Owners of a West Michigan business have spent much of this holiday season trying to add a little joy to those who are less fortunate.
Jamie Carlson, co-owner of Ervine's Auto Repair and Grand Rapids Hybrid, along with her daughter Megan Dineff, have spent months collecting donations for homeless, runaway and displaced youth in West Michigan.
"It just breaks my heart that there are youth that don't have a place they are safe," said Carlson. "There is a need for someplace like HQ. And, I am so grateful for a place like HQ."
HQ is a "drop-in" shelter that serves 14 to 24-year-olds facing housing instability. Development Director, Luke Petsch, says their clients are young people who find themselves in variety of crisis situations.
"It could mean they are runaways. It could mean they've been kicked out. It could mean that because of the economics of the family, there is just no longer a place for that youth to stay," he describes. "What happens then, is they find themselves at this crisis point wondering what do they do. Where do they go? HQ strives to be that place."
HQ, located in southeast Grand Rapids, provides a variety of services, including a safe place to rest and access resources and basic needs.
"So it is everything from providing a place to shower and do your laundry to a place to come play music, read a book and connect with adults," says Petsch. "We believe it should be easy to access resources you need, whether it is something like mental health support or employment services. And, when you have adults who care about you and invest in that relationship, it makes it easy to say 'this is what I want from life. This is what I need to get there.'"
"We want these youth to know is that the community cares about them. They want to know there are people out here that care what happens to them," says Carlson. "I hope they feel that through this small gift."
Carlson and Dineff plan to donate 75 gift bags to HQ clients. Through fundraising efforts, Carlson and Dineff have collected items they believe will be much appreciated by the youth.
"We are putting together items that are just above the basic needs. So, socks, water bottles, ear buds, USB plugs, notebooks to write down their thoughts and gift cards, said Dineff. "Stuff that can go in a backpack that the youth can take with them and feel that they are loved."
On Monday morning Carlson and Dineff were feeling the love, themselves, when a surprise visitor stopped by their shop. Tony Castillo, owner and operator of several West Michigan McDonalds, showed up and presented them with 40 $10 gift cards.
Castillo said when he learned of their effort, he knew he had to be involved with this type of community outreach.
"When I got the call, I said I'm there," said Castillo. "It should be easy to give, for those of us who have more. For me to be a part of this is huge. I am extremely gratified."
Dineff says Castillo's gift allowed them to complete the last of their stockings. They plan on presenting them to HQ this Friday.
"I am so thankful there are other people want to help those who are less fortunate and those who are struggling, she said. "That really hits a big spot in my heart. I am so thankful to know there are like-minded people around who are willing to go above and beyond."
Since HQ opened its doors, 3 years ago, it has seen roughly new 20 to 30 youth drop in daily. HQ serves, on average, 300 youth each week. Petsch says the number has grown each year.
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