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Posted by dwellingplacegr on January 19, 2021
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On November 6, 2013, the Dwelling Place Board established an annual award named for former longtime Board member, Larry Bratschie. For more than 25 years Larry quietly contributed to the mission of Dwelling Place, for many of those years as a Board member, including several years as the Board Chairperson. Larry passed away on April 2, 2018 at 90 years of age. Larry was a community activist who raised public awareness of Dwelling Place wherever he went. As a fundraiser, Larry engaged his friends, family, professional colleagues and many of his acquaintances to support our organization. As a volunteer, he went out of his way to support Dwelling Place and many other community organizations in Grand Rapids.

This award was created to honor Larry’s selfless leadership to the community by creating a $500 annual scholarship award to a Dwelling Place resident who best exemplifies extraordinary characteristics of a community builder; who by their actions, contributes substantially to improvements in their community, the neighborhood where they live and/or the apartment community that they call home. Each year, residents are nominated by fellow staff, community members, and fellow residents for the leadership role in their community. nominate residents who they bel

Daniel Drent

“I want to be part of that voice of positive change in the neighborhood. I want it to improve for everybody.” Daniel Drent’s passion for his community is one of his defining qualities. Focused on food justice and other neighborhood issues, he serves as a board member for four different Heartside community organizations. “I love this community, this neighborhood. We are a little quirky…we have [amenities] for whatever income level you are, so we can figure it out and co-mingle together.”

Drent lives in Heartside, where he serves as a board member to the Heartside Downtown Neighborhood Association, is on the Advisory Board for the Downtown Neighbor Network, is a board member of the Heartside Gleaning Initiative, and is a chair of the Fresh Food Access Committee with the City of Grand Rapids. Although he’s been involved with these groups for years, most recently, he’s helped inform the triage care during COVID-19.  “I’ve been vocal in speaking about food drives…[since COVID-19 started] a lot of them have moved out of Heartside or have switched to drive-thru only, and as we know, a lot of our residents don’t have vehicles so it made it almost impossible to access them. I’ve been making sure there’s a walk-up service available.” Although the COVID era has brought service provision and basic needs to the forefront,  Drent is in it for the long-haul. “We are working to promote quality of life and all the great things that downtown has to offer.” 

What do you hope to continue to do as a community leader?

“I want there to be a place in the neighborhood for someone to go to get a gallon of milk, bread… t a reasonable cost. I don’t want someone to have to get on a bus to go and get those things. That’s been my passion. We get tired of making dinner and realize we don’t have [an ingredient], and that means an hour to go to Bridge Street market and get back. It’s a benefit for everybody in the community, not just low income folks, just the ability to be able to [grab something quick for dinner].” Additionally, Drent knows that homelessness is a pressing issue in the neighborhood. “I would love to be able to see better resources and opportunities for the homeless. I would love to see our neighbors to not be so judgemental to the homeless folks. I want the information to get out that Heartside is a cool place to be, that it’s unique, different, and interesting.” 

What have you learned, and how have you grown from your neighborhood leadership?

“I’ve grown because I get exposed to more things. I get a better understanding and knowledge of where people stand, what their ideas are, and what motivates them, and hopefully, when I have a better understanding, I can share that knowledge and have those discussions with the people who are on the two opposite sides and be able to meld that together. It’s given me the opportunity to have a better knowledge of what’s going on in the community and to not be so quick to prejudge.”

Rosa Anderson

“I feel like it’s my job to do what I can to help everyone that I possibly can, I want to try to ease the pain for other people; that’s my mission.” Rosa Anderson is a fierce advocate for her neighbor, and she is extremely passionate about food sovereignty and the provision of homes for all in her community. Anderson is also an active presence and connection amongst residents at her apartment community. “I do what I do so we can come closer together and put a smile on someone’s face.”

Anderson deeply desires to see her community uplifted in all ways. She plays an integral part in her apartment community in Muskegon Heights, MI through her involvement in caring for the garden space and property landscaping, serving on the Community Leadership Institute (CLI) Team and Block Beautification Committee, and connecting and supporting other residents. “I try to put into action programs for the kids, like little races on the track and balloon fights; I try to do things with the kids because otherwise they are left out here to their devices.” Rosa knows that keeping active and staying in touch is integral to a healthy community. “I try to keep in contact with as many of my residents in this building because I feel as though we are one big family and this is our house, so we should try to work together. What I try to do is call them and talk to them when I see them and see if I can help them out with anything, like giving rides to doctor’s appointments and getting them food.” In addition to her involvement at Roosevelt, Anderson is working towards changing her local community through writing a grant for tiny houses for the homeless. 

