YWCA Women’s Shelter Redone and Renamed

Eleven times a day someone in Kent County is abused in domestic violence, and almost always the victim is a woman and a mother.  Injured and terrified, these women are desperate for a safe place to go with their children. Enter the YWCA with a 24-hour hotline, a warm bed, food, clothing, and counseling in their emergency shelter for women and their children in downtown Grand Rapids. In November 2014, the newly remodeled and expanded shelter was christened the YWCA Wege Sojourner House.

The Wege Foundation’s lead gift allowed the YWCA to increase the shelter’s residential capacity to 76 women and children. Formerly called the Domestic Crisis Center, the Y’s CEO Carla Blinkhorn explained the new name “sojourner” suggests a place “for rest and escape.” The Wege Sojourner House, in the old Wilcox mansion built in 1904, allows these traumatized women and children to find comfort in a safe place where they can heal and regroup.

Sojourner offers childcare in big bright rooms giving their moms a chance to work on their futures: look for a job, apply to school, find a new place to live. The Junior League of Grand Rapids put in a whole new backyard called the Wellness Adventure Yard where the children can play and explore and feel safe in a secure outdoor setting.

Five hundred women and children came to this shelter last year. The sad news is that more will run from domestic violence this year. The good news is that the YWCA Wege Sojourner House has more beds for them this year.

Check this web site for a video taken inside the Y’s Wege Sojourner House.

Two therapists who work with  women and children who have sought refuge from domestic violence at the YWCA Wege Sojourner House pose on the leaded-windowed landing of the shelter, a three-story Heritage Hill home built over a century ago.
Two therapists who work with women and children who have sought refuge from domestic violence at the YWCA Wege Sojourner House pose on the leaded-windowed landing of the shelter, a three-story Heritage Hill home built over a century ago.
Friends and supporters of the YWCA Wege Sojourner House, Pat Waring and Joan Krause--who with Deb Bailey co-chaired the capital campaign to renovate and expand the emergency shelter--sit in front of the  fireplace in the former Wilcox  home with the family's hand-carved coat of arms above the mantel.
Friends and supporters of the YWCA Wege Sojourner House, Pat Waring and Joan Krause–who with Deb Bailey co-chaired the capital campaign to renovate and expand the emergency shelter–sit in front of the fireplace in the former Wilcox home with the family’s hand-carved coat of arms above the mantel.

Parent Magazine: One of the “Coolest Schools in America”

Five years ago the Grand Rapids Public Schools and Peter M. Wege joined forces to create a sixth-grade program focused on environmental education at City High Middle.   That was how the Center For Economicology – named for Peter Wege’s philosophy and books – came to be.

         Wege coined the word advocating that humans must balance the needs of the economy with protecting the ecology.  From 17 sixth-graders in one room in 2008, this year 57 students are enrolled in the Center For Economicology.  And because City High Middle moved into the former Creston High School this fall, this growing economicology program has expanded from two classrooms to having its own building behind the former Creston High.

         By moving from its campus on Fuller to the three-story school on Plainfield, City High Middle has its first pool and not just one but two gyms.  The new expansive space has allowed the school to increase its number of 6-12 graders by 120 students up to 760, City High Middle’s highest enrollment ever.  To serve more students, GRPS hired six new teachers up from 24 last fall.

         Because the natural world is a significant part of the curriculum for CFE students, they head outdoors on almost weekly field trips.  A wind farm.   Farmers Market. Lake Michigan research vessel.  Two over night camps spring and fall.  They are also working at Riverside Park partnering with Grand Rapids’ park officials to clean it up.  The park is becoming one of the Economicology students’ outdoor classrooms where they are studying invasive species.

         The Center For Economicology’s success has not gone unnoticed at the state level.  In the competitive Rewards program, the CFE ranked in the top 5% of schools for High Performing and Beating the Odds.  What Principal Mike Pascoe and Assistant Principal Ryan Huppert are most proud of is that CFE achieved this top rating with 40% of their students qualifying for free and reduced lunches.

No wonder Parent Magazine recently called Economicology one of “the coolest schools in America.”

