Hunger Needs Rise

Self-select pantry offers support

We have operated a local food pantry since the organization’s inception in 1972. The goal of Hunger Prevention Programs is to ensure that all people in our community have consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living. Due to space constraints at the former office space, we were able to offer two pre-packed grocery bags of food staples distributed out of a small closet. One of the things we were most excited about in moving to our current facility was the ability to operate a walk through, self-select food pantry.

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, we were forced to close our building down to almost all visitors, while at the same time saw huge increases in need for food resources. To accommodate, safely, we had to revert to pre-packing and utilizing a drive up system.

Starting in the fall of 2021, as soon as it was safe to do so, we reopened our self-select, walk through pantry. This arrangement gives our participants the autonomy to select food that works best for their family and household. You simply cannot overstate the importance of personal choice in promoting self-efficacy when a family is able to shop and choose items specifically for their family. We continue to see an increased hunger need locally, and are looking at a 13%-15% increase in 2022 when compared to 2020 and 2021 numbers for our Hunger Prevention Programs.

Our self-select food pantry is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

Honoring our Supporters

Community of Efforts recognition event returns

You, our supporters, are what allows us to fulfill our mission on a daily basis. It is our countless volunteers and donors that allow us to provide ongoing programs and services to our community members.

Last month we were able to honor our supporters at our annual Community of Efforts event. Set on Camp Newaygo’s picturesque Ridge Patio, overlooking Pickerel Lake, attendees enjoyed live music by Max Morrison, a delicious dinner by Ridge Specialties, TrueNorth Bingo, as well as speaking engagements from Bev Cassidy, our CEO, and Mark Kraus, our Development Director and Community Liaison. This year we focused on the ability to gather together again, with the plan to bring back our annual awards ceremony in 2023.

You can view some photo highlights of the event here.

Out-of-School Success

John’s post high school plan solidified

John was in 1st or 2nd grade when he started attending our Out-of-School Time Program in Hesperia. By the time he was in middle school, his family had moved to White Cloud and John was going through what he calls a ‘rougher period.’ It was shortly after that, he met Mandi Krbez, our REACH Site Manager for White Cloud Junior High.  He continued with our Out- of- School Time Program and as he put it; “Ms. K put me on straight and helped me a lot.”

Mandi says right away, she could tell John seemed lost, but she noticed his aptitude and interest in both baking and childcare. She set about finding ways to get him involved, offering him leadership roles in activities with the younger students. She thought the Culinary Program at the Career Tech Center would be ideal for John, but his grades were not where they needed to be. With Mandi’s encouragement and help, by the end of his sophomore year, they had improved enough for him to attend that program during his junior and senior years of high school. “As soon as he went in, he flourished – he loved it!” said Mandi.

During one of their activities, the students got to use liquid nitrogen to make soda pop, and this proved to be the catalyst for John’s higher education plans. He has applied and been accepted to a two-year Brewing, Crafting and Service program at Grand Rapids Community College. Although we do not offer Out-of-School Time Programming for High School students, John stayed active as a volunteer, making him possibly the first student to be involved his entire scholastic career.

“If I didn’t have it (Project FOCUS, REACH & Engage!), I probably would have been much worse…”  

To learn more – take a look at this short video.

Student Artwork Showcased and Rewarded

County wide Art Scholarship Contest and Expo is back!

Last year would have been the 48th annual Art Scholarship Contest and Expo; a chance for local 7th – 12th graders from all over Newaygo County to showcase their artwork in our countywide adjudicated scholarship contest. We are excited for the return!

This year 338 students from 11 Newaygo County middle, junior, and senior high schools entered either individual pieces of artwork or portfolios in the 2022 TrueNorth Art Scholarship Contest/Exhibit, with honors recognition handed out in the Awards Presentation on May 2nd. About 300 people saw the exhibit, on display from May 1st to 4th at the TrueNorth Service Center in Fremont.
The top 16 student artists with portfolios received a $100 Scholarship Award, which can be used to purchase art supplies, attend art classes, or go towards tuition for a fine arts camp or class experience. In addition, ribbons were awarded for five Director’s Choice honorees, 20 Senior Honors, 29 Outstanding Recognition for High School, and 20 Outstanding Recognition for Middle School. The top Director’s Choice honoree has the option to sell their piece to TrueNorth for permanent display in the agency’s art collection.

