The Rapidian

Heels That Heal makes Grand Rapids awesome

Heels That Heal wins the second Awesome Foundation grant of $1,000, the foundation's second monthly grant to local folks working to "make Grand Rapids awesome"
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To apply for an Awesome Foundation grant visit Be sure to choose Grand Rapids as the chapter.

Syretta Calvert

Syretta Calvert /Katie Caralis

Syretta Calvert knows that being a teenage girl isn’t always easy. She became a teen mom and raised two daughters. As a result, “teenage girls became my heart,” she said. In December, her heart found funding.

Calvert, 37, received a $1,000 grant from the Grand Rapids chapter of the Awesome Foundation to start her project called Heels That Heal which will provide dresses, high heels and accessories for teenage girls to be able to attend high school dances.

Calvert first thought of the idea for Heels That Heel about seven years ago when her daughters began attending school dances. She realized a lot of girls missed out because fancy dresses and shoes were too expensive and she dreamed of being able to help. “I just want to make a difference—small, medium, large,” she said. 

And the Awesome Foundation is looking for people who want to make a difference. They give out one $1,000 grant per month to “someone doing something awesome,” Jerry Bronkema said. Bronkema, 45, started the Grand Rapids chapter, along with nine other people, after hearing about the organization on NPR. The Awesome Foundation began in Boston and has 27 chapters, according to their website.

Bronkema said he was intrigued by 5x5 Night in Grand Rapids which awards larger grants. “There was also a need for something in the community that was just a little bit simpler than that, people who wouldn’t be thought of or picked up by the 5x5 Night," he said.

The Grand Rapids Awesome Foundation awarded their first grant to the Grand Rapids Creative Youth Center in November and their second grant to Heels That Heal in December. The only set criteria for winning a grant is adhering to the spirit of the foundation—making Grand Rapids awesome. “We left it purposefully very vague,” Bronkema said. “We are going to do something that might be completely different each month.”

Calvert agrees that there is a need for small grants. “It’s hard to get a grant if you are not already established,” she said. This may have stopped her in the past, but Calvert said she is now excited to move forward. To start, she will run the project out of her home and provide girls with a dress, heels and accessories, all for a small donation.

Eventually, Calvert hopes to open a store to house Heels That Heal. “If we could invent a self-esteem boutique for girls,” she said, “that would be awesome.”


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