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In relocating to Creston High, City High Middle not only greatly expanded its square footage, but the students also gained a pool and a second gymnasium, one of them shown here.
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City High Middle students practice in their new – and bigger – music room
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Since September, the former Creston High School on Plainfield has become the new home for another GRPS school: City High Middle.

STEELCASE CEO SPREADS AROUND THE CREDIT

Jim Hackett learned teamwork early on when he played football for the legendary Bo Schembechler at the University of Michigan. Hackett never forgot Bo’s coaching.  When Hackett received Aquinas College’s 2013 reflection Award in October, he was all about honoring those who made possible his successes as Steelcase’s CEO.

He started with his wife Kathy, their two sons, his assistants, and then he went on to thank all the people he’d worked with as the team who’d earned the Reflections Award along with him. In 1981 Jim started at Steelcase Inc. in sales and marketing where he continued to earn promotions over the next decade.

The big leap happened in 1994 when, at age 39, he was named the company’s chief executive officer.  Taking over the world’s largest manufacturer of office furniture before he was forty made James P. Hackett one of the youngest CEOs in the industry.

This January after 32 years with Steelcase, the past twenty as CEO, James P. Hackett will retire from the office furniture company founded as Metal Office Furniture in 1912. During his tenure, Steelcase went from being privately owned to becoming a publicly traded company listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Under Hackett, Steelcase continued to lead the way globally on environmental manufacturing, a corporate value dating back to the 1970s and the progressive vision of Peter M. Wege, the son of Peter Martin Wege, a Steelcase founder. This January Hackett’s unnamed successor will take over a thriving corporation, including 670 dealers around the world and revenue of $2.9 billion in fiscal 2013.

How this bright athlete born in Columbus, Ohio, ended up a Wolverine instead of a Buckeye is still unclear.  But the standing ovation by the full house of people who came out to honor him at Reflections said they were very glad he did.

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Jim Hackett, CEO of Steelcase, Inc. and winner of Aquinas College’s 2013 Reflection Award is shown with Greg Meyer, Aquinas College’s Vice President for Advancement, at the October Reflection dinner.
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Attending Aquinas College’s 20th annual Reflection Award banquet honoring James P. Hackett: from the left, Msgr. Stalker, Msgr. Duncan, and Father Mark Przybysz.
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Accepting the 2013 Aquinas College Reflection Award from President Juan Oliverez, is James B. Hackett joined on stage by his wife Kathy, her mother Joan Hedges, and the Hacketts’ son Patrick and his wife Melissa.

The Wege Mission Carries On

Let there be no doubt that Peter M. Wege’s has legacy bearers who continue to do “all the good” they can.  Two of them said it best themselves.

The September issue of Grand Rapids Magazine featured an article about Erin Wilson (pictured left), director of Wealthy Theatre, an historic landmark saved by Peter M. Wege and the family foundation.  Boarded up for 14 years in 1989, the former vaudeville showhouse was about to be demolished when neighbors came to Wege for help. As usual, Peter had a bigger idea. Let’s restore the theatre, clean up surrounding buildings, and rejuvenate the once thriving Wealthy Business District.

Now it’s a bustling street of businesses and homes anchored by the theatre Peter rescued. Erin told the Magazine Peter is an “iconic figure,” for the “direction our neighborhood has taken.”

Eric continued: Mr. Wege did some chess-like things on the block that transcend the theater support when he paid an inflated price to buy and then shut down a store that served as a drug ring in the 1990s. He made this neighborhood livable by doing proactive things in a surgical manner with his resources.

The second mission carriers are Christian and Kathryn Birky who attended Healing Our Waters conferences as teenagers.  Kathryn graduated from Brown with a Masters of Environmental Science and now runs a non-profit in Gambia, the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust.

Here is Christian’s recent note to Dear Mr. Wege,

I am a West Michigan native and avid environmentalist. I attended the first few HOW conferences while in high school, and remember meeting you at breakfast at the Amway with my sister Kathryn before the very first one. Since then, I have gone on to study politics and environmental studies at Princeton, where I just graduated. I am moving back to Michigan, and recently I have come across your influence in several places, from innovative business practices at Steelcase to great work by the Wege Foundation. I wanted to express my gratitude for your leadership on environmental issues. There is still much work to be done, but please know that you have inspired another generation of environmental leaders. We will benefit from the example you set, and we appreciate it!

