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Grand Rapids Social Enterprise, L3Cs and a Call to Community Partnership.

November 21, 2018 Leave a comment

Yesterday I visited with Dr. Justin Beene – Founder of Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation  (GRCCT) – a collective of non-profit/for-profits working to see flourishing in Grand Rapids for all.  GCCT is essentially a hub for social enterprise, for the common good of the Greater Grand Rapids Area.

Justin Beene

Dr. Justin Beene, the future expansion of GRCCT

GRCCT states on its website that Grand Rapids was ranked the number one city in the United States to raise kids by Forbes Magazine (Van Riper, 2012).

Even more, the city has been ranked as one of the most philanthropic areas in the United States (Raghaven, 2013).

GRCCT mentions the powerful presence of the institution of the Church in Grand Rapids, and over 2,800 nonprofits.

This all sounds good, but there is much work to be done. There is still great need in the Grand Rapids Community.

 

 

despite the affluence, giving, and nonprofit services in West Michigan, the outlook in education, employment, and long-term quality of life for many urban citizens looks bleak. 

Forbes Magazine just recently released a study of 52 metropolitan cities in the United States and found Grand Rapids to be the second worst city in the country for African-Americans to live based on business ownership/entrepreneurship, median income, and home ownership (Kotkin, 2014)…

Youth living in the urban center of Grand Rapids are among the most impoverished young people in the country.”

 

In response to the great need in our city, particularly for youths struggling with poverty,  GRCCT supports several social enterprises (Rising Grinds Cafe and Building Bridges) that not only provide skills/job training but also provides revenue for the long-term sustainability of these programs.

 

Low-Profit Limited Liability Companies.

Both Rising Grinds Cafe and Building Bridges are Michigan Low-profit Limited Liability Companies (L3Cs)

Back in 2009 the Michigan legislature authorized the formation of these “hybrid” business entities.

L3Cs are formed fundamentally for a charitable/socially beneficial purpose, but unlike non-profit corporations, members can own equity in these L3Cs.
L3Cs – Viable Tools for Social Entrepreneurs…

I’ve said this before- L3Cs are a viable tool for social entrepreneurs – they tell the whole world that your company exists, fundamentally to do good.

Certainly, that is the purpose of both Rising Grinds Cafe and Building Bridges –  they exist for the common good.

 

Doing our Part – Being a Good Community Partner.

Grand Rapids is taking deliberate steps to help those most in need, particularly in the area of affordable housing

Recent national headlines demonstrate that there is a lot of mixed feelings about the proper solutions to the affordable housing crisis facing many cities across the U.S.

 

One key take point that GRCCT inherently understands:

 

Creating real change requires an entire community’s involvement.

 

GRCCT is looking for individuals, businesses, organizations

MTM

who will partner for the common good of the Greater Grand Rapids Area.

I love this quote that is often spoken of at Mel Trotter Ministries – “People don’t become homeless when they run out of money. They become homeless when they run out of relationships.”

That is our job. Being those relationships for the most vulnerable.

Not just “one-way relationships” but truly reaching out in community in a sustainable way.

Keep up the good work Justin and all at GRCCT.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Cautionary Tale for Leaders on National Philanthropy Day. A Call to Humble, Authentic Leadership.

November 15, 2018 Leave a comment

Good afternoon, all.

It has been a month since my last post – a lot has happened in a month. I wanted to sent a quick post.

11.15

 

Today is the first day of some serious snow – check it out. I am looking forward to ice skating beginning at Rosa Parks Circle.

 

Yesterday, I read a press release from the Department of Justice: Former Charity CEO Pleads Guilty to Multi-Million Dollar Political Corruption Scheme

Wow.

 

 

The Press Release goes on to summarize the allegations:

Marilyn Luann Nolan, 68, of Springfield, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge David P. Rush on Friday, Nov. 9, to one count of conspiracy to embezzle and misapply the funds of a charitable organization that received federal funds.

By pleading guilty, Nolan admitted that she conspired with others from 2008 to June 30, 2017, to misapply millions of dollars of the charity’s funds for substantial, undisclosed payments to lobbying firms and political advocates, monetary and in-kind contributions to the campaigns of candidates for public office, and to bribe public officials.  Nolan also admitted that she knew her co-conspirators defrauded the charity in order to enrich themselves, and her.

