Past Event

Renewing the Civic Covenant

Strengthening Our Community

6:30 - 8:00 PM EST

Renewing the Civic Covenant
Strengthening Our Community

In cities and towns across America, the Center for American Progress is engaging the public in conversations on religion and policy, giving voice to those whose concerns and hopes have been lost in highly polarized debates. Our series of national conversations began in Denver last spring and continued in Kansas City and San Francisco during the summer and fall.

In Grand Rapids, our conversation will focus on economic and job issues. Given the significant loss of manufacturing jobs in the Grand Rapids area, we will talk about the effects of economic stress on individuals, their families and the community–and what needs to be done to help the economy recover. What are the roles and responsibilities of individuals, civic groups, churches, employers, educators and government? What are our obligations to each other?

Please join our panel of community leaders and add your voice to a thoughtful, lively conversation.


•  Introduction
•  Panel

Note: All video provided in  QuickTime (MPEG-4)  format.

Full event transcript (PDF)

Grand Rapids-Area Social Service Organizations

Thursday, November 3, 2005
Program: 6:30 – 8:00 PM
Doors open at 5:45 PM
Light refreshments will be served.
There is no cost for this event

Grand Valley State University
Eberhard Center, Room 215
301 West Fulton St.
Grand Rapids, MI
Conference Parking lot on Fulton
Map & Directions

Please direct any media inquiries to:
Daniella Gibbs Léger
(202) 682-1611
[email protected]


Beverly A. Drake, Executive Director, Area Community Services Employment and Training (ACSET Council)
Lisa H. Mitchell, Leadership Team/Director, Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism (GRACE), Call to Renewal
Jose Reyna, Assistant to the City Manager
Norman Christopher, member, West Michigan Strategic Alliance, and Director of Sustainability, Grand Valley State University
Moderated by:
Marco A. Grimaldo,  Director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative, Center for American Progress
Opening Remarks by:
Mayor George Heartwell, Grand Rapids, MI

Beverly A. Drake is the Executive Director of Area Community Services Employment and Training (ACSET Council), located in Grand Rapids. She has been with ACSET since 1985. As Executive Director, she heads a successful multi-million dollar human service agency governed by an eight-member Board, where she supervises approximately 70 staff persons working out of five facilities. Ms. Drake’s interests include community activism to achieve social and economic parity, church work, reading, and grand-mothering.  She is currently serving the Grand Rapids community as follows: the Coalition for Representative Government (CRG), Grand Rapids Branch of the NAACP, Grand Valley Metropolitan Council; Michigan Works! Director’s Council, Kent County Emergency Needs Task Force, Grand Rapids Community College Foundation Board, Grand Rapids Foundation Board, Kent County Family and Children Coordinating Council, Community Rebuilders Board, Aquinas College Community Leadership Institute Advisory Committee, and member of Saint Luke African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church. Ms. Drake is the recipient of the YWCA Tribute Award, the Grand Rapids Community College Alumni Award, the Giants Award, and the Giant of Giants Community Award. There are two things Ms. Drake is most proud of: her family and ACSET.  She has three adult daughters, one granddaughter and three grandsons. Her motto is: ”Never forget your beginnings, and look back as a reference point for where you are going.”

Mayor George K. Heartwell took office as mayor of Grand Rapids on January 1, 2004. He is also Director of the Community Leadership Institute at Aquinas College, where he teaches in the Community Leadership undergraduate major. From 1992-2000, Mr. Heartwell served as a Third Ward Commissioner. The Third Ward has a population of approximately 68,000 people and is the most racially and economically diverse of the city’s three wards. As a Commissioner, Mr. Heartwell championed civil rights and economic empowerment legislation and was seen as a friend of business and the poor, operating on the philosophy that an economically vibrant city has a better opportunity to address the needs of the poor than does an economically distressed city. Mr. Heartwell is an ordained minister in the United Church of Christ and a graduate of Western Theological Seminary, with a Masters of Divinity degree. For 14 years, he served as Pastor at Heartside Ministry, a program serving the homeless community of Grand Rapids. While employed at Heartside, Mr. Heartwell established a medical clinic, clothing and furniture center, residential recuperative care center, employment and job training program, general educational and computer training programs and a worship center. He was known as an innovator who could bring creativity and resources together to meet human need. Prior to this, he spent 15 years in mortgage banking with his family’s firm, Heartwell Mortgage Corporation. The last two years of his tenure at Heartwell Mortgage he served as its President. Mr. Heartwell is married to Susan who is the Executive Director of the Pilgrim Manor. The Heartwells have three children and six grandchildren.

