General Motors Supporting Resident-Led Projects in the Baxter Neighborhood

Pictured above: Marvin Martin of Grand Rapids Urban League and Kenneth Cortez are part of the Baxter United Coalition. They are leading a group focused on improving economic opportunity for residents in the Baxter neighborhood in Grand Rapids.

In 2022, Baxter United formed to help “build access, creativity, equity, and unity in the Baxter neighborhood.” 

Baxter is a historically underserved neighborhood on the southeast side of Grand Rapids. Residents have long come together to build community, laying the foundation for Baxter United to continue improving the quality of life for all those living there.  As one of our three focus neighborhoods where we partner with the community to build affordable homes, we are proud to support this resident-led initiative because a safe, stable place to live goes beyond the four walls of a home. 

With generous funding from General Motors for our Neighborhood Revitalization efforts this year, Baxter United is taking a significant step toward achieving its goals.  A neighborhood planning consultant helped the group survey the community and develop a ten-year vision plan. The plan focuses on four key areas for growth identified by Baxter residents: housing, economic opportunity, safety, and relationship building. 

Another outcome from the survey is the newly formed Baxter United Coalition comprised of Baxter residents and representatives of several organizations and businesses in the neighborhood – the Baxter Neighborhood Association, Grand Rapids Urban League, and Wealthy Theatre. Each area of growth listed above is being addressed by groups of three to four coalition members, all of whom live or work in Baxter.  Through General Motors’ support, each of the four groups has a $10,000 grant to use by this June to improve their focus area.  

Coalition groups are beginning to meet and big plans are underway in each category. Because all coalition members live in Baxter, residents have ownership and decide what they need and want for their community. We can’t wait to see what the coalition does over the next few months and its impact on the neighborhood. Stay tuned for updates on projects and initiatives they’re working on! 

19 households become homeowners with your help: annual impact report 2022

“The truth is, there are no words to fully express our gratitude.” 

Those are the words of Bilsan, the 2021 Habitat Kent Homeowner of the Year.  Those words are tribute to the hard work our volunteers put in, the generosity of our donors, and the commitment of our community.

Hear more from Bilsan and other Habitat Homeowners and learn about our first all-electric house, Women of Habitat Kent, neighborhood engagement activities, and other big strides we made over the past fiscal year with your support!

Read more here.

Building Leaders and Community in Roosevelt Park

Throughout May and June of 2022, we partnered with Dwelling Place to host Building Leaders, Building Communities (BLBC) in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood. This program seeks to bring neighbors together to learn about community organizing and the power of resident leaders. Over the course of eight weeks, neighbors from Roosevelt Park spent time identifying gifts and passions, building leadership skills, and talking about the issues facing their community. Each week, neighbors were able to connect with guest speakers who talked about their involvement in the neighborhood and provided tangible ways for neighbors to make the changes they want to see.

Two Habitat Kent homeowners joined the facilitation team and helped bring neighbors together through this amazing experience. They have been involved from day one helping to plan and lead this experience for their neighbors. Toni, a Plaza Roosevelt homeowner, shared “I joined this to learn about my community and the people in it, but what I got out of it was so much more.”

During the final celebration session, participants, facilitators, and several community members enjoyed a dinner together and each participant received a congratulatory gift box specifically curated for them for their commitment to their community. Several community organizations shared about resources in the community and opportunities for these new leaders to get more involved in the neighborhood – Our Neighborhood Our Health, Early Learning Neighborhood Collaborative, and the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association. Each participant also had the opportunity to share what they gained from their experience and what changes they want to see or concerns they have about Roosevelt Park, which was especially valuable with Milinda Ysasi, Grand Rapids Second Ward Commissioner, in attendance.

We are so appreciative of the partnership with Dwelling Place and everyone involved, and the opportunity to empower neighbors of Roosevelt Park to take the next step in their leadership journey.

Habitat for Humanity, Consumers Energy Partner for Power of Home Campaign

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan, May 20, 2020 — Habitat for Humanity of Michigan and Consumers Energy are partnering to provide financial support to Habitat affiliates that have been severely affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a goal of raising $200,000 by the end of September. Habitat for Humanity of Kent County has set a local goal of $20,000 to help fund critical housing needs in Kent County.

Through the Power of Home campaign, Consumers Energy will donate $1 for every $2 dollars donated statewide, up to $100,000.