 

 

In a prior post I wrote about the need to be authentic as leaders.  It is true, that, we all get to choose what parts of our story we reveal to other people.

It is a tremendous temptation to only reveal to others what looks favorable about ourselves – to shine the light on our achievements, awards, skills, and the things that we can so easily take pride in.

You know what I am talking about.

The things that fall into the  “look at me, I am important.”  category.

This is especially true for those in key leadership positions.

Last month, in my 40 Second Story  I hoped to convey authenticity. Being real.

That is not a comfortable thing to do, particularly if you are like me and don’t have it all together. (none of us do).

In fact, when my story was displayed in front of 500+ people last month, I was extremely anxious. It was not a comfortable feeling. But, I know that it is OK not to have it all together.

Applying this concept of Authenticity to Ms. Nolan’s story – I am sure she that she did not set out running a multi-million dollar non-profit organization with the goal of breaking the law and the public trust.

But at some point, I imagine that the lie she was living became too big in her mind to disclose to others until it was too late.

In light of National Philanthropy Day I wanted to highlight this point:

There is a desperate need for leaders who are willing, in humility, to be authentic.

Humble authentic Leadership.

 

I’ve heard it said by Craig Groeschel

Be yourself.

“People would rather follow a leader who is always REAL than one who is always RIGHT.”

 

As for me, I’m striving to be a leader who is real.

In order that God might be made powerful in my weakness. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

 

Questions? Comments?

Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Connect with me on Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Grand Rapids Combats the Affordable Housing Crisis through the Rental Assistance Center

September 20, 2018 2 comments

Today was my first day back mentoring my student at a local elementary school in the City of Grand Rapids.

MTM

I was excited to catch up with my student, what had changed over the summer?

One thing that changed, he had moved once again. Having to be concerned about where you will be sleeping at night, is a concern that no kid should have.

In fact, Mel Trotter Ministries reports that in Kent and Ottawa

County there are over 3,300 homeless school-aged children.

 

 

Yesterday evening was Mel Trotter Ministries’ Annual Season of Hope Event. There, once again, was presented the information on the above photo. People become homeless due to a lack of relationships.

Our community needs to come around those who are vulnerable. One way that our community is doing that, is through the public/private collaborations to address the affordable housing crisis in Grand Rapids.

 

There is an Affordable Housing Crisis.

As many of you know, Kent County, like much of the U.S. is experiencing a serious lack of Affordable Housing.

The City of Grand Rapids has made concerted efforts to address problem through an advisory board, which has come up with strategies for addressing the Affordable Housing Crisis

Last year I posted on one of those tools that I deal with fir

st hand in representing landlords, real estate investors and property management companies – the Kent County Eviction Prevention Program. You can check out a blog post I wrote about that here

I have seen firsthand that this program can be a useful tool to keep families facing temporary emergencies in housing.

The EPP was developed as a collaborative effort between the City of Grand Rapids, Salvation Army of West Michigan, The Kent County Court System, the Michigan Department of Human Services and with funding provided by Steelcase.

Why I like this program.

This program provides an opportunity to keep people in housing who are on the verge of being homeless. The fact is, families are experiencing homelessness in Grand Rapids every day.

 

 

City, Grand Rapids Housing Commission create Rental Assistance Center

 

Today I read that the City of Grand Rapids and the Grand Rapids Housing Commission have established a two-year pilot for a Rental Assistance C

enter for low-income households. Check out the complete press release here.

According to the press release:

“The Rental Assistance Center – approved by the City Commission on Tuesday – will connect households that earn 80 percent or less of the Area Median Income (AMI) with vacant rental properties and refer “rent-ready” applicants to landlords, increasing the efficiency of the rental search for households and landlords.”

Further – households who are “not rent-ready” “who – do n

ot meet established landlord criteria – will be referred to a resident service coordinator who can help them overcome barriers to secure rental housing.”

 

 

Housing is a community problem. It is encouraging to see the great collaboration between government, private sector, non-profit sector.

We all have a role to play. I hope you can find yours.

