Tag Archive for: Hometown Highlights

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 www.hopepkgs.org.

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.

It’s Story Time

Our friends at 92.1 WGHN are hosting Story Time. Have you been tuning in?

We teamed up with the West Michigan Lakeshore Association of Realtors to sponsor the daily segment with Grand Haven Area Public Schools. Tune in at 8:40 a.m. Monday – Friday to hear some of our favorite stories.

Press play below and enjoy a few sweet stories with your family.

More stories are available here. 

Aldea Coffee

Hometown Highlight: Aldea Coffee and Aldea Development

When exceptional coffee and social responsibility intersect, you get Aldea Coffee.

Aldea CoffeeUpon entering an Aldea coffee shop, there is a palpable culture and vibe that exudes community and service. It doesn’t take long to feel like you are with friends as you are greeted with a warm smile, learn the baristas name and receive the special care that they give each one of their patrons.

Aldea was founded to be more than a transactional coffee shop.

Aldea’s sister organization was born out of a mission to empower the farmers of LaUnion, Lempira, Honduras. So, when you pop in for a lavender latte or a coffee pour over, you are positively impacting the lives of men, women, and children in remote areas of Honduras.

You are giving those small farmers in impoverished areas the ability to plant, harvest and bring their coffee to market, where they receive fair value for the coffee beans.

Established in November, 2009, Aldea Development, a registered 501(c)3, was established as Union MicroFinanza with a microfinance focus, which has morphed into a community development organization.

The goal was to create a microfinance organization supporting small-scale farmers. Their staff lives in Honduras and learns from members of the community.

They hear first-hand what limitations, obstacles, and successes the farmers are experiencing and come up with solutions together to greater serve the farmers and community as a whole.

In a time where small scale producers are going out of business, due to the world’s coffee market experiencing a downturn. Aldea has the unique ability to provide stability to farmers. These farmers don’t have to adjust to market rates. Aldea purchases the farmers coffee and pays the farmers consistent prices that are above Fair-Trade prices.

As Aldea’s wholesale and retail business increases, more money goes directly to the farmers pocket book.

With coffee houses in two different West Michigan locations, Aldea has become a gathering place for locals to socialize, work, and just be in a space that is welcoming, calming and super hip and cool!

They are creating community in downtown Grand Haven and Muskegon, very similar to the community they have created in LaUnion, Honduras.

Next time you are deciding which coffee house to patronize, pause and remember, when you choose to purchase your coffee at Aldea, your purchasing power is positively contributing to the quality of lives in impoverished areas of Honduras.

For more information check out www.aldeadevelopment.org and www.aldeacoffee.com.

Hometown Highlights: PassPort to Growth

Hometown Highlights: Passport to Growth

Passport to Growth with your “tour guides” Rich Lohman, Dave Rudin and Leigh Lohman.

“Without continuous growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement and success have no meaning.” – Benjamin Franklin

Hometown Highlights: PassPort to GrowthIf you are looking to grow in the areas of leadership, personal development and communication, Passport to Growth invites you to take action now and give yourself the gift of growth through mentorship. If you struggle with being consistent with growth and feel that you lack the tools for professional and personal growth, this program offers a community to help you bridge the gap so that you have the exercises and tools necessary to progress and succeed.

Passport to Growth is designed to be flexible and adaptable so that even those with the busiest of schedules can operate effectively within the structure. For an entire year, members can access this mentorship program before or after work, during a break or as a designated part of you workday. Passport to Growth is Designed for individuals and larger organizations alike.

Your mentors will guide you and encourage you through the process, meeting you where you are on your journey.

Rich Lohman has been a full time speaker, coach and trainer for nine years. He is an Executive Director with the John Maxwell Speaking, Coaching, Training Team and is also a DISC certified
Consultant. His main goal is to be a resource, friend and mentor to help and challenge your growth, improve your leadership skills and help you achieve amazing success in all areas of your life.

Leigh Lohman in truth is a Realtor but she is so passionate about personal and professional growth that she became a certified John Maxwell Speaker, Coach and Trainer as well as being
a DISC certified Trainer. Along with her strong desire to walk beside people in their growth journeys, Leigh is also a recent graduate from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, driving her
focus to the overall health of a person, mind, body and soul. She believes we cannot be whole unless we work on all facets of life.

Dave Rudin has been on the path to growth for over 20 years. He realized that it was necessary to make a shift to being intentional, surrounding himself with other people that had
been where he wanted to go that his growth journey really started to take off. He recognized that content alone, (books, podcasts, seminars) wasn’t enough to make great strides in personal and professional growth.

One of the primary goals is to offer affordable, weekly coaching that follows a curriculum that offers concrete action steps to take in order to have clarity in your personal and professional life.

The support from the coaches and the community gives everyone the opportunity to succeed, with a weekly coaching call, group tasks, weekly growth assignment, worksheets, discussion, Q & A
sessions, and a Facebook community to interact with. The calls are also recorded for those times when your schedule may not allow you to be a part of the live call or for the times you need additional reflection on a particular topic, you are able to go back and listen as many times as you need.

To learn more about Passport to Growth go to www.passportogrowth.com or contact Rich at Rich@woohooing.com.