Lisa H. Mitchell has been on staff for the Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism (GRACE) since 1994. She served as Program Director and since 2001 as a Director/Member of the Leadership Team. Prior to 1994, she taught elementary school for sixteen years at Assumption Blessed Virgin Mary School in Belmont, Michigan. She is married to John C. Mitchell and is a member of the Catholic Information Center worshiping community in downtown Grand Rapids. Lisa is a graduate of Aquinas College with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She also took graduate courses at Michigan State University to obtain a Michigan Elementary Continuing Certificate. Current community involvement includes serving on the West Michigan HIV/AIDS Consortium, the steering committee for the Creative Response to Conflict Inc. Michigan branch, Eucharistic Minister and lector for the Catholic Information Center and Board member (Treasurer) of the National Association of Ecumenical and Interreligious Staff. Lisa spent many years as a GRACE volunteer, primarily with the Hunger Walk and Shelter Education Committees. “The exciting and most significant part of GRACE for me is that it enables people from all Christian denominations to come together to discuss and act on issues of faith, justice and concern for our larger community, and through that process understand the unity that we share. I believe that it’s through the power of our unity that we are able to accomplish what God calls us to do. I hope to challenge and empower people to dialogue and respond through a variety of GRACE programs, and through all of that, create a community of compassion and justice.”

José L. R. Reyna currently serves as the assistant to the city manager for the city of Grand Rapids, Michigan, where he manages numerous projects and initiatives on behalf of the city, including assessing the city’s fiscal plan, developing and administrating the Executive Office’s budget, and coordinating the Community-Oriented Government Initiative. Mr. Reyna previously served as the special events coordinator for the city of Grand Rapids, the human relations and equal employment opportunity director for the city of Holland, Michigan, a deputy and senior corrections officer in Hudsonville, Michigan and the social services coordinator and migrant day care director for Ottawa County Child Development Services in Holland, Michigan. Mr. Reyna is involved extensively in the community. He currently serves as a board member of the Dyer Ives Foundation Board Member, the Fulton Heights Neighborhood Association and is president of Arts Council of Greater Grand Rapids, director of Grand Rapids Hispanic Leadership Program, chairperson of the Michigan Commission on Spanish Speaking Affairs and is on the campaign cabinet of the United Way of West Michigan, among many other volunteer positions. Mr. Reyna has a B.A. in sociology from Grand Valley State University and is completing his masters in public administration from Western Michigan University.

Norman Christopher is Director of Sustainability at Grand Valley State University.  He recently joined the university after serving in the business community for over 25 years in a variety of senior management positions including President and CEO.  He has a BA from the University of North Carolina, an MBA from the University of North Carolina, and has attended the Program for Management Development at Harvard.  Mr. Christopher is active in the Grand Rapids community, serving on several of the Mayor’s advisory councils, boards of local businesses and NPO’s, and the Sustainability Initiative for the City of Grand Rapids, Michigan

West Michigan Strategic Alliance was created in 2000 by business and community leaders from Holland, Grand Rapids and Muskegon–the West Michigan Metro Tri-Plex–in order to create a shared vision for the region for the next 25 years. The vision of the Alliance is for West Michigan to be the best place to live, work and play in the Midwest. Its mission is to be a catalyst for regional collaboration. The Alliance believes that West Michigan’s success will come from regional decisions that balance economic prosperity, environmental integrity and social justice. Currently, the Alliance is focusing on six priorities for regional collaboration: regional mindset, prosperous economy, community through diversity, sustainable environment, urban centers and tri-plex growth. One of the Alliance’s first projects was an 18-month study that culminated in a sourcebook, The Common Framework.” The sourcebook was the result of two years of data gathering, analysis and strategic planning that involved 250 participants who studied 10 factors critical to the region: environment, economy, education and research, health and human services, tourism, arts and culture, land use, infrastructure, transportation/logistics and governance.

Marco A. Grimaldo is the Director of the Faith and Progressive Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress. Integrating faith and public policy, Mr. Grimaldo has worked on national advocacy and education campaigns related to international development assistance, HIV/AIDS and debt relief, as well as a range of domestic hunger and poverty concerns. He has also served as the Organizer for the Alliance to End Hunger, founded by Bread for the World Institute.
Through-out his career, Mr. Grimaldo has worked with churches and charitable organizations with the goal of increasing the access of everyday people to national decision-makers. A noted public speaker and preacher, he received a bachelor’s degree from Southwest Texas State University in San Marcos, Texas, and attended the Graduate Public Policy Program of Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.