 

e-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

www.dwlawpc.com

Removing Barriers for the Vulnerable in our Society.

September 19, 2018 Leave a comment

 

Today is the first day of Artprize!  I took this photo today. For the next few weeks Grand Rapids will be swarming with visitors to see Art like the “Phoenix” – see below a photo I took.

 

9.19

Mel Trotter Ministries  – showing compassion for the vulnerable

Today just so happens to be Mel Trotter Ministries annual Season of Hope Event.

MTM is the safety net for the West Michigan community. It serves the vulnerable in our community and serves people no matter where they are found – homeless, hurting, addicted, including those who have just been released from prison.

Those with a felony conviction on their records face an uphill battle in finding housing and employment.

phoenix

Phoenix Artprize Exhibit

According to the  Small Business Association of Michigan

Convicts leaving incarceration often have a difficult time re-entering the working world because, according to one survey, 65 percent of employers would never consider hiring someone with a felony record.

 

When people think about the marginalized in our society – those with a felony record should be at the top of the list.

 

Removing Barriers for Felons

A few weeks back Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed a law that bans “felony box” from State Job applications. See the Detroit Free Press article Here

According to Governor Snyder he wanted to “ set an example for the private sector in giving ex-felons improved chances to successfully return to society.”

 

The legislator has attempted to pass a law to help ex-felons find jobs in the private sector, but the law appears to have stalled.

Last year I posted about the Michigan Work Opportunity Act

Senate Bill 14 was passed by the Senate, but stalled in House committee Check out the Legislative Analysis by the House Fiscal Agency, here

The Bill would create the “Work Opportunity Act” which would require the Department of Talent and Economic Development (TED) to provide grants for employers’ hiring of qualified individuals on probation or parole.

The House Fiscal Agency’s Analysis recognizes the “apparent problem”

“In seeking re-entry into the workforce, an ex-felon is confronted with myriad challenges, including appealing to employers who are not eager to accept the risk of hiring an ex-felon. This program would seek to mitigate that risk, by offering grants of a portion of the exfelon’s salary to employers who hire qualified ex-felons.”

 

Homelessness, joblessness, is a community-wide problem. It takes an entire community.  I am thankful for the local businesses who employ ex-felons.

The fact is, all people have inherent value.

 

We are all just a life-circumstance away from being homeless, addicted, or in jail.

 

But for God’s Grace, there go I.

Questions? comments?

email: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

 

A Call to Authenticity and Servant Leadership.

August 30, 2018 Leave a comment

Good afternoon, all.

I am looking forward to a relaxing Labor Day Weekend, I hope you are too. Before I am headed out of the office to venture past the Mackinaw Bridge, I wanted to sent a quick post.

I took this photo today – Rosa Parks Circle in downtown Grand Rapids has music and food trucks. Thursdays in Rosa Parks Circle is a great time.

IMG_0132

A few weeks back I was notified that I had been named as a “40 under 40” Business leader for 2018 by the Grand Rapids Business Journal.

As part of the “40 under 40” event, yesterday I had 40 seconds to tell “my story“. This story will be aired at the event on October 17, in front of over 700 people. (Updated): You can check out my 40 second story here

At first glance, that seems a tall task. How can anyone tell their story in 40 seconds?

We all have a story to tell.

Moreover, we all get to choose what parts of our story we reveal to other people.

I recognize it is a tremendous temptation to only reveal to others what looks favorable about ourselves – to shine the light on our achievements, awards, skills, and the things that we can so easily take pride in.

You know what I am talking about.

The things that fall into the  “look at me, I am important.”  category.

What I hoped to convey in my 40 seconds was something that I believe God has been impressing on me as of late –  authenticity.

Being real.

That is not a comfortable thing to do, particularly if you are like me and don’t have it all together. (none of us do).

In theory, I didn’t think it would be a big deal to share my story. But yesterday, when I sat on a stool under glaring lights with several cameras on me (thanks Justin Razmus and Team at 616 Media) I became anxious. The fears began to creep in.

Interestingly, when I did my first take, someone in the room could identify with aspects of my story.

It is OK not to have it all together.

I’ve heard it said by Craig Groeschel

Be yourself.

