Hometown Highlights: Tri Cities Kiwanis


Ever wonder what the Kiwanis Club does?

KiwanisKiwanis is a global organization of service clubs dedicated to changing the world one child and community at a time. Along the way, their members share fun, fellowship, and a passion to serve their local communities.

The Tri Cities Kiwanis is comprised of caring men and women from Grand Haven, Spring Lake, and Ferrysburg that raise funds to support existing children’s programs. They also provide several events for children and their families, and through personal involvement in giving their time and skills!

With Christmas fast approaching, Santa and Mrs. Claus will be greeting children and their families in the private room of Porto Bello Restaurant in Grand Haven for the 17th year. This fun fundraiser primarily helps fund the Sandy Huber Reading Improvement Scholarship Program, in which area schools receive funds to help their K-4th grade reading programs.

So, this year, help support Kiwanis and make visiting Santa a family tradition!

Santa will be at Porta Bello from 6-8 p.m. the following days.

  • December 6-8
  • December 13-15
  • December 20-22

Santa hopes to see you there!

Habitat for Humanity Logo

Hometown Highlights: Tri-Cities Area Habitat for Humanity

The Tri-Cities Area Habitat for Humanity is so much more than building homes!

Based in Grand Haven, they are also able to service the southern Muskegon areas of Norton Shores, Roosevelt Park, and Fruitport. With the support from donors and volunteers, they continue to help those with priority home repair needs and can provide families in our communities with the opportunity to have a safe, affordable place to call home.Habitat for Humanity Logo

Below are some of the programs TCAHFH offers and where donor dollars go to help with these initiatives.

  • PRIORITY HOME REPAIR – Our program allows eligible homeowners to access dollars to make repairs to their property that are essential to health and safety.
  • VETERAN’S BUILD AFFILIATE – This national initiative provides housing solutions and volunteer and employment opportunities to US Veterans, military service members and their immediate families. Veterans in Ottawa and Muskegon County may be eligible to receive repair dollars that will improve their basic housing, as well as assistance in accessing other resources.
  • HOME CONSTRUCTION – Donor dollars, alongside volunteer labor, help us with the purchase of land, materials, supplies and labor of new home construction or rehab for our partner families’ homes. Each family commits to 200-400 hours of sweat equity.
  • A BRUSH WITH KINDNESS – A subset of our construction duties would be the ABWK program. This is a program that concentrates on “repairing” the outside of homes that are already owned by the homeowner but can’t be maintained due to financial difficulties. Many of the individuals using this program are seniors.
  • ReSTORE – A place to recycle building materials to keep them from the landfill and allow customers to make home improvements at affordable prices.
  • CARS FOR HOMES – Your used car (or truck/boat/van) can help build a new home for a family in need. We’ll arrange everything and even pick it up for you! (Tax deductible as allowed by law.)
  • AGING IN PLACE – This national initiative provides home repairs to keep low-income seniors safe in their homes. It may include modification to the interior to accommodate a wheelchair, etc.

If you are planning a home improvement project, or if you have items in your garage or basement that you would like to get rid of, donate or shop at the Tri-Cities Area Habitat ReStore!

Location: 408 N. Ferry St in Grand Haven
Hours: Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Phone Number: 616-846-1505

Look for their new ReStore opening in Norton Shores later this fall!

Tri-Cities Area Habitat for Humanity is always looking for volunteers! Whether it is a group project or maybe just a couple of volunteers needed at a time, they have opportunities available and appreciate your time. If interested, please contact

Love in Action

Hometown Highlights: Love in Action

This was written by the staff at Love in Action and submitted for our Hometown Highlights feature. This story shows the power of connection and the importance of Love in Action’s mission.

It was 2 a.m. in the middle of a dark church parking lot. Light shone on a couple of women lounging in lawn chairs and chitchatting. A concerned police officer walked up to them and asked, “What are you ladies up to?”

“Just enjoying the evening, officer,” one joyfully replied.

Love in ActionWhat had begun a few months before as casual conversation with others waiting in line for a food truck had developed into friendships. Deb (name changed to protect the client) and her new friends started meeting earlier to wait together. They shared vulnerabilities in their situations and connected over history, loss and hardship. While grieving the loss of her son, Deb found a safe place with friends. These friends walked alongside her during good times and hard times. They even came together over the holidays.

“For the first time in a long time, I felt safe and not judged,” Deb recalled.

One of her friends at the food truck suggested Deb join Financial Fitness, a Love in Action program designed to empower participants with skills to work toward financial stability. With the support she received in class, Deb was able to pay off her son’s funeral expense; she made the goal to become debt-free; and she now has money in savings.

