Working with a diverse team of individuals with different passions transcending the four walls of our office can make for fresh perspectives, new opportunities to impact the community, and the chance to grow our relationships with coworkers and neighbors.
This past August, LaFleur team members came to the drawing board with a list of Grand Rapids-based non-profit organizations that we felt were a natural fit to volunteer with. After a little discussion and several updates to our master list, we enthusiastically chose to volunteer at the city farms of Well House ─ a solutions-based non-profit providing safe residency for the homeless population of our hometown.
The Well House in Grand Rapids, Michigan
Well House was created in 1977 when founder Marian Clements purchased an 1879-era home in downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan for the grand sum of $350. Formerly a homeless woman herself, Clements wanted to help others in similar situations and to provide comfort and protection to those in need. The organization was named after Wallhouse, which was a home providing “protection and refuge” to struggling families in Torpichen, Scotland that belonged to Marian’s family for several centuries before being sold in 1904.
Today, Well House provides safe, affordable housing to the homeless in West Michigan, specifically Grand Rapids. They place an emphasis on choice, encouraging their clients to make informed decisions toward recovery and reintegration. Well House meets people wherever they are on their journey and applies strategies to give them the ability to improve their current circumstances. Not only do they provide housing options, but they practice gardening, gathering, and preserving food, along with recycling, energy conservation, and living gently and in harmony with one another. In addition to providing housing for the clients, the Well House Urban Farm serves as a source of income and a chance to learn valuable life skills that can help with gaining and maintaining meaningful employment.
Well House believes in delivering basic needs by using basic resources, which is a model that we firmly believe in at LaFleur. Both organizations strive to meet their clients where they need the most help, and then work closely with them to achieve success and exceed our goals.
When we reached out to work with the Well House team, their head farmer, Alex, said they needed help cleaning up the neighborhood and planting late season crops. So, we put on our overalls, laced up our work boots, and prepared to get our hands dirty.
Sustainability in the City
On the morning of August 23rd, our small but determined team drove through a peaceful and quiet neighborhood on the south side of town. As we passed each unique block, side street, and home, we realized how much history we share and how much we appreciate Grand Rapids ─ the city in which we all live and work.
We pulled into Well House and were immediately struck by just how welcoming it really is. Situated in the middle of a dense inner-city block, Well House’s neighboring homes are inhabited by individuals and families who are trying their best to get back on their feet by working hard in their community to create a better future for themselves and those around them.
We pulled into the driveway and were immediately greeted by Alex. After making introductions and sharing a few laughs, we went to work helping plant and cultivate the large city-central gardens growing in the middle of the middle of the residential neighborhoods.
So Fresh and So Clean!
Often, we are so inundated with personal and professional obligations that it can be easy to become apathetic, but on this day, we all felt a shared sense of duty. As we walked from Well House to the Urban Farm, we participated in cleaning the litter and debris that lined the city streets.
Our team feels that taking the time to make our communities shine is an important part of creating a lasting and beautiful environment for our children and our future. So, there we were at ground zero being the change we wish to see in the world with the knowledge that our actions were a small part of something much bigger.
As we worked, Alex discussed the many successes had by those who follow the Well House model. Whatever stage people are at in the lives, Well House helps them focus on their unique strengths and talent to improve their situation. Residents are invited to stay as long as they need to improve their circumstances and develop sustainable life skills. There are three main elements to the Well House model:
Emphasis on Choice: Well House believes in diverse strategies that fit the needs of various subpopulations for successful recovery and community integration.
Client-Centered: Homeless residents, especially those with mental illness or addiction problems, are best served when their specific circumstances are taken into account to create a customized recovery plan.
Housing First: The first priority for recovery is safe and stable housing. Well House does not believe that mandatory treatment or sobriety should be a prerequisite for housing, although those options are available to clients and encouraged whenever appropriate.
Ninety percent of people who enter the Well House model recover from homelessness and enter the workforce as functioning members of the community. But it takes a lot of commitment and a sense of pride in themselves and their communities, and we were fortunate to help in our own small way.
RELATED: Learn More About Our Core Values
A Look Inside of the Rehabilitation Happening in Grand Rapids
As we walked by the homes maintained by the Well House, Farmer Alex waved to tenants, calling them by name. He pointed to different houses, explaining the history and stories of how they were acquired. Through his words, he reminded us all that every small action we take eventually adds up.
Our work included planting and tending seed rows, mowing and weed whacking overgrowth, and stabilizing growing plants. Most importantly, we were able to bear witness to the important work being done by Well House and their clients.
Said Falon Peters, the General Manager here at LaFleur, “I so appreciated the chance to get to know what Well House is doing here locally to help our community. Working alongside my team to help those in need is just one more reason I love this company and these people.”
As a growing organization, we hope to continue integrating these acts of the community as a part of the Greater Grand Rapids area. I am personally thankful for the compassion exhibited by my awesome team members and their willingness to help move our city forward. Above all, I am thankful for organizations like Well House providing permanent housing and recovery options for those in need.
I think Jane Newton, one of our talented marketing strategists here at LaFleur, summed up our experience best: “I enjoyed the opportunity to get out of the office, work in the beautiful sunshine, and get my hands in the dirt. The Well House has a significant impact on the Grand Rapids community, and I’m grateful to work for a company that allows us to support their important contributions.”
Contact LaFleur Today: We Aren’t Afraid to Get Our Hands Dirty!
Working with Well House was just one of several charitable initiatives that LaFleur is planning on contributing to as we continue to grow. We think it is so important to give back to our community, and we hope you feel the same.
If you would like to discuss our organization’s core values, compassionate practices, and professional excellence, please contact us today by completing this brief form or calling 888-222-1512. We aren’t afraid of getting our hands dirty and would love the opportunity to help clean up your marketing strategies.