Archive for the ‘non-profit’ Category

Calling the Next Generation of Leaders.

March 22, 2018 Leave a comment

Good morning and Happy Thursday! It is a beautiful morning in downtown Grand Rapids!



Yesterday was the annual meeting of the Trustees of Mel Trotter Ministries. It was one year ago that my term ended as Board Chair.

Last year I shared my reflections on this experience.

One of my great joys during this time was seeing the launch of Mel Trotter Ministries 2020 Strategic Plan.  Check it out to see some exciting things we see in the near future for MTM.



Detroit Nonprofit Day

Today,  I was reading about an upcoming event called Detroit Non-Profit Day

This is a one day conference in April devoted to preparing non-profits for financial and sustainable growth.

Reflecting on Detroit NonProfit Day and  my experience at Mel Trotter as well as serving other nonprofits, got me thinking on nonprofit sustainability and prompted me to write this post.

This is an issue that all non-profits need to address:

how are non-profits going to stay viable in the future?


However, the issue I wanted to address in this post is sustainability in leadership.


My Call to Next Generation Leaders. We Need You.

I can appreciate the anxieties that many service-minded folks can experience when faced with volunteer/board service. Particularly the next generation/millennials.

Many feel inadequate and inexperienced.

I had a conversation recently with a friend – we serve on a committee together where the rest of the people around the table are successful influencers and leaders in the business community. My friend made the comment to me that “one of these things is not like the other.” He was pointing out the obvious – we, in both our minds,  stuck out like a sore thumb because our relative young age.

Simply put, when you are younger and sitting around a table full of gray-haired folks who have achieved much more than you, it is easy to let insecurity or doubt slip in.

This insecurity can be a road block for many in putting themselves out there for service.

If that’s you – here’s my call to you:

What you are experiencing is normal.

But get over it.

Fight through the temptation to be passive. Be bold and reach out to the organization that fits your passions.

Don’t do it for yourself – do it for the cause that you care about.

Because whether the organization acknowledges it or not – they need you.

They need your perspective, and they need you to get involved to gain experience and develop institutional knowledge in how their nonprofit works.

You only learn the strengths and the gaps of an organization by spending time in that organization in active service.


Here’s a selfish plug for Mel Trotter Ministries – interested in learning more about ways to serve or connect with the leadership? Join me for lunch.

At Mel Trotter Ministries, we are always looking for volunteers. We need people who have a heart for the hungry, homeless and hurting in West Michigan.  As we seek to end homelessness in West Michigan, one life at a time, it is a large task and we cannot do it alone.


This is my call to everyone, but particularly our next generation of leaders – millennials and beyond.

Ask yourself:


How can I serve?




Millennials – I’m reminded of the Bible – 1 Timothy 4:12 –

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers

The fact remains – the millennial and younger generations are our future leaders.

Now is the perfect time to get plugged into one of the many opportunities to serve and lead.

Please take this as your personal invitation from me –

Take the initiative.

Get engaged.

Just show up.



Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka


Because We Aren’t Meant to Do Life Alone. Grand Rapids Business Mentoring Connection

January 19, 2018 Leave a comment

On occasion, I post about how I mentor elementary school-aged boys with difficult family backgrounds.

The truth is that kids with hard family backgrounds are not the only ones who need mentors.

The quote in the photo from New City Initiative in Portland, Oregon is revealing in a lot of ways. Homelessness may, by and large, be a product of a lack of relationships.


Applying this statement to the regular working class person who isn’t in jeopardy of going homeless, a lot of our problems could be stymied by the presence of authentic relationships.


The truth is, we aren’t meant to do this life alone.

Yet we so often do just that.

As for me, although I am interacting with many people on any given work day, I find myself too often dealing with concerns, problems and frustrations in a vacuum.

I recall having a conversation with a friend of mine a while back, another business professional. He commented on how, although he knows a lot of people, he doesn’t have anyone that he regularly confides in. He doesn’t have “close friends”.

I think my friend is in good company with many others.

So then why so often do we find ourselves living in a vacuum?

My thoughts:

It is hard to be vulnerable with others.  Our tendency is to hide our imperfections.  We can brush aside the reality that we lack relationships by telling ourselves, or others “I just don’t have time“. I believe that is just a smokescreen for the real issues:

It is hard to admit our weaknesses, failures or shortcomings.

The bottom line: we need to be in authentic relationships.

We need mentors, confidants, people willing to walk along side us.

On the flip side, we need to be pouring into other people as well.

There are excellent resources in our community, I think of an excellent one like the Jandernoa Mentorship Program (JEM).  Unfortunately, I am sure JEM and other groups would readily admit, those resources are limited.


I hear this theme in my work life, in the business community, non-profit service, I hear this when I go to church: call it mentoring, discipleship, or “sharpening iron” – we need to be in authentic relationships to build each other up.

So, I decided to do something about it.

Yesterday I created a Group on LinkedIn: Grand Rapids Business Mentoring Connection

I created this Group simply to provide a forum to make it easy for people to connect in meaningful ways.

