Over the past few months, we have experienced an unprecedented period of upheaval. The Covid-19 pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of our lives and has forced businesses and nonprofits to rethink their operations and quickly adapt to a very different social and economic landscape. In West Michigan, as in many communities across the state and country, nonprofits are facing new challenges as they continue to serve and connect with the communities they are part of. Through this effort, we have witnessed the incredible tenacity and resourcefulness of our nonprofit community. We have seen the passion of our clients play out as they have taken on these challenges to ensure their programs and services continue to be available and accessible. While the news may at times feel overwhelming and highlight all the ways we are disconnected, we have been so grateful to be able to participate in the inspiring and uplifting work happening at the local level, putting action to the sentiment “we are all in this together.”

Kennari works with clients across five pillars of nonprofit service: healthcare, education, social services, arts & culture, and faith-based organizations. Each sector is experiencing this crisis differently – and while every organization and their response is unique – these stories are representative of the challenges and opportunities we are seeing across various sectors.

Healthcare – Cherry Health
Healthcare organizations and the services they provide have become even more critical during this public health crisis. The frontline medical workers, leadership teams, and support staff at healthcare organizations have shown their grit and dedication, now more than ever. Cherry Health is a key player in the local fight against Covid-19, currently providing on-street screening for the novel virus as an official testing site. In addition to this new service, Cherry Health, a federally qualified health center, continues to provide comprehensive healthcare for our community’s most vulnerable populations.

Education – Grand Rapids Public Schools
With schools across the state closed for the rest of the school year, districts have had to quickly assess how they can continue to provide academic instruction for students virtually. As one of the largest school districts in the state, Grand Rapids Public Schools also recognized the need for a solution that would reduce disparities that could keep some students from successfully participating in distance learning. Staff and teachers have worked to develop an accessible online learning platform for the nearly 17,000 GRPS students and to make additional resources available to families with technology barriers or students with special learning needs. They have also continued to provide nutrition services, operating seven grab and go meal sites across Grand Rapids for GRPS students and local youth under the age of 18.

Social Services – Meals on Wheels
For many social service organizations, ensuring continued access to critical resources during this pandemic means keeping their existing programs and services running under more challenging circumstances. Addressing food security and food access continues to be a critical service, and Meals on Wheels Western Michigan is working diligently to ensure community members have reliable access to nutritious food. Meals on Wheels provides nutritionally balanced meals for seniors through their meal delivery service and through the operation of food pantries dedicated for those 60 and older. To ensure the safety of this vulnerable population, Meals on Wheels has implemented enhanced protocols to maintain the safety and hygiene of all food being distributed. In just one week, Meals on Wheels delivered 41,209 meals and 1,800 emergency shelf-stable food boxes. They expect to deliver a total of 80,000 meals to area seniors this month.

Arts & Culture – Grand Rapids Civic Theatre
The Grand Rapids Civic Theatre is an example of an organization providing a sense of “normalcy” in this difficult time. Though the theater has had to cancel or postpone their regularly scheduled productions, they have continued to offer a connection to the arts through their Midday Play series. These bite-sized videos offer the chance to learn about different aspects of theater and even try things yourself. Each week features a unique theme – such as dance, puppets, Broadway, and more – and is presented by current Civic Theater staff as well as some Civic Theater alumni who have gone on to work on Broadway! The Civic education team has also worked to transition some of their most popular classes to an online format so thespians young and old can continue to learn, grow, and connect with their theater community.

Faith Based Organizations – King’s Table Ministries
During this challenging period, individuals and families impacted by disabilities may be feeling particularly isolated and overwhelmed. King’s Table Ministries provides support services and enrichment opportunities to over 350 students in special needs public schools throughout the year. With schools closed due to Covid-19, they are still providing compassionate support throughout this crisis, finding creative ways to meet the needs of students and their families. This includes connecting with them over the phone to offer support and delivering donations and care packages to their homes.

From All of Us at Kennari – Thank You
We are incredibly inspired by the creative ways our clients are adapting their programs and services to best meet the needs of their communities and those they serve during the pandemic. In challenging times, it’s important not to lose sight of the moments of hope, courage, and community that are taking place every day. We are so grateful to these organizations, and each one of our clients, as they continue to advance their missions for the betterment of our communities.