Peter’s mission thus carries on in these two bright and passionate young people. How thoughtful of them to tell him so.

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Erin Wilson, theatre Director, born in Muskegon Heights, he now lives within five blocks of Wealthy Theatre, where he’s raising a family with his partner, Amy, who is a ballet dancer and instructor.
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At the May 2004 meeting that created the Healing Our Waters movement to save the Great Lakes, Peter M.Wege, organizer of the conference, is pictured welcoming the 70 assembled environmental scientists. Wege told his audience that HOW “is the most important single project of my life as an environmental activist since starting the Wege Foundation in 1967.”

Camp O’Malley Fighting Juvenile Crime 71 Years Later

In 1938 Grand Rapids Police Department Superintendent Frank O’Malley saw a worrisome statistic. That year 147 young people were arrested for various crimes. Whether it was a consequence of those hard-scrabble Great Depression years or not, Superintendent O’Malley refused to accept the number.

That Christmas he called together the inner-city community and shared his plan. The police department was setting up a youth center on Finney S.W. near where these budding law-breakers lived. Instead of hanging out on the streets, the city’s young people could come to the Finney center for recreation led by caring adults, including police men.

O’Malley’s idea worked. The next year the number of young people arrested dropped to four. The summer of 1942 Supt O’Malley opened a summer camp for these young people.

Fast forward 71 years to 2013 and head south to the original 40-acre Camp O’Malley in Caledonia. Some 600 of the at-risk children O’Malley once worried about get to spend a week in a verdant outdoor space complete with a climbing wall, obstacle course, arts, crafts, music center, and swimming pool. And the GRPD is still the key partner with officers spending time at camp every day. The young people learn to know Grand Rapids police officers not as adversaries, but as friends.

The Wege Foundation sponsors staff from Holland’s Outdoor Discovery Center to visit the camp bringing live animals, birds, reptiles. The ODC team also comes with kayaks to take the campers on the adjoining Thornapple River.  Campers who have never left the city get their first chance to pet owls, touch snakes, and hold turtles.

How does the GRPD assess the long-term affect Camp O’Malley has on the campers? They can’t. But they do know they make fewer juvenile arrests in the city than they would have to without Camp O’Malley.

••The above photo shows O’Malley Camp Staff leaders Rebecca Massad, left, Rick Huisman, middle, and Amanda Alters, right, taking Wege Foundation officers Terri McCarthy and Ellen Satterlee on a tour of the camp. Since The Wege Foundation was founded by Peter M. Wege whose father started Metal Office Furniture/Steelcase, the background fits right in!
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Campers painted the mural that names all the fun they have in their five days at Camp O’Malley.
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Campers leave the swimming pool for the day’s next activity at Camp O’Malley.
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Campers look forward to the evening bonfire at Camp O’Malley.

History Behind the Gift to Clark Home

There is family history behind The Wege Foundation’s recent gift to Clark Home. When Peter M. Wege’s widowed mother, Sophia Louise Dubridge Wege, was in failing health physically and mentally, her only child found the best nursing home he could to care for her.  Peter spent as much time as possible visiting Lou – as his dad had called her – tending to her needs, and reminding her how much he loved her.

At age 93, Peter’s own life has been enriched by the same kind of devoted caregivers as those who tend to Clark Home’s residents. By supporting Clark, both Peter and the family foundation demonstrate their shared respect for the good people who are called to enrich the lives of the elderly.

Two parts of Clark’s campaign have special meaning for Peter and The Wege Foundation.  The Benevolent Fund that provides for residents after they can no longer pay speaks directly to Peter’s compassion for those in need. Few people know the extent of his generosity to the underserved people of Grand Rapids.

