2017-18 Community Investment Fund grants total $4.7 million

We are granting more than $4.7 million from our Community Investment Fund to 46 local programs that are reducing poverty and social inequities in Kent County. These grants were made possible by the generosity of more than 15,000 people who donated to our Community Investment Fund last year. (All undesignated gifts go to the Community Investment Fund.)

During a strategic planning process last year and a comprehensive scan of the issue areas currently funded in Kent County, we identified priority funding areas for this year: Family Stability, Youth Education, and Financial Security. We sharpened our focus on both high community-wide priorities and filling gaps where there were unmet needs in the areas of housing, food security, mental health, domestic violence, workforce development, and middle school education. The Community Investment Fund compliments funds directed to specific nonprofits by supporting both immediate needs and addressing the root causes of poverty.

“We believe the solution to the pressing social issues facing our community is concentrating on a limited set of priorities and investing at a higher level,” says Michelle Van Dyke, president and CEO of Heart of West Michigan United Way. “Our purpose is to maximize the impact of the contributions we receive by investing in the best poverty-fighting organizations and stepping up where we see an unmet need or a gap. With the community needs always changing, we are funding much more strategically.”

Grant recipients were selected from among 105 programs with each application scored and rated. Teams made up of 28 community volunteers measured all proposals based on specific criteria including program type, population served, program design and disparities addressed. With an emphasis on accountability, each agency is then vetted in the areas of quality programming, governance, finance, and administration to make sure United Way is investing donations in the most effective and efficient way possible.

“We sought out collaborative programming that could help to reduce the impact of poverty and social inequities in Kent County,” says Shannon Gardner, vice president of community impact. “We are funding interventions to help people immediately, but we are also investing in long-term, sustainable solutions.”

Heart of West Michigan United Way is a 4-star nonprofit organization rated by Charity Navigator. We invest 88 cents of every dollar we raise back into our community.


2017-18 Community Investment Fund Grants:


HOUSING: emergency shelter, homelessness prevention assistance, legal assistance, permanent housing supports, affordable housing solutions, asset development

Grant Recipients: Arbor Circle, Community Rebuilders, Dwelling Place, Genesis Non-profit Housing Corporation, Grand Rapids Urban League, Legal Aid of Western Michigan, Michigan Migrant Legal Aid, The Salvation Army, YWCA, Family Promise, Mel Trotter, Habitat for Humanity, Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF), Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, Well House

FOOD SECURITY: Congregate Meals, Meals for homebound seniors, “Pantry Markets” that utilize local food sources, Low-cost community food clubs, Education

Grant Recipients: Access of West Michigan Collaborative, Catholic Charities, Community Food Club of Greater Grand Rapids, Meals on Wheels Western Michigan, Senior Neighbors, Our Kitchen Table

FAMILY CRISIS - MENTAL HEALTH: Intervention for Youth, Low-cost and direct services, Expanding Access

Agency Partners: Arbor Circle, Cherry Health

FAMILY CRISIS - VIOLENCE PREVENTION: Medical and Legal Services for Victims, Adoptive Family Support, Prevention, Intervention, Outreach, Education, Counseling, and Advocacy

Grant Recipients: Arbor Circle, Children’s Assessment Center, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA), DA Blodgett-St. John’s, Legal Aid of Western Michigan, Michigan Migrant Legal Assistance Project, School to Career Progressions, YWCA



Transportation, Tax Prep, Financial Literacy, Soft Skills, Training, Credentialing, GED Testing, and Job-Skills Development

Grant Recipients: Bethany Christian Services, Cherry Health, Employment Services Collaborative (Goodwill Industries), Hope Network, Kent County Tax Credit Coalition, Steepletown Neighborhood Services, West Michigan Center for Arts & Technology (WMCAT), West Michigan Asian Association



Middle School STEM Programming, Intervention, and Teacher-Training

Grant Recipients: Camp Blodgett, Expanded Learning Opportunity Network, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, Hope Network, Kent Intermediate School District, Refugee Education Center