Tami VandenBerg, Executive Director
I have important news to share with you: I have decided to step aside as Well House Executive Director effective April 12, 2018.
Changes like this are always difficult, but the future of Well House has never been brighter. The Well House staff is strong, committed, passionate, seasoned and smart. The Well House board is dedicated, driven, vivacious and strategic. Our base of support is large and diverse. Our mission and vision could not be more relevant.
This has been a challenging decision for me, but the timing feels right for me personally and also for Well House. It’s been over five years since I became Executive Director to see if I could keep the organization from closing its doors.
We’ve grown from a struggling grassroots nonprofit, to a leader in the movement to end homelessness in Grand Rapids. Thanks to your support, we have shown that even those who have been forgotten or written off can succeed in housing. Our budget has increased by 10 times in the last five years, and we have shown that blighted homes can be saved and brought back to life. Our success has far surpassed what I dreamed of five years ago.
Moving forward, we will continue to face many challenges – the cost of purchasing houses has increased dramatically, many of our key partners are facing funding cuts, more of our neighbors face displacement and homelessness as rent continues to increase. But my faith and confidence in the Well House staff and board convince me that we’ll be in good hands.
It was the work of our staff that moved 190 people off the streets in the last five years. It was their vision that helped us purchase and renovate 11 additional houses and transform 7 vacant lots into food-growing spaces. It was their leadership that employed 70 tenants on our farm or on our housing rehabs.
My greatest regret in making this move is the prospect of missing my amazing colleagues – the Well House staff, board, donors, funders, supporters, partners. And of course I will greatly miss all of our tenants – some of the most resilient, brave, and compassionate people I know. But I firmly believe this group will continue to push forward the movement to end homelessness in Grand Rapids for years to come.
I’m not going far, and very much intend to stay engaged in housing advocacy for many years to come. Nothing will give me greater pride and joy than to watch Well House grow, with your help, into a solution for so many more of our neighbors. Housing is the solution to homelessness – and we can end homelessness in Grand Rapids.
Onward and Forward –
Tami VandenBerg, Executive Director, Well House
“The answer to homelessness is still housing and that is what we do here.”
Erin Crison, Chief Operating Officer
Erin has a degree in psychology from George Mason University and has spent the past 13 years working in non-profits that have specialized in youth development. Erin is so excited to be a part of the Well House team and it’s commitment to ending homelessness in Grand Rapids. In her spare time, Erin enjoys spending her time with her two children and family, yoga, traveling and reading.
Travis VanLuyn, Director of Construction & Maintenance
Travis started as an intern in the fall of 2014 while completing his bachelors degree in Sustainable Business Management from Aquinas college. Travis started as an employee for Well House in the spring of 2015. Travis is a licensed contractor and has worked various construction jobs from doing concrete, custom counter tops, to building custom homes. Travis has a passion for learning, creating, building, and finding sustainable solutions to practical problems. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with his family, being outdoors, and listening to music.
Alec Beattie, Farmer
We asked him why am he was interested in working with Well House:
“When I would see someone on the streets holding a sign up that says “homeless”, I always wondered “how?” How can someone be put in that position, and how did we as a society allow someone to be in that position. It always left a weird feeling in my stomach, and I felt like there had to be something I could do about it. Well House became that something.”
Mario Leon, Development Coordinator
Mario was born in Havana, Cuba and grew up in Chicago and Grand Rapids. After obtaining his degree from Aquinas College, he spent the majority of his professional life in the sales end of the music business before he realized how much he enjoyed non-profit work. He comes to us from Boys & Girls Club where he worked in membership, volunteer management and development. In his free time, Mario enjoys music, films and his two Chinese Crested dogs. If there is squid on the menu, you can count on him to order it every single time.
Andrew Miller, Tenant Crew Leader
Gwen Nathan, Receptionist
Gwen started at Well House in the summer of 2015 after working at Grand Rapids city Hall, Women’s Resource Center, and Michigan Works. As receptionist, Gwen handles all phone calls, visitors, and helps tenants with finding resources in the area. Her favorite part about working at Well House is working toward the mission that Marian Clements started in 1979. In her spare time, Gwen enjoys spending time with her family and volunteering in the community.
Jean Olds, Housing Specialist
Jean started at Well House in July of 2013. She comes to Well House with a wealth of knowledge and expertise of social services and community support services that are available in Kent County. Jean has a degree in Family Studies from Western Michigan University. Jean is a hard worker, extremely dedicated, and cares deeply for each and every Well House tenant.
David Patillo, House Parent
Jodi Smith, Housing Specialist & Outreach Coordinator
Jodi started at Well House as an intern in January 2013 and became a full-time staff member only 4 months later. Jodi has a background in early childhood education and a degree in human development. She brings an incredible amount of high energy, creativity, and passion to the organization.
Board of Directors 2017
Derek DeVries, Board President, Digital Strategist,
Lambert, Edwards and Associates
Derek DeVries is a digital strategist at Lambert, Edwards & Associates (LE&A). His areas of expertise include social media marketing, crisis communications, online reputation management, digital branding, web development, and counsel on all things Internet-related. Prior to joining LE&A, Derek worked for PR/marketing agencies including 834 Marketing and Design and spent 11 years in higher education providing public relations, social media marketing and communications support for Grand Rapids Community College. In addition to his duties at LE&A, Derek also teaches advertising/public relations part-time at Grand Valley State University.
