Saint Cecilia’s Dexter Ballroom was full of great energy as guests enjoyed food and beverage from Martha’s Catering, desserts from Desserts by Lori, and beautiful décor provided by Modern Day Floral & Events.

The main event of the evening was the Awards Ceremony, emceed by Shelley Irwin and featuring keynote speaker Latesha Lipscomb. YNPN.GR received nearly 100 nominations that were then narrowed to 35 finalists in seven categories.



Winners were voted on by YNPN.GR members and included:


Advocate Award

Benjamin Oliver, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Grand Rapids Urban Forest Project, The Rapidian





Breakthrough Award

Nicole Rodammer, Boys & Girls Club of Grand Rapids, Grand Rapids Young Professionals


DoGooder Award

Shelley Irwin, WGVU/Grand Valley State University, board member at multiple organizations




Exemplary Executive Award

Bethann Egan, In the Image



Good-to-Great Award

Lindsey Ruffin, Eastown Community Association




Unsung Hero Award

Kirk Eklund, West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology



Young Nonprofit Professional of the Year Award

Jenn Schaub, Dwelling Place



Congratulations to all the winners and the finalists, and kudos to all who work, lead, and volunteer in the nonprofit sector in West Michigan. You are truly making a positive impact across the region!

Everybody, meet Noah: Roberta King’s new memoir, “He Plays a Harp,” is a family love story



Beans for tacos are simmering in a crock pot on the counter as Roberta King and her husband Mike Miesch sit at the kitchen table talking about Noah.

They do this a lot.

Their son Noah died eight years ago at the age of 17 from pneumonia, a complication of a life with cerebral palsy.

But the essence of Noah is all over the place in their pink and white beach house in Muskegon.

His photo is on the refrigerator. His shoes are lined up in his bedroom closet. A couple of his favorite books are still on his bed.

Noah comes to life, in a way, every time his parents talk and laugh about him.

Now, everybody can get to know this kid who had curly blonde hair, a love of Jimmy Buffet and a mischievous streak that once compelled him to pull the school fire alarm.

Consider King’s new memoir, He Plays a Harp,” your introduction.

Everybody, meet Noah.


He once splashed in the Gulf of Mexico with dolphins. He owned one of Jimmy Buffet’s guitar picks. He loved SpongeBob SquarePants cartoons. He appreciated a good hunt for the perfect Halloween pumpkin.

King’s book, published by Principia Media, is mostly a story about how Noah lived.

But it starts out with how he died.

You’ll likely be crying by page 22, when King tenderly, but matter-of-factly, writes how she and Mike gently told their boy goodbye as he died:

“Don’t be afraid, Noah. It’ll be good in heaven, love. You’ll be able to breathe again,” I told him. I thought he might like to know that because his labored breathing and coughing bothered him.

“We’re here with you right now, and we’ll be with you always. Don’t be scared.”

… As Noah journeyed forward to his death, Mike and I held tightly onto each other and to him. Finally, as he drew his last troubled breath, we let the most amazing kid we’d ever known go where he wanted to go. Home.



It’s the most private of moments. Sad, but somehow beautiful. But King would rather laugh with you than cry with you, and much of the book captures the funny family moments that she and Miesch hold dear.

As King and Miesch savor wine and tacos, a bouquet of cheerful daffodils on the kitchen table, there’s lots of laughter.

Remember how Noah would ask what’s for dinner? He’d keep asking, repeatedly, ignoring his mom’s answers until she finally named his favorite — spaghetti.

Remember that time Noah took a huge dump in the airplane bathroom? Miesch carried him from their seats in coach to the bathroom in first class, because it was closer. The stink, his parents tell between fits of laughter, would make your eyes water.

“It was a first-class poop,” Miesch quips with a grin.

“I like talking about Noah,” says King, vice president of public relations and marketing at the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. “It keeps my memories fresh. It keeps him alive.”

“We bring him back,” Miesch says, “with our memories.”

