News & Blog

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About: Jeff worked for several years as a Lean Manufacturing consultant prior to joining Steelcase in 2000, where he has held several Finance positions in Manufacturing Operations, Supply Chain, Logistics, and Product Development. He is currently a Channel Manager and consult with our Dealer network to develop technology competencies for their businesses. Jeff holds his MBA from Western Michigan University and a Supply Chain Certification from MSU. He has led or volunteered for several organizations ranging from Habitat for Humanity to youth sports leagues. Jeff is grateful to have tutored learners and recruited tutors for LCWM. 

By Learner Rosalinda Cardenas

September 2019

My tutor and I read the story “Ten years Later Little Free Library Are Still Sparking Joy, Sharing Book.” The story was interesting. We decided to make a Little Free Library!

By Learner Rosalinda Cardenas

September 2019

My tutor and I read the story “Ten years Later Little Free Library Are Still Sparking Joy, Sharing Book.” The story was interesting. We decided to make a Little Free Library!

We looked at the web site for more information for the project. We looked for directions and a list of materials.

Jane had all materials at her house. She cut the wood.

The next step was send an email to the Literacy Center. We ask for a room to build it.

Now we start to build the Little Free Library. We put all materials on the table. Jane put the screws in the wood. I checked to make sure the wood was straight. We used glue and clamps. The clamps held the wood together while the glue dried. I filled the holes with wood putty.

Now all the pieces are together.

Before paint I put caulk on the wood to keep water out. I painted and had fun. Jane painted inside the house and looked happy. I put the knob in the door.

I put other color on the top of the white. Jane liked the green color. I painted the roof with pink paint. Pink is my favorite color!

We waited for the paint to dry. Then we painted pink designs on the house.

Jane put the roof in the house. Now the Little Free Library is done. We work together every Tuesday at the Literacy Center for 3 months.

The story will be continue…

September 2020

My tutor bring Little Free Library at my house. The next step is my husband and my son dug a hole for the library. I mix the cement. We put the library and the cement in the hole. I wait for it to dry and the next day I put the books for the families. The Little Free Library is finished!

By Learner Rosalinda Cardenas

September 2019

My tutor and I read the story “Ten years Later Little Free Library Are Still Sparking Joy, Sharing Book.” The story was interesting. We decided to make a Little Free Library!

We looked at the web site for more information for the project. We looked for directions and a list of materials.

Jane had all materials at her house. She cut the wood.

The next step was send an email to the Literacy Center. We ask for a room to build it.

Now we start to build the Little Free Library. We put all materials on the table. Jane put the screws in the wood. I checked to make sure the wood was straight. We used glue and clamps. The clamps held the wood together while the glue dried. I filled the holes with wood putty.

Now all the pieces are together.

Before paint I put caulk on the wood to keep water out. I painted and had fun. Jane painted inside the house and looked happy. I put the knob in the door.

I put other color on the top of the white. Jane liked the green color. I painted the roof with pink paint. Pink is my favorite color!

We waited for the paint to dry. Then we painted pink designs on the house.

Jane put the roof in the house. Now the Little Free Library is done. We work together every Tuesday at the Literacy Center for 3 months.

The story will be continue…

September 2020

My tutor bring Little Free Library at my house. The next step is my husband and my son dug a hole for the library. I mix the cement. We put the library and the cement in the hole. I wait for it to dry and the next day I put the books for the families. The Little Free Library is finished!

By Learner Rosalinda Cardenas

September 2019

My tutor and I read the story “Ten years Later Little Free Library Are Still Sparking Joy, Sharing Book.” The story was interesting. We decided to make a Little Free Library!

We looked at the web site for more information for the project. We looked for directions and a list of materials.

Jane had all materials at her house. She cut the wood.

The next step was send an email to the Literacy Center. We ask for a room to build it.

Now we start to build the Little Free Library. We put all materials on the table. Jane put the screws in the wood. I checked to make sure the wood was straight. We used glue and clamps. The clamps held the wood together while the glue dried. I filled the holes with wood putty.

Now all the pieces are together.

Before paint I put caulk on the wood to keep water out. I painted and had fun. Jane painted inside the house and looked happy. I put the knob in the door.

I put other color on the top of the white. Jane liked the green color. I painted the roof with pink paint. Pink is my favorite color!

