The votes are in, and readers have chosen Baxter Community Center in Grand Rapids as West Michigan Woman’s charity partner for this year’s Wine & Wig gala, October 18 at GRAM. Baxter’s executive director, Melanie Beelen, feels the return on the investment will be priceless. Baxter Community Center is located in a neighborhood where ninety-nine percent of the children qualify for free or reduced school lunches. Founded in 1969, the center is a “pathway out of poverty” for neighborhood families, providing a nationally accredited childcare program, holistic healthcare, a marketplace, and a youth mentoring program.
Some of Baxter’s innovative programs include gardening classes and an on-site greenhouse. With seedlings provided by Baxter, neighborhood residents—using raised beds in their backyards—grew more than three hundred fifty pounds of healthy produce.
Baxter’s mentoring program encourages students to maintain a 3.0 grade point average by offering educational summer trips to those who meet the goal. Students have travelled to Chicago, Toronto, various local museums and historic sites, and even took a trip to South Africa in 2011.
Baxter’s childcare center addresses the need for quality care at an early age, when brain development is at a crucial stage. Enrollment at the center has doubled in the past three years. Baxter provides care for children from infancy to age twelve, allowing parents to work full time or attend classes to further their professional goals.
Baxter’s healthcare center provides a range of services, including integrated pediatric and dental care, and serves 1,000 clients. The center uses a holistic approach, focusing on nutrition and regular preventive care. Staffed by local medical practitioners who regularly volunteer their time, the center provides consistent, quality care.
Beelen hopes that, in addition to raising funds to support Baxter, the Wine & Wig gala will be a “friend raiser.” For more information about the Baxter Community Center, including opportunities to volunteer your time or make a donation, visit www.baxtercommunitycenter.org.
Written by: Jennifer Reynolds is a part-time staff writer for West Michigan Woman.