Creating Connections & Community: You Belong Here!

Nearly 11,000 people call upon the Chamber each year to get connected, reach decision-makers, and grow successful businesses and careers right here in the greater Grand Rapids area. Why not you?

You Belong Here!

No matter who you are or where you are, having a sense of belonging and being part of a larger community is essential. Famed psychologist Abraham Maslow even cites it in his hierarchy of basic human needs, and studies over the decades have reinforced belonging as a key to happier, healthier people and stronger, more supportive societies.

“A sense of belonging helps to create a thriving community. People who feel like they
belong work very hard to make Grand Rapids a great place to live and work,” said Mike
Kerkorian, vice president of Resource Development at Heart of West Michigan United Way.

Today more than ever, we live in a fast-paced world with an always-on mentality driven by a stream of information and social media. Swimming in our busyness, it’s easy for the human psyche to start creating a sense of separation or “otherness” for us. That’s why returning to meaningful relationships and generating new networks of people and places is crucial for our well-being and productivity.

“We do have people who feel excluded and the community needs to continue to work on being inclusive,” Kerkorian added. “It’s been exciting to see Grand Rapids start to have those conversations and step in the right direction. There are so many opportunities for gathering and sharing in common experiences.”

Here are a few stories from those who have found their unique path to belonging through the Chamber—and benefited from the supportive connections, thoughtful conversations, and new (or renewed) inspiration they were looking for.

I Found a Unique Space to Build Relationships

“The Chamber has been a wonderful conduit for many initiatives in Grand Rapids including Black Women Connect. The group has been a great way to connect with women both professionally and personally.” — Angela Nelson, Amway

I Discovered My Inner Leader

“The Chamber introduced me to so many wonderful people through their leadership development programs. I was able to find out about different organizations that I had no idea were in the community. Got plugged into a lot of different volunteer opportunities and now I’m actually sitting on boards for both Saint Mary’s Foundation and Habitat for Humanity of Kent County. I would never have been connected to those organizations without my experience going through the Chambers leadership development programs.” — Lizzie Williams, Open Systems Technologies (OST)

I Can Make a Difference

“The Chamber has helped me as a young professional build my network in Grand Rapids. One way that they did that was through the Emerging Leaders Series that I did last year. I really benefitted from this program by meeting other young professionals like myself that were looking to expand and do greater things in Grand Rapids.” — Shauna VanderStel, Northwood University

My Community is Diverse

“When I saw that the Chamber of Commerce was doing this (OutPro), that in itself was huge because it wasn’t like just a couple of people got together at a bar and decided to create a networking opportunity – because there are lots of those. This was the city of Grand Rapids saying this is important to us and that people like me matter.” — Mira Krishnan, PhD, OutPro council member, formerly of Hope Network

My Connections are Stronger

“I enjoy Politics & Pints because it gives me a great way to connect with people that I wouldn’t normally spend time with or meet up in my social circles or in the community that I work. It’s a great way to build relationships and to even grow and find other people that share an interest in similar things I do—and maybe get introduced to new ideas.” — Emily Post Brieve, Kent County Commissioner, 10th District

I Found a Welcoming Home

“I moved back to Grand Rapids about five years ago after living on the east coast for almost 15 years. It was a very different Grand Rapids when I returned, but I quickly got connected with both the Chamber and another professional organization. Both groups welcomed me and I quickly felt like a part of the community again. I encourage anyone who wants to make Grand Rapids their home and feel connected to attend community events, volunteer, find a mentor, or join a group.” — Mike Kerkorian, Heart of West Michigan United Way

The Grand Rapids Area Chamber nurtures a vibrant community that promotes inclusion, innovation, and growth…and most importantly, provides a place where Grand Rapids business leaders and professionals feel like they belong.

Make the Chamber a part of your success story too. Contact us for community and talent engagement ideas and leadership development assistance.

A version of this feature article first appeared in the May 2016 edition of The Chamber News, written by AliciaMarie Belchak, Senior Communications Specialist at the Grand Rapids Area Chamber of Commerce. Visit to find more thought leadership like this.