Thankful for Community

As we spend this Thanksgiving weekend where we can and with whom possible, I sincerely hope this day brings you joy and a renewed attitude of gratitude for our daily blessings. Today, I can’t help but be immensely grateful for my family at home as well as my family at Jenison Public Schools.

This year has thrown each of us unwanted curveballs and forced many customary experiences to be canceled, but I wanted to to remind you that there is nothing that can cancel the unmatched community spirit of Jenison. Our community proudly holds each other up, through thick and thin. No one has to go through anything alone. 2020 has been a year like no other but JPS has risen to the occasion.

On Monday, Early Childhood Center and Bauerwood Elementary teachers were able to deliver family Thanksgiving food baskets to some families of students. This is an annual tradition for them and they were eager to continue, especially in light of this unpredictable year. The classrooms enjoyed helping with the collection and the students know they were a part of helping someone in their very own community enjoy the best holiday possible.

Bauerwood Staff delivered Family Thanksgiving Gift Baskets on Monday.

The Jenison Parent Liaisons is another group that supports our community in big ways, and not just during the holidays. The Jenison Parent Liaisons connect families to resources and support parent-teacher collaboration. JPS families can receive information and support regarding childcare, stable housing, mental and physical health services and other community resources.

The recent orders from the state that has shifted learning to a virtual platform for the next few weeks, may impact families in a variety of ways. Please visit the new JPS Parent Liaisons website to learn more about the support they can provide. The Classifieds page is a great place to see which unique resources they have readily available as well as which items they are in need of. I encourage you to check out the website (and share it with a friend) for resources that may help as you navigate the upcoming days.

If you are looking for ways to help others in our community this holiday season, check out the Classifieds page or the information from Love Inc. Together, we are Jenison! And today, I’m very thankful to be a part of this community.

To read more about the Jenison Parent Liaison program, also check out:

Small change adds up BIG

As I look forward to spending time with my family this Thanksgiving weekend, it’s very easy to be thankful for all I have been blessed with. Today, I am also reflecting on a commitment to make one small choice daily; to live with an attitude of gratitude in all circumstances. I have been encouraged by the efforts of our students this month, joining together through many small initiatives to make a very big difference.
Our annual change fundraiser “Your Change Can Change Hunger” began in 1998 and is something the kids look forward to each year. After a 15 year partnership with another food pantry in West Michigan, the focus shifted to a more local organization. Hand2Hand partners with local churches and schools to provide a backpack filled with supplemental food that bridges the gap of weekend hunger. When students became aware that their change was going to help kids in their own school district, possibly even their own building – giving sharply increased. The fervor with which students wanted to take care of their own is so inspiring!


YCCCH Winning Class


The high school students conducted a pop can drive, lunch time raffle ticket sales, hosted a movie showing with drinks and snacks for sale, promoted general collection competitions between classes, sold sodas and Post Family Farm donuts.

The Junior High had an another amazing year raising money through many avenues as well. Students sold coffee, hot chocolate, stickers and gelato. Classes thrived off of competing against one another, and setting personal classroom goals. Students and staff members worked hard at making each goal happen, and we believe they succeeded in many ways.

Competition polls with two containers were popular for students to express their preferences: Coke or Pepsi, Dog or Cat. Elementary class competitions brought an exciting pizza party or pajama day to the winning classroom.

They are always so creative and it’s such a positive environment during this fundraiser. Students are so generous with their time and money knowing how it is helping right here in their community. 


Our annual contribution drive recently wrapped up with yet another record breaking year! I’m happy to say our students, staff and families have done it again … raising a record $27,567.79 during this year’s 22nd Annual “Your Change Can Change Hunger” fundraiser!!

It is both exciting and humbling to realize that since the inception of YCCCH here in Jenison, our students, staff and families have raised just over a quarter of a million dollars to fight hunger!! Donations have reached over $141,000 specifically for local students through Hand2Hand since 2013. What a wonderful community we live in! Small change can add up big and…Your Change really CAN Change Hunger!

