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11 Spartan nonprofits to support this giving season

By Chelsea Stein, Aaryn Richard
Monday, November 21, 2022

With the giving season officially underway, what better way to show your support than to make an impact for a fellow Spartan? Together, the Broad College of Business and the Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship & Innovation bring you their third annual holiday guide. This year’s guide features 11 Michigan nonprofit organizations founded or led by Michigan State University alumni — so you can Go Green and give back.

Help relieve hunger

Forgotten Harvest

Kirk Mayes headshot

Kirk Mayes (B.A. Communications ’99) is chief executive officer of Forgotten Harvest, a Michigan nonprofit.

Food brings us together and is the foundation of the holiday season for many people. You can support metro Detroit’s largest food rescue organization, Forgotten Harvest, which is dedicated to relieving hunger and preventing nutritious food waste. Led by Chief Executive Officer Kirk Mayes (B.A. Communications ’99), the organization rescued over 42 million pounds of food from 530 donor sites, including wholesale distributors, farmers, dairies, restaurants and 267 grocery stores, just last year.

The food brought in is then delivered at no charge to more than 200 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters and mobile pantries across metro Detroit. Forgotten Harvest recently opened a new facility in Oak Park, which will enable volunteers and staff to provide a more diverse and nutritional mix.

Be part of the solution and help feed hungry Detroiters.

Detroit Black Community Food Security Network

Take things a step further and help the food movement, improving food security and food justice in Michigan’s largest city. The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network is a trailblazing organizational leader in global environmental justice, food justice and food sovereignty movements. Its work comprises three major programs: Food Warriors Youth Development program, Food ‘N Flava Program and the Detroit People’s Food Co-op and D-Town Farm, which is the largest urban farm in the state of Michigan.

DBCFSN works to build self-reliance, food security and food justice and offers a video series covering topics like seed saving, harvesting and composting.

With shakara tyler (M.S. Community Agriculture ’13, Ph.D. Community Sustainability ’19) at the helm as its board president, DBCFSN works to build self-reliance, food security and justice in Detroit’s Black community by influencing public policy, engaging in urban agriculture, promoting healthy eating, encouraging cooperative buying and directing youth toward careers in food-related fields. DBCFSN’s vision is to advance the movement toward food sovereignty while advocating for justice in the food system that ensures access to healthy foods with dignity and respect for all of Detroit’s residents.

Support their mission, become a member and make a difference today.

Greater Lansing Food Bank

Michelle Lantz headshot

Michelle Lantz (B.A./M.A. Communications and Public Relations ’91) is chief executive officer of Greater Lansing Food Bank, a Michigan nonprofit.

Another option if you want to help Michiganders facing hunger is to give to Greater Lansing Food Bank, led by Chief Executive Officer Michelle Lantz (B.A./M.A. Communications and Public Relations ’91). GLFB — with the help of its robust network of more than 140 community partners — works to alleviate hunger one meal at a time, to create a future where everyone has access to nourishing food. They achieve this mission by providing a variety of foods through specialized services across the mid-Michigan counties of Clare, Clinton, Eaton, Gratiot, Ingham, Isabella and Shiawassee.

As the holiday season approaches, neighbors facing hunger know winter can bring more than just the cold. In mid-Michigan, one in eight individuals faces food insecurity, meaning they do not know when their next meal will come. Although this season is typically filled with joy, it can also be marked by the stress of additional expenses that make it harder for families to afford the nutritious meals they need.

Consider giving joy this season with a donation to GLFB. Help connect families with the food they need to take hunger off the table.

Comfort those in need

Slippers for Mom

Michelle Garr dropping off bags of slippers to a client services building through her Michigan nonprofit Slippers For Mom.

Michelle Garr (B.A. Supply Chain Management ’99) is the founder of Slippers for Mom, a Michigan nonprofit.

Maybe your favorite part of the holiday season involves a family tradition. That was the inspiration behind Slippers for Mom, a nonprofit founded in 2013 by Michelle Garr (B.A. Supply Chain Management ’99).

True to its name, Slippers for Mom honors the memory of Garr’s mom, Marianne Taylor, who passed away from ovarian cancer at the age of 56. Garr and her siblings had a tradition of giving their mom a new pair of slippers each Christmas morning. The first year after their mom passed away, Garr’s family struggled with not having anyone to buy a pair of slippers for and wanting to keep the tradition going. That’s when Garr created Slippers for Mom.

