SAFE Task Force


SAFE (Safe Alliances For Everyone) task force is an anti-violence initiative. We work to lower violence in our communities. We partner with community organizations and businesses to help support this goal. Together, we work to solve issues 15 to 24-year-old residents are facing. We focus on gun violence, lack of pro-social opportunities, and mental health issues. Commissioner Milinda Ysasi leads the task force; both City staff and community partners serve in this program.

The SAFE Task Force Establishes Four Goals

  1. Share information on what exists about neighborhood violence
  2. Support programs based on research to fill existing gaps
  3. Advocate for community empowerment and voice
  4. Promote city policy through recommendation

Submit an Idea to Reduce Violence 

We're accepting ideas for the upcoming November Pitch and Highlight night. Submit your idea by November 13. See more details in the November Pitch and Highlight Night section below.   

Do you or your organization have an effort or idea that reduces violence in our community? Would more funding and exposure help boost your efforts? We're looking for partners to highlight and fund ideas to reduce violence in our community.

Non-profit organizations and individuals are eligible to submit an idea for SAFE funding. We'll fund up to three organizations up to $10,000. We'll fund up to two individuals with up to $1,000. Winners will use the funding to help promote SAFE recommendations.
If selected, you'll have 5 minutes to tell us why your effort or idea will reduce violence in our community. We're looking for initiatives that address issues faced by 15 - 24 year olds. A panel of judges will review proposals and applications. We ask that all winners report on their progress to the SAFE Task Force at a later date.  

The SAFE Task Force has identified five PEACE Pillars to address violence in Grand Rapids. Make sure your pitch aligns with these:

  • P - Prevention Investments
  • E - Eliminate Violent Acts
  • A - Activate Economic Opportunities
  • C - Community Engagement, Education and Empowerment
  • E - Effect Positive Change

Apply to Pitch Your Idea

Key Dates

  • November 12: Optional preview presentation at City Hall from 1 - 4 PM   
  • November 13: Deadline to submit idea 
  • November 15: Receive notification about whether or not your idea is moving forward
  • November 17: If selected, present your idea at the Pitch and Highlight Night  

Submit your idea online

Event Details

Wednesday, November 17, 6:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Ottawa Hills High School
2055 Rosewood Ave SE
Grand Rapids, Ml 49506

Pitch and Highlight Nights are community based solutions where individuals and non-profit organizations in the community are given the opportunity to compete for a partnership and funding through SAFE. Pitch and Highlight Nights and RFP's are two ways for community members to receive funding to boost their efforts of reducing violence in our community.

The SAFE Task Force will facilitate Pitch and Highlight Nights in 2-3 months of the year. The SAFE Task Force will have the opportunity to provide funding and support for anti-violence campaigns. All efforts underneath $10,000 will be established through Pitch and Highlight Nights. Efforts Over $10,000 will go through an RFP process decided in the months of January and June.

RFPs (Request for Proposals) are Task Force selected solutions where member choose topics drawn from the 2015 SAFE Report to develop RFP topics. The staff liaison will arrange for experts to come to speak to the Task Force on the chosen agenda at least quarterly. Interns can supplement expert presentations by researching and potentially presenting on the topics.

P.E.A.C.E pillar related RFPs would be issued at least 2 times a year. RFPs will be developed following education and Task Force conversation around the chosen topics. A statement of work/need will be linked back to the SAFE priorities/recommendations. A call for RFPs will be broadly broadcast to seek proposals that might affect those areas of need. A process for evaluating those proposals and making funding recommendations will be developed. 

We're working to provide opportunities to the youth in our communities. This helps reduce crime in our 15-24 year old youth. Here's a look at the initiatives we're partnering with.

ELO Network

This organization gives children access to quality after-school programs.

View Website

Our Community's Children

This is a partnership between the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools. O.C.C. provides leadership and vision to help our youth grow and improve. O.C.C. prepares youth for college, work, and life.

View Website

Grand Rapids Public School Restorative Justice Concept

"Expelled" students are likely to have run-ins with the law. G.R.P.S. now gives expelled students the chance to get back in school. The program focuses on disproportionate minority expulsions. The goal is to limit the number of expulsions.

Organizations Winners

Grand Rapids Nehemiah Project

The Grand Rapids Nehemiah project will address the need for employment and career advancement opportunities among the community's disproportionate population of under-skilled, lower income, people of color in the 3rd ward. This project will work on four major pillars, each with a focus on a different aspect of career success: 1) Employment Preparation; 2) Vocational Training; 3) Job Placement; and 4) Workforce Support. The project will focus on participants ages 16+. Participants will be enrolled in services under each category based on their unique needs and goals, which will be identified at intake. It is expected that the Grand Rapids Nehemiah Project will engage 125 participants in this pilot year. 

Our Community's Children

Our Community's Children project will use funds to support training and wages of 10 lead participants ages 18 to 24. The participants would work in a City department for 8 weeks during the spring/summer of 2019. Wages of $13 an hour will be 100% covered through SAFE funds. City departments will not be required to cover the 50% wage match which is required in the legacy iteration of the program. This will serve as an incentive for departments to participate, particularly those that have not in the past due to capacity or budget issues. LEAD students will gain valuable work experience and exposure to City careers for long-term employment. 

