Cornering the market on urban leadership

July 11, 2011
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Joe Jones has some Giant shoes to fill as the interim president of the Grand Rapids Urban League.

He takes over for the retired Rev. Walter Brame, a 1988 Giant Award recipient, until the board of directors can initiate a search to replace Brame, who headed the Urban League for 25 years and was a tireless advocate for the African-American and minority community, helping with employment and training, housing and homeless prevention, and providing resources for education, scholarships, health, and family and youth services.

But if anyone can fill those shoes, it’s Jones.

“The Grand Rapids Urban League is thrilled to have Joe lead us in our efforts to improve the economic and social well-being of our culturally diverse community,” said Rev. Fred Wooden, chairman of the League’s board.

“Joe’s experience in the nonprofit area, his belief in the empowering nature of education, and his commitment to strengthening and serving families is a great step toward continuing the far-reaching impact of our agency.”

As interim president, Jones, who is currently president of E.E. Milestone+Associates Inc., a strategic communications firm in Grand Rapids, will lead development and implementation of a strategic agenda aimed at enhancing the quality of life in the underserved urban communities of Grand Rapids.

“I am humbled and honored to have been selected by the board to carry on the very important work of the Grand Rapids Urban League,” he said.

“I am looking forward to expanding the League and its commitment to not only metropolitan Grand Rapids, but also throughout West Michigan. Our city prides itself as a leader in developing public/private partnerships. I’m convinced it’s going to take that kind of approach and collaborative effort to close the gap on the great disparities that exist in the urban communities, especially in the areas of employment, economic development, education and health.”

Link or LINC?

An important factor in Jones’ success as the new Urban League leader will be his established connections in the community. One of those connections is LINC Community Revitalization Inc., a nonprofit organization located in Grand Rapids that exists to revitalize neighborhoods through authentic engagement, stimulating economic development, expanding housing opportunities, creating affordable housing and developing leadership and capacity to residents and grassroots organizations.

Jones recently earned the organization’s Community Spirit Award.

LINC’s latest initiative, called Urban LINC, opened this month. According to Jorge Gonzalez, LINC’s director of economic development, it’s a co-work space for local entrepreneurs and business professionals on the southeast side of Grand Rapids that will provide community members with a unique working experience in a state-of-the-art facility equipped with all the necessary business tools.

Gonzalez said the business center, 1167 Madison Ave. SE, charges $100 per month and provides access to wireless Internet, conference space equipped with video conferencing, printer/copier/fax machines, community and social networking events, and discounts to local restaurants and businesses.

“The idea of shared workspace is a national trend for professionals on the go. With new technology and access to information from anywhere at all times of the day, most professionals can conduct business without much overhead,” he said. “This provides huge opportunities to increase job and network creation for minorities.”

Crackberry or Potberry?

Those cute little handheld electronic devices are often referred to (snidely, of course) as Crackberries because their owners seem to be addicted to them.

But who knew they could be bad for your IQ?

Scott Seifferlein, owner of, that’s who. Seifferlein, a self-diagnosed e-mail and social media addict who also happens to teach golf, is trying to kick the habit — at least for a day.

In an e-mail with a subject line of “Checking e-mail makes you twice as dumb as a pot smoker,” Seifferlein reminds us that Aug. 18 marks the fourth annual International E-mail/Social Media Freedom Day — and he, for one, plans on taking full advantage of the respite.

His impetus? An article he read in the Stanford Daily News.

“Recent studies show that checking your e-mail every five minutes gives you an IQ drop twice that of smoking pot. We have a severe problem in today’s society with e-mail overload. E-mail/Social Media Freedom Day is just what the doctor ordered, and it will be fun to read stories about how people’s lives are changed,” said Seifferlein, who happens to be the founder of International E-mail/Social Media Freedom Day.

This is just a guess, but Seifferlein might be looking for three more to fill out his foursome that day. Just leave your Crackberries at home.

Early risers

The folks at Holland AM Rotary Club kicked off their 10th year by inducing a new club president, Liz DeLaLuz, who will take over for outgoing leader Ken Beukelman.

Holland’s early risers, who meet from 7:17-8:17 a.m. each Wednesday, have much to be proud of as they celebrate their 10-year anniversary. During its first decade, Holland AM Rotary donated nearly $29,000 to local charities and $41,000 to the international Rotary Foundation, plus another $12,768 to other international projects.

Rick VanGrouw, who coordinates publicity for the group, said the club ranks near the top of the district in terms of per-member financial giving, and that club members collectively have donated between 300 and 400 hours of community service each year since the club began compiling the statistic.

And it’s not just “glamorous” community service, either. One of its annual service projects includes providing “bleacher patrol” at Tulip Time, which pretty much means cleaning up after hordes of people vacate the area.

“We have accomplished much during the past 12 months,” Beukelman said. “I know Liz can take the club to the next level.”

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