She began to thrive because she had tangible resources partnered with emotional support and practical solutions.

Deb’s story reflects the beautiful power of connection. It shows what happens when we find those people who make us feel safe and not judged. We begin to experience community that opens doors and provides support.

Love in Action combines the generous donations of our community to provide for local neighbors who face challenging situations. Love in  action provided 316,000 meals, over 10,000 nights of shelter and hundreds of health care offerings to our neighbors in need. What’s more, as a community, we cultivate the opportunity to safely share the vulnerability of our situations, connect, and build friendships. We nurture a culture of us.

Bluebird Cancer Retreats

Hometown Highlights: Bluebird Cancer Retreats

“You have cancer.”

These three little words will turn the lives of you and your family upside down.

Bluebird HennaMore than 56,000 Michiganders are estimated to be diagnosed with cancer per year. A single diagnosis impacts every aspect of someone’s life, financially and emotionally, effecting not just the patient but everyone around them.

“We are proud to be a part of the solution at Bluebird Cancer Retreats. Our mission is simple: to enhance the lives of those around us experiencing cancer.”

Bluebird was started over 20 years ago by a man named Bill Timm with a cancer diagnosis. His diagnosis led to hope, and hope led to a dream – a dream of sharing inspiration and support with West Michigan. Together with Pete Thuene, Bills dream turned reality.

Today Bluebird Cancer Retreats serves hundreds of participants every year, by utilizing thousands of volunteer hours. Bluebird partners with Bucs Pride, Kathys Krew, Bras for a Cause and many other generous individual donors and business’ throughout Michigan.

“We continue to expand our programming to include community cares baskets for the recently diagnosed, lift of love reclining lift chairs, family camp retreats and the holiday happiness project bringing joy during the holiday season. Not to mention our weekend healing retreats for adults.”

Bluebird will continue to be safe haven and outreach for cancer patients, survivors, caregivers,
and their families for years to come.

“We look to the future to bring our mission to more individuals experiencing cancer, expanding our technology systems, and building a network of virtual support and wellness.”

For more information on how you can be involved or donate please visit our website.

Hometown Highlights: Wildflower Yoga Studio

“Yoga builds community and helps form a feeling of togetherness, which we need more than ever in these crazy times of isolation. I want people to be able to make friends here: to create, laugh, and have fun in a happy and uplifting environment,” said Owner and Founder, Sandi Boonenberg.

Wildflower Yoga was born when a void was created in downtown Grand Haven.

When the top floor of the Forum building that housed a yoga studio became available, Sandi and her mom Karen soon realized that our community needed a yoga studio and had a strong urge to save the sacred space and make it even better!

Sandi and her then fiancé devoted the next three months to renovating the space down to the studs and floorboards. To say that blood, sweat, and tears went into the renovation would be an understatement. Friends came in to help paint, lay floorboards and lend helping hands…Sandi picked up a sledgehammer for the first time in her life and got to work.

As word got out that a new, calming studio space was being developed, students and teachers alike began reaching out with excitement. Sandi envisioned a serene, calm space for yoga but her dream was to incorporate a workshop into the renovation as well. The workshop now serves as a space where creatives can share a special skill, host a book club, jewelry making, a bridal shower.

It is a beautiful light filled space that blends a boho chic vibe with an old loft style charm!


Wildflower currently offers 15 classes per week ranging from three different levels of difficulty, from restorative to sweaty vinyasa flow. There are themed events happening frequently as well, such as meditation and breathing workshops. The Wildflower website has updated classes and events.

Sandi invites anyone who is looking for good vibes, meditation, positive energy, and a love for yoga to give them a try.

Hope Pkgs

Hometown Highlights: Hope Pkgs

At Michigan Mortgage, we were born to serve. We are so blessed to be surrounded with so many like-minded people in our community, Lisa Hoeve included.

Lisa created Hope Pkgs in 2015 to serve foster children in our community.

Hope Pkgs“Too many children enter foster care with just the clothes on their backs,” she said. “Hope Pkgs provides new backpacks that include pjs, socks, underwear, toiletries, diapers and more to get them through their first night.”

“As a foster family, we learned of this big need right away. We have also witnessed kids using a garbage bag to bring items into our home.”

“I’m so thankful to help supply these important items that provide dignity, hope and love,” Lisa said. “As you can imagine, part of me is sad that it is even needed. But it is, for various reasons such as removing children abruptly due to extreme danger, children coming from very unsanitary places and just not owning anything because they may be homeless.”

