NewsPay It Forward


FOX 17 celebrates a year of Paying it Forward

Posted at 10:27 AM, Jan 02, 2023
and last updated 2023-11-19 23:07:51-05

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — FOX 17 news is celebrating a year of paying it forward, spreading holiday joy and helping others in the community through good times and bad in 2022.

Every month at FOX 17, we recognize someone who's gone above and beyond to help those in their community as our Pay it Forward Person of the Month.

WATCH part 1 of our Pay it Forward special:

FOX 17 celebrates a year of Paying It Forward - Part 1

As a thank you, they receive a check from Lake Michigan Credit Union which usually goes right back into their charity efforts.

All of our Persons of the Month will be honored at a special gala on January 26, where one of them will be named our Person of the Year.

WATCH part 2 of our Pay it Forward special:

FOX 17 celebrates a year of Paying It Forward - Part 2

Here’s a look back at all of our Pay it Forward Persons of the Month from 2022.


A woman in Allegan County wanted to create opportunities for adults with disabilities.

And she's doing it while making some dogs smile at the same time.

Robin Lavender teamed up with The Arc in Allegan County, a nonprofit that advocates for adults with disabilities, to create Beyond Bones.

The business employs adults with disabilities to bake and sell all-natural dog treats.


John Redmondhas dedicated his life to serving others.

The grandfather and Navy veteran is now spending his retirement as the leader of the Paw Paw Quick Response Team in Van Buren County - an all-volunteer team of first responders.

In the 33 years he's been on the team, he's helped respond to more than 26,500 calls.


Alicia Mathieu's world changed after learning her son Levi had Down syndrome.

Mathieu discovered her son had a genetic condition caused by an extra chromosome when she was 14 weeks pregnant.

When Levi was six months old, Down to Defend was born.

The nonprofit offers resources, and weekly self-defense classes to combat a troubling statistic Mathieu uncovered.


When it comes to weekend plans, a mom in Kent County has a standing tradition and it's one that's been going on for years now.

Every Saturday, Theresa Adkison packs up her car with hot meals and basic necessities to give to the homeless in Grand Rapids.

The weekly gesture is personal for Theresa after her only son Derek's fatal struggle with addiction.

In honor of her son, she created Derek's Place, a nonprofit that started with the goal of having a physical space to help people in recovery. But all that changed with a poorly attended taco dinner fundraiser.


Donna Miller may be retired, but she's still busy working full-time as a volunteer at Cherry Creek Elementary School.

Miller spends five days a week helping out in Robyn Anderson's second-grade classroom.

Miller retired from working payroll for Grand Rapids Public Schools after 30 years.

For the past 10 years, she's found a new job volunteering with Lowell Public Schools.


After years of teaching gymgoers the right moves, Zumba instructor Jamie Paquette is now inspiring members to give back to the community.

Paquette and co-workers at Fitin 24 Gym decided to do something to help the community during the pandemic.

They came up with the idea of holding monthly fitness fundraisers at the gym.


Life skills in the kitchen are often handed down as you grow up in your home, but for adults with intellectual disabilities, learning those basics isn't always easy.

For the past four years, Kayla Cornell has volunteered her time to teach an in-depth cooking class, discussing everything from health and nutrition to knife safety.

Her passion for teaching those special needs grew alongside her time with other Special Olympics athletes.

Kayla is now pursuing a career in nutrition and is going to school to become a dietician.


An 11-year-old girl has been spending her time making sure animals in shelters are being supported.

For four years, Audrey Maioho has held a dog fundraising car wash, and during 2022's event, raised more than $1500. She took that money and bought items off a wish list for the Humane Society of West Michigan.

Audrey's efforts even inspired a friend to set up a lemonade stand and help shelter animals with the profits.


The road through teen pregnancy can be full of bumps along the way, something Lakeshia Gilbert knows first-hand, after being a former teen mom herself.

She's hoping to offer support to other young women through her organization HOAP Inc., which stands for Helping our Adolescents Prosper.

The organization provides educational workshops that focus on healthy relationships, financial literacy and mental health. It also provides at-risk youth with basic essentials like toiletries, diapers and transportation.


For many veterans, life isn't the same when they return home from service.

To help them adjust, Lori Vorpi, a chiropractor in Sparta, also runs K9 Camo Companions next to her practice. The organization helps save dogs from shelters, by pairing them with a veteran in need.

The nonprofit pays for the initial veterinary costs and helps provide all the basic needs for as long as the veteran needs help.


Erik Reed not only makes a difference by cleaning up people's yards, but he also has quite the social media following to go along with it.

His segment, Outdoors with Erik, follows him as he mows lawns free of charge, for those who might be struggling.

He has more than 400,000 thousand followers across his social media platforms and reaches about 40 million people a month with his videos.

Once the weather cooled down, he traded in his lawnmower for a snow blower.


The formative years of high school can set the tone for a teenager's path in life, with many being faced with detractors that may negatively influence them.

Latasha Robertson-Crump set out to create an organization to help those teens, specifically young women, with the group Girls Growing to Women. The organization says while there are groups out there working to put youth back on track, they hope to keep girls on the right track, to begin with.

The group meets two times a month and hosts workshops for teenage girls ages 14-18.

The organization is also expanding with a graduate program called Woman to Woman which already has a waiting list.

Follow FOX 17: Facebook - Twitter - Instagram - YouTube