Why I Give: A Conversation with Jenine Torres

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For nearly a century, Grand Rapids Community Foundation has been in the business of understanding our community’s needs. Sometimes, as a development officer, I wonder how our founders could even comprehend the impact this organization might have 80 years into the future.

In our humble beginnings, people entrusted the Community Foundation to fulfill the needs of our community as they arose. In the 1920s and 1930s, this meant training nurses to fill the shortage, or handing out essential needs to families like food and diapers. Today, this work is carried out by collaborating with partners on programming that addresses issues like racial equity, economic insecurity, job training, education and prevention of chronic disease. 

Today’s Decisions, Tomorrow’s Growth

The decisions we make today will have tremendous impact on future generations. Because I don’t have a crystal ball to know what our community will look like in 50 years, I sometimes find it intimidating to make plans for the future. If I am being honest, thinking about what to wear in the morning sends my curls in a tizzy. That's why when it comes to bigger decisions like my own personal philanthropy, or giving of my resources for the benefit of my community, I can rest assured knowing that the team at the Community Foundation has done the work for me.

Not only does the Community Foundation recruit some of the most talented and knowledgeable staff, we also have the oversight of a committed team of volunteers that have the expertise and experience to ensure grantmaking decisions are strategic, impactful, and truly effecting change. These layers of inquisition allow us to listen to community feedback, engage in critical dialogue, and award grants. All of this is possible because of the countless donors who have given their precious resources over the last century.

Leveraging Resources

With limited assets, my family and I must think critically about where to make contributions each year in order to do the most good. I look to the Community Foundation to provide the context and information we need to make smart and strategic decisions about giving. One great avenue for our giving has been the Fund for Community Good. When we make a gift to this fund, it is pooled with hundreds of others to be invested for the long haul. I know that my small donation will be leveraged with gifts from others like me to fill the intense needs in my hometown.

The Fund for Community Good makes grants to organizations that impact our community in the areas of greatest need. This includes arts and social engagement, neighborhoods, the environment, health, prosperity, and education. You can see some of the most recent grants here. While there are many inequities in West Michigan that require work, the Community Foundation has a committed team of volunteers, staff, and board of trustees that care deeply and have a pulse of what systems, people, and organizations are doing to address these needs.

Why I Give

As I look to the future of our community, I feel confident that my gifts are in the right hands at Grand Rapids Community Foundation because of our laser like focus to connect across perspectives and overcome inequities to build an inclusive economy and thriving community. This guiding light assures me that my money will make the best impact where it’s needed most, and I can go on about my daily decisions knowing that this one is already taken care of for me.


Jenine Torres is a development officer at Grand Rapids Community Foundation. During the day, she advises donors on their impact on community and by night, she is project manager for her 3 teens. She and her husband are from Grand Rapids and their family is passionate about organizations like Ele’s Place, Creative Youth Center, and Camp Blodgett.