News & Blog: Community


Connector, partner, bridge-builder, advocate. These are the words that everyone in town uses to describeJohn has led us to engage John Helmholdt, recipient of this year’s Ledy Award for Community Engagement.

For the last 10 years, John has used these skills in his role as the Executive Director for Communications and External Affairs at Grand Rapids Public Schools to build social capital and strengthen confidence in our city’s public school system. 

John Helmholdt and Ron GormanAccording to Dr. Ron Gorman, Assistant Superintendent of Pre-K-12 at GRPS, “John lives and breathes GRPS.” Dr. Gorman continues, “He is the hardest working man in ‘school business.’ If you need help navigating systems or removing barriers, John is the person to call. He will not quit until all of the students in our great district have the resources and opportunities they need to achieve their goals.” 

This ability to draw people together around a common cause was modeled for John at a young age. The son of former Grand Rapids Mayor Gerald Helmholdt, John grew up around politics. “John knows and loves this city,” writes former Mayor George Heartwell. “He succeeds in the political arena because he knows all the players in town, and he knows how to bring them together to make Grand Rapids the best place to live and work.” 

 Join us at Spellebration on May 10, 2018 as we honor John Helmholdt with the Ledy Award for Community Engagement sponsored by The Peter and Joan Secchia Family and The John and Nancy Kennedy Family. Tickets are available at

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