Anderson also has a special passion for gardening, which came from her upbringing. “My dad who was raised on a hundred plus acres in Mississippi so he’s always been into gardening and growing things and my mom was raised here and she loved plants as well.” She loves teaching her neighbors the merit of cultivating crops, and finds beauty in the process of growing. “I see those seeds grow, and I get so excited.”

What are you passionate about/why are you passionate?

“I’ve been disabled all my life, I’ve been dealing with this pain and doing what I could. Throughout my life I’ve been homeless, me and my child, and it’s not a good feeling, so I know what it’s like to not know where you’re going to lay your head or feel like people don’t even care about you. I just want to do my part to touch that one person and show them that I love them just for them being them and they don’t have to do anything special or be anything special, just that they are here. I feel like it’s my job to do what I can to help everyone that I possibly can, I want to try to ease the pain for other people; that’s my mission.” 

What do you hope to continue to do?

Anderson has high passions and goals around community-led gardening! “I want to get into creating food forces around the city. I want to get lots [of land] around the city and grow things (edible or medicine) and teach the kids or adults how to harvest. We are hungry for no reason when there’s so much that’s free. I’m going to do everything I can to squash those hunger pains, to be as self-sufficient as possible! I hope that I can get at least three lots by a year and a half to two years and have them established and growing and people being involved in them and we can all work together to make this thing just blow up!”  

What have you learned/how have you grown?

“Everyday I want to learn, that’s why I enjoy being around the kids [in the neighborhood]. They teach me much. A lot of people blow them off like they don’t know anything, but they are everything and we need to focus more on them than ourselves. I’ve learned how to be a little more patient, to try to not just see things my way, but see them their way. They inspire me to want to play more games and do more things. They don’t see my disability. They just see me as an adult that wants to spend time with them and is interested in what they have to say or what they are going through in the moment. They give me good ideas for what we can do at the moment.”

SaRah Eley

“I figure I could help someone else by helping myself.” Resident finalist SaRah Eley’s  dogged motivation for neighborhood involvement stems from her own life experience.  “I struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and things of that nature, but I try not to let it stop me from doing things.” Eley’s persistent work towards community change is apparent from her years of leadership and perspective.

Eley knows that community change doesn’t happen overnight. Several years ago, she organized neighbors to advocate for better transit options for residents of her apartment community in Muskegon Heights, MI.  “We were trying to get a bus stop over here, and I helped with writing a petition and getting people to sign it. [Unfortunately,] it didn’t go over too well… we hit a roadblock.” Despite the outcome, Eley feels she owes it to herself to stay involved. “I just want to keep myself motivated to do things; it’s hard sometimes when you’re disabled and you just want to sit around and do nothing. So I try to keep myself from doing that when I can by participating in different events.” After her bus route advocacy hit a dead-end, Eley joined a Dwelling Place leadership team known as the Community Leadership Institute (CLI) as a way to stay involved in accomplishing community work. The group completed public improvement projects in the Muskegon Heights neighborhood where Roosevelt Apartments is located. “I helped name the park that we have, it’s called ‘ A Little Slice of Heaven,’ and I participated in a community organizational event where we mailed out park-related surveys and went to people’s houses.”

Besides the CLI team and their projects, Eley stretches outside of just her apartment community. “I’m a member of the Consumer Advisory Panel of the Lakeshore Regional Entity, a group that helps with decisions for mental health and different services that are available; we meet every other month to discuss what’s going on in the community. We’ve been meeting over the phone and still get work done. We tell our story and give our feedback with what’s going on in the community; we talk about different bills that are being passed in the community.” 

What are you passionate about/why are you passionate?

“I have mental health issues. I struggle with depression, anxiety, PTSD, and things of that nature, but I try not to let it stop me from doing things. I figure I could help someone else by helping myself.”

What have you learned/how have you grown?

“I’ve learned to try to work well with others and have these groups, where we vote on things and things of that nature. I’ve learned to give my opinion but not be overbearing and respect others opinions when they have a great idea.”

