Fairy and Gnome Homes

At Camp Newaygo’s Enchanted Forest

Camp Newaygo’s Enchanted Forest has rapidly become a much-anticipated and popular local event. Each spring, local artists create fantastical fairy houses and/or gnome homes, which are “hidden” throughout the beautiful grounds of Camp Newaygo for attendees to find. This year, over 20 artists created almost 40 houses.

Michigan weather in April can be iffy, but on Saturday, April 23rd we were treated to the first really nice, warm sunny day of Spring, and crowds poured into Camp Newaygo. Even though Sunday the 24th was a bit colder and a bit rainy, many people still showed up with raincoats and umbrellas. In all, over 200 community members joined us to explore the winding trails of Camp Newaygo and discover all of the amazing little houses created by local artists specifically for our tiny visitors!

This year, the Enchanted Forest was a part of Camp Newaygo’s 50 Outdoor Moments to celebrate TrueNorth Community Services’ 50th Anniversary. All Fairy and Gnome homes are now for sale at Camp Newaygo, TrueNorth Community Services, Newaygo County Council for the Arts, and Tamarac. All proceeds will benefit Camp Newaygo programs. Contact Camp Newaygo at (231) 652-1184 if you are interested in purchasing a house for local pickup.

Show Your Support:

Become a Member Today

In February, TrueNorth celebrated its 50th Anniversary! On behalf of everyone touched by TrueNorth’s programs and services over the past 50 years, we thank you for your commitment to our mission. Your support gives every member of our communities the chance to enhance their life, whether it is learning, connecting, volunteering or benefiting in another way.

Supporters just like you keep our genuinely vulnerable neighbors safe through homeless prevention and housing services, utility and food assistance, individualized case management, advocacy for rural Michigan, and so much more. I hope you will take your support one-step further and become a member today.

Membership shows your commitment to everything we do in our communities as we focus on meeting essential needs, creating pathways to self-sufficiency, ensuring youth thrive and building vibrant communities.

Your membership gift will also ensure our children have the opportunity to grow into productive adults through after school programing, participating in cultural arts initiatives, enjoying a sense of belonging, and experiencing many other life-enriching programs that benefit our young people.

As an organization deeply embedded in our communities for 50 years,TrueNorth Community Services depends on the trust and support from people like you. Your dedication to help those in need is very much appreciated. Join me and become a member today as we continue Moving Michigan Forward, 50 Years Strong!

Art Contest is Back!

Student Scholarship Contest to be held this May

The Student Art Scholarship Contest and Expo, for middle and high school students, is one of our oldest programs, beginning the same year we were incorporated, in 1972. Unfortunately, COVID-19 put a pause on us hosting this annual event.

We are very excited to, once again, be able to offer this opportunity to reward and showcase local student artists and their work. Students in 7th – 12th grades may enter individual pieces of artwork, and students in 8th – 11th grades may enter a portfolio of several pieces to compete for monetary scholarships. Seniors enter individual pieces for Senior Recognition, and all winning students receive award ribbons.

“This show gives our students the opportunity to showcase all of their creativity and hard work from the year to a larger audience.” – Jill Kuebler, Grant High School Art Teacher and 29-year member of the A.R.T.S. Committee.

This year’s guest adjudicator is Cheryl Buckingham, from Howell, MI. She is a graduate of CMU who majored in art, with graduate art classes from the University of Michigan. She taught for 35 years at the middle and high school levels. Many of Cheryl’s students were winners of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards over the years, and she had several student portfolios chosen for the Lansing Art Gallery.

“This is a chance for artists to show off their hours of hard work.” – Sam, art student at Grant High School.

Amazing pieces of art will be on public display at the TrueNorth Service Center Sunday, May 1st from 2 – 4 pm, and Monday through Wednesday, May 2nd – 4th from 8:30 am – 8 pm. A public awards presentation will take place on Monday, May 2nd at 7 pm. Join us as we support our local student artists. Click here to see a short video showcasing some of the student artwork.