Realism Is Loyalty

Realism Is Loyalty is providing mentorship services to high-school students aged 15 to 17 years old. Mentors in this organization have been raised in Grand Rapids, are familiar with the community, and burdens these children with poverty, homelessness, criminal behaviors, lack of support, and hunger. Realism Is Loyalty will engage 15 high-risk students in a 12-week long summer, stipend-program from June 2019 through the end of August 2019. The organization is aiming to increase school attendance, decrease juvenile detention admittance, decrease recidivism, increase financial literacy, and increase enrollment in post-secondary education or vocational programming for graduating seniors. 

Individual Winner

Girl Talk Conference - 3K: Knowledge, Konfidence, Konviction, Nikila Edwards

The mission of this conference is simple: to reduce the violence between at risk female youth in schools and in their community. With the help from local school districts and other organizations the goal of the event is to engage the youth in workshops and other activities in which they will be affirmed, dared to dream about their futures, and reminded of their potential greatness. 

Outcomes include:

  1.  Gain youth perspectives on issues for females in the community
  2.  Foster understanding of female empowerment
  3.  Connect at risk females with positive women in the community
  4.  Educate females on ways to prevent and avoid violence


Organization Winner

The First Tee of West Michigan

In collaboration with the SAFE Taskforce, Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS), and the Grand Rapids Parks and Recreation Department, the First Tee of West Michigan brought 600+ 8th and 9th grade GRPS students to Indian Trails Golf Course for two hours of "on course" experience. Each young person will also receive like skills and value curriculum, instruction on respect and perseverance, golf instruction, and a reduced cost to follow up with The First Tee for future opportunities. 

Individual winners

Nahshon Cook-Nelson


The purpose of SpeakLightTv is to entertain and empower students on finding direction in their lives, believing in themselves, and understanding the power of their mind. Our idea is to build a succinct program dedicated to eliminating violence by working with students from the inside out. In collaboration with corporate entertainer Tim Cusack and mentorship from mind development leader Bob Proctor, we are developing a program that would get students throughout Grand Rapids laughing, loving, and inspired.

My idea requires that we produce marketing materials, receive coaching, and dedicate time and other resources towards constructing this program. The $500 received from SAFE Task Force would go directly towards courses, research, development, promotion, and delivery of SpeakLightTv's Workshop(s).

Michael Anthony Booker

My idea is to reduce the violence in Grand Rapids takes the participant’s age group of 15-24 year olds and have them become active stakeholders in bringing about positive changes in how they engage with one another. I will organize a group of responsible adults in the community and match them with youths aged 15-24 to commit to build positive relationships.

Projects will include building up neighborhoods where these youth resides which include having a neighborhood clean up day. Active adults and the youths participating together picking up debris/trash, snow shoveling activities during the winter months, recreational activities at our local gyms and fostering positive relationships to meeting this targeted age group with mentors in their own communities.

Cole and Nathan Williams

Son to a Father Project

The Son to a Father Project is a prevention program that provides workshops to young fathers between the ages of 15-24. The project is run by Cole and Nathan Williams, both are bonded by a 22-year journey as father and son. They have ten years of experience working together as family facilitators. Their primary goal is to model for incarcerated and adjudicated male father’s healthy ways to sustain, maintain, and remain connected to their children and communities.

Organization winners

Restorative Justice Coalition of West Michigan

Carol Rienstra

Robert S

We will create a radio and/or television show (maybe a series) called "Reality RJ West Michigan" and use real people with real events and real solutions to model restorative justice solutions to violence. We will recruit a team of youth age 15-24 who are willing to participate in the restorative process as well as the public telling of their stories. These will be youth who have been involved in violent lifestyles in the past and want to change. We will provide mentors who can teach about restorative conferences, circles, and dispute mediation.

Dreams Take Work

Duke Turley

Create events and work-shops that will build healthy relationships between each other males 15-24, local organizations, business, and law enforcement.

Crossroads Bible Church with Songbird Justice Initiative

Rachel VerWys

Grand Rapids experiences a hidden violence, sex trafficking. In 2013, the Michigan Commission on Human Trafficking found that “there is inadequate data on human trafficking in Michigan". The first phase of this project is to assess the nature and scope of sex trafficking in Grand Rapids, Michigan. A grant from the SAFE Task Force would lead two parts forward in this comprehensive plan.

To begin, the first ever collaborative Design Thinking Process with multi-disciplinary partners to ideate solutions based on our gathered research to combat trafficking would take place in the winter of 2018. The second part would provide funding to increase the capacity of research partner, Leslie King, to increase her direct service provision in the SE area of Grand Rapids with those exploited in the sex industry. Funding for a safe space for those caught in trafficking has been identified as a pressing need to address the violence.

PEACE Pillars

We investigated into the root causes for violence in our communities. We were able to identify 5 important tasks to establish peace in our city.