We waited for the paint to dry. Then we painted pink designs on the house.

Jane put the roof in the house. Now the Little Free Library is done. We work together every Tuesday at the Literacy Center for 3 months.

The story will be continue…

September 2020

My tutor bring Little Free Library at my house. The next step is my husband and my son dug a hole for the library. I mix the cement. We put the library and the cement in the hole. I wait for it to dry and the next day I put the books for the families. The Little Free Library is finished!

By Learner Rosalinda Cardenas

September 2019

My tutor and I read the story “Ten years Later Little Free Library Are Still Sparking Joy, Sharing Book.” The story was interesting. We decided to make a Little Free Library!

We looked at the web site for more information for the project. We looked for directions and a list of materials.

Jane had all materials at her house. She cut the wood.

The next step was send an email to the Literacy Center. We ask for a room to build it.

Now we start to build the Little Free Library. We put all materials on the table. Jane put the screws in the wood. I checked to make sure the wood was straight. We used glue and clamps. The clamps held the wood together while the glue dried. I filled the holes with wood putty.

Now all the pieces are together.

Before paint I put caulk on the wood to keep water out. I painted and had fun. Jane painted inside the house and looked happy. I put the knob in the door.

I put other color on the top of the white. Jane liked the green color. I painted the roof with pink paint. Pink is my favorite color!

We waited for the paint to dry. Then we painted pink designs on the house.

Jane put the roof in the house. Now the Little Free Library is done. We work together every Tuesday at the Literacy Center for 3 months.

The story will be continue…

September 2020

My tutor bring Little Free Library at my house. The next step is my husband and my son dug a hole for the library. I mix the cement. We put the library and the cement in the hole. I wait for it to dry and the next day I put the books for the families. The Little Free Library is finished!

About: Omar Cuevas is the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce; the second largest chamber in the State of Michigan. Omar oversees revenue generation for the organization and how the Chamber tells its story. Omar has a background in finance having an 18-year career in the financial industry; most of which were at Fifth Third Bank. He led financial literacy initiatives along with expanding the bank’s growth in West Michigan’s growing Latino population. As a member of the Grand Rapids Chamber executive team, he has influenced organizational priorities of inclusivity and belonging. Omar is part of the leadership team driving the work of the Kent County-City of Grand Rapids welcome plan in partnership with Gateways for Growth. His work is driven by the principle that Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is the right thing to do. A community that embraces inclusion can increase innovation, acceptance and problem-solving capacity; which leads to a competitive advantage.

About: Michaelyn (MickiBenz served as Vice President at Mercy Health Saint Mary's  for twenty-five years, until October 2019,  having varied responsibilities including fundraising for the Lacks Cancer Center, the Hauenstein Center, and several outpatient health centers.  In that capacity, she led teams of staff and volunteers in raising $62 million for those projects. She also was responsible for political advocacy, community relations, and media relations. Micki is committed to the local community and has volunteered actively for dozens of organizations and committees over the years, including her past positions as board chair for the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce (where she was also the first female board chair of the organization), Grand Rapids Urban League, Pilgrim Manor Retirement, Grand Rapids Historical Commission, and Catholic Social Services (now Catholic Charities).

About: Adam Russo is a lifelong learner who is deeply rooted in the West Michigan communications community. As the owner of public relations firm COM 616, his professional experience includes working with global brands like Haworth and Amway, regional companies like Varnum and Comcast, as well as nonprofits like the Mosaic Film Experience and Sunset Retirement Communities. Outside of the office, Adam is committed to community service and fitness. He currently serves as an executive board member for the Literacy Center of West Michigan, a board member for Affinity Mentoring, an ambassador for the Grand Rapids Chamber, and a member of the Kent County Prevention Coalition. He is also the former president for the West Michigan Public Relations Society of America. Adam is a two-time Grand Rapids Business Journal “40 Under 40” honoree and a two-time finalist for the Grand Rapids Chamber’s Young Entrepreneur of the Year. He also has served as an adjunct public relations professor at his alma mater Grand Valley State University.

