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.

Greg McCormick joins Habitat Kent’s Board of Directors

We are honored to welcome Greg McCormick to our Board of Directors. Now retired, Greg brings a wealth of knowledge from his background at Perrigo as SVP – Self Care Marketing, Insights and Analytics.
Upon joining our mission, Greg says:
“I believe affordable housing is a fundamental need and critical in the establishment of a successful family and building a successful community.  While this has always been an issue, the pandemic has exacerbated the need, particularly in Kent County.  I want to be a part of an organization that can help parents establish a stable and safe place to raise their children so they can give back to the community.
I became interested in Habitat when my youngest son was president of his high school’s student Habitat for Humanity chapter in northern New Jersey, and I had the opportunity to work on several builds and renovations with him.  Working with my son and his classmates to help other families get what those boys took for granted was eye-opening.  Importantly, seeing a family move into their first home and the happiness and gratefulness the families felt was immeasurable!”

We welcome Fiona Brennan Shea, Jess Eglinton and Jade Johnson!

We recently welcomed three new faces to our Habitat team: Fiona Brennan Shea, Development Specialist, Jess Eglinton, Donor Relations Specialist, and Jade Johnson. They bring with them a wide breadth of experience and knowledge and we’re so excited to have them on board!

We enjoyed getting to know all three of these wonderful women in a short interview, and hope you do too:

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your background

Fiona: I graduated from Hillsdale College in 2018 with a BA in Rhetoric and Public Address. Immediately after graduating, I moved to Minneapolis to begin my career as an Event Planner with JW Marriott Minneapolis and returned to my Alma Mater a year later to serve the Institutional Advancement team as an event planner and host various events across the country. I also served as the Assistant Director of Student and Young Alumni Programs and it was here that I realized my passion for development, engagement, and education in the non-profit realm.

Jade: Hello! My name is Jade Johnson, but most people call me Jade J. I graduated from Grand Valley State University in 2019, earning my BBA with an emphasis in marketing. With nearly six years in digital marketing and retail  management, my professional background has led me to wear “many hats.” From managing a sales floor, hiring and recruiting talent, to social media brand management, the hats I have been able to try on and wear are far and wide. My passion lies in brand management while developing people to be leaders through coaching and feedback opportunities.

Jess: I’m coming to Habitat Kent with over 8 years of experience in the non-profit sector. For most of that time I worked in fundraising and development, but I also have experience in programs, operations, human resources, leadership, governance, and volunteerism. I earned a BA in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus in Community Development from Calvin University, and an executive MBA from Grand Valley State University.

Q: Why Habitat Kent for you and what are you excited for when you think about starting your role here?

Fiona: I am driven by faith, family, and community, and I am committed to making a positive impact on my city. The opportunity to serve the Grand Rapids community as the Development Specialist for Habitat Kent is both empowering and humbling, and I will work every day to live out our mission.

Many of my previous roles required extensive travel and long hours away from family, friends, and community. I am so looking forward to the opportunity to make a positive impact right here in our home city of Grand Rapids alongside a like-minded group of people who share a passion for our mission.

Jess: In college, I spent a few spring breaks volunteering at Koinonia Farm, a cooperative farm and intentional community in Georgia. Habitat for Humanity was founded by individuals who lived and worked at the farm back in 1976. During my time at Koinonia, I learned about Habitat’s mission and fell in love with the impact the organization has internationally. When I heard about the opening at Habitat Kent, I couldn’t help but want to join such a great organization!

In my role, I’ll be working closely with our corporate partners. I’m looking forward to getting to know these partners and how we can work together to build homes, communities, and hope.

Jade:  Habitat is a new adventure and a new field of business I have never explored, so I am super excited to be challenged and still make an impact in the community.

Q: What are some of the things you like to do outside of work?

Fiona: My fiancé and I recently added a Newfoundland puppy to our little family, and he takes up essentially ALL of the time (6 months old and 90lbs of crazy). When I am not doing damage control with that situation, I am collecting plants, doing yoga, snowboarding, and freelance event planning.

Jess:  I’m an avid reader and creative writer. My favorite thing is snuggling up with a warm blanket, cup of tea, and a good book.

