Ridge Catering

Catering for a cause  

From appetizers to buffets, from three course meals to delicious desserts, Ridge Catering does it all. Ridge Catering, housed within Camp Newaygo, offers on-site and off-site catering to Newaygo area community members. Whether for a business luncheon, an organization dinner, a baby shower or wedding reception, Ridge Catering has experience making homemade items for all audiences.

Overseen by Whitney Sparks, Events and Catering Director, the Ridge Catering team has varied experiences in their culinary backgrounds. A recent addition to the Ridge Catering team includes Chef Jazmine Meyer who has worked in different seasonal country clubs and resorts and was trained under a Michelin Starred Chef. The diverse team of Ridge Catering ensures that top-notch service is offered in each and every event.

Do you have an upcoming event where catering is needed? Reach out to Ridge Catering to discuss dates, menu options and facility use (if needed) to make your event a success. Contact Whitney at (231) 652-1184 or wsparks@campnewaygo.org.   


Support Leads to Success for Liam


“Liam wants to go to Engage!, that’s the best thing,” says Liam’s mom, Jane Orban. “He looks forward to going every day and continues to be excited about the program.”

Liam Gibson has been a part of the Engage! Out-of-School Time program in Hesperia for five years, starting in the second grade. Now, after completing sixth grade at the middle school, Liam continues to flourish in the program.

Liam’s parents first sent him to Engage! to help improve his focus in a safe place outside of school. Being in the program helped Liam more smoothly transition from the elementary school to the middle school because he still had the support and consistency from Engage!. While there were still a number of changes between school and switching to the middle school Engage! program, Liam learned how to adapt and thrive during these new experiences.

Fun, goofy and inclusive are a few words that describe Liam’s personality. Megan Dyke, the Engage! site coordinator at David C. Outwin Middle School in Hesperia says, “My favorite Liam days are when he comes in and immediately starts playing music and dancing around. He can really set a positive mood for the whole group and get them all involved and dancing too. Even for those who are shy and choose not to dance, you can still see the smiles on their faces watching Liam’s impromptu dance parties.”

Two of Liam’s favorite parts of Engage! are these impromptu dance parties and spending time with friends. Liam has built strong friendships through spending time after school doing fun activities and learning new things with other students. Having this time to interact with friends and other students has fostered an outgoing personality and love for people in Liam.

Not only has Liam grown socially in Engage!, but he has also expanded his interests and skills. Liam is a great problem solver and excels in any kind of engineering challenge. He loves to be innovative in the engineering activities that are a part of the curriculum at Engage! and continuously makes creative projects. Liam showcased these skills at the S.T.E.A.M challenge, an event hosted by TrueNorth Community Services for all 360 students in Out-of-School Time programs. He even was a winner in the Day-of Challenge where he worked with students from different programs to create a bridge out of legos.

Being in Engage! for five years has positively impacted Liam and his family. Having a safe place to go after school to spend time with friends while having hands-on learning experiences has helped Liam grow as a student and most importantly, as an individual. After seeing how much Liam enjoyed and excelled in Engage! Liam’s parents enrolled his sister in the elementary school program as well.

Looking to the future, Liam is excited to continue in the program. When asked what Liam could see himself doing in the future, he said, “I’ve been told I am a people person before, so I think I’d like to do something where you’re more talkative with people.” While Liam has a long time to decide what he would eventually like to do, he will carry with him the life-long skills he has learned in the program.


Baking All Together

Spreading treats of thanks   

Unsung heroes often get overlooked in the day to day grind. Recently, volunteers spent a morning in the kitchen making delicious sweet treats to provide to employees at Consumers Energy and Great Lakes Energy. While laughing and singing along to the radio, the group was happy to show their appreciation and spread kindness through TrueNorth’s Baking All Together program. Each month, Baking All Together will make and deliver treats to show appreciation for everyday heroes in our community.

All Together
 promotes volunteerism and acts of kindness. Adults of all ages, with a focus on those 55+, are invited to be part of special interest groups that get together to do good in the community. Baking All Together meets twice a month and participants design program plans, deciding on monthly recipes and join forces as they prepare and then deliver treats to our local heroes! 

Interested community members can also be a part of Knitting All Together, a knitting and crocheting circle that hand-makes items to donate to local causes. Anyone interested in getting involved, whether seasoned crocheters or those looking to learn, can drop-in during circles held every Tuesday and Thursday.

All Together is made possible through support from the Fremont Area Community Foundation’s Bridging Generations Fund. If you or someone you know would like to become involved in giving back while building lasting connections with others, please contact Jackie Knight at TrueNorth at jknight@truenorthservices.org or (231) 924-0641.