Thank you so much to each and every one of our Jenison families for your part in keeping this wonderful tradition alive and growing to bless our kids.




Full of Thanks and Giving

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope this day finds you embracing the people and places that fill you up and enhance your life! I am thinking about my loving and supportive wife, terrific children and the blessing of a new grandson! I am also thankful for the supremely talented and committed group of educators I get to work with daily. Not only do they sharpen each other as they strive for academic excellence, they sincerely invest in the heart and character of our students.

This month marks the 21st year that our staff has been encouraging our students to think outside themselves, cultivate true gratitude and give with compassionate hearts through the “Your Change Can Change Hunger” fund drive (YCCCH). That means there have been several graduating classes that have participated every year of their time at JPS. It truly has become a holiday tradition that we all look forward to. Initiated by Susan Hodson, a mom with two elementary daughters that many years ago – it just goes to show, one person can make a big difference.

I’m so proud to share more about this year’s YCCCH fund drive and all the ways our amazing Jenison community is giving back this Thanksgiving!

Kids First Pet Supply Drive

We love to see the generosity of our students combined with a little entrepreneurial spirit! Two sixth grade El Puente students, Grace Roth (left) and Randi Pennington (right) brainstormed and organized a collection for the Harbor Humane Society during the month of October and delivered the donations earlier this month. So inspiring to see our students putting their compassionate hearts to work!


Grace and Randi, and their KidsFirst classmates collected over 100 pounds of food, dog beds, blankets, a bag full of toys, multiple bags of treats, leashes, and food dishes.

Jenison Parent Liaisons


Ms. Tracy and Ms. Veldink

The mission of the Jenison Parent Liaison program is: Building bridges between home, school, and community to promote student success for all families of Jenison Public Schools. One tangible way they do that is through organizing collections of things that can be used to support local families.

1) Ongoing collections of gently used, in-style, in-season clothing for community partner, Threads Clothing Ministry. Also, currently collecting snow pants (through the winter season) in partnership with Rosewood Reformed Church. This provides JPS families access to any type of clothing as needs arise. If you would like to donate clothes or snow pants, please drop items to the Family Resource Center (Room 1) at Pinewood Elementary.

2) They partner with Mars Hill Bible Church, Fair Haven Ministries, Baldwin Street Christian Reformed Church and Sunrise Ministries to provide Christmas and Thanksgiving Assistance for our families.

3) Now accepting donations for family activities in the area; such as bowling, Rebounderz, movie theatre, etc., to give to families to enjoy special together time over Christmas break. Donations can be brought to the Family Resource Center (Room 1) at Pinewood Elementary. 

1st Annual Turkey Trot 5k

An idea led by senior, Max Zuber; the Jenison Men’s Cross Country team hosted the first Jenison Turkey Trot 5k. It was a little more wintry when the race actually took place this past weekend but it was an overall success for their first year. The donation table ended up nearly overflowing and items were delivered to Love Inc.: the Turkey Trot is good for your heart in more ways than one!


There were over 60 runners of all ages at the first ever Turkey Trot 5k!

Jenison Public Education Foundation

To keep our little ones warm and cozy in the coming months, the Jenison Public Education Foundation conducted a hat, mitten, sock drive at their Expo event on November 3. A donation competition between elementary schools revealed Pinewood as the winner. They won $250 for their school and a school assembly with a magician! Since 1995, JPEF has been enhancing learning environments and funded more than 162 programs valued at over $200,000, for the students of Jenison. 

National Honors Society Thanksgiving Baskets

The NHS members (high school juniors/seniors) organized a Thanksgiving basket program. They donated the items needed for a full thanksgiving meal for 10 Jenison families. They traveled together to deliver the food to each family on November 16.

Jenison High School Thespians – “Trick-r-Treat So Kids Can Eat”

Of course, the Thespians had fun dressing up and getting into character on Halloween but they also organized an event called “Trick-r-Treat So Kids Can Eat”. They had another great turnout this year with many donations brought in to keep members of our community fed this holiday season.

