LAUP named Neighborhood Champion by Bank of America

Bank of America has named Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP) its 2023 Neighborhood Champion in Grand Rapids.

LAUP, which works to empower Latinos to participate in creating a better community for all, will receive $50,000 and the opportunity to participate in leadership training by experts in the nonprofit sector. 

“We express deep gratitude for Bank of America's investment in a historically underserved community,” says Johnny Rodriguez, president and CEO of LAUP. “This neighborhood champion grant not only brings stability to LAUP but also acts as a springboard for organizational transformation. It enables us to enhance staff capabilities through professional development, ensuring better service to the needs of the West Michigan community.”
The organization will also join a network of peer organizations across the U.S. and increase its eligibility for grants or loans to expand their impact. Since 2019, Bank of America has invested more than $7 million in more than 200 organizations within more than 40 communities through the Neighborhood Champions program.

Day of Giving 

The announcement was made last month at Bank of America’s “Day of Giving” in Grand Rapids, when it recognized its 2023 nonprofit partners in West Michigan, employee volunteers, and community impact for the year.
The Dec. 4 event kicked off with more than 20 bank employees volunteering at Grand Valley State University’s Replenish Basic Needs Center, which helps provide students in need with resources like food, clothing, personal care and household items, school supplies, access to housing, physical and mental health services, and employment. It ended with a “GIVE Grand Rapids” celebration at GVSU’s Pew Campus in Grand Rapids with community and nonprofit leaders, bank employees and alumni of the Bank of America Student Leaders program.
Johnny Rodriguez, president and CEO of LAUP, speaks during Banks of America Grand Rapids' Day of GIving event.
This year, Bank of America Charitable Foundation Grand Rapids Market contributed $725,000 to West Michigan through grants, investments, sponsorships and engagements. These partnerships focused on ensuring individuals and families have resources to improve economic mobility and access essential services such as emergency shelter, affordable housing, food and financial education.
Additionally, Bank of America employees logged over 4,000 hours volunteering with local partner organizations and participating on the boards of 73 nonprofits.

Grant recipients

Bank of America in Grand Rapids has awarded more than $5.5 million to fund partner initiatives over the past decade.
Organizations receiving grants this year include:
  • City of Grand Rapids GROW Academy
  • Economic Club of Grand Rapids
  • Family Promise of West Michigan
  • Grand Rapids Art Museum
  • Grand Rapids Children’s Museum
  • Grand Rapids Pride Center
  • Grand Rapids Public Museum
  • Grand Rapids Symphony
  • Housing Kent
  • Junior Achievement of the Michigan Great Lakes
  • Kent County Habitat for Humanity
  • Latin Americans United for Progress (LAUP)
  • Latina Network of West Michigan
  • Safe Haven Ministries
  • The Right Place
  • West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
  •  West Michigan Spartans
  • Women’s Resource Center
  • World Affairs Council   
The celebration featured a panel discussion with LAUP’s Rodriguez as well as leaders from Grand Rapids-area organizations that were previously named Neighborhood Champions: Sandra Gaddy, CEO, Women’s Resource Center; Cheryl Schuch, CEO of Family Promise; Guillermo Cisneros, president and CEO of the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; and Rachel VerWys, CEO of Safe Haven Ministries. 

They discussed how the leadership development component of the program has benefitted them and their staff. Often, nonprofits don’t have the resources to supply this caliber of training along with the opportunity to build a network within the national nonprofit community.
Merrill Senior Vice President Rachel Mraz, a wealth management advisor, received the 2023 Bank of America Global Volunteer award. Mraz has volunteered for nearly 20 years with the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding, a nonprofit organization that uses equine-based therapy to help improve the quality of life for individuals of all ages who are physically, mentally and socially/emotionally challenged. She also is the Equest Center board president.
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Read more articles by Shandra Martinez.