Donut Shop’s Closing in Heartside District Illustrates Need to ‘Work Collaboratively’

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Stuart Ray Propaganda Doughnuts Guiding Light Mission executive director Stuart Ray said the recent closing of a donut shop in the Heartside neighborhood punctuates the need for sustainable, collaborative solutions.The recent closing of a donut shop in the Heartside district of Grand Rapids illustrates the need to do less finger pointing and more implementing of achievable solutions, according to the head of an area nonprofit ministry.

"I don't know if we're doing anyone any favors by blaming anybody versus finding more common, more sustainable solutions," said Stuart Ray, executive director of Guiding Light Mission.

The Heartside District is bounded roughly by Fulton and Wealthy streets and Grandville and Lafayette avenues. Guiding Light is located in the core of Heartside at 255 S. Division where it provides homeless men with temporary shelter, substance abuse counseling, employment assistance and biblically based mentorship programs.

'Throwing rocks' no answer

Propaganda Doughnuts closed its doors in July. The building's landlord, Bob Dykstra, said the store at 111 S. Division Ave. closed because its customers were harassed by homeless people, approached by panhandlers and needed to walk past intoxicated people who passed out on the sidewalks and in doorways.

Ray said he believes what happened to Propaganda Doughnuts is a recent example of why businesses need to work in tandem with human service agencies.

"I would think the business community would have some interest in engaging social service agencies in finding a solution," said Ray. "I'm not sure we're getting anywhere throwing rocks at each other."

Sustainable answers needed

Ray said the shop's closing — which was a block and half away from Guiding Light — reinforces the need to help the chronically unemployed and homeless population secure sustainable employment and affordable housing.

This means tapping into, and helping them discover, God's plan for them, according to Ray.

Talents don't include doorways

"I tend to fall on the side that God gave you gifts and talents and they weren't sitting in doorways," said Ray. "The other agencies may see it differently than we do. We've been in the reconstruction business for long time.

"I do believe God made us to work. I'm not big fan of enabling rather empowering. But we're still struggling to find economically sustainable employment for folks. We are (Guiding Light) beginning to bring on a housing resource specialist who will work on the other side of equation, which is housing. We have four transitional housing units in Kentwood, which allows people to live with dignity and pay affordable rent based on their incomes. We think that's part of the solution. But we can't do one without the other."

Ray said the problems cited by Propaganda Doughnuts are not new, rather punctuate an ongoing tension between the business community in the Heartside district and the homeless population. He does not excuse homeless people's off-putting behavior.

"I would not condone that kind of behavior," said Ray. "We at Guiding Light work to minimize that kind of behavior. There are numerous examples of the agencies attempting to set firm boundaries with their clientele and they have had fair success in doing that."

Collaboratively work is needed

Ray said he does not believe a business mulling the idea of locating in the Heartside district should shy from the idea if they work collaboratively with others.

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"I'd like to think if I was approached, offered a hand of friendship and collaboration, it would make that business as successful as possible," said Ray. "I think as a resident of Grand Rapids, we have to find a way to grow our business community. The reality is Propaganda was creating jobs, and we can use jobs, we can use the tax base. So I think we all have a responsibility to be part of the solution."

But working toward solutions requires steadfastness.

"As long as we can't seem to get ahead of the housing crisis and can't seem to create economically sustainable employment, I'm afraid this is not helping the situation (lack of housing and sustainable employment)," said Ray. "To just blame each other is not going to help. All people do is dig in and start throwing rocks. We need to keep trying to come up with creative alternatives."


Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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