Gratitude in Partnerships (cont’d)

This is a continuation of an article by community engagement coordinator, abigail bruins, partially published in our fall 2020 print newsletter.

As I stood inside the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association building, I looked around at the furniture and artifacts that make up the space. “Wow, I didn’t realize you had all this here!” I said. Old photos cover the walls, showing the buildings and faces of Roosevelt’s history. Amy Brower, the organization’s executive director, began telling me about the museum created inside these walls.

She pointed out a photo of the building we now stood in. She said it the building also served as a library at one point. She told me a story of a little boy who walked in to find an atlas for a school project.

The closest library branch at that time was Madison Square. “That’s pretty far,” I said. Later I searched it. It’s a 35-minute walk. “Yeah, too far,” she said, “and at the time the Public Library wasn’t able to help create a new branch. So the neighbors got together and said ‘We need a library!’ And that’s why this building is here.”

“That sounds about right,” I thought to myself. Roosevelt Park has always been a grassroots neighborhood, with strong community voices and fierce advocacy. No library? No problem. They’ll make one. Poor air quality? Watch out, State of Michigan. They’ll lobby to change the truck routes.

So I shouldn’t be surprised that this year, despite civil unrest and amidst a global pandemic, the Roosevelt Park Advocates rallied together to create something meaningful for the 6th Annual Family Fiesta celebration of health, family, and fun.

Family Fiesta was first funded by the Kent County Health Department (KCHD) REACH Grant, an initiative that aims to reduce the racial and ethnic disparities found in public health. As years have passed, partnerships have increased, but the theme of the event remains true to its roots: celebrating family, prioritizing health, and having some fun outdoors.

Now, KCHD, local businesses, community organizations, schools, churches, and nonprofits – including Friends – all play a role in funding and planning this event alongside Roosevelt Park Advocates.

In early 2020, the group began making plans to again host hundreds of neighbors in the park to hear great music, eat delicious tacos and salsas, and play fun games together.

As the impact of COVID-19 grew, we realized that a gathering simply would not be safe.

continued from print article…

The Family Fiesta planning team started creating a new plan. As a group we discussed what the purpose of Family Fiesta was, we realized that of course there’s still a strong desire from neighbors to lead healthy lifestyles, to get outdoors and play outside, and to feel a sense of community. “What if we just have families pick up supplies?”

So that’s what we did. As I chatted with Amy in the RPNA building, our voices were joined by other community leaders. Asucena, Rocio, Jackie. We spent hours filling canvas bags with books, toys and activities for kids, masks and hand sanitizer, resources and flyers, a walking tour of Roosevelt’s historical sites. “My arms are going to be sore tomorrow!” said Jackie, as she held the bags on her arms, three to an arm. Neighbors occasionally stopped by. One gentleman stopped in with jars of jam in his hands. Another stopped by to remind us of the US Census deadline (It’s September 30!).

On September 28, the planning team and neighborhood volunteers gave away 200 resource kits to Family Fiesta participants!

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks is proud of partnerships like these that help drive forward collaborative missions throughout our city. We believe that collaboration is vital to creating vibrant neighborhoods, parks, and urban forests throughout Grand Rapids. And we’re especially grateful for this longtime partnership, and the individuals who have helped sustain us along the way.


Family Fiesta 2020 is presented by Ferris and MobileGR, in partnership with the Roosevelt Park Advocates 2020 Family Fiesta Planning Committee, which includes representatives from the following organizations:

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks
Grand Rapids Public Schools
Grandville Avenue Arts & Humanities
Habitat for Humanity of Kent County
Healthy Homes Coalition
Hispanic Center of West Michigan
Kent County Health Department
Plaster Creek Steward
Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association
YMCA of Greater Grand Rapids


And with special thanks to the following for contributing items to the resource bags:

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan
Friends of Grand Rapids Parks
Head Start Kent County
Healthy Homes Coalition
Hispanic Center of West Michigan
Kent County Health Department
Mobile GR
Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association
Southwest Community Church
The StoreHouse

Back to Articles