Pete Brand
Grand Rapids, MI

I am married to an incredible woman named Amanda and have five amazing children. I would consider myself an entrepreneur and absolutely love the challenge of building businesses. I also love the journey of personal development. I don't believe in drifting through life on auto-pilot. I believe we are presented each day with opportunities to improve and become better. I choose to embrace these opportunities and use the lessons I learn to become a better "me" and continuously strive to embrace each moment!

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Thoughts on Heart of West Michigan United Way

By on September 10, 2010

I’ve lived in Grand Rapids my entire life and have grown to love the city and the people who call it home.  I’ve done a considerable amount of traveling and although I have some areas of the country that have caught my attention, none of those places seem to have what Grand Rapids has.

I love the entrepreneurial spirit that exists in Grand Rapids.  Although I know the economy will ebb and flow, I believe the strength and creativity that exists among my fellow Grand Rapidians will always keep us on top and on the path to becoming a better, stronger City as the years go on.

The philanthropic nature of our community is also something that amazes me!  I’ve heard from many people that Grand Rapids is among the top two cities in America when it comes to philanthropy.  I have watched this philanthropy continue to grow our City through public-private partnerships over the years and more importantly I’ve enjoyed watching the incredible personality and creativity of the residents move Grand Rapids closer and closer to a destination city.

I must admit, although I’ve spent the majority of my time, over the past 20 years, focusing on building my own business.  I’ve felt kinda bad (perhaps my Catholic guilt) not getting involved as the City evolved.  I also realized that although our City has come a long way, there are still many improvements that can be made and many people who could use our assistance.  Heck, if you take education alone and see that the graduation rate among the Grand Rapids Public Schools is approximately 52% and South Africa’s graduation rate is 40% … It’s kinda disturbing that we are that close to a third world country!

When George Aquino asked me to be a part of the Heart of West Michigan United Way Campaign, I felt as though this was my opportunity to finally get “off the bench” and do something that could make a difference.  Since Grand Rapids is such a philanthropic place there is no shortage of opportunities to get involved.  The thing that was most attractive to me was they are affiliated with over 50 organizations that are focused on strengthening the community and providing for those who are in need.

I am not just imagining how important the United Way is for the community, I have personal experience.

When I was in my early 20’s I was one of those in need, and the United Way was there for me.  I remember as if it was yesterday when I was working a third shift job just so I could elevate my pay from $5 to $6 an hour so I could support my new wife and my brand new baby boy.  I had a extremely difficult time handling the responsibility of trying to keep our heads above water.  There was a time where my situation seemed very bleak and I needed to talk with someone.  I called the United Way’s 211 phone number and there was someone on the other line who cared enough to listen.  That conversation helped me incredibly and I believe helped turn me in the right direction.

I am not sharing that part of my life to be melodramatic, I just feel as though this opportunity to get involved presented itself for a reason.  I didn’t even realize the 211 service was a part of the United Way’s offering until after I told George that I was in.

I know there are many people out there who are in a similar position as I was in back then who could definitely use that same support … and it might just be the support that helps turn things in a positive direction for them.

I love Grand Rapids as I know a large majority of the residents here in this City do.  I am here for the long haul and I believe it is my responsibility to do my part to contribute to the well being of Grand Rapids and every person who calls it home.  I personally believe the Heart of West Michigan United Way is the perfect organization for me to get behind.  It may not be the right one for you, but that’s ok.

I encourage you to “get off the bench” and make whatever contribution you are comfortable with. Just make sure you invest yourself in what you believe in and don’t find yourself in a position where you wished you did, but the timing was never right.  Thank you for taking the time to check this post out.  🙂