Gene Beerens (2016)

Gene Beerens is a retired pastor and a graduate of Calvin College and Calvin Theological Seminary. He currently is a volunteer staff person at Impact Church in Lowell and serves as the faith community representative on the Kent/Allegan Prisoner Reentry Steering Team. He is a co-founder of the Restorative Justice Coalition of West Michigan in 1998 as founder/director of Exodus Correctional Ministries (now part of Hope network), which has provided reentry services for returning citizens since 1988. He is also a founder, former director, and current board member of Healing Communities of West Michigan, a network of area churches and agencies practicing restorative justice as part of their re-entry services.

Linda Brauer (2017)

Linda Brauer graduated Summa Cum Laude with an MSW in 1998 from Grand Valley State University. As a former classroom teacher, parent, and as the head of a mental health nonprofit organization, she has observed what happens to children and families over time, and how quickly young adults with disabilities can permanently alter the trajectory of their futures and limit their options in life, sometimes with just one impulsive decision. “If we don’t believe in our children, neither will they.”

She has experience in running a non-profit, and understands board member roles from both sides. She also has experience in grant-writing, and has successfully assisted the Grand Rapids CHADD chapter to be awarded 5 grants averaging $20,000 per year.

She understands special education law and knows what the law requires of schools so children whose disability affects behavior are provided a Functional Behavior Assessment and Positive Behavior Intervention Plan, and not denied the right to a Free and Appropriate Public Education in a Least Restrictive Environment. “Communities are not made safer by moving problems from schools to the streets.” Linda was a “Parent Trainer” for the Citizens’ Alliance to Uphold Special Education for 5 years and has attended over 50 IEPs with parents. She was provided ongoing training on special education law and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973.

She is a CHADD Certified Facilitator of 10-week parenting class, “Parent to Parent,” for caregivers of children with AD/HD. She helps parents develop a frame of reference of “when to nurture and when to structure,” based on their knowledge of their child, to help parents become their own best experts, which she hopes to one day publish. She has added Ross Greene, Ph D’s, Collaborative Problem Solving model, Jane Nelsen, Ph D’s, Positive Discipline & Four Steps for Winning Cooperation, and Becky Bailey, Ph D’s, Conscious Discipline approach, in which mistakes are viewed as opportunities to learn.

Linda is currently involved in Community Family Partnership, Association for Children’s Mental Health of Michigan, Association for Children’s Mental Health’s Policy Committee, Disability Advocates of Kent County, Advocating for Change Together, Parent Advocacy Council, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, CHADD of Grand Rapids as the Chapter Coordinator and has attended 20 CHADD Conventions.

Carol Rienstra (2015)

Carol Rienstra brings to the Restorative Justice board of directors her experiences in faith-rooted community organizing, including volunteer work with parents, children and families, and her passion and knowledge related to racial reconciliation and restorative justice as key and necessary antidotes for our toxic, failed prison system.

From 2001 to 2011 she worked in the Calvin College alumni, parent and community relations office. Prior to that role at the college, she coordinated after-school and pre-college programs in several urban churches along the lakeshore (Holland and Muskegon) and wrote several grants for fine arts, recreational and academic programs for youth. She continues to serve the Calvin community as a coordinator of the Passport to Adventure travel film program for Calvin Academy for Lifelong Learning (CALL).

A church musician and music educator, Carol assisted her husband Rich, an ordained pastor in the Reformed Church in America, in developing a denominationally-supported, ecumenical Christian congregation in a prison in Ionia in 2008. Their son Troy, who is serving a life sentence in the MDOC, has been the motivation to both parents’ strong commitment to work with prisoners and their families in advocating for justice.

Carol volunteers at Church of the Servant as a pianist and member of the worship and outreach committees, in the English as a Second Language program, and on the Prisoners in Christ task force which sponsors a reentry support ministry called CONTACT (Celebrating Our Network of Trust, Accountability, Collaboration and Trainings.)

She is a collaborator who finds great satisfaction in connecting people, programs and resources. Carol has been the co-chair of the Micah Center’s Beyond Prisons advocacy group since summer 2011 and is co-founder of a “Women Affected By Incarceration” support group. She also has served as consultant or on committees for Healing Communities/Stations of Hope (USA and West Michigan), Citizens Alliance on Prisons and Public Spending (CAPPS), Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Institute for Prison Ministries, Prison Congregations of America, Citizens for Prison Reform, and Criminal Justice Chaplaincy.

AnnMarie Soules Smith (2017)

AnnMarie Soules Smith graduated from Grand Valley State Colleges in 1976 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice and law enforcement certification through the Michigan Law Enforcement Training Council. In 1994, she obtained her Master’s degree in Public Administration from Grand Valley State University.

After eight years with the Grand Rapids Public School and Grand Rapids Junior College Public Safety Office, she began a 25-year career with the Kent County Sheriff’s Department. Whens he began her career there in 1984, she was hired as one of the first women in the history of the Kent County Sheriff’s Department hired to work exclusively with the male inmate population. She became the first woman promoted to the rank of sergeant in the KCSD and ended her career as a lieutenant in charge of the Court Security and Transfer Unit.

In January 2004, she earned her Juris Doctor degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School and joined her husband, Matthew P. Smith in his private law practice in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Until her retirement from the Kent County Sheriff’s Department, she practiced alternative dispute resolution and wills and trusts. Since then, she has expanded her practice to include criminal and family law.