To date, Hope Pkgs has served 3,942 kids (and counting) in Michigan. Every number has a name.

There are approximately 12,000 children in foster care in Michigan – Hope Pkgs hopes to reach each one of them.

“Our short-term goal is to reach one new foster care agency a month and provide first night bags, so they are able to disperse them to the kids they care for,” Lisa said. “We currently serve 24 agencies in 20 counties. We are also recognizing the need for diverse skin and hair products and getting those to kids who need them.”

Hope Pkgs is run by dedicated volunteers that manage all aspects of the non-profit. They manage three different spaces, organize orders, plan events, shop for needed items, deliver bags, and many other needed tasks.

The long-term goal is to obtain and operate out of one 1,200-foot facility to make storing and assembling first night bags much easier.

“People can get involved by sharing our ministry, making online donations at Hope Pkgs, even hosting a donation box at their church or place of business,” Lisa said. “Businesses are welcome to be a sponsor at any of our events. I’m also open to speaking about foster care in general as well as our ministry.”

It’s a community that many are unfamiliar with, and I enjoy sharing how people can become involved, which doesn’t always mean actual fostering.”

“For two years we have hosted a Fashion Show Fundraiser, complete with music, speakers, desserts, prizes and more,” she continued. “We look forward to hosting it again next May 26, 2022. Mark your calendar! It’s also a special event for foster moms as they are pampered and get to model gorgeous outfits on the runway.

“Currently we have 5 businesses hosting a donation box. We’d love to add a few more locations. Items that we find best to include in a new backpack are new pajamas, socks, underwear, throw blanket, toothbrush, tooth paste and body wash. Deodorant for the teens and diapers and wipes for the little ones.”

For more information and to get involved, visit

Anthony Lambers

Hometown Highlight: Anthony Lambers and the RP Scholarship

Anthony Lambers“A misguided and sofa-surfing youth.”

That’s how Anthony Lambers described himself as a teenager living in the Grand Rapids area.

He was headed down the wrong path until he met a man that became his mentor at Wyoming Park High School. He was a freshman. This man, whom he calls “RP,” became a much-needed father figure in his life.

RP helped him get up out of the mud.

“He really helped me stay calm and collected and when I wanted to give up, he made sure that I didn’t,” Lambers said in a video filmed by Design Force Marketing. RP put him in connection with the right people and helped “rehab him back” into a productive member of society.

They talked every day. RP was a mentor and a friend.

Years later, RP lost his battle with cancer. To honor his memory and celebrate the value of mentorship, Lambers launched the RP Scholarship Fund.

Lambers, now a Realtor with At Home Realty in Grand Haven, aims to give back to local youth the way RP gave back to him. His goal is to encourage our youth to “never count yourself out.”

“Your dreams and goals are yours to keep, change, fail at, succeed at and work at. Too many people kill their dreams because of what others tell them or think.”

To continue RP’s legacy, Lambers has created an Endowment through the Grand Rapids Community Foundation. He and his family will leave a positive impact on the community for many years to come.

Click here if you’d like to donate to the fund.

He also launched the Backspin event as a way to celebrate RP and make memories with the local community. The event was canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but we hope it will be back and better than ever in 2021.

“Life is not fair,” Lambers said. “It can hurt and it can also be beautiful. Enjoy it for what it is and live it day by day.”

To learn more about Lamber’s story, the RP Scholarship Fund and the Backspin event, click here.

Honoring Our Local Educators

Honoring Our Local Educators: Ms. Tammie Thompson at Griffin Elementary

MM Gives Back was launched as a way for the Michigan Mortgage team to give back to the community, local and afar. This year, we’re honoring our local educators. Each quarter, Michigan Mortgage will recognize a West Michigan educator and donate $1,000 to their school.

This quarter, we honored Ms. Tammie Thompson, a First Grade Teacher at Griffin Elementary in Grand Haven.

Honoring Our Local EducatorsMs. Thompson was nominated on our Facebook page by Erin Alvarez: “Tammie is an amazing teacher and role model. She encourages her students to work to their full potential. When others put children in ‘boxes,’ she lets the child decide what shape suits them best. She is a selfless teacher whose hard work and dedication often goes unnoticed. She is a ray of sunshine whose smile and positivity can be seen and heard through the halls of the school. She forms long lasting relationships with her students and families and truly cares about the ‘whole’ child. She goes above and beyond to make sure that each child is successful not only academically, but also socially and emotionally. My children continue to praise her for her ability to be a positive influence long after her time with them. She makes each child feel they are important and truly loved and cared for.”