Fundraiser Success

Bowlapalooza’s triumphant return   

Bowlapalooza is a bowling event that raises much-needed funding for TrueMentors, and after a three-year absence, it made its return! Money raised from this event enables staff to recruit, train and match adult volunteer mentors with local children who need them.

“With minimal funding streams available for mentoring programs, TrueMentors, and Newaygo County youth impacted by the program depend on its fundraising efforts. Given the cancellation of Dam to Dam due to weather and the inability to hold Bowlapalooza for the last three years, we were hoping for a great show of support this year and our community did not disappoint!”, said Danielle Siegel, Youth Programs Director.

Over two days in April, 117 individuals representing 20 different bowling teams, got together, bowled, had a blast, and most importantly, raised over $22,000 for TrueMentors. TrueNorth staff alone raised nearly $7,000! This infusion of funds will go a long way in filling the funding gap TrueMentors was facing. 

Dining on Delicious Dishes

Utilize Ridge Catering for your next event

From appetizers to buffets, from three course meals to delicious desserts, Ridge Catering does it all. Ridge Catering, a service of Camp Newaygo, offers on-site and off-site catering to Newaygo area community members. Whether for a business luncheon, an organization dinner, a baby shower or wedding reception, Ridge Catering has experience making delicious, homemade items for all audiences and every occasion.

Overseen by Whitney Sparks, Events and Catering Director, the Ridge Catering team has varied experiences in their culinary backgrounds. A recent addition to the Ridge Catering team includes Chef Jazmine Meyer who has worked in different seasonal country clubs and resorts and was trained under a Michelin Starred Chef. The diverse team of Ridge Catering ensures that top-notch service is offered in each and every event.

Do you have an upcoming event where catering is needed? Reach out to Ridge Catering to discuss dates, menu options and facility use (if needed) to make your event a success. Contact Whitney at (231) 652-1184 or wsparks@campnewaygo.org.   



A Perfect Match for Elijah

TrueMentors making a difference

Elijah was on the TrueMentors waiting list for nearly six months looking for a male role model; someone who thinks the things he likes are interesting, and who wants to play games and get him out of the house. He likes animals, which isn’t that unusual for a child, but also architecture and computers. Luckily, Alan, his perfect match, came along! 

Alan came to TrueNorth looking for a way for a way to give back and work with kids. He has a Master’s Degree in Data Science from the University of Michigan and works for a housing developer. Alan enjoys reading, computers, and comedy. Together, the pair visit and tour old, historic buildings, participate in coding classes, and play board games online when their schedules don’t align.

Currently, our TrueMentors Program has several young boys on our waiting list who need a positive adult role model. A special shout out goes to our only current male volunteer, Alan! Perhaps you or someone you know might be interested in being a positive influence in a young man’s life. Pass it on – be a mentor!

Another way to get involved is also a very easy and super fun one; Bowlapalooza! There’s still time to organize a team and participate in this annual bowling fundraiser to help our TrueMentors staff recruit, train and match adult mentors with local kids who need them. Bowlapalooza takes place April 20th and 21st at Fremont Lanes.



S.T.E.A.M. Challenge 2023

Out-of-School Time: Building Bridges

On Saturday, March 11th, approximately 150 students from our various Out-of-School Time Programs took part in the annual S.T.E.A.M. Challenge. Bringing students from four counties together, this event, themed “Building Bridges,” took place at Hesperia Community Schools, and gave students a chance to participate and compete in a number of challenges utilizing skills and knowledge they’ve learned regarding Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics. 

In addition to the day’s highlighted competitions, the students rotated through activities such as creating boats that float out of only aluminum; creating buildings using jellybeans and toothpicks as their foundations; and making inchworms out of construction paper and then propelling them in races using straws and their own lung power.

For the main challenge, students built bridges out of either popsicle sticks or balsa wood, depending on their age, and entered them into the challenge. Judged on structure, creativity, thought process, and integrity- the winners were those bridges that could hold the most weight! There were LEGO challenges, both 2D and 3D student-created art exhibits, and lots of other fun, hands-on activities. 

“Some students took the theme not only to mean bridges over water, but building bridges amongst students, communities, and friendships – which was really cool!”
– Danielle Siegel, Youth Programs Director 





Plant-a-Row For Hunger

Season kicks off with seed distribution

Fresh produce is a vital component of a healthy diet, yet those experiencing food insecurity rarely have the opportunity to enjoy it. This is why we hold our annual Plant-a-Row for Hunger campaign.  This year we need your support more than ever. During the pandemic we saw a 110% increase in request for food assistance, we are now experiencing an additional 40% increase in assistance.

