GRAND RAPIDS — From early on, The Indian Trails Camp Inc. has adopted an entrepreneurial approach to growing its organization.
As the Grand Rapids-based nonprofit organization developed its programs over the years, it made a point to avoid coming up with its own problems to solve. Instead, the provider of year-round training and recreation programs for special needs individuals relies heavily on input from the West Michigan community and its financial partners for continuous improvement and new program development.
“We’ve always stated that we’re not going to be the organization that just goes, ‘OK, we’re just going to build this and people will come,’” said Executive Director Tim Hileman. “What’s happened is that we really went to that grassroots community level … (to) hear what the pressing and significant needs facing the individuals with disabilities in our community are.”
Indian Trails Camp was selected as the winner of the 2015 MiBiz Best-Managed Nonprofit Award in the budget category of $1 million to $3 million.
The organization stays in constant contact with community mental health organizations, parent groups, special education schools and other stakeholders in the community to both improve existing programs and to create new programs.
“From there, we looked at what we can do to help be a part of the solution — as well as what we can’t be,” Hileman said. “That’s really helped grow the organization.”
Under this model, Indian Trails Camp has grown its annual budget from $800,000 in 2009 to $2.1 million in 2015 as the year-round workforce increased from five to 95 people over the same period, Hileman said.
“In six years, we’ve doubled the size of the organization and quadrupled the number of individuals served and are really becoming a strong training site for the future of health and social services in West Michigan,” Hileman said. “All that goes back to listening to community need.”
Communication with community members and stakeholders played a crucial role as the company integrated year-round skill building and community living support programs five years ago to complement its already robust summer camp program, Hileman said.
Indian Trails Camp is currently in the middle of another expansion. The nonprofit plans to complete the $3 million construction project for its new Kate Pew Wolters Center later this month. Once completed, the 18,000-square-foot center will serve as a life skills training, recreational, artistic and therapeutic hub for the organization’s programs.
Because the camp’s staff includes qualified nurses, the organization is able to adapt its summer and year-round programs to individuals with severe special needs such as a feeding tube – a capability that sets Indian Trails Camp apart from other organizations, Hileman said.
“All of these programs’ ultimate goals are always to help individuals achieve their highest possible goals of independence and highest quality of life,” he said.
INDIAN TRAILS CAMP
Winner: $1M to $3M
Mission: To provide life enrichment opportunities for individuals with disabilities through recreation, advocacy and meaningful relationships. The core values of the organization are compassion, community, accessibility and sustainability.
Service Area: Indian Trails Camp’s year-round programs primarily serve Kent and Ottawa counties while its summer camp programs serve all of Michigan as well as other nearby states.
Executive Director: Tim Hileman
Number of Employees: 30 full-time and 65 part-time workers. During the summer, the organization adds 50 or more workers to accommodate the extra programs.
Annual Budget: $2.1 million
Best Practices: “An organization is really only as good as its staff,” Hileman said. “We set out some pretty high standards and if you start out with high standards, you’re going to get qualified individuals that hopefully exceed (those standards). … We strongly believe in sustainability. We won’t do a program or start an initiative unless we can see clearly that it is going to be a sustainable endeavor. … We (also) make sure that any program or any service we do is fully accessible to all individuals regardless of their ability.”
INDIAN TRAILS BOARD OF DIRECTORS
• Karol Belk, Airway Oxygen Inc.
• Lucy Caldwell, retired
• Bridget Clark-Whitney, Kids Food Basket
• Andrea Crumback, Mika Meyers PLC
• Sam DeVries, NAI Mid-Michigan and TMN Commercial
• Matthew Downey, Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University
• Kevin Harmelink, Grand Rapids Community Foundation
• Nate Herrygers, Beene Garter LLP
• Brett Hoover, Mercantile Bank of Michigan
• Sarah Kirkpatrick, Daniel L. Blauw PLC
• Rachel Nicks, City of Walker
• Lucia Rios, Lakeshore Disability Network
• Susan Sundan, Grand Valley State University
• Cameron Young, Steelcase Inc.