Escape Ministries need funding, city parks are finding their funding, new mall stores and summer is ending soon.
1. Changing lives
As Justine McGuire reported Wednesday, Escape Ministries is facing possible closure because of decreased community support resulting in a funding shortfall in its 2016 budget. During a community forum Tuesday night, several kids stood up and told their stories about how Escape helped them. Kyle Young was arrested in 2013 for possession of marijuana, but Rev. Willie Watt took him into Escape Ministries and Young says his life has changed for the better. "I can't tell you how much mad respect I have for that man. He had faith in me the whole way," Young said. Stories like that are commonplace from kids who've been helped by Watt and his work at Escape Ministries. About $75,000 is needed to keep the operation going this year and Chris Rottschafer, president of the Escape Ministries board, said Watt "will go without a paycheck to keep this place going." It seems like just the right kind of nonprofit the city needs to help its struggling youth. While a 45 percent drop in juvenile arrests between 2012-2015 can't be wholly attributed to Escape Ministries, it has certainly helped. Its work with Holland Youth Connections to keep kids safe from gang activity by finding them part-time summer work is exemplary. It's provided about 75 youth their first work experience and can be the kind of program that springboards them into a lifetime of employment. We hope the community finds a way to close this budget shortfall so Escape Ministries isn't forced to close, but it was alarming when Rottschafer said, "I've heard some people won't give to Escape because we shed light on problems that Holland has." We would hope that is not the case.
2. Benefitting everyone
As Amy Biolchini reported Thursday, Holland city parks are more and more becoming the subject of donation campaigns in order to improve existing playgrounds. The latest example, residents in the Central Park neighborhood rallying to improve Lakeview City Park at 608 Bay Ave. The 25-year-old playground has equipment that has been spray painted with graffiti and some are covered in burn marks. Earlier this year, Rosa Parks Green received a brand-new playground and was installed by the community around it thanks to more than $25,000 in donations. Using donations to fix up parks isn't necessary — but has become a recent trend according to Parks and Recreation Director Andy Kenyon. But it does go a long way to help stretch city dollars. It's not just the city either as Holland State Park just dedicated a new playground thanks to a crowdfunding campaign raised $17,000 in less than a week. It's an interesting trend we're seeing where the public is setting up GoFundMe pages in order to see improvements to their way of life quicker than government can provide. It used to be that one would have to start a letter campaign and send press releases to the community paper and it would take months if not years to get new park improvements. We're happy to see the community rally so quickly and cut through the red tape in order to get done what needs to be done.
3. Mall progress
As Justine McGuire reported Wednesday, two new shops were added to the Shops at Westshore with a Noodles & Co. and a Sleep Number store coming soon. Some Facebook commenters were happy, some not so happy and some pining for clothing stores instead of new restaurants. But as McGuire's report noted, Greg Erne, principal for Westshore Mall Investors, said the focus will begin to shift to fashion retailers in the fall. First the anchor stores are set, then restaurants to attract shoppers and by the holiday shopping season the mall will be filled with retailers. It's nice to once again look at that stretch of U.S. 31 and see the potential for commercial success.
4. Summer ending soon
A quick note that summer is ending soon. Well, not technically, not until Sept. 22. But many of us consider the start of the school year and football season as the unofficial end of summer. Which for Holland Public Schools students is Wednesday. That's right, in just five more days school will begin. And in 15 days it's the start of the college football season. Before you know it apple picking season will be upon us and the leaves will start changing. So get that last summer sunset in now and go for another dip in Lake Michigan — while you can anyway.