Written by Sara Miller, ATP Coordinator

At age 17, Rut left her home in rural Guatemala and made her way over 2,500 miles to Grand Rapids, Michigan. She had two brothers here, who wanted her to come to the U.S. to better her English skills and further her education. And, though it hasn’t been easy, Rut is doing just that. She had taken two English as a Second Language (ESL) classes at GRCC and, although the pandemic slowed down her plans, she will start her final English prerequisite class in May. In the fall, she will begin her education as a graphic designer!

About: Since 2005, Melissa has provided Baker Holtz clients with income tax compliance and consulting services, with a specialization in the estates and trusts. She is currently the Tax Principal of the firm. Melissa completed her BBA in Accounting and Finance at Grand Valley State University in 2004 and received her Master of Science in Accounting a year later.  While attending GVSU, she was a member of Beta Alpha Psi, an accounting honors society. She received her CPA license in 2006.

About: Jim Ayres is a business executive and leadership consultant working with global clients and nonprofits.  Jim is a coach for individuals and organizations on strategic planning, development, project management and cultural diversity. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology/Biological Sciences from Grand Valley State University and his MBA from Davenport University. Prior to his retirement from Amway at the conclusion of 2020, Jim led all business operations for Amway North America, with a business volume exceeding $1 billion. In his 41 years at Amway, Jim also held leadership positions in Global Research and Development, Quality Assurance, and Scientific Regulatory Affairs. He has extensive experience in Global business, leading Global teams, and Global diversity in business.

About: Win Irwin graduated from Princeton University with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in 1969. He spent five years teaching history and government at Morgan Park Academy in Chicago, Illinois. He spent one year as a teaching tennis professional/manager before joining Irwin Seating Company. Win has been at Irwin Seating Company for 43 years and has worked as a Quality Control Person, Wood Plant Superintendent, Education Sales Manager, Factory Plant Superintendent, Vice President of Manufacturing, and President & CEO.

Written by Autumn Jackson, ATP Coordinator

Fung came to Michigan as a refugee in 2012. Having studied some English in school in Burma, she had learned the basics of the language, but found it difficult to understand people hereAfter seeing her husband succeed in our programs, she came to the Literacy Center in 2019. She was eager to improve her speaking and writing skills and gain enough confidence with her English to support her children in school. Fung was soon paired with a tutor, Sarabeth.

About me: My name is Sara Miller, and I’ve worked as a coordinator for the Adult Tutoring Program for about six months. In 2006, I moved to Taiwan to teach English as a second language and discovered I loved it! Since then, I’ve taught in several different countries including Malta, Turkey, Mexico, and Vietnam, and earned an MA in curriculum and instruction of English as a second language. I came back to the US in 2019 and am enjoying being close to family and old friends.

Written by Chad Patton, Director of Customized Workplace English

Uwamahoro, a Congolese refugee who came to the United States by way of Uganda, had two goals when she started at the Literacy Center: learn English and become a citizen. In fact, it wasn’t very long after Uwamahoro and her family—including her mother, brother, niece, and nephew—arrived in Grand Rapids that Uwamahoro knew she wanted to be a citizen.

Tommy Allen’s leadership has left its imprint throughout our community. As an artist, a writer, a content creator, a volunteer, and an activist, Tommy has made it his mission to be deeply engaged in some of the most important work in our community. 

Mark Peters has quietly but significantly established a new ethic on how to conduct business. As President and CEO of Butterball Farms, Inc. and co-founder of The Source, Mark recognized that business would thrive if employers took an active role in removing barriers for their employees. 

Marielle Levert, our 2021 recipient of the Marshall Pitler Volunteer of the Year Award, brings a unique perspective to her tutoring experience with the Literacy Center. In 2015, she and her family moved to Grand Rapids from their native Netherlands. Although she was a fluent English speaker, Marielle could relate our learners’ challenges of adapting to the language and customs of a new country. She set to work immediately connecting with other ex-patriots and English language learners in her adopted home. 

Written by Sara Miller, ATP Coordinator

For many, 2020 was a year of adaptation. For Lorena, it was no different. Unable to meet in person with her tutor, Steff, the pair turned to meeting virtually. But that came with its own challenges; Lorena had rarely used a computer until now. Although she was reluctant, she knew that in order to keep meeting she would have to do her best. Over the next few months they tackled the basics and mastered Zoom meetings together. One major challenge remained: email. 

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