Austin Dean, Principle Consultant, BBCetc.
Brent Geers, Estate Planning Attorney/Owner, Geers Law
Brent Geers specializes in helping people empower those they trust and provide for those they love. Brent has been an attorney since 2012, working with individuals and families to marshal their time, talent, and treasure for the benefit of their children, family, and community. He is a Grand Rapids Business Journal “40 Under 40” honoree, and currently operates his own practice, Geers Law.
Brent is married to an educator, who employs his services as a chaperone for various school functions. He is also a father to a daughter determined to break down barriers for women everywhere.
Lisa Rios, Partner, Edward Jones
Lisa Rios is a partner with Edward Jones and has been helping West Michigan families achieve their financial goals for the better part of two decades. Lisa is madly in love with her native town of Grand Rapids and has participated in many community and philanthropic organizations over the years. As a community activist, she believes no one should be without a safe place to call home. From her research, Lisa was impressed with the effectiveness of Well House in providing both a home and dignity to Grand Rapids’ homeless community and knew she had to be part of the organization. Lisa and her husband Michael strive to instill that same sense of community and desire to give in their two boys.
Theodore Janga-Ngalma Ndawillie II, Musician, Composer, Music Teacher
Grand Rapids-based composer, keyboardist, percussionist and cyclist Theo Ndawillie II spends most of his time performing and writing with his band Vox Vidorra, teaching at Triumph Music Academy, and working on commissions. Theo has been commissioned by the Grand Rapids Symphony, ADAPT Theatre Company, Symmetry Films (shehimher), and others. His hobbies include finding various ways to combine his musical endeavors with various forms of environmental and social activism. Having grown up as 1 of 2 birth children in a foster home of 14, he has a firm belief in Well House’s compassionate approach to ending homelessness, the Housing First model, and is elated to serve on the board beginning in 2016.
Elsa Kerr, Retired Marketing Communications Professional, Workforce Development
Elsa Kerr has worked in both the corporate and non-profit sectors of marketing and community relations. Her non-profit focus has been on helping individuals develop the skills and tools to become self-sufficient through employment. Recognizing that stable housing is the foundation to building independence, Elsa has joined the 2016 Well House Board of Directors and is ready to support and build upon the organization’s mission and goals.
Elsa has also served on the Board of Directors of the YWCA West Central Michigan from 2004-2012, fulfilling the role of Board Chair from 2008-2010. She continues to actively support the organization today.
Matt joined the board of Well House in Fall 2015 with a strong belief in the organization’s mission and Housing First model. Matt enjoys collaborating with other board members and business owners in the community to end homelessness. Matt and his wife Julie live in East Grand Rapids with their two dogs.
Toresa Blakely, CPLC, Owner, In Life Now Enterprises
Toresa also known as Coach TMB is passionate about seeing people learn how to “live their best life in life now.” She is the founder of In Life Now Enterprises, a talk media and empowerment company that brings inspirational flare to discussing real issues, real people experience while providing real solutions. Toresa is the author of two books, Return from the Brink of Disaster and Pressing Towards the Mark – It’s Now What You Think and frequently serves as a keynote speaker. In 2016 Toreas joined the Magic 104.9 fm family. Toresa knows firsthand the effects of homelessness
Denavvia Mojet, Political Campaign Consultant, Owner, Mojet Photography
Bryant Mitchell, Realtor & Owner, Sunday Dinner, A Real Estate Company
In 2014 my wife and I were blessed with twin boys, with this change came a change of thought process, goal setting and overall spirituality. As a company BRYANT| Real Estate Group has always been focused on giving back within our community. As our organization continued to grow in volume and size we noticed that the impact we could be initiating within our local communities was being looked over. Instead of relaying our marketing dollars towards auxiliary lead sources, which have no local impact, let’s shift our marketing monies to benefit local community. For our organization that looked like our SUNDAY DINNER| initiatives program. This program gave each agent the ability to contribute 10% of their commissions directly to a passion that drives their particular client. This Movement went so well that as a company the SUNDAY DINNER| Initiatives raised over $11,000 our first year. When that year came to a close the decision was made to focus our business entirely on the impacting of communities. SUNDAY DINNER, a real estate company; was launched on May 16, 2016 and we look forward to the benefiting our community exponentially.
Heather Cronkright, Mortgage Loan Officer, Lake Michigan Credit Union
Heather has a significant professional history with Steelcase, in sales and customer service, Clark Financial as a mortgage broker, and Polaris Home Funding in underwriting and pre-closing roles. She is also an entrepreneur, owning and operating Gallery Allure beauty salon of Grand Rapids.
I am a major SOCCER mom and enjoy watching my boys play. My youngest, Mason, is a Freshman for Jenison and has made the Varsity team for his first high school career of soccer. My oldest, Isaiah, was playing for Trinity Christian College but came back home to attend GRCC full time. I enjoy movies, music, the arts, trying new cuisine’s and local restaurants and cooking/baking. I am at most peace in my life when I’m near the water or onstage leading praise and worship wherever I attend church. I am currently at Fair Haven Church in Hudsonville.
I am filled with a servant’s heart and love helping people achieve their potential and realize their worthiness – no matter where their life choices have taken them. It’s never too late to find yourself!