Jade: I LOVE to bake! I try not to bake unless I can bring it to work or give it to others for them to enjoy because I have the biggest sweet tooth ever! I also enjoy reading, lifting heavy weights, as well as thrift shopping! I love finding really fun household items and love a deal!

Q: Are you a New Year’s resolution person?

Fiona: This year, I am focused on planting roots in my new community. I just bought a house in January, and my fiancé and I are getting married in February so we are off to a great start! This year, we hope to build a loving home, improve our faith life together, and dive into our parish, The Basilica of Saint Adalbert.

Jess: I’m working on strengthening healthy habits! I spent the past eight years working in healthcare, so I’ve learned the importance of being active, eating well, and finding healthy ways to reduce stress.

Jade:  My resolution is trying to give myself more grace. I hold myself to extremely high standards in my work life and my health/wellness goals and I tend to let those high standards get in the way of living life in the moment.

Q: What’s a fun fact about you?

Fiona: I earned All American Honors as a Sprinter in college on a National runner-up team, but I do not enjoy running and literally avoid it all costs.

Jess: Before the pandemic, I loved to travel! I’ve spent time in France, Switzerland, Ukraine, Mexico, Cambodia, Thailand, and more.

Jade: I absolutely love Shania Twain! Any Man of Mine is 100% my karaoke song. I also have a classic rock and grunge record collection!

Meet Jillianne Carrasco, our newest team member!

In November, Jillianne Carrasco joined Habitat Kent as our newest Homeowner Services Specialist! Jillianne has experience as a FEMA Corps Member, Intern at the U.S. Embassy in La Paz, Bolivia and as a Legislative Intern at the MI House of Representatives. She also knows over 100 Starbucks blended coffee and tea recipes from her time there as a barista.

Q: What drew you to Habitat Kent? 

Jillianne:  I love the mission of bringing communities together and being a part of people’s journey to homeownership. I wanted to do work that has a direct impact on the community of Grand Rapids, and directly addressing the affordable housing crisis is so important and impactful for our city.

Q:  What about working at Habitat makes you excited?

Jillianne:  I’m excited to build relationships with the homeowners! Each family and each story is so unique. A house can really change someone’s life and it’s a privilege to be a part of it in any capacity.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time? 

Jillianne:  I’m a devoted New York Times Crossword Puzzle solver, a coffee lover, and a mediocre yet passionate crochet-er.

Q: Pets or no pets? 

Jillianne: I have 2 aquatic frogs at home!

Welcome Yolanda Ross, MBA, our new Human Resources Generalist

Help us welcome Yolanda Ross! Yolanda joins Habitat for Humanity of Kent County as the Human Resources Generalist.  She brings a wealth of experience with her including an MBA from the University of Phoenix with a concentration in healthcare management and over 20 years of HR experience in the healthcare field.  She also has great leadership experience and is active in the community with her previous terms on the Susan G. Komen board of directors and several committees as a voice for underrepresented populations, and is currently 1st Chair of the WIN (Women In NAACP) and a mentor for young ladies in the Youth Council.

We are thrilled to have Yolanda join our team. Read our short Q&A below to get to know her a little more:

Q: What drew you to Habitat Kent? 

Yolanda: I wanted a change. Healthcare is changing and I wanted to get back to helping those who don’t have a voice and see the pride of new homeownership.  

Q: What are you looking forward to in working at Habitat Kent?  

Yolanda: Watching the affiliate grow and build more homes here in Kent County, and seeing the affiliate reach its goal of 1000 homeowners by 2030.

Q: What are some of your hobbies? 

Yolanda: I’m a DIY queen. I love making home décor, refurbishing old clothes and furniture into new and exciting pieces. Also, my health journey is my number one goal – my health is my wealth. 

Q: Lastly, what’s a fun fact about you? 

Yolanda: I have cliff jumped on almost all of my vacations!

hope + opportunity = stability: annual impact report 2021

“Hope and opportunity are the essence of Habitat Kent. Although we faced many challenges this past year, our commitment to our mission carried us through to achieve great outcomes in 2021.” – Bev Thiel, Executive Director

Read more about the 17 new Habitat Kent homeowners in Plaza Roosevelt, our innovative building practices and programs, and our exciting vision for the future.

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photo credit: Gretchen Mathos