Ellen Carpenter

Ellen started working at Heart of West Michigan United Way in 2013.

What Ellen does at United Way: Brand, marketing, and communication

What Ellen did before United Way: I executed marketing strategy like branding, public relations, advertising, social media, websites, events, product development for great local companies like Amway, Perrigo, and Bank of Holland.

What Ellen does when she isn’t working: Music is my #1 hobby. I sing, play piano and guitar.

Issue Ellen is most passionate about: Helping families – especially those with children – meet their basic needs. All people should have access to healthy food, stable housing, affordable health care and United Way funds wonderful, effective organizations who make that happen throughout Kent County.

Ellen’s favorite part of her job: I am most passionate about dispelling myths that people may have about giving a “hand-up” to those in need. And, finding the perfect place for people to make a difference through volunteering.

Favorite volunteer activity: God’s Kitchen, Degage, Ronald McDonald House West Michigan, West Michigan Spartans

Favorite thing about West Michigan: I LOVE being surrounded by great lakeshore communities.

Favorite place to eat or drink: All things craft beer – Founders, The Mitten

Gail Montgomery

Gail started working at Heart of West Michigan United Way in July 2016.

What Gail does at United Way: My job is to make sure we are operating as efficiently as possible from a financial perspective to ensure that as much of our donor dollars as possible go toward funding the causes that make a difference in our community.

What Gail did before United Way: I’m a proud graduate of Central Michigan University, home of the Mighty Chippewas.  I spent five years in public accounting at the firm of Crowe Chizek in South Bend, IN as an Audit Manager and 21 years in banking at Old Kent (which became Fifth Third).

What Gail does when she isn’t working: I spend my time watching my daughters run cross country, vacationing in Northern Michigan, and watching football (I get nothing done around the house during football season).

Gail’s favorite part of her job: Knowing that I work for an organization that truly makes a difference in people's lives. 

Favorite volunteer activity: I have been the treasurer of Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore for four years. I am also a Young Banker’s Club mentor and a Teach a Child to Save volunteer.

Favorite thing about West Michigan: Location is awesome - close enough to Lake Michigan that you can flip to "vacation mode" at just about any time.

Favorite place to eat or drink: The Sand Bar in Gun Lake

Shannon Gardner

Shannon started working at Heart of West Michigan United Way in July 2013.

What Shannon does at United Way: I lead staff and volunteers in setting and attaining goals related to United Way’s mission, vision, and board-approved goals. This work includes planning, creating and executing key community impact strategies and efforts that will move United Way’s work forward while maximizing resources.

What Shannon did before United Way: I was Assistant Executive Director at Butler County Community Action Agency in Hamilton, Ohio. There, I assumed responsibility for development and supervision of staff and managed all social service programs to enhance the quality of life for county residents by impacting the causes of poverty and empowering individuals to achieve sustain and advocate self -sufficiency.

What Shannon does when she isn’t working: I love to spend time with my family and travel.

Issue Shannon is most passionate about: I am most passionate about helping low-income families excel. I believe my experience partnering with other agencies to strategically create and develop intervention and prevention programs for families living in poverty not only enriches my life personally and professionally but helps others create opportunities for individuals to achieve their personal goals. And that is a lifetime reward.

Shannon’s favorite part of her job: Working with my Community Impact team.

Favorite volunteer activity: Counseling women

Favorite thing about West Michigan: The beaches are my favorite way to relax.

Favorite place to eat or drink: I love to eat at Ruth Chris. 

Michelle Van Dyke

Michelle Van Dyke serves as President & CEO of Heart of West Michigan United Way and has held this position since January 2016.

Previously, Michelle was the president of Fifth Third Mortgage Company. Michelle joined Fifth Third Bank in 2001 through the acquisition of Old Kent Bank, and assumed the position of executive vice president of Retail Banking. In 2004, she was named president and CEO of the Western Michigan affiliate. She later was named regional president for each of Fifth Third Bank’s Michigan affiliates. In 2009, Michelle assumed the responsibility for the St. Louis affiliates and the Ohio affiliates in 2011.

In 2014, she accepted the role of president of Fifth Third Mortgage Company.

While at Old Kent, Michelle served as senior vice president and manager of the Central U.S. Mortgage region. She was named president of Old Kent Bank, Illinois, in 2000.

Michelle received her bachelor’s degree in business economics from Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Michelle serves on the boards of Davenport University, Grand Valley State University Foundation, Spectrum Health System, Grand Action, and Fifth Third Bank, Western Michigan.

Michelle was named one of American Banker’s “25 Most Powerful Women in Banking” in 2007, 2012, 2013, and 2014, and a “Woman to Watch” in 2005, 2010, 2011, and 2015.  In 2013, she was named a “Woman of Achievement and Courage” by the Michigan Women’s Foundation.  In 2014, she was named one of “The 50 Most Influential Women in West Michigan” by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.


What Michelle does when she isn’t working: I love to read and spend time with my family. I still have two children at home, and they keep me running!

Issue Michelle is most passionate about: I have always been most passionate about children’s causes.  Giving children who are living in poverty hope and opportunities is really important to me. That’s one of the primary reasons why I joined United Way. We are fighting poverty and bringing this hope to thousands of children.

Michelle’s favorite part of her job: I love everything about what I do – especially leading Heart of West Michigan United Way through strategic change.

Favorite volunteer activity: I have always volunteered through church or work and have been involved on volunteer boards for 30+ years. I love this governance work – seeing organizations work from the inside out.

Favorite thing about West Michigan: My family loves the water, so access to all the lakes in West Michigan is ideal.

Favorite place to eat or drink: We go out to eat regularly but, with a busy family, we are often looking for quick options.  Our favorite family restaurant (and a personal favorite of mine) is Arnie’s.