While King’s account of Noah’s final moments brings her readers to tears, the stories of Noah’s life were hardest for her to write.

“His life stories made me cry more than anything else,” she says. “Those were the tender times I spent with him.”

She knows some people might shy away from a book they know deals with the death of a child.

“We have a societal discomfort with death,” King says. “People don’t want to read about it.

“But death is pretty short,” she says. “Life — even if it was short, like Noah’s — is filled with experiences. For it to be a complete book, death has to be part of it. But not all of it.

“I told the things I thought would help people get to know him. To understand why he’s so beloved.”

She pauses, and smiles.

“He was so cute,” she says.




He was also severely disabled. Noah was never able to stand, walk or run. He used a wheelchair since kindergarten. His clenched and shaky hands made it difficult and awkward for him to feed himself.

“Not only does death make people uncomfortable, but disabilities freak people out, too,” King says. In her first draft of the book, she “sugarcoated” Noah’s severe disability, she says.

“Then one of my test readers said, ‘You wouldn’t know that Noah was disabled,’” she says.

So she included more stories about the struggle to get Noah ready to leave the house. The complications of family vacations. The challenge Noah had making good friends.

As she wrote, she felt closer to her son.

“One thing the writing did was help me remember things I had long ago tucked away,” King says. “Then, suddenly, all this good stuff came out. I’m grateful for that gift of greater memory.

“I feel like we were really close all of our lives,” she says, “but I feel even more connected to Noah now than any time since his death.”

Miesch, maintenance manager at Pioneer Resources in Muskegon, says the book is a gift to him, too, preserving his son’s story.

Noah’s bedroom is a place of comfort for Miesch. It remains just the way it was when Noah went to bed there each night.



Miesch walks down the hallway and shows how Noah’s sailboat comforter is still on the bed, and his SpongeBob pillows. Noah’s copies of “Charlotte’s Web” and “The Jungle Book” rest on the bed. His shoes are neatly lined up in the closet.

“His shoes never wore out, because he never walked in them,” Miesch says. “I haven’t wanted to change his room. Once something is gone, it’s gone forever.”

He’s quiet for a minute.

“It’s a way I try to hold on,” he says. “When I go in there, I think about Noah.”

Miesch created the cover art for “He Plays a Harp” years ago, when he and King were dating.

“It represents something like a bigger universe,” he says, walking into the living room to get the original oil pastel art, in a carved black frame.

“When we die, we go somewhere,” he says. “It speaks of that bigger picture.”

The book’s title came from King’s struggle to answer the question she often gets asked: Do you have any children?

Sometimes, to avoid the discomfort that can follow “My son died,” she fibs, and pretends Noah is still alive.

When a woman once started asking about Noah and his interests, King blurted out, “He plays a harp.” No idea where that came from, she says.

She wonders why there isn’t a special word for parents who have lost a child.

King keeps a plastic bag of Noah’s clothes in her dresser drawer.

“Every so often, I’ll open up the bag, just to smell it,” she says. Then she closes it fast, so the air can’t dilute the scent.

Noah had a good smell,” she says.

One more thing to know about Noah.

“Through the book, people are getting to know Noah, who he was,” King says. “Maybe people will read it and be less fearful of people with disabilities, when they realize they live a normal family life.

“It’s kind of a love story,” King muses. “A good family story, about how families cope, that situations like ours are real.

“But mostly,” she says, “I wrote it for myself. I wanted a record of his life. I didn’t want him to pass from this world forgotten.”

For more information and a schedule of book signings and events, visit robertafking.com.

King’s debut reading will be at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 3 at the Scolnik Center for Healing, part of Muskegon’s Art of Loss and Hope event.

She’ll also read from and sign copies of her book at a launch party at 2 p.m. Sunday, May 4 at the Richard App Gallery, 910 Cherry Street SE in Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids Community Foundation Recognized for Diversity and Inclusion


This year Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce has chosen Grand Rapids Community Foundation as the recipient of its 2014 Diversity Visionary Award. Created by the Chamber in 2003, the award recognizes an individual or organization for their exemplary efforts, advancements and contributions to ensure diversity, inclusion and equity within their own institution or community.