What Circles Means to Me

Shared by Circle Graduate, Alisha

“Hello, my name is Alisha. I wanted to take a minute to tell you how Circles Newaygo County saved me. I am like a lot of other people. I am a single parent of three kids. I am also a child of generational poverty. I was lost before Circles. I had goals but no idea how to make them a reality, I had debt I wasn’t sure how to do anything about, I knew about budgeting but had no idea how to implement it better in my life, and I was depressed and hopeless. Circles helped me change all of that. Through the Circles program I made friends, I learned to budget, I learned how to reduce my debt and improve my credit score, I learned how to be a better mom, and they taught me to believe in myself like all my new friends believed in me. Circles gave me the confidence to apply to go back to college and I am now working toward a degree. They taught me not to give up on my dreams but rather to make small adjustments when needed to make them a reality. It taught me about self-worth and self-care, things I have never been good at. When I wanted to give up they picked me up and reminded me I had been through worse. The best part is that they didn’t do the work for me. They showed me the way and supported all of my decisions. In doing that they gave me the confidence to work on what I needed to work on. I don’t know where I would be if I hadn’t joined Circles.”

Circles is all about helping participants, called Circle Leaders, create their legacy. Circle Leaders are paired up with community volunteers, called Allies, who help expand their network and walk alongside them during their time in Circles. Throughout programming Circle Leaders hone in on their goals toward self-reliance while building meaningingful relationships with others.

For more information about Circles, contact Circles Coordinator, Gabie Schmidt at (231) 924-0641 ext. 220 or gschmidt@truenorthservices.org.

Gifts to Circles Newaygo County will be matched $0.50 for every $1.00 and will go directly to helping more people, just like Alisha.

Plant a Row for Hunger

Sharing access to local produce

Access to fresh produce is vital to long term community health and wellbeing, and with 80% of Newaygo County residents consuming less than adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables, many families depend on TrueNorth Hunger Prevention Programs for access to these healthy food items.

One aspect of the gardener’s tradition is to share extra produce with those in need. Every year, as part of our Plant a Row for Hunger campaign, we ask local gardeners and farmers to remember their neighbors and donate extra produce. Many local gardeners and farmers even go the extra step of planting extra rows of produce for the express purpose of donating to the Food Pantry.

Mike Voyt, our Hunger Prevention Director says this campaign is a two-pronged approach. “We’d love local gardeners and farmers to plant a row and donate produce come harvest time, and hope giving seeds away will help encourage that. But we also want to encourage folks who might depend on the resources from our Food Programs to also have the opportunity to plant home gardens.” We want to encourage and empower local families to grow their own fresh produce.

To help with this, TrueNorth’s Hunger Prevention Programs will offer a seed packet distribution later this month. This seed distribution, which is open to the public, will allow each household to receive five free seed packets, and bonus flower seeds, courtesy of our CEDAM AmeriCorps member. For new and veteran gardeners a set of detailed instructions and tips on growing produce will also be available.

Homeless to Homeowner

Mark’s Story

Mark had been struggling for a couple of years with addiction and ended up homeless and panhandling on the streets of Grand Rapids. It was a low-point for him, but things were about to turn around, drastically.

After several attempts at detox and rehabilitation facilities, he ended up at Randy’s House in Newaygo. He had found employment in Newaygo and was working second shift, walking to and from work, in all kinds of weather. As part of his recovery and path to self-sufficiency, the staff at Randy’s House suggested he work on repairing his credit rating. That is how he first met Lori Murphy, a HUD-Certified Housing Counselor with our CNH Program. Working with Lori, he slowly but surely improved his credit score with the ultimate goal of owning his own home.

“My number one goal was security… I never wanted to be homeless again. I never wanted to be in that situation where; I have nowhere to go.”

Mark was even able to weather a lay-off because he had taken Lori’s advice to heart and saved money for an emergency. As such, he was able to keep paying off debt without it adversely effecting his improving credit score.

When he was finally able to begin buying his own home, he was overwhelmed by the appraisal and inspection process, but again, Lori was there to walk alongside him and help him navigate that overwhelming process.

“She kept me focused, with my eyes on the goal – to own my own home. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without Lori. I look back two years ago and I think, wow… this actually happened. If I can do it… I mean… I was holding my hand out on the streets of Grand Rapids, homeless, two years ago, and to walk into that home and have tears in my eyes… it’s just unbelievable.”  

Watch the full story in this video.

Dam to Dam Success

Raising funds for TrueMentors

The 16th Annual Dam to Dam Ice Fishing Tournament took place last month and was a roaring success, raising $22,424 for TrueMentors mentoring programs. Beyond the obvious ice fishing, the day’s festivities also included ice golf, food vendors, live music, apparel sales, a crackling bonfire, raffle prizes and loads of laughter.