1. Professionals who recognize their need for a mentor;

2. Professionals who are established in their career and are willing to share their experiences and failures with others, at any level; and

3. Professionals seeking authentic community and peer relationships.

My goal isn’t that Members of this group have any formal obligation. My hope is that those who join this group are willing to add value to others and connect on a personal level.


So my question and charge to you reading this post:

Who are you pouring into?


Established Professionals: You have something to offer. Consider joining this group and being available to connect with peers, younger professionals on whatever time you have available in your life.

Younger Professionals: Join this Group. Get others to join. Reach out and ask for help. You are the future leaders, but you cannot succeed in life on your own.



Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Today I was confronted with the Need For Affordable Housing in Grand Rapids.

November 2, 2017 3 comments

Today I did what I routinely do on Thursdays around noon time – I visited the school where I mentor a student.


I walked to the classroom and talked

with his teacher who told me that this student was no longer enrolled in the school.

Just like that, a relationship that I had developed over the school year was suddenly without warning severed.

Imagine what an incident like this does for a kid with an unstable home environment.

In a matter of days an elementary school kid’s life (which, in this case, is typically already chaotic enough) can be flipped upside down.

New school. New housing.

Lack of community.

This program that I have been involved in over the past several years connects adults as mentors to school-aged kids is great.

It provides an opportunity for a supportive adult to encourage and love kids, tell them they are valued, made in the image of God.

This program provides a sense of community, a network of relationships for these kids.

I see how eviction can instantaneously severe these important relationships, causing displacement and uproot community.


My Perspective – Wearing several hats

I’ve written before about the fact that I wear a few different hats

I am a lawyer who represents real estate owners, investors, property managers/landlords.

I am occasionally in court evicting tenants who simply have not paid their rent. This lack of payment causes real problems for landlords, many of whom are simply trying to pay down their mortgage obligations.

I am the past-Board Chair at Mel Trotter Ministries.

MTM is the safety net for the homeless in the community. It is the place where families without a home seek temporary refuge and hope to get back into affordable and stable housing.  MTM is doing its part to find a solution to the affordable housing crisis in Kent County.

I am also a mentor in a local school to students, many who regularly face homelessness.

In the past several years all of the kids that I have mentored have relocated. The reasons and issues behind their relocation are varied and complex.

I know that lack of affordable housing was a factor at least in some of those situations.


I see firsthand the tension:

 We should encourage entrepreneurs to revitalize our community  – we should do everything we can to place families in affordable housing.

There is a tension: and it needs to be embraced.

I get these words of wisdom – to “embrace the tension” we see in our daily lives from a man I admire named Fred Keller – founder of Cascade Engineering. Check out his blog where he speaks directly about the tension between “purpose and profit”

For me, the answer isn’t ignoring the tension on complicated matters – which is why I am writing this post. I embrace it.

I will continue to show up and mentor students.

I will continue to serve at Mel Trotter Ministries.

I will continue to provide legal services to the best of my ability for my business clients.



Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Thursday Thoughts: A Call to Living a More Fearless Life.

October 12, 2017 Leave a comment

This morning, as I do most every morning, I was reading a devotional by author and Pastor Tim Keller – I would recommend this devotional to anyone.

This topic hit me today.


If we are honest with ourselves, we all have moments where we are fearful.

I can safely say that during the last week I have experienced some of the following fears:

  • fear of failure (do I have what it takes?);
  • fear of disappointing others;
  • fear of ruining my kids’ lives – am I parenting well?;
  • fear of what other people think of me;
  • fear of the failing health of loved ones.

I am sure I am missing several that could be added to this list.

This morning’s devotional ended with the prayer below.



“The Songs of Jesus” Devotional by Timothy Keller



Roller coasters.


I love roller coasters (this ties in, I promise).

It has been too long since I visited Cedar point, Michigan’s Adventure, Six Flags Theme Park, etc…

What I love about roller coasters –  I know that I am fastened in tight –  I am not worried about falling out.

Because I believe I am secure, I am left simply to enjoy the ride (and feel like I’m a superhero).


If I thought that I was really going to fall out – I am sure the ride would not be fun at all – but from start to finish – terrifying.

Life is hard.

There are many hardships that could cause me to panic.

The real question though is:

What am I fixing my eyes on?

Where is my security?


My Answer:

I am not my own. 1 Corinthians 6:20.



Because of that, I will pray Tim Keller’s prayer and strive to live more fearlessly today.


Questions? Comments?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka


Join me at Mel Trotter Ministries 3rd Annual Season of Hope Event – Keynote by Author Ron Hall “Same Kind of Different as Me”

September 15, 2017 Leave a comment


Occasionally when I am walking in downtown Grand Rapids I will run into a guy with dirty clothes, smelling bad, looking homeless. When I am asked for money, my gut reaction is to want to help. Honestly though, oftentimes I have no idea what is the right response.