The 2022 TrueNorth Scholarship Contest/Exhibit honorees included:
Scholarship Awards — Fremont Christian Middle School: Eli Bemet and Natalee Tyink; Fremont Middle School: Ruby Isenhart and Katelynn Pastotnik; Hesperia Middle School: Lesly Coronado; Newaygo Middle School: Brayden Carlson; White Cloud Middle School: Charlotte Karnes; Fremont High School: Kendall Barnhart, Kaiya Flores and Chloe Paulsen; Grant High School: Danica Gee, Hope Olson and Cyanne Schuitema; Hesperia High School: Jenna Brown; Newaygo High School: Annabelle Furnace; and White Cloud High School: Haley Deaton.
Director’s Choice — Eli Bement, Fremont Christian Middle School; Carlee Emelander, Newaygo High School; Avery Geisen, Grant High School; Ruby Isenhart, Fremont Middle School; and Amelia Witte, Fremont High School.
Senior Recognition — Fremont High School: Alexandra Andree, Zoe Corley, Maya Curtice, Blake Hanshue, Ngoc Ngyen, Amandine Perret and Sara Siarek; Grant High School: Kyle Brege, Veronica Coronado, Randi Force, Avery Geisen, Sydney Higgins, Chris Sotelo, Cristal Vargas-Castillo, and Raven Wirts; Hesperia High School: Jessica Cupps, and Katie Lotz; Newaygo High School: Daisy Belanger and Savanna VanderMeulen; and White Cloud High School: Courtney LaClair.
High School Outstanding Recognition — Fremont High School: Zoe Corley, Jake Dykman, Kenzie Hable, Elvira Maier, Edith Miel, Rileigh Patton, and Amanda Rowe; Grant High School: Ceredwyn Bonczyk, Skylar Carlisle, Samantha Clouser, Nolana Davis, Jayci Hance, Irene Labrador, Yadira Lara, Caydence Smith and Megan Wolverton; Hesperia High School: Sam Bieri, Aubree Druso, Emerald Everding, Kelly Huston, Ellie Lotz and Triniti Tanner; Newaygo High School: Claudia Louzao Gonzalez, McCaiden Reinstra, and Taylor Scytko; and White Cloud High School: Aleyiah Desnoyers, Jayla Perrin, Alexandria Rodriguez and Benjamin Vining.
Middle School Outstanding Recognition — Fremont Christian Middle School: Beau Brookhouse, Cohl DeKryger, Tyler Dunning, Noah Hansen, Breckin Kooistra, Ava Krohn, Emma Nelson, Anna Norris and Megan Storms; Fremont Middle School: Rylee Myers, and Kendra Postema; Grant Middle School: Case Cronk, and Alyssa Simon; Hesperia Middle School: Natalie Garvey, Randy Hovey and Jolie Kraus; and Newaygo Middle School: Elliot Davis, Jarely Hernandez-Alvarez, Tristan Jordan and Mavis Mull.

A video featuring a random selection of student artwork from the TrueNorth Art Scholarship Contest/Exhibit is posted on TrueNorth’s YouTube page here.

My Camp Newaygo Experience

Athena’s Story
(written by Athena Parkin)

“I started attending Camp Newaygo in 2013 as a shy, little, eleven year old girl. Coming to a new place with new people for the first time, I was very nervous. But as soon as I arrived at Camp Newaygo, I felt instantly welcomed and back then I never realized how much of an effect it would have on my life. Throughout my six years at Camp Newaygo as a camper, I learned many new skills, like how to start a fire, windsurf, canoe, and go on a proper campout.

Something I loved during these six years was being able to see my friends every summer. I feel lucky to have gained such great friends from a young age. After my last summer as a camper, I became an L.I.T, or a leader in training, and spent my summer working alongside counselors and learning how to fulfill Camp Newaygo’s full mission. Once I turned eighteen, I became an overnight camp counselor. Over the summer of 2020 and 2021, I got to lead many campouts, help campers learn all the skills.

I learned as a camper, and show the other counselors how much Camp Newaygo can mean to a camper. During summer 2021 I was asked to become a year round intern for Camp Newaygo and I was overly excited to spend my year at camp and see it in all four seasons. Some of the jobs I have done at Camp Newaygo during this past year have included: setting up and working weddings, leading school groups, better organizing many areas around camp, working with TrueNorth’s Out-of-School Time Program, Engage!, and the Circles program. Camp Newaygo has taught me so much and I am forever grateful for everything I have learned and gained in my nine years here.”