“Our partnership with Habitat Michigan has been ongoing since 2012 with Home Run for Habitat campaigns that provided matching donations to help provide safe, affordable and energy efficient homes to Habitat families,” said Lauren Youngdahl Snyder, vice president of customer experience for Consumers Energy. “In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic and uncertainty, we remain committed to our support for Habitat Michigan. This year the Power of Home campaign is dedicated to providing critical assistance for Habitat affiliates across the state that have suffered financial losses due to the pandemic.”

Between 2012 and 2019 Home Run for Habitat campaigns have raised nearly $1.5 million from 3,700 donors, bringing the total raised with matching dollars to more than $2.3 million. Consumers Energy has provided a total of $850,000 in matching funds for Habitat affiliates in Michigan.

“We know that the coming months will bring an unprecedented level of need for safe, affordable housing in our community. We are poised and ready to build safety and stability for local families through affordable homeownership, but we can’t do it without help from donors,” explains Habitat Kent executive director, Bev Thiel. “Thanks to this match from Consumers Energy, donors’ gifts will go further at a time when the ‘power of home’ is more important than ever.”

Twenty-six Habitat affiliates across the state have signed up to participate in the campaign. Affiliates receive funding based on the amount raised through their individual donors. As of today nearly $100,000 has been raised toward the $200,000 goal.

In order to receive the Consumers Energy match, all donations must be made through the online giving platform Classy. More information about donating is available on Habitat Kent’s campaign page.


About Habitat for Humanity of Kent County

Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County brings people together to build homes, communities and hope. Established in 1983, Habitat Kent has partnered with more than 800 families in Kent County through homeownership and home repairs. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering, or lending a voice to advocate for affordable homeownership, everyone can help families achieve the strength and stability we all need to have a good life. To learn more visit

About Habitat for Humanity of Michigan

Based in Lansing, Habitat for Humanity of Michigan is the state support organization for Michigan’s more than 50 Habitat for Humanity affiliates and ReStores which service nearly every county in the state. HFHM’s mission is to increase the capacity of Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Michigan to build or renovate simple, decent homes in partnership with people in need.

About Consumers Energy

Consumers Energy is Michigan’s largest energy provider, providing natural gas and/or electricity to 6.7 million of the state’s 10 million residents in all 68 Lower Peninsula counties.

Mazarah & Sofia

This is the story of Mazarah and Sofia.

In 2016, they came to Michigan with their three children as refugees after fleeing war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo followed by intense experiences with xenophobia in South Africa.

Bethany Christian Services helped them settle and learn the many things needed to adjust to radically different lives. Now Mazarah is a skilled tile installer, and Sofia works in packaging for a local manufacturing company.

“Now we will own our own house, an American dream house! It’s such a big change, and everything is happy,” says Mazarah. “No more change,” adds Sofia.

Sofia has a friend who is a Habitat homeowner who encouraged them to apply for this program. Mazarah has found that the sweat equity part of the program is “lovely, and happy” and he’s proud of the carpentry and painting work he’s been doing.

Their family was blessed with a fourth child two years ago.  Alamasi, Magie, Deborah, and little Sarah are active, happy kids, and their parents hope that their lives will be “lucky” and “full of learning.”

“Now they can live with peace…and freedom too,” say both proud parents.

“Grand Rapids has lots of love,” says Mazarah. “And love leads the world.” Thank you for being a part of that culture of love and generosity. Together, we are changing lives!

Community Invests $9M in Affordable Housing with Habitat for Humanity

GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan, October 29, 2019 — Habitat for Humanity of Kent County is celebrating securing $9 million for its capital campaign to expand access to affordable housing in Grand Rapids’ Roosevelt Park neighborhood.

Habitat Kent’s “Bright Future Campaign” is a $9 million plan to build, rehab or repair 400 homes in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood—reaching approximately 1 in 4 homes throughout the neighborhood. 17 of those homes are currently under construction on the mixed-use Plaza Roosevelt site at Grandville Avenue and Rumsey Street SW. The nonprofit announced the public phase of the campaign earlier this year.

“We are overwhelmed by the community’s enthusiasm for this initiative and incredibly grateful to the donors and volunteers who have joined us in building strength, stability and opportunity in the Roosevelt Park neighborhood,” said executive director Bev Thiel. “This is the biggest, boldest undertaking in Habitat Kent’s 35-year history, and it would simply not be possible without the donors who have pledged contributions to the Bright Future Campaign.

“We also owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Roosevelt Park neighbors who contributed their time, energy and wisdom to inform the vision for Plaza Roosevelt and the innovative programs Habitat Kent is testing through 2020. After this campaign, listening to and planning alongside neighbors is no longer something we are trying out—it is part of who we are.”

