Gerber Gives Back

Gerber Gives Back in Many Ways

Gerber Life is a Life Insurance company based in Fremont. With a little over 500 employees in total, between their main offices in Fremont, an office in White Plains, NY, and remote workers, they service the entire country. As a community-minded organization, they allow each employee individually to serve four hours, and an additional four hours as a group, volunteering for local organizations, on the clock.

The offices in Fremont house their Contact Center, Agency, I.T., and Operations Teams, and a great many of these employees have volunteered for a variety of TrueNorth programs and services, including, the Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Food Pantry, Tools for School, and Children’s Christmas Programs. 

“TrueNorth is such an asset to, and serves so many in our community,” said Kari Faltinek, Gerber Life Senior Project Manager. “We at Gerber Life consider ourselves a family, and those values translate perfectly to what TrueNorth does, so we’re happy to be a part of that.”

Since 2006, Gerber Life staff have volunteered over 1,815 hours for TrueNorth. “Gerber Life continues to be a pillar of support for TrueNorth and our communities. Their commitment to creating a better world is evident through their generosity and service. We are proud to have them as partners in achieving our mission,” said Mark Kraus, our Community Liaison and Development Director. 


Tools Success

Tools for School Levels the Playing Field

Tools for School helped level the playing field for over 800 Newaygo County students on Tuesday, August 15th, when they all received brand new backpacks, full of the school supplies they’ll need to start the year off right. Depending on each student’s age, backpacks included items such as folders, pencils, pens, markers, crayons, notebooks, pencil boxes, erasers, highlighters, glue, scissors and more.

Students and families were able to access vital information and services from several TrueNorth programs, and many local organizations, including – Arbor Circle, Corewell Health, DHHS, Fremont District Library, Girl Scouts Michigan Shore to Shore, Junior Achievement, Michigan Public Service Commission, Molina Healthcare, Newaygo Day Care Corp, Newaygo Promise, Telemon Corporation, and Youth Attention Center.

In addition, students were able to receive dental checkups, and vision exams, from the Child and Adolescent Health Center. Some students even left the event with fresh haircuts, thanks to local hairstylist Raven, from Hair by Raven. Youth also enjoyed outdoor fun including a bounce house, face painting, free book giveaways from the Newaygo County Great Start Collaborative, and even animal visits with pet turtles and a bunny!

“Having enough school supplies is vital to a students’ success in the classroom.” said Mike Voyt, Children’s Services Director. “We want to make sure that all students start the school year off on a level playing field, excited and ready to learn.”

Additional backpacks will be distributed to area schools in the coming weeks, and in the end, we will serve over 1,000 students this year. Tools for School is supported by the Fremont Area Community Foundation, The Gerber Foundation, Choice One Bank, and community contributions and volunteers.

The 2023 Art Contest and Exhibit Encourages Students to Express Themselves

“The Art Contest and Exhibit has improved the quality of my program and the quality of the work my students are producing,” says Jill Kuebler, the high school art teacher at Grant Public Schools. “They have excitement that people are going to see their work

Jill has been an art teacher at Grant Public Schools for 30 years, with her students participating in the art exhibit since she first started teaching art at the middle school. As her program has grown, she has continuously incorporated TrueNorth Community Services’ arts programs into her curriculum.

The Art Contest and Exhibit has been a part of TrueNorth’s Cultural Arts programs since 1972. Middle school and high school students submitted different mediums of art from area schools: Fremont Christian Schools, Fremont Public Schools, Grant Public Schools, Hesperia Community Schools, Newaygo Public Schools and White Cloud Public Schools.

The 2023 Art Contest and Exhibit kicked off with its opening to the public on April 28, wrapping up on May 3. Area students showcased their artwork and even won scholarships to help further their artistic education. Jill says having her students participate in the art exhibit has given her “the ability to promote enthusiasm for what they’re doing. The opportunities that kids have here are way beyond what they would have had because of TrueNorth.” 

Among Jill’s students who took part in the art exhibit, two high school seniors’ pieces were featured for their second year. Seniors Cyanne Schuitema and Taylee Self both had multiple pieces showcased in the exhibit, and Cyanne even received a senior recognition for her oil pastel piece titled “My Dinosaur and Me”.

At the 2022 Art Contest and Exhibit, Cyanne was also recognized for her portfolio. She says, “It was nice knowing that it wasn’t just one piece of art that got an award, it was all of them. It made me feel like I could keep working with other mediums.” This encouragement from last year gave Cyanne the confidence to explore different art styles for her final art exhibit this year.

