Q3 2019 Grant Awards

At its July 8, 2019 meeting, the Steelcase Foundation trustees awarded grants to the following organizations:

First Steps Kent

First Steps Kent (FSK) received $200,000 over two years for operational support to deploy funds from the Ready by 5 Early Childhood Millage, and to continue its advocacy work in Kent County. For the next six years, the Ready by 5 Millage will distribute $6 million annually to support children up to age five and their families to ensure they have access to the vital services they need so they are healthy and ready to learn by kindergarten.

FSK, as the administrator of the funds, will manage an open RFP process for funding each year, paying special attention to areas identified as lacking the needed dosage, quantity, and quality of early childhood services, with hopes that by deploying targeted resources to areas of greatest need it can close current inequities and put all Kent County children on a path to kindergarten readiness.

Kentwood Public Schools

Kentwood Public Schools (KPS) received $50,200 over three years to implement Engineering is Elementary (EiE), a hands-on engineering curriculum from the Museum of Science in its afterschool ARCH program. KPS hopes to reach 800 elementary and middle school students, providing them experiential real-world engineering applications and exposure to technology and science-related careers. The district will track student progress over the three-year program compared to students not in the ARCH program, and if successful, incorporate the lessons into the larger school-day STEM curriculum.

Kentwood Public Schools also received $130,000 over two years to continue its Parent Academy pilot, which provides parents of English Language Learner (ELL) students courses on learning English, using the internet safely, communicating with and navigating the school district, beginning the pathway for citizenship, and pursuing career and educational opportunities. Students whose parents attended the first two years of the academy showed increases in WIDA scores (the standardized test used to recognize proficiency for ELL students) and attendance and decreases in disciplinary reports. KPS is hopeful that the academy will continue to improve outcomes for ELL students and their families and build a sense of community for parents in the district.

Grand Rapids Nehemiah Project

Grand Rapids Nehemiah Project received $100,000 toward its Ignite the Movement Vision Campaign, which will assist Nehemiah in purchasing a permanent home for itself and its partners at the Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation (GRCCT). The building has the potential to catalyze social change in the Madison Square neighborhood by providing space for the social enterprises Rising Grinds Cafe and Building Bridges Professional Services, offices for NAACP-GR and Bethany Christian Services Youth Services, and much-needed community convening spaces for meetings and events. Collectively this project seeks to generate nearly $3.5 million annually in local economic activity.

Grand Rapids Urban League

Grand Rapids Urban League (soon to be Urban League of West Michigan) received $201,125 over three years to continue its Sowing Opportunity Now (SON) project, which serves vulnerable men of color aged 16-28 through a six-week intensive workshop providing case management, trauma-informed therapy, educational assistance, and employment/workforce training opportunities, giving each participant the tools they need to be successful. For SON 2.0, the Urban League will continue to serve the 150 alumni of the program, as well as 50 new participants each year, reaching 300 young men at the end of the project.


HQ, a drop-in center for youth ages 14-24, received $240,000 to pilot a Comprehensive Health Initiative for Homeless Youth, in collaboration with 3:11 Youth Housing and Health Net of West Michigan. The pilot will connect vulnerable youth to much-needed mental, physical, and holistic health services and assist them in signing up for insurance or Medicaid if they don’t have coverage, finding trauma- and LGBTQ+ -informed care providers, and navigating the often-confusing health care system. The pilot will also provide additional support to the HQ nurses’ station, which offers basic medical services such as flu shots and vaccines, STI, HIV, pregnancy testing, and basic first aid. Through the three-year pilot, the partners will serve approximately 400 youth annually and use the learnings of the project to advocate and inform the broader healthcare community on how to better meet the needs of this currently underserved community.

Heart of West Michigan United Way

Heart of West Michigan United Way (HMWUW) received $450,000 toward its 2019 Annual Campaign (which will kick off at Steelcase this fall) to support its 47 partner agencies and programs addressing the root causes of poverty in our community. HWMUW programs focus on youth education, financial security, and family stability to ensure everyone in our community has opportunities to grow, learn and overcome the barriers they face to reach their full potential.

In addition to these efforts, $50,000 of the grant is earmarked for volunteer and donor engagement, so HWMUW can share the story of our ALICE (asset limited, income constrained, employed) population and invest in systemic solutions to build a better community.

United Way of Athens and Limestone County
United Way of Greater High Point

United Way of Athens and Limestone County and United Way of Greater High Point also received support ($46,145 and $880, respectively) to address root cause solutions to poverty in their communities.

Additional Foundation Contributions

The Foundation also matched 106 employee and retiree gifts to 78 organizations totaling $77,273.56 in contributions to art and culture, education, environmental conservation, and crisis organizations around the country. A list of organizations and gift amounts is attached. Thanks to all who participated to facilitate these gifts.