* Updated 9/20/2016: Fundraising efforts to benefit Arbor Circle pulled in $59,000 for the local agency
As she stood behind a table in the high school lobby laden with donated hot chocolate and doughnuts for sale, Hannah Stuursma was well aware of what a good morning’s sales could mean.
The proceeds will be donated to Arbor Circle, the beneficiary of this year’s annual Hearts of Gold campaign.
Some 13,000 individuals and families were served last year by Arbor Circle’s counseling, education and prevention programs that support youth and young adults who face challenges including homelessness, family conflict, mental health issues and struggles in schools.
“I’m lucky enough to have a very nice house to go home to every night, and homelessness is something that’s not very apparent to us here,” Hannah said. “I truly believe that’s something we all probably take for granted.”
Jack Greenfield, Arbor Circle president and CEO, said it is estimated some 200 youth in Kent County aren’t sure where they will sleep on any given night.
“Through counseling, resources and supportive services, Arbor Circle gives these youth the opportunity to discover their inner strengths, build new skills and find new ways to become fully prepared for a successful future,” Greenfield said.
Since it began in 2009, Hearts of Gold has raised more than $375,000 for organizations that include Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Ele’s Place, Billy Bear Hug Foundation and the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan.
‘This is Huge for Us’
Funds for Arbor Circle’s homelessness programs and shelter will continue to be raised the week of Sept. 12-16 through district-wide T-shirt and commemorative jersey sales, and classroom and Sept. 16 varsity football game coin collections.
New or gently used backpacks and toiletries for young people helped by Arbor Circle and the Bridge, the agency’s program for those experiencing homelessness, also are being collected.
Nicole Guza, Arbor Circle’s chief advancement officer, said there’s been a shift in recent years from federal funding to local. Last year the agency started a youth advancement initiative aimed at raising $900,000 to boost awareness and resources to focus on runaway and homeless youth in Kent County.
The initiative is about $100,000 from its goal, so the Hearts of Gold campaign “is huge to us,” Guza said. “For youth to be putting this together is big for us in that it’s locally-based funding. I can’t explain how excited we are about that. It’s so important for youth to understand that no matter where you live, this is an issue.”