In total, 366 donors have made gifts or pledges to the campaign and volunteers have contributed roughly 9,000 hours to date. With the $9 million goal secured, Habitat Kent has more work to do. The campaign’s home building and repair activities will continue through 2020 and the nonprofit is already planning for future investment in Roosevelt Park and nearby neighborhoods.

Townhomes underway on Plaza Roosevelt site

About Habitat for Humanity of Kent County

Seeking to put God’s love into action, Habitat for Humanity of Kent County brings people together to build homes, communities and hope. As a neighborhood revitalization organization, Habitat Kent build homes and partners with neighbors and community organizations to improve access to resources and build a better quality of life. Established in 1983, Habitat Kent has helped more than 425 families in Kent County become homeowners, and has partnered with another 900 families to repair and improve their homes. Habitat homeowners help build their own homes alongside volunteers and pay an affordable mortgage. Through financial support, volunteering or lending a voice to advocate for strong neighborhoods, everyone can help families achieve the strength and stability they need to build better lives. To learn more visit

Strong Futures

In the past year, Dini and Mansura have been surprised how their house transformed from just a plot of land to the beautiful home it is today. Their home was built in partnership with students from Grand Rapids Community College’s M-TEC Program. Since 2005, GRCC students have helped Habitat Kent build 33 homes. GRCC President Bill Pink attended the home dedication and handed Dini the keys to their new home.

“Our students are thrilled to do this kind of work because it gives them real-world experience and it also gives them that taste of actually seeing how their work brings about such good joy for families,” President Pink said.

“As we do well for others we do well for the whole community.”

Dini and Mansura have been living in a small apartment that seems to get smaller every day. Their son Nuredin (3) and daughter Amira (1) share the same cramped room and the apartment doesn’t provide enough space for them to play.

Dini and Mansura planned to purchase a home for their growing family but they were unable to qualify for a traditional mortgage. They were seeking a permanent housing solution when a family member told them to visit Habitat Kent.

“We had a plan but we didn’t think we’d get this opportunity in this short of a time,” Dini said.

They explained that because of the homeownership education courses Habitat Kent offers, their family is equipped to maintain their home for the future. Now Dini and Mansura have new plans for their future, including finishing the basement, preparing their children for school, and furthering their education to grow in their careers.

“I never imagined this,” Dini said about the Habitat experience, especially relating to sharing cultures with volunteers, donors, and staff members. Dini said he was humbled by the people who have donated their time and money to help someone they’ve never met.

“No matter who they are [Habitat volunteers] are helping everybody regardless of their background.”

Because of you, Dini and Mansura have a healthy, stable, and affordable home where their family can and plan for a bright future.

GRPS Students Build Habitat Home

While most students associate the end of the school year with studying for exams, cleaning out lockers, and longing for summer, a group of Grand Rapids Public Schools students were celebrating a project that took the entire school year to complete.

Juniors and seniors at GRPS’ Academy for Design and Construction (ADC) spent the 2017-2018 school year partnering with Habitat for Humanity of Kent County to build a new LEED-certified home. More than 200 GRPS ADC students have partnered with Habitat Kent over the last 12 years, and this is the eleventh house they’ve built.

From framing in the humid days of late September to installing windows in the bitter cold of January, students had to learn how to work together to overcome obstacles with support from Habitat Kent staff and ADC instructors.

“We’re like a family because we built this,” said ADC student, Alex, at the end-of-year celebration inside the family room of the new house.

“It took a lot of hard work and teamwork.”

Students learn valuable hands-on construction skills as well as knowledge of energy-efficient home building techniques and materials. But the most valuable part of the program is that the students help a homebuyer build a safe, stable, and affordable home.

Cassandra, the homebuyer, applied for Habitat’s homeownership program because she had a need for housing, the ability to pay an affordable mortgage, and a willingness to partner with Habitat. She’s been able to meet and watch the students work on her new home this past year.

“I think it’s really important that [the students] learn how to build a house for their [own home] when they grow older and also if they work in the construction trade.”

Cassandra is working hard to wrap up her sweat equity hours, which include construction of her home and other Habitat homes, financial courses, and homeownership training. She hopes to move into her new home by the beginning of the new school year.

Every single task students completed, every single hour they spent on this house is going to make a lasting impact for Cassandra and her family, and even their own future. To close the celebration, Alex perfectly summed up what the program is all about.

“[This house] was built with love.”