6 ways nonprofits are making a difference in the Holland/Zeeland area

The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area recently distributed over $218,000 to local nonprofit organizations, supporting their service in the areas of health, education, youth, and basic human needs.

 “We are committed to empowering organizations that are making a significant impact in our community,” says Yadah V. Ramirez, director of community impact for the foundation. “These grants reflect our dedication to investing in vital programs that help those who live and work in the greater Holland/Zeeland area to thrive.” 

CourtesyWith the help of a Community Foundation of the Holland/.Zeeland Area grant, Escape Ministries will double its summer program capacity and introduce a year-round initiative to equip youth with essential skills for early and long-term career success.

Escape Ministries
Amount Awarded: $60,000 over 2 years
Purpose: To double summer program capacity in two years and introduce a year-round initiative to equip youth with essential skills for early and long-term career success. Youth of color and from low-income households often face barriers, including a lack of transportation or documentation, to obtaining a paying job and succeeding in it. Escape will use this grant to help youth ages 14-17 learn job skills, build relationships in the community, develop confidence, and gain workforce readiness so they can thrive in a productive and meaningful career after high school. 

"We know our summer jobs program has made a huge impact in the community, and we are excited to have the ability to grow into year-round program offerings,” said Kevin Denton, Escape’s executive director. ”These grant funds also allow us to provide discounted tuition for driver’s education and increased staff expertise as we develop a world-class youth employment program to rival any in the country.” 

CourtesyA Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area grant will help the Outdoor Discovery Center expand its nature-based learning support for local schools to West Ottawa Public Schools.

Outdoor Discovery Center Network
Amount Awarded: $60,000 over 2 years
Purpose: To expand Reimagine Education, an extension of ODC Education Network's successful nature-based learning support for local schools, to West Ottawa Public Schools. Reimagine Education addresses challenges in student achievement, particularly in science, reading, and math. The program will provide expanded support during the school day to students, teachers, and administrators. This expansion is anticipated to improve outcomes for over 2,400 students and impact over 50 educators in the West Ottawa district over the next two school years.

"Kids need movement, exploration, wonder, and opportunities to connect with their local community,” says Bob Wandel, director of ODC Education Network. “ODC and community partners are looking to impact educational outcomes of area students by regularly getting kids out of the classroom and involved in hands-on learning. Funds from the CFHZ are a crucial catalyst for bringing nature and community-based education to more students in the area.” 

Good Samaritan Ministries
Amount Awarded: $35,000 
Purpose: To improve office facilities, including adding private meeting spaces and more staff offices to meet a growing demand for services. Since 1969, Good Samaritan Ministries has been providing support through housing initiatives and stability programs. These upgrades to their office space are essential to meet the growing needs of the community and ensure the effective delivery of resources. 

Zeeland Public Schools
Amount Awarded: $30,000 
Purpose: To enhance the Introduction to Public Safety Course, increasing educational and career prospects for students who are interested in careers as first responders, emergency personnel, and other public safety professions. This program will create a pathway for students, especially those who have been historically underrepresented in the field, and prepare them to meet the community’s current and future needs.

Holland Free Health Clinic
Amount Awarded: $18,812.88 
Purpose: To acquire a new dental operatory system to improve patient care and program efficiency. Holland Free Health Clinic has been a crucial resource for underserved populations since 2002 and provides free dental care for the uninsured/underinsured, accepting Medicaid. Oral health disparities often disproportionately impact low-income, uninsured and minority populations. Investing in a new dental operatory system is essential to address the community's health priorities. 

Camp Blodgett
Amount Awarded: $15,000 
Purpose: To expand summer academic and recreational programs to include students from Holland Public Schools beginning in 2024 and gradually increase enrollment across Ottawa County public schools through summers 2025 and 2026. Camp Blodgett's STEM Academy and Summer Camp serves children from low-income households, with the STEM Academy specifically seeking to increase middle school student competency in science and math and increase social-emotional learning among those who have demonstrated a need for academic support.
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