Street Talk

Street Talk: A safe partnership

Hunger gains.

October 18, 2019
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Bethany Christian Services surpassed 10,000 clients served through its partnership with Safe Families for Children.

Chicago-based Safe Families was founded in 2003 as a solution for parents and families experiencing such trauma as poverty, addiction recovery, homelessness or unemployment that would make the family unit vulnerable.

In the past, extended family or neighbors stepped in to help families in crisis by caring for their children for short periods of time. Today, however, many families are socially isolated, and their extended families are nonexistent or unable to help.

Often, this leads to kids being put into the foster care system unnecessarily when what is really needed is some support while the parent or parents can get back on their feet, the organization said.

Through the Safe Families program, approved families host children for short periods of time and agree to support the families in crisis.

Grand Rapids-based Bethany Christian Services partnered with Safe Families in 2008, offering the program in 17 states. Since then, more than 10,000 children have been hosted nationwide, nearly 1,100 of those through Bethany’s Grand Rapids operations.

“We’re excited to hit this benchmark number, not because it’s a good metric, but because of all of the lives it represents,” said Chris Palusky, Bethany president and CEO.

Through Bethany’s Safe Families for Children program, 97% of children return to their homes with their families.

“We love Safe Families because it engages the community to support the family,” said Julie Paine, national director of domestic family preservation services for Bethany. “As connected as we are online, something we’re seeing today is that if a struggling family doesn’t live near relatives or have an avenue for connecting in-person with their community, a sudden upset in their lifestyle might completely upend their family.

“Safe Families helps make that community connection for families weathering trauma so that the whole family can be loved and supported.”

The average stay of a child with a host family is 30 days. From there, host families commit between two days and 12 months of support, helping see the family through to restoration even after children return to their parents.

To mark the 10,000th hosting milestone, Bethany launched a campaign to promote the program during the month of October.

The organization is seeking more host families and more host family supporters. It costs $1,500 to recruit, train and support volunteers to work with families in crisis and connect with community resources.

Donors also can give a kid-sized “safe suitcase” for children in the program. Many kids must transport their personal items with trash bags, and a suitcase helps portray the idea that their stay through the program is meant to be a short one, Bethany said.

To view more information on becoming or supporting a host family, visit bethany.org.

Tuned in

Comcast expects to complete a $6 million network expansion into Laketown and Saugatuck townships in the next few weeks that will offer the full suite of residential products and services.

“Having high-speed broadband connectivity at home is essential today,” said Al Meshkin, Laketown Township manager. “With this kind of technology in place, our residents can now easily work from home. Residents, both young and old, can continue lifelong learning. Access to home-based medical services will allow people to live in their homes longer and delay or prevent moving to care facilities.”

With the expansion, Comcast now offers residents faster internet speeds and Xfinity Internet customers have access to millions of Wi-Fi hotspots nationwide as well as Xfinity xFi, which lets customers personalize, manage and control their home Wi-Fi experience.

“Our company has built an internet experience that combines fast, reliable speeds with the best Wi-Fi coverage, a digital dashboard to manage IoT devices and enough capacity to stay ahead of the next generation of technology and innovation,” said Tim Collins, senior vice president of Comcast’s Heartland Region, which includes Michigan, Indiana and Kentucky.

In addition to Xfinity Internet, Comcast’s full suite of Xfinity products and services includes Xfinity TV, Xfinity Home, Xfinity Mobile and Xfinity Voice.

Spook-tacular

What’s hot for Halloween? According to the folks at Meijer, it’s not all costumes anymore.

More and more people are getting into the baking realm with “severed finger” cookie mixes and “raise the dead” cupcakes topping the list of popular items. There also is a way to create “brain” frosting that is too scary to contemplate.

“Halloween is such a fun celebration for families and friends, and Meijer is ready to help everyone get into character — from spooky to traditional,” said Shawn Sinicrope, group vice president of home and hardlines for Meijer.

Or, if you’re just looking for that “I’m a millennial” avocado toast costume, that’s available, too.

Food first

A local grocery store foundation is inviting customers to join it in the fight against hunger.

The SpartanNash Foundation is running a companywide retail scan campaign Oct. 23 to Nov. 3 in support of more than 100 local food pantries and food banks. One hundred percent of the funds raised will support food pantry partners in eight states.

“One in 6 people struggles with hunger, and as little as $1 can provide food for 10 people through local food pantries,” said Meredith Gremel, executive director of the SpartanNash Foundation.

“SpartanNash is proud to support local food pantries through both monetary and food donations throughout the year, and this fundraising campaign continues that effort in a significant way. Now, we’re teaming up with our customers to provide hunger relief because we know hunger doesn’t take a day off.”

During the SpartanNash Foundation fundraising campaign, customers who visit any SpartanNash-owned retail store or fuel center in eight states will have the opportunity to donate $1, $5 or $10 at any checkout lane or round their total up to the nearest dollar to support their local food pantry. Store guests who use Fast Lane — SpartanNash’s online grocery shopping service — also can donate while placing their orders.

More than 135 stores are participating in the Foundation scan, primarily under the banners of Family Fare, D&W Fresh Market, VG’s Grocery, Dan’s Supermarket and Family Fresh Market.

SpartanNash underwrites the cost of the fundraising campaign, and company associates and the SpartanNash Foundation — the company’s charitable giving arm — contribute financially, as well.

“This fundraising campaign has a huge local impact, and each store has personally selected the food pantry they’ll be supporting,” Gremel said. “The dollars raised stay right in the communities where the local food pantries and food banks are located, and it’s incredible to see the impact these donations from thousands of store guests and associates make.”

In 2018, $278,105 was granted to more than 100 local food pantry partners through the SpartanNash Foundation’s fundraising campaign to provide hunger relief.

In addition to financial support, SpartanNash also donates more than 5 million pounds of food and other grocery products to community food pantries and local nonprofits each year — and company associates volunteered 57,364 hours in 2018 — many with nonprofit partners that fight hunger.

The hunger scan is the fourth fundraising campaign the SpartanNash Foundation will hold in 2019. To date, the SpartanNash Foundation has raised and granted $734,700 on behalf of local Habitat for Humanity, Special Olympics and patriotic partners in eight states.

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