sponsored by the Grand Rapids Community Foundation
Judy Joppe: Coursing the Grand River
Judy Joppe has been a lot of things, but never stuck in a rut; she’s too busy embracing everything that life has to offer, and that includes an Encore as the manager of the popular Grand Lady Riverboat, a paddlewheel vessel that plies the waters of the Grand River from its port in Jenison.
Born and raised in Grand Rapids, Joppe graduated in 1968 from Union High School before going to work for Michigan Bell. It’s there she mether husband, Ray.
Nearly 15 years ago, Joppe answered an inquiry about her cooking skills, and before she knew it, she was preparing meals for the Grand Lady. The riverboat serves food and drink while providing musical entertainment for as many as 140 people who sign on for lazy trips aboard the 105-foot-long vessel. Joppe has done about every job there is to make customers comfortable on both regularly planned and chartered cruises, which run annually from mid-May through the autumn season.
Joppe could have opted to stay closer to home during these so-called retirement years.
“Staying home, I never felt very fulfilled,” she said. “People ask me when I’m going to retire, and I answer, ‘Probably never.’”
“My husband’s the same way,” she continued. “We enjoy working, always have. Some people who stay home all day, their worlds are so small and they’re not happy. They base their happiness on their children or on other people. I’m sorry, but that’s not what life is. I think it has to be something you want.”
Joppe runs the show aboard the Grand Lady, taking care of cullinary needs, serving as bartender and making sure employees are good to go. While she’s qualified to fill in at the helm, she leaves most navigating of the boat to its owner, Bill Boynton. Boynton says with a wink that Joppe is “nothing but grief and misery.” In the next breath, he calls her “a main spoke in the gear train.”
Joppe and her husband have also enjoyed sailing for the better part of 40 years and have owned eight boats in that time. They’ve given that up, though, in pursuit of other activities.
“I think you have to be willing to make changes,” Joppe said. “But choosing to stay active is the key.”
Local Volunteer Opportunities
Your opportunity awaits! Pick a role and react voluntarily.
The Wild Guide
Spend your summer volunteering at the John Ball Zoo as an animal ambassador. As a volunteer, you’ll be stationed at various animal exhibits around the zoo, engaging guests in the wonders of wildlife and providing information about conservation.
Take Action: Contact the John Ball Zoo at (616) 336-4317 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Pride Advocate
The Grand Rapids Pride Center needs committed and enthusiastic volunteers to help run the Pride Festival, on Saturday, June 17. Ensure that the GR Pride Center’s largest fundraising event of the year is a success by setting up booths, greeting festival-goers, promoting goods at various merchandising booths, monitoring the festival’s VIP lounge or serving up some cold ones in the Beer Garden.
Take Action: Contact the GR Pride Center at (616) 458-3511 or by email at email@example.com.
The Set-Up Specialist
Clark Retirement Community is looking for dedicated volunteers to assist with the annual Clark Walk on June 21. Help out by setting up chairs, tables, water stations and yard games before the event begins or pass out water and cheer on participants as they walk the course.
Take Action: Contact Clark Retirement Community at (616) 452-1666 ext. 140 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Doughnut Do-Gooder
Join the Salvation Army Action as they travel throughout the Grand Rapids community on June 2 distributing Krispy Kreme doughnuts to those in need of a smile and a little sweetening. Volunteers will leave in the morning to pick up the goodies and carpool to over 40 locations in the area, including Grand Rapids Home for Veterans.
Take Action: Contact Cori Jara at (616) 459-9468 or by email at Cori_Jara@usc.salvationarmy.org.
The Dedicated Docent
Enhance visitor’s experiences at the Grand Rapids Public Museum by becoming a Discovery Guide. These volunteers are stationed at various exhibits throughout the museum to provide information and demonstrations for guests.
Take Action: Contact Joyce Makinen at (616) 929-1753 or by email at email@example.com.
The Photo Fanatic
The Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation Michigan Chapter is looking for volunteer photographers to help capture the upcoming Take Steps Walk on June 3 from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the John Ball Zoo Park. A shot list will be provided, as well as a photo release form.
Take Action: Contact the CCF at (248) 737-0900 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Baseball Benefactor
The Whitecaps Community Foundation needs several volunteers this season to run the 5050 raffle. Walk up and down the stands selling raffle tickets until the 7th inning to raise money for the Whitecaps while enjoying the game.
Take Action: Contact the Whitecaps Community Foundation at (616) 784-4131 or email LeahP@whitecapsbaseball.com.