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Community updates: Thursday, April 8

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks hosting citywide park cleanups; Grand Rapids Public Library launches home delivery, hold locker services; Kent County opening rapid COVID-19 testing sites this weekend amid spring break travel returns; and more.
Welcome sign at Riverside Park in Grand Rapids.

Welcome sign at Riverside Park in Grand Rapids. /John Rothwell

Friends of Grand Rapids Parks hosting citywide park cleanups

Grand Rapidians have an opportunity to clean up and beautify their city parks together this month, with a community-wide clean-up initiative happening a few days before Earth Day 2021.

Called It’s My Park Days, the two-day clean-up and beautification effort takes place April 16 and 17 from 10am-1pm. The community is invited to take part by host Friends of Grand Rapids Parks (FGRP), which is partnering with the city’s Parks and Recreation department to make it happen.

Over 30 parks are currently slated to be involved, with park ambassadors leading volunteers in activities such as picking up trash, spreading mulch, and preparing flower beds for summer.

"Our parks have seen record numbers of users this past year and this, but volunteer projects like It’s My Park Days bring neighbors together in celebration of these special, shared spaces,” said Stephanie Adams, FGRP’s Executive Director.

Interested volunteers are encouraged by FGRP to register for the event on its website, although it is not required. The nonprofit is also asking volunteers to follow physical distancing guidelines and wear face coverings while participating.

Participating parks are: Ah-Nab-Awen Park; Aman Park; Ball Perkins Park; Belknap Park; Briggs Park; Calder Plaza; Campau Park; Canal Park; Cherry Park; Clemente Park; Coit Park; Dickinson Park; Fish Ladder Park; Fuller Park; Garfield Park; Hastings Linear; Highland Park; Huff Park; Joe Taylor Park; Lookout Park; MacKay-Jaycee Park; Mary Waters Park; MLK Park; Monument Park; Mulick Park; Plaster Creek; Raspberry Field; Reservoir Park; Riverside Park; Veterans Park; and Wilcox Park.

For any parks not listed, FGRP “encourages people to grab a bag from home, jump in, and help with trash pickup at a park near them on these days or any other day of the year,” it said in a Wednesday statement.

More details about It’s My Park Days are available on FGRP’s website.


Grand Rapids Public Library launches home delivery, hold locker services

The Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) now has more options for patrons seeking library materials.

Joining its fold is a home delivery service, as well as Hold Lockers with 24/7 access for patrons to pick up their holds, the GRPL announced.

For patrons interested in home deliveries of library materials, the GRPL Delivered service works by GRPL staff selecting an assortment of books or movies based on the patron’s interests, and mailing three to five items to their home. When a patron is done with the materials, they can return them to any GRPL branch or by USPS. Items checked out through that service circulate for five weeks and can be renewed.

For the GRPL’s 24/7 Hold Lockers, the lockers exist at its Ottawa Hills Branch and are available to all GRPL card holders. The lockers are a self-service system and enable patrons to pick up their requested materials through contact-free methods. Patrons can scan their library cards and a locker opens with their materials in it.

The GRPL’s new services are part of its broader GRPL to Go service, operating since June 2020, which has offered patrons curbside pickup, contactless printing, and other contactless services during the pandemic.

The library’s eight branches reopened in February for in-person services after being closed since Nov. 2020. Their services and hours are still limited, with more information available on its website. More details about the library’s new pandemic-minded services are also on its website.


City of Grand Rapids launches second year of summer youth jobs program

The City of Grand Rapids is bringing back its GRow1000 youth employment program this summer, after its first run last year.

Partnering with over forty local businesses and organizations, the city aims to employ 650 Grand Rapidians ages 15 to 24 through the program. It runs six weeks from June 14 through July 23, offering young residents 120-hour work experiences.

Businesses offering jobs through the program include Celebration Cinema, the Grand Rapids Chamber of Commerce, and Spectrum Health, among the many others.

Participating youth will work 20 hours each week, earning $10 an hour for those under 18 and $13 an hour for those 18 and older, according to the city’s GRow1000 website.

We appreciate the community’s support in making this program possible,” City Manager Mark Washington said. “Providing meaningful work is important in helping our youth stay productive and build skills during the summer.”

There are more than 9,000 youth in Grand Rapids between the ages of 15 and 21,” he added. “Nearly three quarters – 73 percent – are under the age of 18 and are persons of color. Investing in GRow1000 means investing in our community’s future.”

Last year, the city aimed to provide 1,000 summer jobs for young people through the program. Ultimately, it provided over 350 youth being employed, according to the City of Grand Rapids.

Local youth may apply online for summer jobs through GRow1000 through its website. A full list of businesses and organizations participating in the program is available in a City of Grand Rapids statement.


Kent County opening rapid COVID-19 testing sites this weekend amid spring break travel returns

New rapid COVID-19 testing sites are opening throughout Kent County from Friday through Sunday, amid the return from spring break travels for many local students and families.

The testing sites are a collaboration between Kent ISD, local school districts, and the Kent County Health Department (KCHD). The organizations announced Monday that testing will be free and confidential, and results will be quickly texted to those who are tested.

“The health and well-being of our students and educators is our top priority,” said Ron Koehler, Kent ISD Superintendent. “As schools resume in-person learning following spring break, we continue to exercise all safety measures to keep students and staff healthy as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.”

Locations and times for the testing sites are:

Kent County’s COVID-19 case growth and test positivity rate have continued their resurgence, according to the KCHD. As of Thursday, the county is averaging 333 new cases per day and a test positivity rate of 14.2 percent. Last week, those numbers were 277 and 13 percent, respectively.

Pre-registration links for the rapid testing sites are available in a statement on Kent ISD’s website.


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