  • Prevention investment
  • Eliminate violent acts
  • Activate economic opportunities
  • Community Engagement
  • Effect Positive Change in Public Institutions (Local, County, & State)

Full Report

To learn more about our PEACE Pillars and our goals for implementing them in our neighborhoods, please read pages 31-37 in our SAFE Report and Recommendations.

About Neighborhood Associations

Grand Rapids Neighborhood Associations have a 45-year history of developing resident leadership in our communities. They make sure that residents have a voice in decisions that affect their neighborhoods.

Neighborhood associations also facilitate interaction with community members and local government. They offer residents opportunities to speak with city leadership, as well as challenge them.

Neighborhood Association Partners

SAFE works with the Baxter and Eastown neighborhoods. This helps us hear directly from the community about how we can help make safer communities for them. Together we're helping to lower crime in Grand Rapids.

More Information

Want to get involved with your local neighborhood association but not sure which neighborhood you belong to? You can use the Community Research Institute's interactive maps to see info about your neighborhood. Click Grand Rapids Neighborhoods on the left side of the page to select a neighborhood. Then click the neighborhood for detailed demographic data.

"While the vision for SAFE was conceived by municipality leadership, the work of SAFE is the direct result of the collective wisdom, personal investment, and shared passion among resident leaders eager to do the heavy lifting required to spark social change.”
Commissioner Senita Lenear

Task Force Members

Chris Becker

Marion Berrera

JD Chapman, Jr.

Geoffrey Collard

Lynn Heemstra

Larry Johnson

Kirby Killingham

Commissioner Senita Lenear

Chris Sain

Carol Rienstra

Raynard Ross

SAFE collaborates and partners with local and national organizations. Reviewing their ideas and practices helps us make strategies that are tailored to our community needs. Here's a look at our Partners and Collaborators:

Arbor Circle Mentoring

This organization provides services for families with members experiencing mental health issues and substance abuse.

View Website

Ban the Box

This campaign aims to give people with past convictions a fair chance.

View Website

Baxter Neighborhood Association

This neighborhood association is located on the southeast side of Grand Rapids.

View Website

City of Grand Rapids

This is the City government of Grand Rapids, MI.

View Website

Cure Violence­

This organization goal is to reduce violence globally using disease control and behavior change methods.

Eastown Community Associaton

This neighborhood association is devoted to fostering a safe, diverse, and walkable Eastown neighborhood by creating opportunities for neighbors and friends to engage and connect.

ELO Network

This organization gives children access to quality after-school programs.

GR Rotary Club- Students and Youth

This service club fights to combat hunger, improve health conditions and promote peace.

Grand Rapids Community College

Grand Rapids Community College offers experiential learning, honors courses, seminars, workshops, training courses and online learning.

Grand Rapids Police Department

Our police department provides professional, progressive, and responsive police services, in collaboration with the community, to ensure a safer Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids Public Schools

Grand Rapids Public Schools (GRPS) is Michigan’s fifth largest public school district and the third largest employer in the City of Grand Rapids, serving nearly 17,000 students with 2,700 employees, including 1,400 dedicated teachers.

Heart of West Michigan United Way

This nonprofit organization unites community resources to reduce poverty in Kent County. 

Hispanic Center of Western Michigan

The Hispanic Center of Western Michigan is a non-profit organization serving the needs of the Latino and broader community.

Joy Youth Services

This faith based nonprofit organization strengthens youths, families, and communities by enriching lives through education, opportunities, support, and other activities.


This community development organization provides services to Kent County. They are involved in a host of projects and services that reach families, houses, businesses and neighborhoods at large.

My Brothers Keeper

Former President Obama launched the My Brother’s Keeper initiative to address persistent opportunity gaps faced by boys and young men of color and ensure that all young people can reach their full potential.

Network 180

This organization connects individuals and families to services for mental illness, substance use disorders, or developmental disabilities.

NOLA for Life

This organization takes a holistic approach to crime reduction in the city of New Orleans.

Our Community's Children

This is a partnership between the City of Grand Rapids and Grand Rapids Public Schools. O.C.C. provides leadership and vision to help our youth grow and improve. O.C.C. prepares youth for college, work, and life. 

South Bend Group Violence

This initiative works to reduce violence and to stop killings.

Spectrum Health

Spectrum Health is a non-profit, integrated, managed care health care organization based in West Michigan.

Steelcase Foundation

The Steelcase Foundation believes that quality, accessible public education is paramount to achieving its vision. The Foundation assists its philanthropic partners in generating education initiatives, in addition to work and cultural opportunities.

Stop It!: A Grand Rapids Community Involvement Initiative

This initiative encourages collaboration and spur dialogue that facilitates change in our community. 

To College Through College Studio

To College Through College is a partnership between the City and Grand Rapids Colleges. They work with community partners to realize our collective goals for our next generation.

Youth Workforce Leaders

The Youth Workforce Leaders Academy is a year-long professional development opportunity for mid-level professionals who play a decision-making role at organizations providing youth workforce development services.