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Community Foundation Launches Virtual Series Focused on Diversity, Equality, and Mental Health

Michigan Business Network
September 28, 2020 9:00 AM

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Community Foundation Launches Virtual Series Focused on Diversity, Equality, and Mental Health

September 2020 - Grand Rapids, Michigan –  Cascade Community Foundation (CCF) will premiere a new live stream episode in partnership with the Kent District Library focused on the benefits of diversity in children’s literature, on Monday, October 5th at 10:00 a.m..

 The partnership stems from Race in the Suburbs, the first episode in the foundation’s new Community Q&A Series, which premiered in August and addressed the question of what it’s like to be a person of color in the predominantly white community of Ada, Cascade, and Forest Hills. The upcoming episode will share resources and explore the benefits of exposing children to multicultural characters through literature at an early age. Parents and caregivers who are interested in the topic will be provided specific resources and helpful guidance for introducing diversity using literature. More information can be found at www.cascadecommunityfoundation.com. 

“Requests for children’s resources around diversity have been overwhelming since we aired Race In The Suburbs last month,” said Justin Swan, Chief Executive Officer at Cascade Community Foundation. “Our goal is to offer resources beyond the rhetoric and these community partnerships allow us to deliver useful, tangible deliverables that help parents who want to introduce multiculturalism and ethnicity at an early age.” 

During the livestream, CCF will be joined by Leigh Verburg, a librarian at KDL. The two will explore helpful books and outline the benefits diverse literary characters and illustrations can instill in children, especially in largely homogenous suburban areas where exposure to diversity is limited. 

“Many children in Ada, Forest Hills, and Cascade are not often exposed to other cultures or backgrounds,” said Verburg. “Most of their peers, their teachers, and neighbors are white, which is why this resource can be so valuable to parents and caretakers who want to introduce other cultures at a young age.” 

In late August, CCF launched Community Q&A, a virtual discussion that premiered with the topic “Race in the Suburbs”, intended to spark dialogue about how people of color were experiencing life in the suburbs around Grand Rapids.  Residents in Ada, Cascade and Forest Hills – the region served by Cascade Community Foundation - were encouraged to submit their questions about race and ethnicity through an anonymous portal that removed inhibition and offered a safe space, free of judgement.  The questions were relayed to a diverse panel of peers including residents and business owners from within the community. The goal was to hear from people of color living in these communities and get their perspective and experiences first-hand, while also answering what some might consider "hard" questions that serve as a barrier for progress and deeper dialogue. 

“Community Q&A is a first-of-its-kind resource for our community and was created for the purpose of examining often unspoken topics regardless of difficulty or uncomfortably,” said Swan. “Multicultural diversity, especially in affluent and wealthy areas like ours, was a perfect kickstarter to educate families curious of how people of color are experiencing this community, and now, showing interest in enriching the next generation for the obvious purpose of making changes that benefit all who live here.”  

CCF will also premiere a third episode in partnership with the Grand Rapids Children Museum this November which will focus on the importance of diversity in storytelling and play.  Then, later this year, the foundation will finalize its exploration of Race In The Suburbs with a sobering examination on the impact race and ethnicity can play on our mental health across the community. 

To register for upcoming episodes, please visit www.cascadecommunityfoundation.com. 

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About Cascade Community Foundation
|The Cascade Community Foundation was founded in 2001 to build and strengthen Ada, Cascade, and the greater Forest Hills area both now and in the future. Through charitable partnerships with area organizations and philanthropic families, the foundation provides resources and permanent fund building for the purpose of uplifting the community. Guided by community input, CCF and its partners provide resources that shape long term responses and solutions.

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