Keeping people with their pets during a crisis: How $144K in grants are being used

The Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area (CFHZ) recently revised its approach to grantmaking. The distribution of charitable grants is a crucial part of the Foundation’s work as the organization distributes charitable dollars from the Community’s Endowment to respond to pressing needs and promising opportunities as they evolve, helping our community thrive.

Following a year-long collaborative process between staff and Board, incorporating lessons learned during the challenges of the past two years and thoughtful feedback from nonprofit partners, CFHZ committed to a two-pronged grantmaking approach through 2025 that incorporates both responsive grants and proactive grants. 
The responsive grant program (formerly known as competitive grants) has an open funnel process that allows CFHZ to invest in timely opportunities across a broad range of impact areas including arts and culture, community and economic development, environment, education, health, human services, housing, seniors, and youth.  
Through its proactive grant program, CFHZ will commit energy and resources to targeted investments in three issue areas, which were identified using data from community-specific research surveys and input from nonprofit and cross-sector partners. Those three issue areas are: increasing access and availability of mental health services; leveraging out of school time to mitigate the education opportunity gap; and increasing the consistency of healthy parent or other caring adult relationships in kids’ lives. 

“We’re grateful to the nonprofit and community partners who provided important feedback as we began the process of revising our grantmaking strategy,” says Yah-Hanna Jenkins Leys, Director of Community Impact. “This new strategy helps us to identify grantmaking opportunities that are core to the mission of the organization, represent significant turning points for organizations or issues, address inequities, and will have lasting impact for the community. We’re already seeing those opportunities reflected in the first round of responsive grants.”

Under the new grantmaking strategy, the first round of responsive grants was recently awarded. A total of $144,800 was distributed from the Community’s Endowment to five nonprofits.  

Harbor Humane Society – Community Outreach Management  
Amount Awarded: $40,000 over two years 
Purpose: To assist community members in need by keeping pets in homes/with loved ones. 
Why this matters: Oftentimes, individuals living in crises are reluctant to call the Humane Society because they believe that this step will result in a permanent separation from their pet. The new team member leading community outreach will manage intake diversion, emergency medical care for pets, temporary foster, food and supply needs, and domestic and other socio-economic circumstances. The intentional connection between community outreach and programming reflects a shift in animal welfare programming and is built around a national model committed to community collaboration. 

“This funding will help us provide a designated staff person focused on preserving the human animal bond between people and their pets by helping people who are struggling with pet care. We firmly believe that pets are family, and we are excited to partner with human service agencies to assist and support clients and the general public as a whole in preserving that bond. It is truly a win-win situation if we can keep pets out of shelters and with their family, and we are so grateful for the support from the Community Foundation to make this dream become a reality,” says Jen Self Aulgur, Executive Director of Harbor Humane Society.

Gateway Mission – Gateway Spoon Cafe & Grill 
Amount Awarded: $30,000  
Purpose: To expand and further develop additional vocational training in a real-life business setting at Gateway Mission’s new restaurant, Gateway Spoon Cafe & Grill. 
Why this matters: Expanding vocational training opportunities in the areas of culinary arts and restaurant-based customer service will offer hands-on, on-site job training for up to 15 program participants each year. These new hospitality-focused opportunities will offer greater choice and alignment of gifts and interests for different Gateway participants, along with developing local talent for an industry currently facing worker shortages. 
Opportunity Thrive – The New Teacher Support Series 
Amount Awarded: $30,000 
Purpose: To launch a program that centers on supporting, developing, and retaining new educators. 
Why this matters: Ottawa County had approximately a 56% retention rate with educators in their first 5 years in the field. The costs to replace an educator, including all of the rehiring and retraining costs, is estimated to be between $10,500 for a rural district and $21,000 for an urban district.  
Ready for School – Expansion of Summer Kindergarten Readiness Camp 
Amount Awarded: $22,800 
Purpose: To increase capacity to address the gap in summer education experiences and child school readiness ensuring families are strengthened and the highest risk children are ready for school. 
Why this matters: Kindergarten Readiness Camp delivers academic and social-emotional instruction that is especially important given the high number of English Language Learner students and the high number of students that did not participate in a formal preschool or other early learning experiences due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The program serves as many families’ first experience with the K-12 school setting, not only providing a valuable experience for each student but also help to build a strong relationship between the school and family.  
Disability Network Lakeshore – Youth Advocacy and Leadership Program 
Amount Awarded: $22,000 over two years 
Purpose: To educate and train the next generation of leaders with disabilities. 
Why this matters: Students with disabilities face harsh realities as it relates to equitable treatment in schools, despite laws designed to help level the field. This program directly invests in teens with disabilities to help them discover their voices individually and collectively to ensure that decisions that will impact their lives—school, housing, employment, and government—include their lived experiences.  

“Ensuring that people with disabilities have a voice in the decisions that impact their lives and the lives of all people in Ottawa county starts with learning the skills to be the next generation of leaders and advocates,” says Amanda Rhines, Executive Director of Disability Network Lakeshore.

“With the support of the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area, Disability Network Lakeshore will bring a new Youth Leadership and Advocacy series to teens with disabilities focused on building these skills. We are so excited to be part of ensuring that the disability rights movement continues on into the next generation and we carry forward the legacy of ‘nothing about us without us.’”

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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.