Entries by Leslee

Little River Band of Ottawa Indians

Jason Cross was a social worker in Manistee County when he observed that a lack of licensed childcare in the area was a major barrier to parents being able to get and keep jobs.

The problem was especially acute because Manistee County has a high percentage of single parents and many simply could not find work during the hours when childcare was available.
“Much of the employment in Manistee County is shift work, and many jobs fall outside the typical 9-5 work day,” says Jason, “but there were no licensed centers that offered childcare after 6 p.m. or on weekends.”

Inner City Christian Federation

Ryan VerWys can describe the work of Inner City Christian Federation (ICCF) in one sentence.

“We’re making places for people to come home to,” he says proudly.

In a city where affordable housing is in short supply, where children leaving foster care struggle to obtain adequate employment and housing, and where the injustices of discriminatory housing practices echo, Ryan knows it takes people from every neighborhood and organizations from every sector to achieve ICCF’s vision.


Take one incredibly creative artist who sees the promise of engaging the community through art in a vacant building. Add a multitude of partners, volunteers, and artists and you begin to see how Paul Amenta of SiTE:LAB has created unusual art installations that welcome tens of thousands of visitors from all walks of life every year. Paul and an ever-changing crew of volunteers have organized more than 30 temporary art exhibits over the past decade, all housed in underutilized buildings in and around downtown Grand Rapids.

Little Traverse Conservancy

In the last one hundred years, the landscape of this country has been changing faster than it’s being protected. Alarmed at the disappearance of mature forests, scenic prairies, essential biodiversity and “breathing room,” land conservation groups have worked to protect an estimated 40 million acres that are now set aside as wildlife and plant habitat, act as buffers of our Great Lakes water resources and provide public access to nature. Thanks to efforts by Little Traverse Conservancy, a generous chunk of that protected land is located in Northern Michigan.

Conservation Resource Alliance

Members of the Conservation Resource Alliance know how to apply good science to restore water quality in rivers and stabilize stream banks. They know what it takes to remove old dams and culverts and improve habitat for fish. A key to their success is they know how to foster collaborative land-use solutions that bring together private landowners, government agencies, non-profits, volunteers, funders and businesses with shared goals and a long view.


More than 140 students at West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology (WMCAT) are learning how to apply their creative skills to change the world. At the heart of WMCAT’s Teen Arts + Tech Program is using creativity to empower high school kids to affect change in their own communities.

Muskegon Farmers’ Market

The Muskegon farmers’ market has always been considered a community asset, a great place to meet friends and buy fresh food. But the 50-year-old structure needed work and lacked amenities such as running water and electricity that market vendors want these days. Its location, tucked in an area with limited visibility and accessibility, also presented challenges.

Habitat Kent

For 30 years, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County has partnered with businesses, non-profit organizations, funders, tradespeople, thousands of volunteers, and qualified Habitat home buyers to help nearly 400 families achieve the dream of owning a home. With that home comes tangible stability – no more moving every few months from rental to rental or relative to relative.

Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council

You can’t go far in Michigan without crossing a stream, following a river or spotting the sparkle of an inland lake. In a region that contains more than 20% of the world’s fresh surface water, it’s easy to take for granted all that glorious water. Yet, because of human intervention, the quality of Michigan’s waters has diminished considerably in the past 200 years, and everything from tourism and the fishing industry to property values and our health is feeling the impact.

Top of Michigan Trails Council

Michigan has the largest network of rail trails in the country. Top of Michigan Trails Council helps that effort by empowering and supporting the efforts of local trail groups and providing guidance to trail communities throughout the state on how to market themselves as trail-friendly destinations for tourists.