Article Written By:  Monica Kreiger| Marketing Team Leader | Mercantile Bank of Michigan

Children who can’t read will someday be adults who can’t read.

Childhood illiteracy is something we don’t often think about but it’s a real problem right here in our own city. Heart of West Michigan United Way’s Schools of Hope works to combat the problem of illiteracy in our schools with their In School Tutoring program and Mercantile employees are once again stepping up to the plate as mentors.

It’s definitely a cause that our mentors are committed to. They work consistently for the entire school year with the same child in grades 1st through 3rd at Harrison Park Elementary in Grand Rapids. Mentors spend 30 minutes each week working with their student on improving their reading skills and encouraging them in their studies.

As a past mentor, I was shocked to learn that the only book in some of the student’s homes was a phone book. Myself a mother of a young child (who was only 3 at the time and not yet able to read) I thought about the rows of books that lined her bookshelf. At that moment I realized how important the gift of reading is in the life of a child.

Another way Mercantile employees support the Schools of Hope program is by donating school supplies at the beginning of the school year to the Schools of Hope Stuff the Bus program. Over 70% of children in the Grand Rapids, Godfrey-Lee, Godwin and Cedar Springs school districts qualify for free or reduced lunch, meaning their parents often can’t provide the school supplies they need to succeed. Children look forward to the start of the school year and arriving with new supplies, but many families in our area can’t afford even the basic notebooks and pencils. That’s where we come in, by donating pencils, notebooks, glue and crayons. It seems simple to most people, but it really does help to provide these children with a fresh start for the school year.

In the words of a child involved with Schools of Hope:

“I never used to read books. I didn’t even like reading, but now I enjoy reading. I feel good about myself because I learned how to read better all because of you. It is fun reading with a mentor because they help you solve stuff. Thank you for teaching me how to read better.”

 For more information on how you can become a Schools of Hope Mentor, visit their website.

Article Written By:  Justin Karl | Commercial Loan Officer | Mercantile Bank of Michigan

Many people know that Mercantile Bank strives to be a leader in the community, and the Bank and its employees contribute to many worthy causes throughout metro Grand Rapids, Holland and Lansing.  Mercantile has a long history of community involvement, and it is imperative to the Bank’s success.  “We want to be a part of the fabric of the very community we serve. What that means is being a great community partner,” Mercantile’s President Bob Kaminski recently said.

With as many great things that are happening in West and Central Michigan, sometimes, Mercantile’s customers’ community involvement can be overlooked.  Recently, the Bank became a sponsor of a new initiative called CompassionIT formed by long time Bank customer, Trivalent Group, Inc.

Trivalent is an IT company that assists local businesses with data and network issues.  Besides providing data hosting, cloud networks, hardware sales and installation, the Company also provides Professional IT Services to customers.  Trivalent helps design, plan and implement the IT component of a small or mid-sized business in order to assure optimization and best practices.  Trivalent has been so successful, that in both 2011 and 2012 the company was named one of the Top 100 Managed Service Providers in the World by MSPmentor.  (www.mspmentor.net)

In addition to providing world class products and services to their customers, Trivalent is very community focused, and its corporate values are closely aligned with Mercantile Bank’s.  In talking with Larry Andrus, CEO of Trivalent, his passion for supporting local communities and nonprofits is evident.   “At Trivalent we have developed a culture and collective conscience of supporting each other and those that are providing support to others that need positive assistance the most,” Larry said when asked about Trivalent’s philosophy.

With the rate of change in the technology industry and the funding issues many non-profit companies are currently experiencing, Trivalent has seen the need for updated technology and IT Services for many charitable organizations expand in the recent years.  These products and services could be critical to the missions of these entities.  That is why Trivalent has formed CompassionIT, an initiative to provide at least $30,000 worth of technology services to deserving local nonprofits.  Four other finalists will each receive the support of Trivalent staff in analyzing their technology systems, and creating technology roadmaps to guide future efforts (a $4,000 value, each).

“We realize that technology keeps many nonprofits from reaching their full potential.  With CompassionIT, we’re seeking to remove the technology barrier so that nonprofits can be all that they can be,” said Mr. Andrus.

The winner of CompassionIT will be determined by a combination of public vote and a selection committee.   The best part is that nominations are open to any qualifying nonprofit, and can be made by anyone via the website www.TGcompassionIT.com.  The nomination period runs from October 1 to October 31, and the Selection Committee will narrow the nominations to the Top 20 by November 12.  Public voting on the website to determine the Top 5 will run from November 15 through November 30.

The final selection from the Top 5 will be done by a 6 member panel, each getting 1 vote, and a second public vote which will cast the seventh vote.  The second public vote will begin on December 10 and run through December 21.  The Final Award will be announced on January 10, 2013.

This initiative that Trivalent has come up with is another example of one of the many great things happening in our community, and the Bank is very honored to be a part of it.  Please consider making any nominations for nonprofits that are close to your heart, and please consider voting to help determine the winner!

Visit www.TGcompassionIT.com for more information.