Since it began, Slippers for Mom has donated more than 4,100 cozy pairs to Michiganders in need across the state. In 2021 alone, 851 pairs of slippers were donated to 20 organizations in metro Detroit, Lansing and Grand Rapids.

Make someone’s winter morning a little cozier by supporting this family tradition and Garr’s mission to comfort those in need during the holiday season.

New Day Foundation for Families

New Day Foundation for Families nonprofit staff wear matching, branded polo shirts, pose behind a table with a New Day blue tablecloth.

Gina Kell Spehn (B.A. Advertising ’91; lower right) is president and co-founder of New Day Foundation for Families.

Perhaps you want to do something to make things easier for cancer patients and their families this holiday season. Consider donating to New Day Foundation for Families, run by Gina Kell Spehn (B.A. Advertising ’91), president and co-founder.

New Day is an accessible, trusted and reliable cancer support organization that provides Michigan families with the financial and emotional resources needed to improve quality of life and treatment outcomes. In partnership with nearly 70 hospitals across the state, New Day helps by paying patients’ critical living expenses directly to creditors and offering patients professional counseling and grocery support.

New Day’s Hope for the Holidays campaign softens the financial impact of a cancer diagnosis for moms, dads and kids, now and throughout the year. When you give, you can choose from a range of initiatives — from sending a care package or providing a holiday meal to helping with a household repair or winter heating bills — and gifts will be matched up to $10,000. Your support will have a lasting impact and bring hope to hurting people.

Create a better future

Detroit Heals Detroit

Members of Michigan nonprofit Detroit Heals Detroit wear matching tshirts stand on a sidewalk in front of a painted mural in Detroit.

Detroit Heals Detroit transforms pain into power for youth in Michigan’s largest city.

Spread cheer and purpose this year with a gift to Detroit Heals Detroit, co-founded by Sirrita Darby (B.A. Communications, Social Relations & Policy ’14, Ph.D. Educational Leadership and Policy ’21). This nonprofit exists to foster healing justice for Detroit youth in which they transform their pain into power.

With a goal to combat trauma, Detroit Heals Detroit uses healing-centered engagement to share its greatest vulnerabilities with the rest of the world while simultaneously working to dismantle oppressive systems for marginalized Detroit youth. The organization is currently building a youth-led hub that will provide culturally rooted, trauma-informed care and other services as a safe haven for children ages 12–21.

A single donation will be used to support scholars who are beginning their journeys toward healing. Your support will help host healing circles, create various therapy rooms for youth and run healing-centered events and one-on-one healing sessions. Detroit Heals Detroit is also excited to use the hub to heal the wider community by expanding its initiatives to include youth-led book clubs, workshops, community gardens and community cleanups.

Michigan Fitness Foundation

Amy Ghannam holding a pumpkin

Amy Ghannam (B.A. Advertising ’98) is the president and chief executive officer of Michigan Fitness Foundation.

Maybe you want to help people embrace an active and healthy lifestyle this year. Look no further than Michigan Fitness Foundation, led by President and Chief Executive Officer Amy Ghannam (B.A. Advertising ’98). Since 1994, MFF has worked to support and build collaborative partnerships to affect change in communities and improve conditions where people live, learn, work and play. Reaching over 5 million Michigan residents, MFF is a trusted partner with a presence in all 83 Michigan counties.

One of MFF’s healthy initiatives is increasing access to affordable, locally grown food for Michigan families. Every month, 43% of Michigan households struggle to afford basic necessities and make difficult choices between food, preventative health care, car insurance and utility bills.

To address this head on, MFF developed Michigan Farm to Family: CSA to increase purchasing power and access to fruits and vegetables for families facing food insecurity. This program works by creating a coalition of partners at the local level. Through the program, qualified families are able to purchase fresh, locally grown produce directly from local CSA farms at a 75% discounted price and the program pays the balance to the farmers.

Help your friends and neighbors put farm-fresh food on their tables this holiday season by supporting MFF’s health initiative.

Friends of Royal Oak Township

Brigitte Hall with MSU mascot Sparty insdie the Breslin Center for an event.

Brigitte Hall is the president and founder of Friends of Royal Oak Township.

