rss icon

Sunday, 21 January 2018 12:49

Extended Grace offers safe space for community conversation

Written by 
Rate this item
(0 votes)
Barbara Lee VanHorssen, Extended Grace. Barbara Lee VanHorssen, Extended Grace. Photo by Katy Batdorff

Leaders of Extended Grace are working to put their hands out for more than money to fund their organization.

The Grand Haven-based nonprofit social lab created a gift shop and cafe in its Momentum Center that is helping to defray organizational costs. Just Goods Gifts and Café is open to the public and sells traditional fair trade and social cause items produced by students with developmental disabilities and prison inmates, in addition to locally made baked goods and $1 coffees and teas. 

“Having worked in nonprofit ministry, I became acutely aware of always having a hand out asking for money,” said Barbara Lee VanHorssen, president and “Experi-Mentor” with Extended Grace, the winner in the MiBiz Best-Managed Nonprofit Awards in the small organization category. 

“We wanted to be really serious about creating a means for support,” Van Horssen said. “We wanted to create a place for social integration and also create that financial piece.”

Extended Grace set up Just Goods as a low-profit limited liability company (L3C), which returns all of its profits to the nonprofit parent corporation. In addition to revenue from the shop and cafe, the organization receives funds from a Mental Health Millage in Ottawa County. 

The organization offers $1 annual memberships to the Momentum Center for Social Engagement to people with a mental illness, addiction or other disabilities — bringing them together rather than separating them. 

At no additional cost, members have access to trips to Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park, the John Ball Park Zoo, bowling, movies and other activities. At the Momentum Center, they also are able to use computers or engage in activities such as air hockey or pool, and use shower and laundry facilities.

These activities and outings are part of the organization’s mission to create a safe, nonjudgmental and inclusive space for all members of the community to meet and socialize.

VanHorssen describes Extended Grace as a grassroots, nonprofit social lab that seeks to build community while solving problems. The Momentum Center serves as the backdrop for community conversations and town hall meetings on issues such as mental illness. Each month, the group holds an Inspire event, which is an interactive participatory community conversation on topics affecting marginalized populations.

“We have speakers come in and we come away with action plans,” VanHorssen said. “It’s more than just about raising awareness. We work hard to create a safe space where we can have a divergence of opinions. It’s fascinating to see what happens when you give people a safe place to talk about things.”

The Inspire events also include presentations from people seeking a $500 Mudita gift, which is given each month to an individual who has a creative idea to improve something. The organization solicits donations to fund the Mudita gift program from area businesses. The program is open to anyone to apply.

In creating Extended Grace, VanHorssen said organizers didn’t want to duplicate or replicate any other programs or services that were already in place. Because Grand Haven is still a very conservative area, the need to have conversations about marginalized and overlooked people was even greater, she said. 

“We don’t shy away from calling anyone out,” VanHorssen said. “We also are trying to make inroads into traditional government. These are topics our mayor and commission should be addressing. Elected officials are invited to our Inspire events.

“One thing that we were obviously lacking were places for people with addiction, mental illness or physical disabilities. We look for those gaps and form collaborations and then take action.”

One of the gaps Extended Grace is currently seeking to address is programming for teenagers. VanHoorsen said Extended Grace is in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign to raise funds to offer teen programming on Saturdays with the ultimate goal of being open seven days a week. So far, the nonprofit has raised $32,000 of an $80,000 goal.

Extended Grace also would like to purchase a wheelchair-accessible van.

Plans also are in place to further diversify and strengthen the organization’s funding stream. For example, the organization uses Just Goods to sell cultural immersion experiences in China/Tibet, Honduras, and Kenya, with a trip to Egypt next on the list.

“These are opportunities to learn other communities, people and culture through a unique lens,” VanHorssen said.

The goal, she said, is for the revenues generated through Just Goods and the trips to become Extended Grace’s primary funding sources. 

In her former nonprofit life, VanHorssen said she was always aware of unmet needs and remains dedicated to listening to others and taking action.

“One of my personal beliefs is that too often we look at problems and are overwhelmed by them,” she said. “Our job is not to solve it, but to figure out that one thing we can do and do it.” 

Extended Grace

Mission: Nonprofit grassroots social lab that builds community while solving problems. 

Service area: Tri-Cities area

Executive director: Barbara Lee VanHorssen 

Number of employees: 3

Annual revenues: $340,000

Management best practices:

  • Owning and operating an L3C for income generation and long-term viability
  • Grassroots outreach to identify problems and barriers by those experiencing them, then building collaborative networks to address those problems and barriers
  • Holding plans loosely — being accountable but also allowing for organic change to occur

Board of Directors: Leijhi Koval (president), Grand Valley State University; Shelbee Axsom (vice president/secretary), Better Business Bureau; Lindsay Hartman (treasurer), attorney; Dan Anderson, Spring Lake Presbyterian Church; John Gork, Northwestern Mutual; Sara Barco, Weiss Chiropractic; David Lewis, retired

Read 2538 times Last modified on Sunday, 21 January 2018 12:51

Breaking News

October 2018
S M T W T F S
30 1 2 3 4 5 6
7 8 9 10 11 12 13
14 15 16 17 18 19 20
21 22 23 24 25 26 27
28 29 30 31 1 2 3

Follow MiBiz