I will invariably pray for them, but I’m faced with the hard decision:

  • do I give them money?


  • do I buy them food?


  • do I simply direct them to Mel Trotter Ministries?


Should I be doing more?


Join me in hearing from Ron Hall, author of “Same Kind of Different as Me”  – you can check out the trailer to the movie, based upon the book, that is coming out soon.


Ron Hall’s friendship with a man that society had all but disregarded and given up teaches us all fundamental lessons – namely:

All people are valuable and loved by God. 


Hear from some of Ron’s experiences and valuable lessons.

As he tells us in his book:

To love a man enough to help him, you have to forfeit the warm, self-righteous glow that comes from judging.”
On Tuesday September 26, 2017 Mel Trotter Ministries will host its 3rd Annual Season of Hope Event at the JW Marriott with Ron Hall as our guest speaker.

We are still looking for corporate sponsors. Tickets are available here


Thank you to our Honorary Leadership Committee!

Kenneth Graham & Linda Vos-Graham
James & Nancy Engen
Tom & Marcia Haas
Cate & Sid Jansma Jr.
Bill & India Manns
Tom & Jackie McGovern
Mark & Elizabeth Murray
Gordon & Karla Oosting
Janis Petrini
Jerry & Marcia Tubergen
Harold & Lori Voorhees, Jr.
Greg & Meg Willit


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Real Estate Investors and Property Managers Should Keep Track of this Bill to Make Veterans a Protected Class in Housing Discrimination.

August 31, 2017 Leave a comment

On August 16, 2017 HB 4872 was introduced into the Michigan House of Representatives.

The Bill amend the “Elliott-Larsen civil rights act,” and would provide that veterans are included in the list of those protected by Michigan law against housing discrimination.

The Bill would define Military Service as:



The Bill brings two thoughts to mind:

  1. Our Veterans and those who served our country deserve to be treated fairly in housing and all other areas of life.
  2. This Bill brings up a fundamental question: are Veterans being discriminated against in housing? Does it happen?



According to statistics recently published in the Bridge with insight from Dennis Van Kampen of Mel Trotter Ministries, there are fewer homeless veterans than ever in Michigan today, but more homeless youth.

The Bill was sent to the committee on Military and Veteran Affairs. I will be tracking this bill.


I look forward to hear comments from the public on this issue: are we in Michigan protecting our Veterans access to fair housing?

Questions? Comments?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Community Revitalization To Include Downtown Grocery Stores: Update on The Urban Food Initiative.

August 1, 2017 Leave a comment

Yesterday I read a story about a Detroiter, Raphael Wright who plans on opening a “mission-driven supermarket” in downtown Detroit. Check out the article on NextCity.

Raphael’s idea is sparked by a much needed grocery option in Detroit- particularly for low-income residents.

I love this idea.

A few years back I took my family to New York City. We loved the walk-ability of City life – that you could walk down a block to a grocery store and get all of your household needs.

food-healthy-vegetables-potatoesI love downtown Grand Rapids.


If Grand Rapids wants to encourage urban living, it needs a downtown grocery store.

In February, House Bill 4207 was introduced in the Michigan house. Known as the “Urban Food Initiative” it would provide incentives for community revitalization that would include a downtown Grocery Store.



Specifically, HB 4207 would make “Urban Food Initiatives” allowable to receive funds under the Michigan Community Revitalization Program


An update since my last post, in May, the Trade and Commerce Committee recommended a substitute bill, check here.

The Bill substitute changed the name,  Urban Food Initiatives, to “NEIGHBORHOOD AND COMMERCIAL CORRIDOR FOOD INITIATIVE”  – thereby broadening the applicability of these community revitalization incentives –  I have bracketed the additional language:

Property that will be used primarily as a retail supermarket, grocery store, produce market or delicatessen that is located in a downtown [OR IN A DEVELOPMENT AREA AS DEFINED IN SECTION 2 OF 3 THE CORRIDOR IMPROVEMENT AUTHORITY ACT] area…that offers unprocessed USDA inspected meat and poultry products or meat products that carry the USDA organic seal, fresh fruit and vegetables, and dairy products for sale to the public.”

The other substantive revision to the substitute bill would require that at least 5% of community revitalization incentives be awarded to these initiatives. Check out the Bill Analysis from the House Fiscal Agency, for more information.


Clearly having available and healthy food options in a downtown are necessary to City living, particularly for low-income residents. Check out a previous article from Next City about the Food Revolution in Detroit.

A downtown grocery store is necessary if a City wants to attract urban living – it is also necessary to provide healthy food options for those living downtown without readily available transportation.



I think particularly of the under-employed and the homeless who receive services from organizations like Mel Trotter Ministries. Grand Rapids has a need for affordable housing for the most vulnerable in our society. It would be great to see grocery options as well.

I am looking forward to tracking the progress of this bill. I am also encouraged by the many businesses in West Michigan taking serious their responsibility as community stakeholders and asking the question: “How am I building a better community?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka