The Rapidian

Graphic designer brings new life to nonprofit

Grand Rapids graphic designer brings skills to local nonprofit, Access of West Michigan
Erika Bland, Communications Coordinator for Access of West Michigan

Erika Bland, Communications Coordinator for Access of West Michigan /Emma Garcia

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Access of West Michigan supports a variety of initiatives to help reduce the impact of poverty in Kent County. For more information about their County Wide Food Campaign, Holiday Giving Network, poverty simulations, and more, visit accessofwestmichigan.org

Volunteers sorting AND boxing donated items.

Volunteers sorting AND boxing donated items. /Courtesy of Access of West Michigan

Born and raised in Grand Rapids, art-loving Erika Bland is striving for a lasting impact in her new role as Communications Coordinator at Access of West Michigan. “Access strives to be a beacon for the community,” Bland said, “and I love being able to think about how we can make that beacon bigger and brighter.” 

Access of West Michigan works to reduce the impact of poverty throughout Kent County involving its network of food pantries, congregations and community partners. Bland’s position allows her to revitalize the public face of Access and re-think how communication, especially through visuals, influences the message that Access is sending. Many days, Bland gets to exercise her graphic design skills for Access in creating new logos and publication layouts that help inform the community about their many food drives, conferences and fundraising events. She gets excited about finding the perfect colors, symbols and words to help convey Access’ mission.

Bland has continued to live in Kent County with her husband and three daughters, and this community has had a large impact on her. Even as a child, Bland was attracted to many types of art and loved to draw, paint and craft. She graduated from Grand Rapids Central High School (currently Innovation Central High School) and then followed her passion for visual creations by studying studio art at Calvin College.

After receiving her undergraduate degree, Bland began working for her home church, Living Word Christian Center, as the executive assistant. She noticed opportunities to strengthen the church’s communication abilities through graphic design, and began to study these skills on her own. Eventually, Bland’s hard work was rewarded with a new position as the head of Living Word Christian Center’s marketing and design department.

“I loved working for a non-profit, and loved being able to use my artistic gifts to help the community around me,” Bland said. When Bland saw the opportunity to lend her digital media skills to Access, she jumped at the chance to help another good cause.

In fact, Bland had already experienced working with nonprofit Access of West Michigan as a teenager. Bland spent one summer volunteering as an office assistant to her big sister who was employed by Access at the time. From that experience, Bland was drawn to the selfless and wholesome atmosphere that often characterizes charitable organizations. “I really appreciated the good work they were doing,” she said.

However, as any volunteer knows, sometimes the demands of a nonprofit far exceed the time and resources available. In her new role as Communications Coordinator, Bland works hard to achieve a healthy rhythm of work and family, and to instill these practices in her children.

“My husband, Chandler, and I work really hard to keep a balanced life for ourselves, and for our children, as well as teaching them the importance of having a servant's heart. Outside of work, I also teach art classes and run a ministry. I try to involve my children in as much as I can, because I want them to be able to see the type of work that I do and see how it impacts the people we serve.”

As she continues adjusting to the new responsibilities and finding new ways to exercise her strengths, Bland is optimistic about the opportunities ahead.

“We need to be able to spread the word of the good work that Access is doing, so that we can better connect with those who need us. I love being able to be the loudspeaker for Access through my work.”

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