Seeds of Promise uses community-first approach to help Grand Rapids


Courtesy to Paula Collier

Kellen Voss, Print Associate Editor

A non-profit organization that often partners with Grand Valley State University is looking to help residents all over Grand Rapids with a bottom-up, community-first holistic approach to charity work. Seeds of Promise is a Padnos/Sarosik non-profit organization based on the south side of Grand Rapids looking to help those struggling within the city.

Paula Collier, a Seeds of Promise board member, has been very involved with the organization, which is looking to make a replicable model to help those in poverty increase their knowledge with applicable resources so that those struggling are not relying on government assistance.

“If we teach people how to fish and not give them a fish, it allows people to be independent and not dependent on public resources,” said Collier. 

With a focus in many fields like health and wellness, housing, jobs, entrepreneurship and ministry, Seeds of Promise are giving members of Grand Rapids the tools they need to dig themselves out of financial holes.

Collier believes that part of the reason why Seeds of Promise will flourish is that it is led by people in the Grand Rapids community who truly care about helping folks in the city they love.

“The community organization Seeds of Promise is led by residents, so that means the bottom-up is where the voices come from,” Collier said. “We need to hear the voices of the community and hear what they want to see happen, what outcomes they need, what areas they need to resolve issues at. We try to help them find the resources they need, and we work collectively to make that happen.”

Helping to create a woman’s group to empower women and give them a chance to leverage the skills they already possess, Collier loves how the organization helps community members realize their own strengths. She’s one of the Grand Rapids citizens who has been helped by Seeds of Promise.

“I love working with Seeds of Promise because not only does it empower the community and have a goal to empower the community, but it helps me,” Collier said. “One day, when I was a city bus driver, I was so caught up in things in the community and thinking, ‘How can we give back? How can we create for our community that people can duplicate (in their communities)?’  We’re still trying to shape that and find out what that looks like.”

This community-first approach has been hard to regulate in a pandemic, as Collier is worried that not being able to hold a lot of physical events has hurt the organization financially.

“With the pandemic, we’re not going into our building much because we’re trying to keep the governor’s guidelines in place,” Collier said. “It’s a peculiar place we find ourselves in because we can’t have big events and our funding is lacking and we’re just idle. We’re not able to generate opportunities for people. It’s a difficult situation to deal with.”

Those physical events typically include an annual health fair, as Gerald R. Ford Middle School Field hosts Seeds of Promise. The duo partners with the Kent County Health Department to provide free mammograms and health tips for those on campus.

While the organization has protections on their original plan, they are hoping that their holistic, community-first approach can be replicated in other growing cities like Grand Rapids all across the country.

“We have had people express interest in how they can duplicate it,” Collier said. “Even though our intellectual property is protected, we still want to share information and help people increase their knowledge so they can create sustainability and have fewer people relying on public services or government, but find your own value and create that outcome through their own work and effort.”

As part of a board made up of passionate Grand Rapids citizens, Collier emphasized that having local leaders in Seeds of Promise is the best way to help with locals facing health and financial problems in the community.

“Our board is made up of (Grand Rapids) residents,” Collier said. “Our chair is a resident, everyone on the board, for the most part, is a resident. It’s a great group of people.”

For more information, announcements of future events, and to learn how you can get involved with Seeds of Promise, visit their website.