Grand Rapids Community Foundation has been a true leader in fostering a more welcoming, inclusive and equitable community. We are pleased to honor the organization for their sustained efforts at the board and staff levels as well as their successful track record in making an impact on the behaviors, policies and strategies in the region,” said Rick Baker, Chamber president and CEO.



“This award demonstrates how important inclusion is in continuing to build a vibrant and dynamic community, and it brings attention to the issue. We have devoted, and will continue to devote, our time and commitment to assuring that all voices are heard and all members of our community are at the table. We intend our organizational culture to model equity in everything we do,” said Diana Sieger, Community Foundation president.

“For more than 25 years, Grand Rapids Community Foundation has been deliberately trying to increase diversity and inclusion, internally and with our grantees. When we established our first volunteer committee to review grants, it was intentionally diverse in its make-up. That opened the door for further conversations throughout the organization on this subject,” said Marcia Rapp, vice president of programs and diversity co-champion.

The Community Foundation focus on diversity and inclusion has become part of our organizational culture and involves staff, trustees and grantees. This award comes on the heels of important work that the Community Foundation has been doing to move the issues of diversity, inclusion and cultural competency forward. As an example, over the last few years, three staff teams (of four to five people) participated in year-long statewide cultural competency learning groups with other foundations. “Facilitated by specialists in this area of knowledge, these peer learning groups fanned the fire and created enthusiasm across the organization,” Marcia said. Additionally, all staff and trustees take a personal inventory of their cultural views. This inventory helps determine where each person is on their cultural competency journey.




Recently, the Board of Trustees approved a strong diversity and inclusion policy for use with nonprofits who are applying for general grants. “Our mode is to ‘work with’ not ‘do to’ others, so we are working with community experts to assemble a palette of resources that nonprofits and others can tap for continuous improvement in the area of cultural competence,” Marcia said.

“Each day as I work with donors and the community, the importance of diversity and inclusion becomes more apparent. Although one can grow fatigued along the way, reflecting on the successes provides the energy and determination to keep going. I am honored to be a part of the leadership team at the Community Foundation as we further this work internally and externally,” said Jonse Young, donor services director and diversity co-champion.






Past Recipients of the Diversity Vision Award include:

2013: Faye Richardson-Green, Steelcase Inc.

2011: Bing Goei, Eastern Floral & Goei Center

2009: Warner Norcross & Judd LLP

2007: Cascade Engineering Inc.

2005: James P. Hackett, Steelcase Inc.

2003: Bob Woodrick, D & W Foods



Veteran on a mission: Peter Meijer on advocacy and disaster relief in a post-war world



Peter Meijer stepped out of the command center at a Hurricane Sandy disaster relief site and immediately knew why he was there.

Another volunteer, a war veteran, came up to him, tears welling up in his eyes.

“He said, ‘Man, I’ve done three tours. But this past week, I made the most impact.’

“Ten minutes later, this older lady came up to me crying,” Meijer recalls. “I asked her what was wrong. She said, ‘Thank you. Until you came, I didn’t have any hope.’ Then she gave me a hug.”

Meijer’s quiet for a minute.

His time in the U.S. Army Reserves and embedded with the Iraqi Army as a combat advisor prepared him well for the physical rigors of disaster relief.

But the tears and hugs?

“I have no script for that,” Meijer says. “You realize, everybody’s winning. It’s 100 percent good, with a capital G.”

Meijer, 25, grandson of the late Frederik Meijer, grew up with plenty of lessons about making a difference in the world.

Now he’s doing his part through two organizations, both connected to his role as a military veteran.

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Meijer is a volunteer for Team Rubicon, a nonprofit disaster response and humanitarian aid organization that organizes military veterans to respond to crises.