Community is also a big part of the holidays as we seek out friends, family and supporters to enjoy the season with. This year, you can give back to community-based nonprofit Friends of Royal Oak Township Inc., founded and led by Spartan Brigitte Hall, FOROT’s president.

In 2010, FOROT emerged from historically Black Royal Oak Charter Township, which for more than 100 years has been a disenfranchised, underserved community. Among its population of about 2,500 people are a significant number of medically and health-challenged seniors. To address these challenges, FOROT focuses on four core pillars: cultural education, historical preservation, health and wellness promotion and urban agriculture.

FOROT’s efforts in the latter two pillars has forged a 10-year relationship with Michigan State University Extension and Charles Jackson, a community nutrition instructor with MSU Extension, which has extended the nonprofit’s reach throughout the metro Detroit area. Signifying the strength of this partnership and the impact FOROT has had, MSU honored them with a Key Partner Award in 2022.

As FOROT remains steadfast in its focus to engage communities and address identified needs of the underserved, your support for this emerging community organization will help increase their capacity.

Deepen your shade of green

Michigan Energy Options

Want to give in a way that’s eco-friendly and green? A donation to statewide nonprofit Michigan Energy Options might be the path for you. MEO, which began in 1978 as Urban Options, strives to catalyze Michigan communities to adopt more energy efficiency and renewable energy. Led by Executive Director John Kinch (B.A. English ’86, Ph.D. American Studies ’96), MEO is proving through its work, such as community solar, that people have the power to fight climate change and improve the quality of life where they live and work.

Based in East Lansing and populated with many MSU graduates and interns, MEO also has offices in Marquette and Grand Haven, advancing energy work across both our beloved peninsulas. Among its highlights over the years are winning the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council’s Energy Project of the Year in 2019 for its East Lansing Community Solar Park and earning LEED Platinum certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for its headquarters in 2012.

MEO's East Lansing Community Solar Park received the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council’s Energy Project of the Year award in 2019.

MEO works with state and local governments, utilities, businesses and communities, including some of those most challenged, to gain access to affordable, clean energy resources. They walk the walk for a clean energy future for Michigan. Come along with them!

Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities

People ride bicylces away from the camera, wearing matching tshirts about the Groundwork Center's mission.

Part of the Groundwork Center’s mission is to advance walkable, accessible, livable towns.

Speaking of doing your part for the planet, check out the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. Since 1995, this nonprofit has empowered people who want to be part of creating a better Michigan with innovative, locally based solutions that create a clean environment, strong economy and healthy community.

Under the leadership of Executive Director Hans Voss (B.S. Resource Development ’91), the organization’s work is focused on climate and clean energy, food and farming, transportation and resilient communities. Groundwork feels people need an eyes-wide-open awareness of how all of these things are intertwined in order for Michigan to achieve a sustainable economy and culture.

Groundwork identifies locally based solutions that create a clean environment, strong economy and healthy community.

Based in Traverse City — with a reach that extends throughout the state — Groundwork has secured local food into food pantries, mobilized to shut down Line 5, helped secure a Net Zero Carbon executive order from the governor, inspired a culinary medicine movement and much more.

Your support will help Groundwork create a better world, expanding the local food economy, speeding the clean energy transition, and advancing walkable, accessible, livable towns. Yes, environment, economy, and community can all rise together.

Spartan Spirit Shop

A student holds a tshirt and stands next to an apparel display of MSU-branded items.

At the Spartan Spirit Shop, the role its student team members play is celebrated.

Another way to Go Green is by exploring the goods sold at Michigan State University’s Spartan Spirit Shop, a nonprofit apparel and gift retail unit that caters to the mature, sporty and casual-upscale Spartan fan. Run by students and staff, most of whom are alumni, Spartan Spirit Shop provides the best MSU apparel, gifts and unique items you won’t find anywhere else in East Lansing.

At the Spartan Spirit Shop, the role its student team members play is celebrated. Proceeds of the retail operation go back into student programming and facilities that support student success. Their goal is to make the Spartan Spirit Shop the go-to MSU retailer for students, faculty, staff and the public.

These are just a small collection of nonprofits founded and led by talented MSU alumni. We hope this giving guide, along with our 2020 gift guide and 2021 gift guide, inspire you to seek out and support Spartans this holiday season!

If you are a Spartan entrepreneur, nonprofit leader or know someone who would be a fit for next year’s guide, drop us a line at

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