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Pay It Forward (19)

Helping the community is not just something Dolores Trese does in her free time as a way to give back. It’s a way of life.

Having spent the first part of her career as a sales and marketing executive in the computer and software industry, Cheryl Schuch found herself looking for a change when her family moved back to West Michigan from Chicago.

What started as a surprise 40th birthday party in 2010 for chef Tommy FitzGerald has turned into an annual event benefiting many hungry children around West Michigan.

Helping small businesses and startups is just what Doris Drain does.

After completing an assignment in sixth grade that had him rifling through the help wanted ads in the local newspaper to find the job of his dreams, Pete Brand knew he wanted to be an entrepreneur.

As a father of five, Charlie Lott has a lot going on. Still, on top of his commitments to his family, Lott continues to give his time and professional skills to D.A. Blodgett — St. John’s.

When Lori Slager saw a need in the community for a creative literacy program, she took action.

John Wheeler has roots firmly planted in the Grand Rapids community.

Through his efforts to guide the Equest Center for Therapeutic Riding out of financial hardship, Jeff Agar has helped bring more alternative therapy options to children and adults with disabilities in West Michigan.

Sustainability isn't just some esoteric concept for Rob McCarty. It's a philosophy by which he runs his business, and he believes in it so strongly that he focuses his volunteer efforts around it as well.

Corporate clients might be singing the blues when they approach attorney Mark Smith for legal counsel, but they might not know that he can be found on the radio spinning blues tracks as a volunteer programmer on WYCE.

When Erhardt Construction Co. set out to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the company's management team wanted to do something other than throw a big party. Instead, what Ben Wickstrom and the team developed was a plan to make a statement of gratitude to the community that has supported the company in its five decades of growth.

"Rather than talk about ourselves, we want to celebrate the community," Wickstrom said.

For Gazelle Sports co-founder Chris Lampen-Crowell, giving back is all about advocating for a healthier, more active community.

Lampen-Crowell co-founded the small West Michigan-based chain of running and fitness stores in 1985. From the beginning, the retailer focused on building a community of health and fitness conscious individuals.

For Lara Kitts, paying it forward is steadily becoming a full-time job.

Kitts chairs the board of the Family Hope Foundation, a growing all-volunteer organization launched in 2010. The organization works across West Michigan to unburden families that have special needs children.

If Americans know how to do one thing, it's barbeque. For many it's a family tradition, and that's exactly why the second generation, family-owned Miller Welding Supply hosts its annual "Bad to the Bone BBQ Rib Cook-off," an event which benefits Hospice of Michigan.

Owners of the Eastown landmark and favorite breakfast spot Wolfgang's Restaurant have partnered with D.A. Blodgett – St. Johns, putting their time and skills into honoring Grand Rapids area foster families.

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