“People would rather follow a leader who is always REAL than one who is always RIGHT.”

As for me, I’m striving to be a leader who is real.

In order that God might be made powerful in my weakness. – 2 Corinthians 12:9

Questions? Comments?

Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Connect with me on Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

An Opportunity to Be a Voice In the Life of Kid Who Needs to Know they Matter.

August 22, 2018 Leave a comment

8.14.18This week my kids went back to school. That kind of signifies the end of summer for my family.

I took this photo, reminding me of the sunset on a wonderful summer.

Fall is an exciting time though.

As kids go back to school this fall, mentoring through my church starts up again. I am looking forward to meeting once again with a now second grader at a Grand Rapids elementary school.

Yesterday I read a proposed law:

House Bill 6072 

“Breakfast after the Bell Nutrition Program”

 

This program would offer free breakfast to every student enrolled in public school in which at least 70% of the students enrolled are eligible for free or reduced cost lunch under the school lunch program.

This program got me thinking about the kids at the school where I mentor, particularly the individual students that I have interacted with over the years.

The children who go to school where I mentor would undoubtedly benefit from this program. I often hear that for many of these children the only nutritious meal they will have all day just might be the food the school provides them.

I am all for giving these growing kids more food. From my experience, some of these children are facing obstacle after obstacle in their daily lives. It is hard to concentrate and learn at school when life is in chaos at home.

Being hungry should not be another obstacle for these children.

Investing in the Life of a Child.

Here’s a question for you. If you are regularly in the position where you can get away for a lunch hour a week, why not consider spending it with a child?

There are many children who are desperate for an adult to speak value and truth into their lives.

The fact is, when you consistently show up to meet one-on-one with a child, you are affirming to the child that they matter.

 

Questions? Comments?

Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

http://www.dwlawpc.com

Connect with me on Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

 

 

 

Lessons From Trial, but not What You Might Expect.

August 3, 2018 Leave a comment

Happy Friday, all. I took this photo yesterday. It seemed a lot of people were enjoying Rosa Parks Circle.

 

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Today, after a 5 hour trial, I was waiting for the Judge to render his verdict.

 

The Judge took the bench and, before telling the parties his decision, he conducted a video arraignment – someone charged with a crime who was sitting in jail.

 

 

The young man was 18 years old.

The Judge asked the young man a question: his question and the young man’s answer stuck with me.  (Even after the Judge rendered a decision on my case.)

 

The Judge asked the young man: “do your parents know you are in jail?

 

Answer from the young man: “Yeah, she knows.

 

I will state the obvious: The fact that this young man when speaking of his parents makes no reference to a father in his life is both telling and heartbreaking.

 

This reality is simply not how the world should be.

 

And, unfortunately, this story is typical.

 

Fatherless Generation

I took these statistics from the Fatherless Generation

  • Father Factor in Incarceration – Even after controlling for income, youths in father-absent households still had significantly higher odds of incarceration than those in mother-father families. Youths who never had a father in the household experienced the highest odds. A 2002 Department of Justice survey of 7,000 inmates revealed that 39% of jail inmates lived in mother-only households. Approximately forty-six percent of jail inmates in 2002 had a previously incarcerated family member. One-fifth experienced a father in prison or jail.

    Father Factor in Crime – A study of 109 juvenile offenders indicated that family structure significantly predicts delinquency. Adolescents, particularly boys, in single-parent families were at higher risk of status, property and person delinquencies. Moreover, students attending schools with a high proportion of children of single parents are also at risk. A study of 13,986 women in prison showed that more than half grew up without their father. Forty-two percent grew up in a single-mother household and sixteen percent lived with neither parent

 

In the fall I will begin once again again mentoring an elementary aged student.

Each of the students that I have met with over the years has had a lack of a father figure in his life.

I look at these statistics, and ask myself:

is it worthwhile spending one hour a week during the school year with a boy who needs a positive male role model?

The answer every time is “Yes.

I wonder about this  young man that I saw on video arraignment today – how would his life be different if he had a different answer to the Judge’s question? “Yes, they know”

 

My question for you – “who are you pouring into?

 

E-mail: Jeshua@dwlawpc.com

www.dwlawpc.com

Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka