Community Support

Helps Area Youth at Bowlapalooza

With over 200 community supporters, TrueNorth’s annual bowling fundraiser, Bowlapalooza, successfully raised needed funds for TrueMentors last month. All funds raised will facilitate the connection of local youth with positive role models through the program’s three areas: Community Mentoring, TrueBlue Academy and Parks in Focus.

Community support included sponsors, bowlers and donors. Altogether the event raised over $24,000 for the program. To celebrate the fundraising efforts of supporters, TrueNorth held bowling at Fremont Lanes for 11 different teams, totalling nearly 100 bowlers between the two nights. Luci Moore of Gerber Life Insurance was the top fundraiser of the event, raising $900 total for TrueMentors.

“Thank you to everyone who participated in and supported Bowlapalooza,” says TrueNorth Youth Mentoring Specialist, Serena Lafferty. “You are making a difference in local youths’ lives, and we wouldn’t be able to do what we do without the support from all of you.”

Bowlapalooza would not have been possible without the generous support from our lead sponsor Leinenkugel’s, and from our additional sponsors: Ed’s Orchard Market, Gerber Federal Credit Union, Gerber Life Insurance, Hi-Lites Graphics, Hoaglin Electric, Magna Mirrors, Murray Lumber & Supply, Nieboer Electric, Par-Vox Technology, Tire Wholesalers and Wolff Builders.

Local Talent Awarded

Student Art Scholarship Contest & Expo

2024 marks the 52nd year of the county-wide, middle and high school Student Art Scholarship Contest and Expo. Students in 7th – 12th grades enter either individual pieces or portfolio collections of original artwork, which are judged and awarded by a guest adjudicator; this year – Tatsuki Hakoyama, Assistant Professor of Studio Arts, from Kendall College of Art and Design.

Award ribbons were given out for Outstanding Recognition in middle and high school, Outstanding Senior Recognition, Director’s Choice, and Scholarship Awards for outstanding portfolios in middle and high school at a public event on the evening of April 29. The Director’s Choice awards are ranked, with the top student afforded the opportunity to sell their piece to TrueNorth to become part of our permanent display of student artwork. Students winning the Scholarship Award, awarded as a cash prize, can be used to further their artistic education, through classes, camps, or the purchase of art supplies.

320 community members viewed the artwork while it was on display at our service center over a four day period. To view a short walk-through of the show and see complete lists of the winning students – click here!

Plant-a-Row for Hunger

Continue the Good Gardener’s Tradition

Eating fruits and vegetables is essential for long-term health, yet many facing food insecurity find it difficult to access these nutritious food items. Newaygo County benefits from rich soil and boasts a thriving local agricultural community. From apple and peach orchards to onion and carrot farms, the region produces a wide variety of fresh produce, and many residents maintain successful home gardens, which often yield more than they can consume.

In keeping with the good gardener’s tradition of sharing their bounty, we remind everyone of our annual Plant-a-Row For Hunger campaign. As you put in your gardens, please consider planting an extra row with intent to donate the extra produce to the Food Center at TrueNorth. Even if you don’t deliberately plant an extra row, we ask you to donate any excess to help feed your neighbors who are experiencing food insecurity. 

We also want to empower those visiting our Food Center, to grow their own gardens, maybe even for the first time. During our seed distribution event in April, we distributed 800 seed packets to Newaygo County residents, and offered a seed starting workshop for our Food Center members. Donations are accepted during normal business hours, Monday-Friday from 8 am to 5 pm.

Give Meaningful Gifts

This Mother’s Day & Beyond

Looking for unique gifts for your mom this Mother’s Day? Search no further than these meaningful gifts in the Inspiring Hope Giving Catalog!

The Inspiring Hope Giving Catalog features representative items from TrueNorth’s program areas to purchase in honor of loved ones. Each gift in the catalog represents the real needs of our community, showing what our neighbors need and what can be done to help them.

When you purchase a gift for your loved one this Mother’s Day, you will also receive a card to personalize and give to them. Your mom will feel appreciated knowing her gift will make a positive difference in the life of one of her neighbors.

Make two caring gifts at once, one to your mom and the other to those in need, when you select gifts from our Inspiring Hope Giving Catalog. From Protecting a Child and Inspiring Young Artists to Guiding a Family to Success and Distributing 250 Meals to the Hungryyou will find the most meaningful gifts for your loved one.  Click here to learn more.

Randy Gives Back

Help Celebrate National Volunteer Week

“I think just helping people, and it’s pretty amazing how grateful most people are,” says TrueNorth volunteer, Randy Kinsey, about his favorite part of volunteering. “I’ve just been blessed my whole life, and I just like to try and give back to the community.”

Randy has been volunteering in TrueNorth’s Hunger Prevention Programs for over four years. From being the friendly face greeting Food Center participants to stocking the Food Center and packing Weekend PowerPacks, Randy is a passionate and reliable volunteer.

Randy first came to TrueNorth after retiring to Hesperia. He wanted to find a way to give back to the community–helping those in need get back on their feet. Volunteering has always been important to Randy as he volunteered at a variety of organizations before retirement, such as Habitat for Humanity and various soup kitchens.

Feeding the hungry has always been a passion for Randy, which is why he continues to volunteer with TrueNorth’s Hunger Prevention programs. Being able to meet this essential need for the community has been the most rewarding part for him. Randy says, “To see the smile on people’s faces and to see their gratitude and know that you’re doing something for people that really need the help…it [TrueNorth] is such a blessing for the community.”

Besides seeing the impact his volunteering and TrueNorth’s programs has on the community, Randy has grown as an individual throughout his time at TrueNorth. He enjoys making people feel welcome and reassures those who struggle to ask for help.

“It’s made me a better person by helping other people,” says Randy. He continues to make an impact as he encourages people at his church to volunteer at TrueNorth and has even helped lead a fundraising project there to purchase coats for TrueNorth’s Coats for Kids.

Randy has volunteered over 300 hours at TrueNorth and is looking forward to continuing. He is grateful for the opportunity to make a positive difference in people’s lives and encourages anyone who is interested to do so as well.

Next week is National Volunteer Week–showcasing the vital work of volunteers and how everyone can make a difference in their community, just like Randy. “I just highly encourage it [volunteering]. It’s just, to me, it’s a life-changing experience to be able to give back and help other people,” says Randy.

You can help celebrate National Volunteer Week in a number of ways. From thanking a volunteer to volunteering yourself, you can make a positive difference in someone else’s life. To learn more about volunteer opportunities at TrueNorth, contact Volunteer Hub Coordinator, Charlie Forbes, at cforbes@truenorthservices.org.

Camp Newaygo’s Co-Ed Day Camp

Find Adventure Close to Home This Summer

Summer will be here before you know it. With school out until August, families will be looking for ways to keep kids busy and enjoy sunny days. Camp Newaygo has been providing outdoor, adventure co-ed day camp programs to the community since it became part of TrueNorth Community Services in 1996. Thousands of local boys and girls have played, fished, hiked, and enjoyed their local great outdoors with Camp Newaygo.

This summer at Camp Newaygo’s Day Camp promises to be just as fun, with each week centering around a theme. The summer will kick off with Animals Week – campers will meet camp animals, search for creatures in their natural habitats, and end the week with a trip to John Ball Zoo. Local budding scientists can join for a heart-pounding week of awesome explosions, rockin’ rockets, and electrifying gizmos and gadgets during Boom and Zoom Week. Whether wielding a paintbrush, rocking out with a drumstick, or conquering projects with a hammer, campers’ creativity will run wild during Dream It, Build It, Play It Week. Camp Newaygo also hosts two weeks of Spanish Immersion Day Camp – one of the only programs like it in the midwest, right here in Newaygo County. 

On top of engaging, new theme activities every week, each day is filled with classic outdoor adventures. Campers can hike through camp’s bog, ride a tube behind the speedboat, paddle a canoe, and ride a 1000’ zipline. There’s daily time at the lake to swim or build sand castles and moments of guided free play for campers to interact and engage in creative, imaginative play. Campers can even participate in optional Thursday overnights and cook over a campfire. All of the activities and experiences are planned and led by trained staff to ensure campers don’t just have fun but also build social emotional skills, appreciate the environment around them, and have a sense of community. Amanda Ferner, long time Day Camp parent and director of The Ark in Fremont said:

“We started attending Camp Newaygo’s co-ed day camp summer of 2021 and have returned every year since! They have convenient drop off and pick up times for working families. My child loves that he is able to spend time outside, swimming, exploring the woods, learning about the weekly theme and of course shopping at the camp store! It’s a very affordable option this summer for any school age child!” – Amanda Ferner

TrueNorth Community Services, Camp Newaygo, and local funders believe these experiences are important for all children to have. Scholarship applications, for students living or attending school in Newaygo County, are also available online or can be mailed to you. In 2023, over $10,000 in Day Camp scholarships were provided to children in Newaygo County. If your children, grandchildren, or kids you know would love to spend part of their summer at Camp Newaygo. Go to campnewaygo.org/co-ed-day-camp to learn more about dates, themes, and the cost of camp.

Food Truck Frenzy

STEAM Challenge Engages 161 Kids

Every year, TrueNorth’s Out-of-School Time students take part in the STEAM Challenge, focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math in a hands-on approach to creative problem solving and critical thinking.

161 students from all 13 of TrueNorth’s Project FOCUS and Project FOCUS Rural Grit sites, along with nearly 100 adults (staff, judges and parents), took part in this year’s challenge, held at Hesperia High School on Saturday, March 9th. Students participated in a series of judged challenges and projects which included building challenges and art projects, all centered around this year’s theme – Food Truck Frenzy! Students built models of food trucks, created their very own original recipes and created food-themed works of art.

“This year’s STEAM Challenge was filled with impressive submissions from talented students, a beautiful display of cooperation amongst school districts, and fantastic community support – more community and family attendees than any year in the past!”
– Danielle Siegel, Project FOCUS Director

STEAM-related programs expose students to “big-picture” concepts seen in real, physical environments. They help foster a creative approach, encourage creativity, improve social skills, develop curiosity and critical thinking and help make students more adaptable to a wide range of situations and challenges. Additionally, STEAM projects require students to solve problems in a hands-on way, using skillstechnologies and core curriculum in new, exciting and fun ways.

To see a complete list of winning students, click here.

New Board Members

Welcome Carmen and Hannah

TrueNorth recently welcomed two new members to their Board of Directors. Carmen Faulkner (pictured left) and Hannah Harrington (pictured right) joined the Board in February, adding to the existing nine members. Both entrepreneurs, Faulkner the owner of River Stop Cafe and Harrington the owner of Third Coast Creative, are a great addition to the Board, as they bring experience in communications and marketing, community involvement and volunteerism. 

Both residing in Newaygo, and graduates of Newaygo Public Schools, Faulkner and Harrington are devoted community members who are excited to give back in a tangible way by advocating for people and services needed in our communities.

As individuals who are open-minded, and who come to TrueNorth with many life experiences, we are excited to have them join us. Please help us give a warm welcome to both Carmen and Hannah as they take action and begin their journey on the board. To view the entire Board of Directors click the button below.

Become A Member

Become a Member and Help People Like Julie

Having TrueNorth, that’s what kept me going,” says housing participant Julie. “Like I know if I just do this and if I just do that…I have this and I can use it, and if I use it properly, I’ll get there.”

Julie is a survivor of domestic violence, and in her recovery, came to TrueNorth Community Services for assistance in getting her own place where she could safely live on her own. Julie worked hard everyday to get where she is today, safely housed in her own apartment and looking forward to her future.

Leaving her abuser was extremely difficult, especially because Julie did not know where she was going to go once she walked out the door. She says, “That’s really scary, because you’re like, where do I go? And then you really, really realize there’s nowhere to go…But I just told myself that I want to live, and whatever it takes, I want to live.”

Through this difficult journey, Julie remained determined to find a safe place to call home. Julie first went to a domestic violence shelter when she left her abuser. When her time at the shelter ended, she stayed in her vehicle and with a friend who lived in an unsafe environment. Everyday she told herself that the next day would be the day she found her home. And if not that day, then she would find it the next day–until she was housed six months later.

“I definitely learned so many lessons. Walking out that door gave me pride. Not turning back gave me pride…If it wasn’t for you guys I wouldn’t be here. I’d be right in that house. Locked in a room. Wishing my situation was different,” says Julie.

Julie’s strength, determination and support from her family helped her move into a safer situation all around. Walking out that door helped Julie regain her family who were so proud to see her keep fighting for herself.

While Julie finally moved into her own apartment, her housing journey was not done yet. Julie was wrongfully evicted, with no notice or written reason, from her apartment after being there for two months. She had one month to find a new place to live even though there was no lawful reason for her to have to leave.

Thankfully, all of Julie’s hard work paid off, and she found another apartment. Before she got into her first apartment, she had submitted 24 applications to different places in her county. After she received the eviction notice, she heard back from a different apartment that they had a place for her.

Because TrueNorth had helped Julie with her deposit and first three months rent for her first apartment, Julie had started saving money in case of an emergency. With her planning, help from her family and her new apartment’s deposit from TrueNorth, Julie had everything she needed to move.

Now, Julie is settled in her new home and in an even better situation than before. Looking to the future, she says, “I definitely see myself happier, better off, and I definitely want to help some other people see that it is possible, no matter what happens in your journey.”

You can help people like Julie by becoming a member of TrueNorth Community Services. Not only will you ensure the health and safety of our neighbors today, but you will also secure our community’s well-being for years to come.

Membership means you are dedicated to our mission of inspiring hope and creating a better world. Our neighbors need you. Your membership gift will support all of TrueNorth’s programs and initiatives.

Without caring people like you, our neighbors would not have the resources or guidance necessary to build resilience, foster connections and renew hope in themselves. Make a real difference in the lives of people like Julie by committing to membership today.

Click here to become a member and help our community move forward.

Developing Leaders

Vicente Becomes a Leader at Parks in Focus

Vicente has been a part of Parks in Focus at TrueNorth Community Services for over four years. From being a participant to becoming a returning leader, Vicente has stepped outside of his comfort zone and become a leader for the other kids.

Parks in Focus is an outdoor youth mentoring program. Kids like Vicente go on outdoor trips to connect to nature through photography while also receiving additional support from TrueNorth staff and volunteers. Vicente has grown as a person and leader through the additional support and experiences from the program.

“It was one of the first times that I stepped out of my boundaries or outside of my comfort zone,” says Vicente about his first experiences at Parks in Focus. Going on the week-long trip for the first time was both exciting and nerve-wracking for Vicente because it was the longest he’d been away from his family. But by the end of the trip, Vicente felt accomplished. 

Throughout his time in the program, Vicente has become more curious and well-spoken. He enjoys learning new photography skills while interacting with kids he may otherwise have never met. Having the support from TrueNorth staff and the other kids in the program enabled Vicente to thrive as he went on many trips over the years.

Vicente flourished through these experiences as he connected with the other kids and became a role model for them. Dawn Dechand, a long-time volunteer for Parks in Focus, has seen Vicente grow over the years he’s been in the program. Now that he’s a returning leader, Dawn has enjoyed working with him as they both support the new kids in the program.

“It’s really nice to see how they grow  into their ability to lead and be role models for other kids, Vicente is a really great example of that,” says Dawn about her experience with Vicente in the program. “He was a really good example of how the returning leaders really developed into being great people, great leaders.”

Vicente’s positive attitude as a returning leader has helped create a community in Parks in Focus. Not only has he helped everyone get involved in the activities, but he also has grown in his own leadership skills that will set him up for success beyond Parks in Focus.

When reflecting on his favorite parts of being a part of Parks in Focus, Vicente says, “I love just walking around, taking pictures and going on hikes, but I also love the small community that we have. I love the way the workers interact with the kids and then I love the way the kids get along.” 

Click here to learn more about Parks in Focus and TrueMentors.