United Way partner organization gets help from Grand Valley students

The Grand Rapids nonprofit Family Promise, a Heart of West Michigan United Way partner that helps families avoid homelessness, recently received assistance from a class of Grand Valley students.

Heather Carpenter, an assistant professor in the School of Public, Nonprofit and Health Administration, said her "HR in Organizations" graduate classspent time with the staff at Family Promise to help them create and revise job descriptions for several new positions, along with building a professional development program for the staff.

"Applied learning has always been part of my teaching philosophy, so it made sense to get students in a position where they could help a nonprofit in a tangible way," Carpenter said.

Carpenter said that connecting students with nonprofits is a win-win situation. Students get practical experience in their course material, and the nonprofits gain new insight and information.

Organizations like Family Promise help provide transitional housing to families who are at risk of homelessness and would normally have to be split up if they went to traditional homeless shelters. Family Promise uses United Way funds to help those families get back on their feet so they can create stable lifestyles for their children.

According to Family Promise, the need for transitional housing is high in Kent County, where almost 50 percent of the homeless population are children. Some of the families helped by Family Promise are at risk of homelessness because of factors like: lack of affordable housing, unemployment, family break-up, educational barriers or domestic violence.

"Giving agencies like the United Way are critical in our communities," Carpenter said. "I can't imagine living in a community without the United Way. The assistance they give to nonprofits serving the community, like opportunities for training and support are not just important, but necessary.

"The United Way helps organizations like Family Promise by serving as a community support mechanism, and we have an opportunity through the United Way campaign to support those organizations and enhance our students' learning at the same time."


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