(What is believed to be the nation’s first LipDub performed solely by residents of a retirement community is getting rave reviews. Clark Retirement Community and Grand Valley State University combined efforts for this “Feelin’ Good” video! )

The other pieces of this campaign that resonate with Peter and The Wege Foundation’s mission are the outdoor improvements at Keller on the Lake. Peter and The Wege Foundation are synonomous with environmental stewardship. The Shared Garden and Lakeside Pavilion offer new green space to Clark’s residents where they can be refreshed and restored in what Peter calls “God’s great gift to us of Mother Nature.”

Peter believed in healing the mind, body, and spirit as a sacred unity. Clark Home’s progressive work in treating residents’ Alzheimer’s, their professional medical care for their physical needs, and Clark’s respect for their community’s spiritual wellbeing honor Peter M. Wege’s faith in holistic health.
Peter believed in healing the mind, body, and spirit as a sacred unity. Clark Home’s progressive work in treating residents’ Alzheimer’s, their professional medical care for their physical needs, and Clark’s respect for their community’s spiritual wellbeing honor Peter M. Wege’s faith in holistic health.
It´s been said that, "the heart that loves is always young." That being the case, Clark is a virtual fountain of youth.
It´s been said that, “the heart that loves is always young.” That being the case, Clark is a virtual fountain of youth.
Clark's missions it to create a community of dignity, compassion and respect centered on the lives of older adults and those who care for them.
Clark’s missions it to create a community of dignity, compassion and respect centered on the lives of older adults and those who care for them.

Aquinata Hall, Peter M. Wege, and a Sacred Scapula

On April 24, The Dominican Sisters of Marywood celebrated the new life of Aquinata Hall as a licensed Home for the Aged.  Built in the late 19th century as the Dominican’s residence, Aquinata is now where they come for nursing care and rehabilitation services. The Dominicans will also open the new facility to the community at large, depending on space.  Prioress Maureen Geary called the renovated and expanded Aquinata “a healthcare destination.”

Porter Hills – with its years of experience in quality health care for seniors – worked with the Dominicans to design the three floors for differing levels of nursing needs. Already home to some Dominican Sisters,  Aquinata will only get busier as the number of elderly Sisters increases. Aquinata’s original chapel serves as the heart of the new building where Dominicans close out their lives of service cared for spiritually as well as physically.

Ellen Satterlee, CEO of The Wege Foundation, spoke at the chapel service about Peter M. Wege’s long admiration for the Dominicans. His love for the Dominicans began with his two grade school teachers at St. Stephens, Sister Leonard and Sister Vincent de Paul.  When Peter went to a military high school in California, these two continued to write him letters.

And Peter Wege gives full credit to Sisters Leonard and Vincent de Paul for surviving World War II.  When he was sent overseas as an Army Air Force pilot, his two former teachers gave him the above scapula containing a sliver of the cross.  With their sacred amulet in his billfold, Peter survived several close calls during the war.

Since the war, Peter M. Wege has never been without this protective gift.  He’s had a lot of wallets since he was discharged in 1946, but every one of them has carried the scapula blessed by his Dominican teachers Sisters Leonard and Vincent de Paul.

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Sister Maureen Geary, Prioress of Aquinata (left) along with Ellen Satterlee, CEO of The Wege Foundation (center) and Sue Jandernoa, co-chairman of the capital campaign for the building and renovating of Aquinata Hall.
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Photos of the interior of the newly remodeled Aquinata Hall including. Above is the original chapel from the 1880s.
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Aquinata Hall’s new reception area where new residents are welcomed.

Habitat Owners Earn Their New Homes

In 2006 Peter M. Wege’s environmental vision led to the nation’s first Habitat Home awarded LEED  (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification.  That was just the beginning.

As Habitat Kent’s Director Barbara Benda, says, “It has been an incredible journey of ecology, economy and social justice ever since Mr. Wege’s support empowered Habitat to commit in 2007 to building all LEED certified Habitat homes in Kent County.”

By April 2013, Habitat Kent was working on its 111th LEED home. That means 110 LEED homes have been restored since Peter and The Wege Foundation built that first one at 925 Cass Ave.

