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Community updates: Wednesday, Nov. 25

City of Grand Rapids, partners launch #SupportOurGRBiz challenge; New City Neighbors partners with GVSU to expand educational farm; and MDHHS issues Thanksgiving guidance for vulnerable populations.
Volunteer helping install a greenhouse for New City Neighbors and GVSU's educational farm.

Volunteer helping install a greenhouse for New City Neighbors and GVSU's educational farm. /Kendra Stanley-Mills

City of Grand Rapids, community partners launch #SupportOurGRBiz challenge

The City of Grand Rapids and a group of community partners launched a social media campaign this week aiming to support local businesses during the holiday shopping season.

Called the #SupportOurGRBiz challenge, the campaign encourages residents to record and share videos of themselves safely shopping at local businesses, and challenging three or more friends to do the same.

Campaign organizers hope it becomes viral, as many businesses across the city continue to struggle amid the pandemic and its related statewide restrictions.

This has been a difficult year for all of us, including our local businesses,” said Mayor Rosalynn Bliss, who shared a Facebook video on Saturday as part of the challenge. “As we enter the holiday season and start buying gifts for those we care about, I invite you to join me in supporting our Grand Rapids businesses.”

Bliss’ video was shot outside of Mosby’s Popcorn in downtown Grand Rapids, where she purchased popcorn and challenged three friends to also support local during the holidays.

They have always been here for us,” Bliss added of local businesses, “and now we can step up to be there for them.”

Participants in the challenge can use the hashtag #SupportOurGRBiz to keep their videos linked in online searches with others taking part. Other hashtags part of the challenge are #ApoyaNuestrosNegociosGR, #IAmIn, and #CuentaConmigo.

An online directory of local businesses needing support during the pandemic is available at The city launched the website in April, in partnership with Experience Grand Rapids, Local First, Women’s LifeStyle Magazine, and others.


New City Neighbors partners with GVSU to expand educational farm

New City Neighbors is partnering with Grand Valley State University’s (GVSU) Sustainable Agriculture Project to expand its educational farm, GVSU announced last week.

A local nonprofit, New City Neighbors works with at-risk youth through its urban farm and related programs, providing jobs and life skills training. Its home base is currently a one-acre urban farm in Grand Rapids' Creston neighborhood.

Now, New City Neighbors has an additional one-acre of agricultural land to advance its youth-focused mission, courtesy of GVSU’s Sustainable Agriculture Project. The land’s located in Jenison, less than a mile south of GVSU’s Allendale campus.

"We can now bring our diverse pool of high school students onto the campus of a local university, building relationships and on-ramps to higher education in the burgeoning field of environmental and sustainability studies at GVSU," New City Neighbors' Executive Director, Ricardo Tavárez, said.

Crystal Scott-Tunstall, Affiliate Professor of Environmental and Sustainability Studies at GVSU, spearheaded GVSU’s offer to New City Neighbors, after discovering the nonprofit’s previous lease on a three-acre farm in Grand Rapids couldn’t be renewed. She’s also a New City Neighbors board member.

Installation of a high-tunnel greenhouse on New City Neighbors new land began Nov. 17, led by volunteers from the nonprofit and GVSU, plus members of GVSU’s Farm Club.

More details about New City Neighbors’ farm spaces and youth programs are available on its website.


MDHHS issues Thanksgiving guidance for vulnerable populations

The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) on Monday issued Thanksgiving and holiday celebration guidance for populations more at risk for severe illness from COVID-19.

Vulnerable populations include nursing home residents, individuals with behavioral health challenges and developmental disabilities, direct care workers, and others, according to the health department.

While we are advising everyone to avoid Thanksgiving gatherings beyond their own households, it’s especially critical that residents of nursing homes and other group homes remain in their homes during the holiday,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “If these individuals contract COVID while traveling, they run the risk of bringing it back to others who are especially vulnerable to illness and death.”

The MDHHS’ Nov. 18 emergency order limited indoor gatherings across the state to no more than two households, but didn’t limit nursing and group home residents from leaving their care facilities. The MDHHS’ holiday season guidance, however, strongly encourages such residents to stay in place.

Other guidance issued from the department includes providers and direct care staff educating residents and their family and friends on the associated risk of leaving a care facility to attend gatherings. Providers are also advised to encourage residents to stay connected with loved ones through alternative means of communication, such as phone and video calls.

This year, please celebrate Thanksgiving by Zoom or by phone, and next year’s Thanksgiving will be better,” Gordon said.

Zoom announced this month it's lifting its 40-minute limit on free video calls for Thanksgiving Holiday, from midnight EST on Nov. 26 though 6am EST on Nov. 27.

The MDHHS’ full holiday celebration guidance is available on its website.


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