She is so incredibly deserving of this recognition; we learned that first-hand when we visited her at Griffin.

My wish for myself and my students, which I share with them every day, is to remember that we are valuable and amazing humans simply because we exist,” Tammie said. “Our job is to learn all we can about so many things while at the same time bringing our best selves to every situation.”

My hope is for all of us to remember that being human means taking risks, making mistakes, feeling strong feelings and learning strategies to manage them. It also means bringing kindness, patience, compassion, respect, and a willingness to listen and learn into every space we enter with others. Every single day I believe this starts with me!”

Click here to see our surprise visit to Griffin Elementary! 

I am an educator because teaching and learning are my passion,” Tammie said! “I am a lifelong learner myself and every day have set out with the intention to inspire others to have a similar mindset.”

I am a passionate advocate for positive reinforcement and strategies that work to support desirable behaviors and consequences. Children have a natural yearning to explore, to reflect, to communicate, to connect, and to dream. It is my role as a guide in my classroom to teach and model positive, appropriate ways of satisfying these natural desires.”

Tending to my students’ emotional and social selves and overall well-being is the first order of business every day in my classroom,” she continued. “By focusing on developing deep and meaningful relationships with students, I can more easily create a space that enables and helps to maintain a strong, safe foundation for curricular learning. Getting to know students on a personal level, listening to their interests, dreams, and concerns sends a strong, consistent message that I believe they are all humans first and learners next.”

On behalf of Michigan Mortgage, Ms. Thompson and Griffin Elementary received a check for $1,000.

Thank you, Michigan Mortgage, for giving me this award,” she said. “I feel so blessed to have worked across decades with such caring, compassionate, and dedicated families in the Grand Haven area who have been committed to quality in the education of all of our children.”

Thank you for your commitment to education, Ms. Thompson! We are so blessed to recognize you as a recipient of our Honoring Our Local Educators Outstanding Teacher Award.

Honoring Our Local Educators


Hometown Highlight: 75Walls

Two hometown gals starting a mural movement in Muskegon, Michigan, one wall at a time.


Christine Mattson and Jenni Schuitema are the faces behind 75Walls. In line with movements across the U.S., the goal of 75Walls is to beautify inspire and bring joy to the Muskegon area by commissioning artists to transform the Muskegon area – one wall at a time – with a little TLC.

Years ago, Christine and Jenni started a band by the name of 75Walls. Ironically, that band name is now the vision the two friends have for their mission: Turning 75 walls into murals that inspire and bring rejuvenation to Muskegon.


Their first project, titled “Lakeside Regatta” and located along the bike path at the entrance to the Lake Express Ferry, is the perfect welcome to Lakeside and the beautiful Muskegon Lakeshore.

Local artist Jimmy Cobb was commissioned to create and transform the wall.

Funded by personal funds as well as Go Fund Me funds, the murals are coming to life with the help of local artists and community members passionate about spreading art and joy across the great city of Muskegon.

The second project entitled “The Siren’s Catch” now adorns one of Lakeside’s oldest walls.

Local artist Angie Mattson was inspired by those who fished our waters and called this port their home, and is now Located on the wall at Torresen Marine.

To support and learn more about 75Walls, check out their Facebook page.

Stay tuned for walls number 3 through 75!

Hometown Highlight: The Front Porch Project

Kelly Rogers Ruffing has a passion for people, for life and for capturing special moments.

Kelly is a photographer, mom and community cheerleader in Spring Lake. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she added “The Front Porch Project” to her resume.

The closure of schools and local business brought families together and indoors. So many special moments were happening at home.

The original idea sparked in Needham, Massachusetts when Care Soulia and Kristen Collins brought the idea to life.

“Even though (the pandemic) is negative, it’s historic and needs to be documented,” Soulia said. “So why not capture the moment as people are living their lives at home? To be safer and socially distant in front of their homes!”

The idea took root and Kelly brought it to West Michigan.

Her enthusiasm and energy bring joy and laughter to every front yard she crosses. She pops by, capturing each family on their front – and sometimes back – porch.

The photo session is short and sweet. What’s the cost of this unique family keepsake?

Kelly simply asks that each family make a donation to their favorite local charity, church or school. The dollar amount is not specified. In turn, the family receives a high-quality digital print to make this time in history. It truly is a win-win!

As of June 1, more than half of the 31 families who have participated in the project have donated to 21 different charitable organizations, churches or schools in the Tri-Cities area.

“That’s something to smile about,” Kelly said.

More information is available on Facebook. If you’re interested in participating, shoot Kelly a message. She would love to stop by and appreciates your willingness to give back to the local community.