In the Wealthy Heights neighborhood alone, The Wege Foundation has been instrumental in Habitat Kent’s rehab and building of ten homes with repair work and clean-up on six more.  The restoration of this area has special significance to Peter and The Wege Foundation as it is anchored by Wealthy Theatre.

Peter Wege led the charge that in 1997 saved and restored the abandoned movie house.  The resurrection of the Theatre triggered the comeback of the entire Wealthy Street Business District as well as the surrounding neighborhood.

To become a Habitat homeowner, applicants must put in 300 to 500 hours on construction. Additionally, they are required to take classes in home maintenance and money management.  The link here offers a perspective on what Habitat applicants must do to earn their front-door keys.

**Top photo – Barbara Benda, Director of Habitat Kent, Caitlin Wege and Jessica McClear Wege, two of Peter M. Wege’s granddaughters, and Terri McCarthy, V.P. of Programming for The Wege Foundation, stand on the porch of the newly remodeled Habitat home on Freyling Place in Wealthy Heights.

Click here to view Application Form

This sign with photos indicates the typical condition of houses before Habitat Kent goes to work on them.
This sign with photos indicates the typical condition of houses before Habitat Kent goes to work on them.
This sign tells the story of the good organizations behind the Habitat LEED restoration of this house in the Wealthy Street neighborhood near Wealthy Theatre.
This sign tells the story of the good organizations behind the Habitat LEED restoration of this house in the Wealthy Street neighborhood near Wealthy Theatre.

FARM FOOD? FAMILY FUN? FIND THE DOWNTOWN MARKET

After years of dreaming, discussing, and designing, a farmer’s market for the inner city is now happening.  Seven abandoned warehouses on a city block bordered by Ionia, Logan, Wealthy, and 131 have been replaced by a soaring structure of recycled wood and concrete. From 131, the Market will be recognized by the cathedral-like glass crown covering its greenhouse. While it’s been known as the “urban market,” it’s now officially the Downtown Market.

Local farmers will start selling produce at the seasonal outdoor market May 4 and will be there Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8 a.m. until 1 p.m. and Thursdays 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.  All 90 open-air stalls have been leased, according to Mimi Fritz, the Downtown Market’s CEO. By supporting local farmers, the Market is also fighting the national obesity epidemic by promoting healthy food choices.

The $30 million Downtown Market, funded by donated private dollars and public tax money, is anchored by the three-story indoor Market.  The new construction will add one more record to Grand Rapids’ many green building firsts by earning a gold LEED designation, the only market in the nation to do so.

The 138,000 square-foot indoors market opens later this summer housing a brew-pub, restaurant, and banquet room. Students from local culinary-education programs are already signed up to use the commercial kitchen for cooking classes this fall. The smaller children’s kitchen features appliances that can be lowered to the height of younger chefs.

While more businesses have signed up for inside space, the only two announced are local entrepreneurs selling fair-trade coffee and ice cream.  Fritz is looking to attract other local businesses selling consumables like cheese, baked goods, meat, wine, fish, and chocolate as drawing cards for area families and out-of-town visitors.

The New York Times recently highlighted the Grand Rapids Downtown Market at http://www.nytimes.com

Jessica Wege McLear, Dave Frey, and Caitlin Wege. Truly “Are A Team” that helped make the Downtown Market a reality. The Wege Foundation and The Frey Foundation were major contributors in the private donations that combined with public funding to build the $30 million indoor/outdoor farm market on Ionia and Wealthy just east of 131.

 

Joining the several nearby steeples in downtown Grand Rapids is the cathedral-like roof of the new Downtown Market. The glass allows sunlight to feed the greenhouse plants in the nursery underneath. The empty building in the background typifies the 7 empty warehouses that were demolished to clear the land for the city's first Downtown Market.

Joining the several nearby steeples in downtown Grand Rapids is the cathedral-like roof of the new Downtown Market. The glass allows sunlight to feed the greenhouse plants in the nursery underneath. The empty building in the background typifies the 7 empty warehouses that were demolished to clear the land for the city’s first Downtown Market. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new Downtown Market with its three pyramids of glass as seen from the highway. The new Downtown Market with its three pyramids of glass as seen from the highway.