And he’s on the board of directors for Student Veterans of America, an advocacy and support group that eases vets from combat life to college life.

A U.S. Army veteran, joined the Army in 2006 while in college at West Point. In 2010, while a student at Columbia University, he was deployed to Baghdad where he served as a combat adviser to the Iraqi military for a year.

When deadly Hurricane Sandy hit shore in New Jersey in October 2012, Meijer and other Team Rubicon volunteers jumped in to assist.

He prepared evacuation shelters, helped with search and rescue efforts and cleaned up debris in the battered Rockaway neighborhood in Queens.

The combination of military veterans and disaster relief makes perfect sense, Meijer says.

“When a vet comes back, he loses a sense of camaraderie,” says Meijer, who lives in Manhattan. “You have a profound emotional connection with the others you serve with. Suddenly, that’s gone, along with your sense of purpose.

“How can you find a new community to be part of that gives you a sense of purpose and community?”

Many find it through Team Rubicon.

“Your main mission is to help people — restore a sense of normalcy,” he says. “But there’s this beautiful silver lining. It also helps the vets, who often struggle with suicide, mental health issues, PTSD, issues of unemployment, how to integrate. All these difficult issues. When you try to work on them directly, you don’t make much progress. But when you’re working with other vets at a disaster, all those really difficult emotional bridges to get across fall away on their own.

“It’s the most gratifying thing.”

Meijer was in Moore, Oklahoma in May right after a deadly tornado struck, killing 23 people and injuring 377 others. Eight children died in the Plaza Towers Elementary School there.

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As he worked on cleanup, Meijer watched as one little girl collected loose roof shingles and drew rainbows on them with crayons. She gave them out to volunteers as thank yous.

Meijer found out later she had been pulled from the rubble earlier at the elementary school.

“That kind of thing,” he says, “sticks with you.”

Meijer grew up in East Grand Rapids as part of the Meijer family. His dad is Hank Meijer, co-chairman of the food retailer.

Growing up, Meijer says, “there was a very high bar.

“We learned it was good to want to do good, but that there’s a lot of goodwill out there that’s never translated into action,” he says. “What change can you actually affect?”

Some of his core beliefs come from his grandfather, Fred, he says.

“It doesn’t cost anything to care and to be a good person,” Meijer says. “And, life is too short not to have relationships with people and work together.”

There must be something to those Fred-isms, Meijer says, because he sure touched a lot of people. “The outpouring after he died was such a touching symbol of the impact you can have,” he says.

Jennifer Clipp has known Meijer since he was a freshman in high school. For 20 years she was the secretary in the guidance office at East Grand Rapids High School. The two remain good friends, and Meijer often checks in with Clipp, now retired, from his adventures.

Peter wasn’t a typical high school kid,” Clipp says. “Everybody liked him, but he wasn’t hanging out at the mall. Other things interested him. He’s an avid learner, and he wants to experience everything he’s interested in.”

And he was interested in the military.

“We had many conversations and disagreements about him going into the service,” Clipp says. “I didn’t want him to be in danger. I said, ‘Peter — why would you do this? You have your whole life to explore.’ He wanted to experience what it was about.

“Now, when you hear him speak about veterans, it’s truly heartfelt,” she says.

Meijer spelled his last name differently during high school, Clipp says, so as not to be recognized for his high profile family.

“He could easily be a very entitled young man, but he isn’t,” she says. “He’s never wanted anything given to him because of who he is. One of the reasons he chose to go to West Point was because he got in on his own, not because his father could afford to send him.

“I can’t wait to see what he does next.”

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Meanwhile, Meijer is a passionate spokesman for Student Veterans of America, a go-between, he explains, “between the college bureaucracy and the Veteran’s Administration bureaucracy.”

They help with paperwork, internships, employment opportunities and other nuts and bolts of transition.

“But there are social and emotional issues, too,” Meijer says. “These students are older than their peers, they’ve had different experiences.”