Not only does the art exhibit provide students with encouragement and recognition for their work, but it also creates an opportunity to see the different art styles their peers are using. Taylee says, “I love just walking around and being able to look at all the different styles and different creativity everyone is using.” Whether or not students received awards or scholarships, all of the submissions showcased the talent and creativity of our local youth. 


30 Days Around the World

With our Engage! Program

For the month of November students in our Engage! Out-of-School Time Program at Hesperia Middle School journeyed across the globe to learn about different countries and cultures. Activities ranged from Bollywood dancing, making sushi, and Turkish art, among many others, and also included guest speakers! Youth sampled food from other countries, practiced different art styles of various cultures, and played games to learn about landmarks around the world.

Students were able to keep track of their travels in their personalized passports, writing what they learned and adding their stamp. In total we covered 19 countries: Mexico, Honduras, Venezuela, India, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Mali, Ireland, United Kingdom (England and Scotland), Turkey, Germany, and Burkina Faso. Ask your student about their favorite country and activity!

Homeless Not Hopeless

Learn About Jerry’s Journey

After a break up that left Jerry homeless, he was referred to TrueNorth for assistance. We were able to temporarily provide housing for him and his daughter in a hotel. While staying there, Jerry struggled to find and secure affordable childcare and almost lost his job. The case manager assigned to him worked with a local landlord and was able to get him into a rental in Oceana County. Once he was housed, he was able to secure childcare, to provide a more stable environment.

Jerry has built a great relationship with his landlord who was willing to move him to a larger unit and has offered him employment as the maintenance person for all of his rentals. Jerry has one more month in the TrueNorth program but is positive he will be able to pay his rent going forward. Jerry and his children are very happy with their new rental and Jerry’s new job, which allows him more time with his children and an optimistic future.

National Mentoring Month

Sharing the importance of mentoring

By definition, a mentor is – an experienced and trusted adviser; a friend; and someone to help provide guidance, support and be a positive role model. Which is exactly what the adults in our TrueMentors program are. Adult to child mentoring has been a central part of the TrueNorth mission since 1976.

Beginning with our Connections program, followed by an 18-year partnership with Big Brother Big Sisters, and more recently as TrueMentors. Through these programs we have offered a variety of mentoring experiences, from traditional one-on-one pairings, to group mentoring at TrueBlue Academy, and outdoor adventure and art programs like Parks in Focus.

Mentors make a difference in the lives of youth through their gift of time. This includes everyday activities and experiences like grocery shopping, taking a walk, cooking a meal, or can include more infrequent activities like amusement park visits, sporting events, and movies. Either way, the time spent between mentor and mentee can have a life changing effect.

During January, National Mentoring Month, we acknowledge the importance of mentoring and bring light to the on-going need for additional mentors. We are encouraging everyone interested to become involved.

Anyone interested in becoming a mentor to a Newaygo County child, or to RSVP for the event, should contact Lisa Brown, TrueMentors Program Director, at (231) 924-0641, ext. 109, or

Celebrating 50 Years

Moving Michigan Forward, 50 Years Strong

This year we are celebrating 50 years of serving the community! Hitting this hallmark year is quite a feat for a nonprofit organization. In 1972, Newaygo County Community Services was created as an independent private nonprofit organization. This year, we will feature highlights from the last 50 years in each of our newsletters – where we started, where we’ve gone, and where we’re headed in the next 50 years!

In the 50 year history of TrueNorth, remarkably just two people have held the position of President & CEO, Rev. Gene Cotton (1972 – 1989) and Bev Cassidy (1989 – Present).

At the time of its launch, TrueNorth had four staff members and a budget of $300,000. Today, TrueNorth has over 200 staff across the state of Michigan and a budget of over $25 million. Like the organization, the community has grown tremendously over the last 50 years. There are 11,000+ more residents now than in 1972, an increase of 25%. We’ve evolved alongside Newaygo County to meet the ever changing needs.

Throughout our 50 year history, the agency has had a wide variety of programs and services. Some for a short duration, others for a decade or two and some offered for our entire 50 years. It’s no secret that TrueNorth focuses on strengthening communities and empowering individuals. It’s through robust program offerings, relationship building, a supportive community and an agency that’s committed to our Newaygo County roots that has helped us grow over the last 50 years.

It’s an exciting time to reflect on our past, acknowledge lives changed, and look forward to the next 50 years. Join us throughout 2022 as we celebrate together! To get a feel for the day – check out this short video!