By Dana Kroll, Uptown Marketing and Communications Specialist
The collaborative spirit is alive and well in Uptown Grand Rapids, and is a vital component in stoking the vibrant, connected, collective energy that thrums throughout our district. If you’ve been to Uptown, you likely have enjoyed or appreciated either a product, an experience, an event, or a benefit, that is due to a collaborative and supportive relationship between the businesses, committees, associations, and groups, that call Uptown home.
Today we want to spend a little time exploring some examples, and then focus on one incredibly special one, that might just include a little collaboration with you, in a way that supports babies, toddlers, and families, right here at home in West Michigan.
But first, let’s list just a couple fun and easy ways that you can experience the impressive synergy of collaborative partnership in Uptown Grand Rapids:
During an event
As this blog is being composed, we are still buzzing! Earlier this month, the entire Eastown district came alive for its 49th annual Eastown Street Fair. So, that’s our first example – event collaboration. Uptown events throughout the year would be virtually impossible to pull off successfully, without teamwork between businesses, neighbors, and volunteers. In the recent street fair’s case, it was a labor of love led by the Eastown Community Association and with partnership and sponsorship from a long list of local and independently owned businesses and organizations (not to mention the participation of countless local vendors, food booths, artists, musicians, and more).
On a product
Mash-ups on products – particularly delicious, edible ones – abound in Uptown. The next time you are out for ice cream in our East Hills district, pop into Furniture City Creamery and give their in-house classic flavor, D’ough, a taste. This treat combines the shop’s own from-scratch ice cream, made with giant pieces of rich chocolate chunk cookies from The Cakabakery. Or how about heading to Speciation Cellars, to give their newest brew, TikTaaLik, a sip; it’s a collaboration with Wealthy Street chocolatier, Mokaya. They describe this ale as “oak aged pastry sour with Ghanaian cocoa, Madagascar vanilla, and applewood smoked sea salt,” and it’s a tribute to Mokaya’s smoked chocolate brownies. Ah, yes please!
On a menu
So many of our restaurants in Uptown offer regularly rotating menus in order to keep an eye on freshness but also to engage with the local and seasonal offerings of neighboring businesses and vendors in Uptown and the greater independent-business community. There are too many to name, but one thing is certain, these features and collaborations are a point of pride to the restaurants who offer them. Keep your eyes peeled as you peruse the menu, the next time you frequent Terra GR, Forty Acres Soul Kitchen, The Commons GR, Grove, or any of our locally owned and operated Uptown eateries. It makes for a really fun “easter egg hunt,” and it is a special experience to support multiple local businesses all from one plate.
While spending time in our public spaces
Making the district as fun, safe, exciting, clean, and inviting, as it is? It takes a village. Literally! We’ve got an ever-increasing roster of public artwork installations, created by hyper-local artists, and funded through the combined partnership between business owners and with programs developed by our own organization (Uptown Grand Rapids, Inc.). We take a similar approach with landscaping and floral installations, public benches, bike racks, decoratively painted crosswalks, and more. Behind each of these endeavors is a team of Uptown volunteers, business owners, property owners, and associations, that pool resources, talents, and time, to pull them off. The public thoroughfares are kept tidy and litter-free via our collaboration with the Uptown Ambassadors, and it’s the business employees and owners themselves who get together for other initiatives to improve our space, such as the Earth Day cleanup, where we don gloves, grab bags, and pick this place up! It’s something we are proud to do, together.
While these are just a couple of simple and fun ways to observe collaboration in Uptown, it’s the next example that we are most proud of, and that is, when we collaborate with each other and with you, for a cause.
Today we’re sharing a special example of this, and an invitation to get involved.
Let’s start with a few stats:
Did you know that one in three U.S. families struggles to provide enough diapers to keep a baby or toddler clean, dry, and healthy? It’s true. Diapers are expensive and many families are forced to make tough choices between paying rent and utilities or buying diapers. Research shows that 48% of parents delay changing diapers and 32% report re-using diapers to make supplies last longer. The need has intensified during the pandemic, and especially with the baby formula shortage.
Those stats are challenging and affect families right here in our own West Michigan community.
Enter Gold Coast Doulas, located in our Eastown district. This fantastic, B-Corp status, women-owned, women-supporting, and award-winning (whew!) business is currently in the midst of its SEVENTH annual diaper drive. This drive is held each year and coincides with National Diaper Awareness Week (9/24-10/2), and the team sets an ambitious goal: To collect 10,000 or more donated diapers, for distribution to our area mothers and families in need. And here is where the collaboration part comes in!
The company has partnered with fifteen independent, area businesses, to accomplish this goal. And some of them are located right here in Uptown. These businesses have agreed to use their platforms and voices to support this effort and offer their own spaces as drop-off locations for donations. Those Uptown local businesses include:
And now for your part in this collective effort. Consider chipping in! There are a few ways to do that. The first would of course be to drop off your donation of diapers to either Gold Coast or to any of the participating businesses, between now and October 2nd.
Here are a few more suggested ways to contribute to the cause:
- Volunteer at a local diaper bank.
- Request proclamations from elected officials.
- Engage in Real Talk on social media via #EndDiaperNeed and #BasicsArentBasic
- Make a donation to the National Diaper Bank Network and/or a local diaper program.
You can find much more information about the need and the endeavor, from the National Diaper Bank Network here.
And check out Gold Coast Doula’s own blog entry regarding their drive, as well to find the full list of the participating local businesses and their addresses, for diaper drop off (those both in and surrounding Uptown).
One last thing. Throughout today’s article, we mentioned ‘volunteers’ a few (bazillion) times. Perhaps we mean YOU? Would you like to get involved? Meet the folks who make our districts move? Play a part in our community? Lend your talents in a way that offers real time results? It’s pretty gratifying, and we would love to have you. There’s a ton of ways to get involved, and everyone is welcome. To find out more about the volunteer opportunities to be found in our district and our neighborhoods, start by sending us a message. We’d be delighted to hear from you!