Peer support is huge, he says.

“Guys who have been there can show others what hurdles they’ve faced, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel.”

Meijer was a student at Columbia University when he was deployed to Baghdad. When he returned, “I should have been as well prepared as anyone to make the transition,” he says. “I had already been in school. Yet it was still really difficult to adjust.

“You don’t want to be that guy in class who says, ‘Let me tell you how the world works,’” he says. “You don’t want to play the veteran card. But the reality is there’s a deep divide between the military and college campus atmosphere.

“A kid who’s just out of high school is living away from home for the first time, learning how to do his own laundry,” he says. “I’ve been shot at.”

While Meijer’s most dramatic stories of aid come from his experiences hundreds or thousands of miles away, he still has a soft spot for his own back yard.

His family has a long relationship with the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. His grandfather created a donor advised fund for his grandchildren to be part of, Meijer says, and he continues to have a say in the projects it funds.

It funds restoration of a WW II glider at the Greenville Military Museum, he says, as well as restoration of the veterans memorial in downtown Grand Rapids.

The veteran experience is part of him, he says.

“You know when you’re in a foreign country at a restaurant and you realize there’s somebody else there from the same place you are?” he says. “Even if you don’t know each other, you have this immediate camaraderie.”

Same thing with veterans, he says.

“You share a lot of things that you can’t explain.”




Grand Rapids Community Foundation’s Annual Donor Party



Each autumn, Grand Rapids Community Foundation celebrates its donor with a special party. This year it was held at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, which is a Community Foundation grantee. The highlight of the evening is the Chaille Award for Community Philanthropy which was given to Kate Wolters.

Wolters has become the sixteenth recipient of the Jack Chaille Community Philanthropy Award, given annually to donors who not only support the Community Foundation but also serve as volunteers or donors to other community efforts.











Kate is a tireless visionary and we honor her with equal enthusiasm,” said Community Foundation President Diana Sieger. “Her support of this community and our Community Foundation has been long-standing and outstanding. She has big ideas backed by a big heart, and we’re honored to recognize her as a leader in our donor family.”

The Community Foundation established the award in 1997 to commemorate the illustrious contributions of its namesake, William Jackson Chaille, who himself became the award’s first recipient. Since that time, the Community Foundation has honored 14 more leaders sharing his infectious spirit for giving and passion for people. Each recipient has demonstrated consistent financial support and a long-term commitment to the Community Foundation, as well as advocacy for its projects and leadership.

Wolters exemplifies all of these stellar qualities and then some. Among her contributions to the Community Foundation are creating the Kate Pew Wolters Fund, a dynamic donor advised fund; co-chairing the life-altering Challenge Scholars education campaign; and blazing the trail in the Metz Society for planned giving. These shining examples prove her commitment to community, and have inspired other philanthropists and volunteers to follow her compelling example.

Take the time to find your ‘why’: Paul Doyle



Paul Doyle served on the Kentwood Public Schools Board of Education for eight years. He often talks to students in career and goal setting sessions.

Students might talk to Doyle about what they want to be. A basketball player. A nurse. A teacher.

Doyle, an organizational performance consultant and educator in the healthcare sector, would agree that positions like these are meaningful or valuable.

“But I would switch the discussion back to ‘All right, outside of all of that — what is it that you want your life to be able to provide for you? Let’s talk about that. What would it take to get to that kind of position in life? What would you like to experience? That’s more important than saying what you want to do.”

For Doyle, finding and nurturing your own personal “why” in almost any situation is key. Finding the ‘why’ continues to drive Doyle as he works as a consultant, educator, and community leader.

“What is your why? What is it all about? How are you going to get there? How are you going to do it?”

“If your ‘why’ isn’t strong enough, I’ll tell you, coming from Brooklyn to Michigan: if the why wasn’t strong enough…why bother?”