Your Change Can Change Hunger (YCCCH) benefiting Hand2Hand

This annual change fundraiser began in 1998 and is something the kids plan for each year. After a 15 year partnership with another food pantry in West Michigan, it shifted to a more local organization. Hand2Hand partners with local churches and schools to provide a backpack filled with supplemental food that bridges the gap of weekend hunger. When students became aware that their change was going to help kids in their own school district, possibly even their own building – giving sharply increased. The fervor with which students wanted to take care of their own is so inspiring! We keep breaking the previous year’s record for giving – and I think we’ll see that again this year.

Coming into the 2018 fund drive, JPS students have raised over $196,000 since 1998 – nearly half of that had been given in the last 5 years! While the final totals are still being counted, I think we can quite confidently say that we will pass the $200,000 mark this year! That’s amazing! Your Change really CAN Change Hunger!

Thank you so much Jenison students and families!


ECC: Introducing our youngest Wildcats to this awesome and impactful tradition.


El Puente students show off their own collection box. Excelente!


Bauerwood Elementary students excited to hear the final count for the district!


Pinewood Elementary Student Council with their cash donation.


Rosewood 5th graders proudly show off their school’s contribution of over $1,700 this year!


The Sandy Hill third graders surpassed their collection goal on the last day of the change drive. They raised over $150 on Friday alone so Mr. Mosher took some pies to the face!


Bursley kids excited to give back to others.


Junior High Students with a hefty donation to YCCCH! When the final count is confirmed, the JH hopes to break their current school record of over $10,000 dollars collected. It definitely seems within their grasp!  Many students have come up with creative collection ideas such as coffee/hot chocolate sales and candy & pop sales. Good old fashion  competitions against other classes in the building have really kept the excitement high!


JH Students paid $1.00 towards YCCCH to play in the gym for 1 hour before school.


The High Schoolers also had unique fundraising opportunities: here they are selling pizza at lunch time as a fundraiser for YCCCH.

If you would like to join Jenison Students by supporting the work of Hand2Hand, please visit their website for more information about how to get involved.


“Your Change Can Change Hunger” Impacts the Community this Thanksgiving

For the past fifteen years, Jenison Public Schools have been partnering with Dégagé Ministries by sponsoring the “Your Change Can Change Hunger” drive in buildings throughout the district.

And for each of those fifteen years, students like the ones pictured above have arrived to school with their pockets stuffed with pennies and quarters; they’ve pulled ziplock bags from their backpacks and cheerfully dumped their nickels into the collection bin.

Those coins impact a lot of lives when you consider that Dégagé’s food pantry is not bound by supermarket prices when helping families. Rather than paying an average of $2 for a pound of food as we might do at our local grocery store, they are able to partner with Feeding America and purchase food for just 16¢ a pound! To add to the savings, Dégagé is able to acquire produce through Feeding America for 6¢ a pound!

After a week of dedicated collections, we are pleased to announce that the students at Bauerwood (featured in our photos), Bursley, Rosewood, and Pinewood Elementary Schools contributed over $5, 415, putting Jenison’s fifteen-year total at $108,000!

Because of  the buying power that Feeding America provides, this year’s donations alone will extend a helping hand to over 100 families!

Jenison Public Schools, Your Change Can Change Hunger, Bauerwood Elementary Schools, Degage Ministries

Even in a difficult economy with so many of our own local families struggling under the weight of mounting bills and joblessness, Jenison families continue to show compassion for those who feel hopeless; they continue to offer up what they can so their neighbors’ burden can be eased.

Project coordinator, Sue Hodson, says she “..feels truly blessed and privileged to be a part of this process. I’m excited to think that these students (who are our future leaders) are learning about and effectively making a difference to change hunger for many in the Heartside neighborhood of GR.”

If you were one of the families who scrounged for dimes in your seat cushions or returned pop cans so that you could contribute to this cause, thank you.

It is indeed a joy to demonstrate love in such a tangible way during the holidays.

What do you most enjoy about giving to others? How are you demonstrating generosity this Thanksgiving?