Anyone who has ever had a garden knows you often end up with much more produce than you and your family could ever consume. We ask local growers to remember the good gardener’s tradition of sharing your bounty with those in need. We also suggest taking it one step further by deliberately planting an extra row for the express purpose of donating the produce come harvest time

Every year, the Plant-a-Row for Hunger campaign brings in over 9,000 lbs. of fresh produce to our Food Pantry. This year our goal is to exceed 12,000 lbs of donated fresh produce. Please help us reach that goal.

The seed distribution, which we started a couple of years ago makes it even easier for local growers to participate. Visit TrueNorth March 20th – 24th between 8:30 am and 4:30 pm to select your free five seed packets. We also encourage anyone who might have need of our Food Pantry services to think about planting their own gardens and empowering themselves to grow their own fresh, healthy produce.


Rita gives back through TrueNorth membership

“To me, giving back looks like recognizing I’ve been blessed. We’ve all been blessed. You don’t have to have tons of money. You need a space in your heart that truly knows the little bit I can do, I can do and I will do,” says former board member and long-time TrueNorth supporter Rita VanBoven.

Rita has been giving back through TrueNorth Community Services since 2005. She then joined the board and became a member in 2007. Although she retired from the board last year, Rita is still supporting TrueNorth through membership. Why? Because, Rita says; “When you hear people say, ‘we have been given so much by TrueNorth and we want to give back,’ that says it all. And I’ve heard that multiple times in the community and it’s good to know that we’re helping those to help themselves.”

From starting the sock drive for the Children’s Christmas Programs to organizing a mud volleyball fundraiser, Rita has a heart for serving those in need. She has been a part of the Fremont community for over 60 years and continues to use her passion for her neighbors to give back through TrueNorth.

During Rita’s time on the board, she saw the problems that faced Newaygo County and Western Michigan. Working together with the rest of the board along with staff and volunteers, steps were taken to help the majority of the community such as those facing hunger or homelessness. These issues and many others still face our community today. However, with the caring support of those at TrueNorth and the community, positive change can be made as Rita saw throughout her time on the board.

Rita has seen the organization grow tremendously in the amount of services offered and people helped over her years spent at TrueNorth. From focusing solely on Newaygo County to now offering services across Michigan, TrueNorth’s reach has expanded to assist more and more people.

Looking to the future, Rita still plans on supporting TrueNorth through her gifts and volunteering. She encourages anyone considering supporting TrueNorth through membership to help as much as they can.  She says, “I’ve been around there for a long time and I would never ask of you anything that I wouldn’t do myself. And I would not think for a minute that you can’t make a difference yourself. So the help is needed there. You can provide help.”

Giving back does not always mean giving a large donation–what matters is caring for and helping our community. Whatever time or gifts you can offer creates a long-lasting impact in the lives of our neighbors. Becoming a member at TrueNorth Community Services solidifies your dedication to the people we serve as Rita and many other members involved at TrueNorth recognize with their continual support.

By supporting TrueNorth through membership, like Rita, you are investing in your community. Together, we can ensure youth thrive, build vibrant communities, create paths to self-sufficiency and meet the essential needs of our neighbors.

“Compassion, caring and people that know how to find a way to make a difference–that to me is TrueNorth,” says Rita. Join Rita and become a member to continue her legacy of compassion, trust and support as we work together to build and maintain a stronger community.

Click here to give back to your community and become a member today.

Not Just Fun & Games

Our Mission to Connect Our Community

Over the last several years, researchers, funders, and nonprofit organizations like TrueNorth have increased their focus on the issues of social isolation and loneliness. Recognizing the vital need for human connection, our Community Connections programs are an effort to combat these issues in Newaygo County.

What is Social Isolation?
There is objective & subjective social isolation. Objective social isolation is living in an area with very low population density. Subjective social isolation is feeling lonely, not supported, and missing meaningful relationships regardless of where you live. The frequency of social isolation is significantly higher in rural, elderly, and low-income populations, though it can affect anyone, anywhere, as we all saw during the COVID-19 pandemic.

There are well-documented, dangerous effects of painful loneliness and lack of meaningful connection to others. Social isolation significantly increases a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity. Social isolation is associated with about a 50% increased risk of dementia. Loneliness is associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. At TrueNorth, we are committed to reducing social isolation and improving lives in Newaygo County.