Doyle grew up in a Brooklyn, New York housing project. The youngest of five from a single parent household, he was the first to graduate from high school. After high school, he left Brooklyn to attend Ferris State University, and became the first in his family to graduate from college.

“I didn’t know exactly where I would end up, but there was something that kept telling me what I would need when I got there,” said Doyle. “And what I mean by that is that I knew I would need the ability to communicate and interact with a multitude of diverse people, whether that was small towns or big cities. I would need to be able to build intentional relationships. I basically dove into communication, speech, sociology, and psychology — just to learn more about behavior, more about what drives people and why we do what we do, not knowing that eventually I would be working specifically in health care, which is pretty much all about people.”

After graduating from Ferris, Doyle actually wanted to pursue his passion for learning and human behavior through teaching and coaching. However, he went back to New York and used his finance minor to land a job in a hospital finance department. After five years in patient accounts, Doyle moved back to Michigan and continued working in the healthcare arena.

Today, Paul heads Paul T. Doyle & Associates, LLC, which supports the organizational performance of healthcare systems through leadership development, community engagement, and strategic planning; as well as diversity, inclusion, and cultural competence. He teaches as an adjunct at the MSU College of Human Medicine in downtown Grand Rapids, focusing on culture and medicine. His work often involves addressing health disparities.



“I think there is a variance in our world. We have a lot of disparities and gaps,” said Doyle. “Certain people have privilege that others don’t.”

Doyle stresses that uncovering the motivating ‘why’ of a patient or client is essential.

“…it’s not what you know, it’s how you find out what you need to know or want to know about something that’s more important.”

“When I work with physicians, the first line that I teach them is ‘what is it that I need to know about you that’s going to help me provide the quality care that you deserve?’ That’s totally different than ‘I heard that all you people do it this way. Or I read about it in a book. Is that true?'”

“In other words, if I was going to ask you about things I want to know about you, I’m not going to inquire or try to obtain that in a way that devalues you or discounts you. I’m going to actually engage in a way that empowers you and gives you value. That edifies and complements you.”

“Every patient or person that has a health issue, what they’re often thinking about more than anything else is, ‘How can I get back or how can I keep my quality of life? Will I still be able to golf? Will I be able to certain things with my family? Is my family going to be OK?'”

“That’s their why. ‘Why I came to see you today at this appointment is because I want to golf next week. I want to get back to what I want to do.’ But you need to take more time in understanding their why.”

Doyle also serves on a variety of community boards, including the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute, Hospice of Michigan, the March of Dimes, and the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. What’s his ‘why’ behind giving back to the community?

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As a youth in Brooklyn, Doyle participated in after school programs at community centers that were mainly supported by foundations. He participated in youth development, leadership, and music programs.

“I had support systems around my community that enabled me to be able to get on that track of getting out and going and launching my journey,” said Doyle. “I believe in the power of giving. I believe in the impact of being able to support working models that actually can produce measurable outcomes. And I believe foundations, especially community foundations, that’s key to their framework. That’s what they do.”

Without the youth programs at the Brooklyn community centers, Doyle doubts he would be where he is today. He credits these programs — and the unselfish people in his community — with helping to expand his world view and igniting his potential. They were but one key factor that helped him form a strong enough ‘why’.

“I knew why,” said Doyle. “I didn’t know how or what. I wanted to get to a place in life where I would have the ability to live a real quality life. And that’s important.”

Well House secures $257,000 grant from The W.K. Kellogg Foundation



Well House, a nonprofit housing organization on Grand Rapids’ Southeast side was awarded a $257,000 grant from The W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The grant will support access to housing, healthy food and community engagement for homeless people in Grand Rapids.

“This grant changes things greatly, profoundly for Well House. We’re going to be able to fast forward all of our strategies and plans,” said Executive Director, Tami VandenBerg. “Our dream of ending homelessness in Grand Rapids is a bit closer to coming true.”





