Voluntary RE:action

sponsored by Grand Rapids Community Foundation 

Your opportunity awaits. Pick a role and act voluntarily.

Volunteer Spotlight

Betsy Hamm Takes Recycling to a Whole New, Artistic Level

Betsy Hamm, founder of “Learning From Scratch”

Betsey Hamm’s world is a cornucopia of salvaged objects that to some appears as nothing more than scrap but to others is a treasure trove of artistic possibilities.

Hamm spent her “first life” immersed in education, working at more than a half-dozen schools throughout  Michigan and Illinois for three decades before retiring from the formal classroom setting.

In 1998 she launched her encore, an ambitious enterprise called, “Learning From Scratch,” which serves as a clearinghouse for thousands of items culled from individuals and organizations that might otherwise end up in landfills.

Working out of the Comprenew electronics store at 1454 28th Street SE, Hamm is surrounded by pieces of plastic, metal, felt, paper, glass, rubber, cloth and other elements filling a variety of overflowing containers and bins. Much of it is collected as leftovers from industrial operations.

“This is a living landfill, minus the dirt,” Hamm said, spreading her arms to extoll row after row of product jammed into her store’s space. “I eat, sleep, talk and walk this.”

Most of her offerings are for sale at modest prices and available by the pound or by the bag full. Not only are her aisles full of inventory, but she keeps a great deal more in the basement. Then, too, there are articles stuffed into a barn she keeps in Lowell, a school bus she’s acquired and a semi-trailer waiting in the wings.

Her store is patronized by countless artists, children engaged in creative enterprises like Odyssey of the Mind competitions, hobbyists, collectors, inventors, crafters and more. A scrap of plastic becomes a painted welcome mat. Yarn is turned into three-dimensional animals. Stickers are applied to brighten up worn furniture.

Hamm gets satisfaction in knowing she’s not only serving creative minds, but also helping businesses and industries cut down on what they ship off to landfills. Indeed, part of her mission statement declares that her enterprise serves as a “conduit through which corporations can connect with the community to contribute to the development of a sustainable society.”

Hamm doesn’t plan on getting rich anytime soon. “It was never done for the money,” she said. “It’s my mission, my legacy, my gift to the world.”

Local Volunteer Opportunities

The Cycling Enthusiast 

The Greater Grand Rapids Bicycle Coalition is looking for dedicated volunteers to help improve cycling infrastructure and build a safe, bicycle-friendly community in Grand Rapids. Help by giving bicycle safety education presentations to elementary school students or conduct brief interviews with riders during traffic counting outings.
Take Action: Contact Thomas Tilma at (616) 560-5750 or by email at thomastilma@gmail.com.

The Builder

Grab a hard hat and head out to a designated construction site with Habitat for Humanity of Kent County. Assist by deconstructing deteriorating buildings, framing, painting interior and exteriors spaces and landscaping. Volunteers are not required to have previous construction experience.
Take Action: Contact Sarah at (616) 588-5226 or by email at sbrandt@habitatkent.org.

The Nature Nurturer 

The Outdoor Discovery Center Macatawa Greenway is looking for outdoor enthusiasts to help keep the center beautiful. Volunteers are asked to conduct landscaping maintenance, garden, remove invasive weeds and provide general care for the facilities and grounds.
Take Action: Contact the Outdoor Discovery Center at (616) 393-9453 or by email at odc@outdoordiscovery.org.

The Map Maker

Join Friends of Grand Rapids Parks in its effort to engage the whole community in planting and growing a larger and healthier urban forest. Contribute to the ever-expanding Urban Forest Tree map project by recording the number of trees you pass as you wander through a local park or down your street.
Take Action: Contact Daria Gosztyla at daria@friendsofgrparks.org.

The Social Media Sidekick

SowHope Grand Rapids is looking for tech-savvy volunteers to help keep the organization’s social media platforms up-to-date. As a social media volunteer, you’ll be in charge of posting relevant information to each social media outlet and contributing to a general marketing plan designed to benefit SowHope.
Take Action: Contact SowHope Grand Rapids at (616) 433-1575.

The Camp Counselor 

Make this summer the best one yet for Camp Blodgett participants by becoming a Night Ranger. Assist by making daily camping group rounds, checking on cabins, supervising workshops and leading daily camp activities while building bonds and creating memorable moments with the campers.
Take Action: Contact Brian Paul at (616) 940-9874 or by email at bpaul@campblodgett.org.

The Instructor 

Do you have experience in American Sign Language (ALS)? Take your skills to The Geek Group in Grand Rapids and become an ALS instructor for a small group of teens. Volunteer instructors are asked to lead a one-hour session twice a week.
Take Action: Contact Lis Bokt at (616) 466-4335.

The Pro Packer

Opera Grand Rapids is looking for load in/ load out volunteers for the upcoming production of “The Barber of Seville” on April 24 and 30. Help the production team pack furniture, props, costumes and backstages necessities into rental trucks to transport them to and from the theater.
Take Action: Contact Opera Grand Rapids at (616) 451-2741 or by email at hello@operagr.org.

The Thirst Quencher 

Gazelle Sports will be hosting the fifth annual Gazelle Girl marathon this month. Help make this race memorable by becoming an aid station volunteer. Assist by setting up tables along the course, distributing water and electrolyte fluid to thirsty marathon participants and cheering on runners to the finish line.
Take Action: Contact Gazelle Sports staff members at (616) 940-9888.


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