Each $5 entry ticket for the fish weigh-in went directly to support TrueMentors. These much needed funds help support youth and mentors in our various mentoring programs- Community Based, School Based, TrueBlue Academy and Parks in Focus. In 2021, 88 youth participated in TrueMentors programming.

“Donations allow us to continue our program offerings in Newaygo County. Youth always need additional positive role models to look up to, and TrueMentors provides the foundation for us to offer just that. The success of Dam to Dam really helps ensure we have trained and qualified staff in our programs, and engaging programming and curriculum for youth,” stated Lisa Brown, TrueMentors Program Manager.

This event is made possible thanks to the generous sponsorship of Leinenkugel’s and WLAV Radio. Keep an eye out for information on the 2023 event!

Project FOCUS Student Excels

Lily lands on the Honor Roll

Lily, a 13-year old 7th grader at Holton Middle School wanted to sign up for Project FOCUS because she thought it would “help her a lot.” According to Carlos
Flores, the Site Coordinator at Holton Middle School, they enrolled Lily in the program this past fall, her first time with Project FOCUS.

“We want to make sure our students are at grade level for reading and math. When Lily signed up, we checked her grades, as we do with everybody, and worked on weekly goals”

Lily worked really hard, doing extra work at home logging her reading time, and in the first marking period, for the first time in her middle school career, earned her way on to the honor roll. Lily says she was not a great reader before this, but now she really enjoys it. The staff at Project FOCUS helped her improve her grades by assisting with missing assignments and utilizing the built-in homework help time at FOCUS, which she attends every Monday – Thursday. Lily says making the honor roll makes her feel happy and that her parents are “real proud of her.” She
thinks other kids should join Project FOCUS because “they are really helpful and we can have fun too.” We couldn’t agree more!

Project FOCUS at Holton Middle School is for sixth through eighth grade students. Programming runs Mondays through Thursdays, from 2:35 – 5:10 pm daily (1st and 3rd Wednesdays from 1:10 – 3:40 pm). For an application form, contact Carlos Flores, Site Coordinator at (231) 821-1775 or cflores@truenorthsevices.org.

A New Connection

Community Friends

A new social opportunity aimed at individuals 55 and older is emerging in Newaygo County. Community Friends is spearheaded by TrueNorth
Community Services and Camp Newaygo and provides opportunities for the older population to stay active and socially engaged with their peers as well as connecting with younger generations. There have been several curated outings since the group formed in the summer of 2021. Members have participated in a guided baking class in the kitchen at Camp Newaygo and created bespoke glass Christmas ornaments with the instructors at the Artsplace in Fremont. Every Tuesday in January and February Camp Newaygo hosted euchre for Community
Friends. This popular winter event has drawn in up to 20 avid new and veteran card players each Tuesday and has the possibility of continuing through March.

Currently most events are free to attend but donations are welcome to help plan and promote future excursions. Events are varied and focus on discovering new resources and entertainment within and outside of Newaygo County, learning and
brushing up on new and old skills, and creating new friendships and social networks. These programs also adhere to all currently prescribed Covid precautions from the CDC.

If you are interested in learning more about Community Friends or joining their mailing list please reach out to the coordinator, Caitlin Voyt at (231) 652-1184 or email at cvoyt@campnewaygo.org. You can also join the Facebook group at

50 Years Strong

Community Support

Long-standing community support is often built on positive relationships and
trust. In TrueNorth’s 50 historic years, relationship building has always been a top
priority for TrueNorth leadership, staff, and Board of Directors. It is something we
strive to do everyday. With innovative approaches to serving the community, we
are constantly assessing how new initiatives, programs, and services can truly
impact the lives of the families we serve. The community has come alongside us
in this work, supporting our programs and services through generous financial
and in-kind gifts, and thousands of volunteer hours.

We are honored to have served the community for the past 50 years. It’s humbling to hear TrueNorth is “the first place people go [for help]” and “TrueNorth has been a life saver for thousands of families”. It’s only through the trust we’ve built with our participants, our partners, our volunteers, and within our communities that we are able to do the work we do.

This strong relationship with the community allows TrueNorth to live out our
mission. In addition to Relationships, Integrity and Excellence are core values
of the organization. Our supporters place trust in us to be good stewards of
their donations and time. Based on our proven track record of success, impact,
and fiscal responsibility, we have been provided with many opportunities for
expansion and growth.