The Kellogg Foundation funds will be used to purchase three additional homes in the Well House neighborhood (Cass Street SE) allowing the organization to move an additional 25-35 currently homeless people into safe, affordable housing each year. “Well House specifically targets homeless individuals and families that have been denied other housing options for the homeless population,” said VandenBerg.




In addition to housing, the Kellogg grant includes funding to expand Well House’s urban farm and provide employment to 10-20 tenants each year. “The employment opportunities will be on the farm or working to rehabilitate the houses purchased with the grant,” VandenBerg said. Through the farm and green house, which are located on a vacant lot adjacent to the three existing Well House properties, the organization expects to provide significant amount of fresh produce to its tenants and neighborhood residents.

“The W.K. Kellogg Foundation is honored to support the great work of Well House. We believe their commitment to community engagement throughout all of their work will help support the neighborhood and families in creating their own conditions for success and healthy living,” said Andrew Brower, program officer for the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.

Well House is looking to do some volunteer recruitment with its Kellogg funds. VandenBerg expects that in the next several months, 75-100 volunteers will complete a Well House orientation to introduce the organization’s model of Housing First, as well as the importance of food justice and inclusion to people who will help the organization.

Since January 2013, when VandenBerg began leading Well House, she has secured Grand Rapids based grants including $25,000 from the Dyer Ives Foundation and $10,000 from the Sebastian Foundation, both for the urban farm project. Well House is also launching a major mushroom growing effort.

In addition to the three grants, Well House also received a low interest loan of $25,000 from Grand Rapids Community Foundation to purchase a house at 632 Cass Street SE from the Kent County Land Bank.

To learn more about Well House, visit their website: http://www.wellhousegr.org
LIKE them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Well-House/437732526237528?fref=ts

Grand Rapids Community Foundation: Diana Sieger, Lynne Black, and Marcia Rapp Celebrate 25 Years

17 JANUARY 2013


I’ve said it before and I will say it again—

Grand Rapids Community Foundation throws a great party. It was a totally “rad” time at the GRCF late Thursday afternoon as they brought the 80’s back to celebrate with staff, along with several special guests, three incredible leaders who have been with the foundation for 25 years—Diana Sieger, President; Lynne Black, Vice President of Finance and Administration; and Marcia Rapp, Vice President of Programs.

Everyone was dressed as a memorable musician, actor, or TV personality from the 80’s—from Punky Brewster to Magnum PI. Centerpieces were made out of cassette tapes, records, and a sprinkling of 80’s candy. Disco balls hung from the ceiling, and the festivities kicked off with a rousing game of “Retro Pyramid,” their own version of the $25,000 Pyramid.









When I asked “Princess Diana” (her 80’s alter-ego) Sieger what has been her favorite part of leading the foundation, she talked about how she grew up in “a time of social change” and that carrying out the mission of the foundation, helping so many worthwhile organizations in this community, is very special to her.

Lynne “Cat in the Hat” Black told me how the people she works with have been a big part of her longevity with the GRCF. “They are all so passionate,” she said.

Marcia Rapp, or “Annie Wilkes,” the lead character in Stephen King’s Misery, topped off her costume with an axe, mallet, and a 2×4. I talked to her about what she enjoys most about being part of the foundation staff. She said she enjoys the people and that there is “something different every day.” She treasures being able to be part of the team and credited Sieger’s leadership for making the GRCF what it is today.

Gifts were presented to each of the three honorees, and were very thoughtful and personal. Roberta “Cyndi Lauper” King gave a beautiful toast to the ladies she calls the “best brand builders” in Grand Rapids.




Once all of the formalities were out of the way, it was time to enjoy great 80’s themed food and drinks (think Bartles & James) and karaoke began. There was “Margaritaville” sung by Cyndi Lauper and “Love Shack” by Princess Diana and her backup dancers. It was a truly happy and memorable celebration for Sieger, Black, and Rapp—one that I’m sure will not soon be forgotten around the office.

Congratulations, ladies. You are each an excellent example of leadership and commitment to the community.