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10.17.19 – Club News

Club News written by Thomas Mathison

The Rotary Club of Downtown Grand Rapids gathered at noon at the University Club for its regular meeting. President-Elect Jon Hankins called this meeting to order at noon by welcoming everyone and announcing the line-up of events and future speakers for the Club:

  • Oct. 24:                Michelle Van Dyke – President & CEO, Heart of West Michigan @ U-Club
  • Oct  31:                Chief Eric Payne and Deputy Chief Scott Rifenberg, GRPS @ U- Club
  • Nov.  7:                Club 77, hosted by Eunice Lopez-Martin @ Choice One Bank from 5:00 – 6:30 pm – RSVP by October 31.

Jon called upon Tom Mathison to lead us in song today, “Stars and Stripes Forever”, followed by today’s invocation by Gerilyn May.

Following lunch, Jon reminded everyone that candy donations for the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum could be made after the meeting by checking in with Maggie Lancaster.  Jon then invited Leena Mammen to introduce guests and visiting Rotarians. Jon then invited Community Engagement Committee member, Kevin Paul, to give an update on the Feeding America event on October 21.  He happily reported that all the spots are filled and everything is a go!

Doris Drain updated the Club on the Service Above Self Dinner Committee, and she said that nominations will be extended to consider additional nominees.  Tom Mathison, Vice President of the Grand Rapids Rotary Charities Foundation then reminded the Club that each Rotarian is expected to donate $100 each year to the Club’s Charities Foundation, in addition to $100 donated to the Rotary International Foundation (total of $200 each year).  The donation makes it possible for the Foundation to fund amazing Club functions, scholarships, and grants for special projects.  He encouraged everyone to check in with Dawn Smith, if they are unsure if they have made the donation this year or not.

Arlen Dean-Gaddy came to the podium to introduce our speaker today, Kent County Sheriff Michelle LaJoye-Young.  Michelle was appointed as Sheriff about a year ago, and she has been in the process of conducting a strategic planning process for the Sheriff’s Department, and the process is nearing an end.  She gave us a great background of the Department:

  • Established in 1836
  • One of about 100 Sheriff’s Offices in the U.S. to be considered a “Major County”.
  • 653,000 citizens are served, over 872 square miles
  • Over 650 full-time employees
  • Over 1 million miles patrolled in 2018
  • Dispatch Center processed over 485,000 calls in 2018.

A county sheriff is mandated for each Michigan county by the State of Michigan Constitution, whereas a police chief is not mandated for each community.  The Sheriff’s Department is delegated some specific duties, such as recovering drowned bodies.

The Enforcement Division includes specialty units such as TAC Team, Dive Team, K9 Unit, and Park Police.  It is the primary law enforcement agency for all townships in the county.  It includes 40 detectives, divided into 8 units.  It also includes two auxiliary units:  mounted police and traffic squad.  The Traffic Squad is the oldest volunteer reserve police unit in the country.  There are currently over 700 volunteers who go through a 13-week academy to be eligible to serve.

The Corrections Division includes the Kent County Jail.  The current jail has 1,477 beds in 15 housing units for minimum, medium, and maximum security inmates.  The Kent County Correctional Facility is the largest mental health facility in the county!

Support Services manages nearly 700 volunteers, including Victim Advocates, Trail Patrol, Handicap Parking Enforcement, and Vacation House checks.  The Emergency Communications Center has 62 employees.

Sheriff LaJoye-Young presented the Departments goals in four areas:

Public Safety:

  • Reduce response time to emergency calls for service
  • Strengthen police presence and visibility with the community
  • Ensure countywide readiness for critical incidents

Community Engagement:

  • Enhance community engagement and ensure accessibility to all services
  • Optimize communication on social media to increase transparency and improve emergency preparedness
  • Leverage strategic partnerships
  • Enhance inmate programming
  • Optimize recruiting programs to promote diversity

Effective and Efficient Services

  • Define operational equipment replacement plan
  • Data-driven strategies and decision-making
  • Increase efficiency of the communication center

Resource/Infrastructure Sustainability

  • Professional development of staff
  • Develop master plan for expansion and renovations of facilities
  • Maximize safety, security, and efficiency at all facilities

Sheriff LaJoye-Young concluded her remarks with warm applause from the Rotary audience and received a number of questions.  Jon presented Michelle with a certificate marking a new water filter for a family in Nicaragua in honor of her time with us today.

Jon reiterated the upcoming Rotary events and then rang the Rotary bell to adjourn the meeting.

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