50 Years Strong

TrueNorth; A Community Asset

Fifty years ago, TrueNorth Community Services operated out of a small building on West Oak Street in downtown Fremont with a small staff of 5 full time and 6 part time employees. TrueNorth has grown by leaps and bounds throughout the organization’s history.

By the early 2000s, TrueNorth’s programs and services had expanded, raising the need for more space. In 2002, TrueNorth launched a capital campaign to purchase land and build a new facility, which would meet existing needs and offer space for future growth. Over $2.1 million was raised, thanks to 541 generous
supporters. The new facility, with over triple the square footage of the former building, contained additional offices; more storage; Food Pantry expansion; a large multi use room for indoor concerts, gym activities and art shows; a commercial kitchen and a youth center.

Over the years spaces have been modified to best accommodate the needs of the community and the agency. This has given us the space, where today, we provide over 230,000 service touchpoints to thousands of individuals annually.

In addition to serving the needs of the organization, the facility was developed into a valued asset to our communities. Over the years many groups have utilized space at TrueNorth to deliver their programs and services too – Alcoholic Anonymous, grief support groups, gymnastics classes, congregate meals, and Young Life, just to name a few.

Today, 50 years later, the TrueNorth Service Center continues to be a vibrant community asset.

Helping with Heat

Shane shares his gratitude

Shane, a Self-Sufficiency client with our emPower program, found himself in a panic when he realized his propane gauge dropped from the safe zone, to completely empty. Without propane, Shane was without heat, and lacked power to his refrigerator.

Upon realizing this, he reached out to his TrueNorth Self-Sufficiency Advisor, Megan, to see what help they could provide. They connected Shane to our emPower team, where Courtney and Linda were quickly able to process a propane fill. Within 2 hours a propane truck arrived to get Shane back to working order! Shane later learned, from the propane driver, that his gauge was stuck, which resulted in him being unaware of his dropped level. Shane expressed his gratitude for the assistance by saying, “Happy Days!!! Thank you so much.”

STEAM Challenge a Hit

Students participate in annual event

Every year, students in our Out-of-School Time Programs take part in the S.T.E.A.M. (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Math) Challenge, participating in a series of fun and educational activities.

Students in our REACH program at White Cloud and Engage! program at Hesperia held their S.T.E.A.M. Challenge on Saturday, March 5th at White Cloud Junior Senior High School, which had approximately 80 people in attendance including students, staff and parents. Their theme was “Our Planet Our Future.” Students had three options to choose from; Art, which had to be a 3-dimensional project made out of recyclable materials. The Art piece had to have an environmental message depicting the artists’ ideas; The Main Project was to create something that would help the environment. Students could choose to improve upon an invention that is currently helping the environment or design something new; The Day of Challenge, which was to design a way to protect sea turtle eggs and once hatched, protect them on their journey to the water.

“Site Coordinators designed a whole month around the S.T.E.A.M. Challenge where they could work out what they were designing. Classrooms were filled with recyclable materials with signs telling the janitorial staff not to throw it away!” – Mandi Krbez, Site Manager at White Cloud Jr. High and Event Organizer.

125 Students from all ten of our Project FOCUS sites (in Baldwin, Hart, Holton, Muskegon Heights, Three Oaks and Walkerville) along with staff and a handful of parent visitors attended the Challenge on Saturday, April 23rd at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Academy in Muskegon Heights. The theme of their Challenge was “Out of This World.” Challenges included – 3D Solar Systems created by students; Moon Rover, where students were provided a base (small remote control car) to build a moon rover that would be able to deliver supplies from one space station to another. The moon rover needed to be able to hold the supplies in its designated container without losing them while navigating the moon terrain; Alien Art Form, themed art projects, which was open to students’ interpretation of what an alien or other space life would look like; Team Challenge, which saw groups of five students compete in a mystery competition the day of the event. This year, it was building a space suit to survive on another planet out of a collection of random materials.

“This was our 7th annual STEAM Challenge event, and I believe was the best turnout from students and parents that we have had. After having to cancel last year’s in-person STEAM Challenge, I was happy to see the kids work so hard on all of the projects for this year’s competition. This event truly is one that our students look forward to every year.” – Sam Bolles, Site Coordinator at Walkerville and Event Organizer.

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!