Thelma Jones

Being a good neighbor is Thelma Jones’ pride – she talks about neighbors as if they were family. “I call them, check in with them, and a few of them call me for help.” Her care-taking attitude is inspired by her cousin. “When I was growing up, my cousin could never go to school. She stuttered real bad; she couldn’t relate to anybody. We were made to take care of her, to make sure that nobody bullied her.” Having someone to care for is part of Jones’ identity, which she embodies in her apartment community.

Jones is very active in her senior living community, Reflections, helping her neighbors stay independent. “Some [residents] need help filling things out. I help people learn how to print their name, show them how to do certain things, and cook for them. I do everything for myself still, and I cook for other residents too.” She infuses her traditions into life at Reflections. “I cook everything like it was when I was growing up, like my momma used to fix when I grew up in the south in Arkansas!”

The global pandemic has affected the way Jones can reach her neighbors, but she still makes a point to lend a helping hand. “During COVID I haven’t done much, but I still check in on people. I call them, check in with them, and a few of them call me for help.” During COVID-free times, Jones helps residents stay informed about community events and resources. Her larger-than-life presence in the apartment community keeps everyone connected and involved. 

What are you passionate about/why are you passionate?

“When I was growing up, my cousin could never go to school. She stuttered real bad; she couldn’t relate to anybody. We were made to take care of her, to make sure that nobody bullied her. Everytime we came home from school she was standing there on the step with books, and me and my sister taught her how to write, you know, print her name until she could say it. When I saw [another resident at Reflections struggling to print their name], I told the Good Lord, ‘you kept leaving me here for a reason that I’m trying to fulfill.’ Every time I get sick I say, ‘Lord thank you for letting me get over it because I see you got works for me to do, I’m willing to work, here I am.’” 

What do you hope to continue to do?

“I want to see things that could be offered to us as old people. It’s hard for me to get from my apartment to the front door.”

What have you learned, how have you grown?

“I’ve learned to adjust to what makes [my neighbors] angry, what makes them happy, how they calm down, when to walk away from them. You have to keep a distance, arms length at all times. I’ve [also] learned to adjust myself to my surroundings. I keep my sanity that way!”

Doreen Timmers

“Simply knowing how to help people in little ways means so much to me; I want others to be encouraged,” says Doreen Timmers, Dwelling Place resident and co-director of Aspire Academy. “My whole thing is I want to give back to others what I’ve received, and I have received all this knowledge about mental health! I want to share these tools! In sharing these tools, I’m giving back to my community.”

Timmers is all about paying it forward. One way she does this is by regularly contributing poetry, short essays, and words of encouragement to the Dwelling Place Resident Newsletter, which is distributed biweekly to more than 500 recipients. “I use inspiration for everything around me when I write. It’s great knowing that my experience might help someone get through a rough day. Maybe my rough day [can be] an encouragement in one of those writings for someone else at another time. I like to share those things and in sharing those things I get blessed and I think I’m helping other people. And that’s what the writings are all about.” Additionally, Timmers has worked closely with Dwelling Place to bring mental health awareness into focus for residents. She is an advocate for mental health through Aspire Academy, an up-and-coming peer-to-peer mental health organization she helps co-direct. “Aspire Academy is intended to teach about mental health illness to those who have the illness and to help those, who have family or friends, understand the mental health aspects and how to help that person who has those issues. In helping others, they are ‘paying it forward’ and can give back.” 

What are you passionate about/why are you passionate?

“I’m passionate about being involved because I want others to be encouraged. I want people to be able to look at a flower and go ‘wow that’s beautiful and that makes my day special’. Simply knowing how to help people in little ways means so much to me, and I don’t always know who’s going to benefit. I’m passionate about helping others, helping them to be encouraged, helping them get through a rough day, helping them see there is a way to get through and teaching them there are things to help them get through. That’s the heart of my passion right there!” 

What do you hope to continue to do?

“My hope is to continue to be involved and continue to help people in any way I can so their life is easier. I have a passion for people. In my future, I want to be able to continue to give. I just want to encourage people to get involved where they are. If they have neighbors who may like the smell of their cookies, share your cookies. Just do the simple things. If someone comes to your door and asks for a cup of sugar, give it to them. Just do the best you can!”

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