As a strong advocate of alternative dispute resolution and restorative justice, AnnMarie has volunteered her time and services to the Dispute Resolution Center of West Michigan since 2004 and the Restorative Justice Coalition of West Michigan since 2011. She also mentors an Eritrean student through the Literacy Center of West Michigan, and in 1998, she taught criminal justice courses for Grand Valley State University.

Her hobbies include reading, cooking, travel, and the breeding and conformation showing of Kerry Blue terriers.

Past Board members

Bryan Blakely Sr. was born in 1971 and grew up on the Southeast side of Grand Rapids where he attended Grand Rapids Central High School. He was introduced the world of boxing during his high school years. He went on to have a successful heavyweight boxing career.

After the death of his promoter, he worked several jobs, including positions with Steelcase Corporation and The Rapid transit system. Later, following a series of misfortunes, he and his wife Toresa found themselves without work, and then without a home of their own. Together, they experienced the social system of assistance, including public welfare, homeless shelters, and food pantries. By relying on their faith in God, their faith in each other, and the help of various agencies, community organizations, and friends, they were able to find employment.

They now own a home in the Bates Place neighborhood. Bryan has been the Executive Director of Bates Place Ministries since its inception. His own personal journey has uniquely equipped him to speak authentically into the lives of those he works with at Bates Place; elements of their stories often mirror his own. Bryan is highly knowledgeable in the area of prisoner reentry.

Through the experience of family members, he has personal experience with the prison system. Bryan is well-known and trusted within the urban community, qualities that are attractive to partner agencies seeking to bring services to this part of the city.

Barb Lester is a Graduate of Grand Valley State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Administration. She has lived in Grand Rapids all of her life with the exception seven years in Los Angeles, California. She grew up on the west side of Grand Rapids and attended St. James Elementary and West Catholic High Schools. There she learned to read, write, spell, and to believe that each of us can and should work for change.

Barb has worked as an organizer for several political campaigns. Prior to that she worked full-time for the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign where she was thoroughly grounded in community organizing. While there, she assisted in getting the Freeze initiative on the Michigan ballot with 382,000 signatures and voters supported the measure by a significant margin.

She am currently community organizer for the Heritage Hill Association, a position she has held for 28 years. She work with residents in this area to help them identify issues, identify all the resources available to them and work with them to develop a strategy that they can carry out. They have successfully reduced the numbers of home burglaries by 72% in the last twenty years – a better percentage than the city stats for that same time. Residents have the Grand Rapid Police Department, city staff and city commissions as some of their resources when they work with the Association and our staff.

Barb also chairs the Neighborhood Coalition, a group of staff from neighborhood groups citywide that act together on common concerns. They have successfully worked to pass two city ordinances, each require home security provisions such as deadbolt locks, window locks and pins, peephole viewers. Prior to their success, none of those were required in our city code.

She is also a part of the Genesis Group that works to help prepare religious based organizations to accept sex offenders back into the community through their churches. Over the years she has enjoyed working with tenants and am a founding member of the Kent County Renter’s Alliance that provides Free Legal Clinics for tenants four times a month. She feel very lucky to have been able to work with organizations that engage in activities that make the neighborhoods and city a better place for all of us to live.

Shawn Perry has been an attorney since 1988. Her career extends to all aspects of family and criminal law. She has served as an assistant prosecuting attorney, a solo practitioner, a family court referee, as well as administrator for the 61st District Court. She has been involved in educational programs for judges, referees, court staff, lawyers and the public. Shawn has also served as a faculty member and guest lecturer for the Michigan Judicial institute, Bar Associations, Michigan State University College of Law and other organizations. Shawn has also volunteered her time as a mock trial judge for high school and law school competitions, has served as a teen court judge and board member of the Ingham County Bar Association and Boys and Girls Club of Lansing. Most recently Shawn served as a panelist for a presentation to GRPD community officers and Neighborhood Organizers on Restorative Justice.

Nikki Banks (2017)

Annie Buth (2015)

Randy Gabrielse (2016)

After directing Areopagus Campus Ministry in Iowa for five years, Randy Gabrielse and his wife Karen returned to Grand Rapids in 2009. Here we have directed our passions to engaging our urban neighbors in ministry. While our membership is at Boston Square Christian Reformed Church, where I currently serve as a Deacon, we also meet neighbors and members of other churches at neighborhood events at Oakdale and Fuller Ave. CRCs. I also have built relationships with other area church leaders through work with The Micah Center, including a year-long internship in 2011-2012. I also regularly attend Celebration Lunches, hosted by Rev. Stedford Sims and Rev. Andy Hanson at Step of Faith Church, and Brother 2 Brother, a division of LifeQuest Ministries.

In 2011, I participated in the Christian Community Development Association’s Chicago Immersion and was certified in the CCDA’s eight key emphases. I am working toward a Graduate Certificate in Urban Pastoral Ministry at Western Theological Seminary. My seminary experience has included work as an Intern with the Micah Center, under Director Jordan Bruxvoort and Founder Rev. Vern Hoffman. This has helped me build relationships with leaders of CRC churches and other churches in Southeast Grand Rapids. In 2013, I also graduated from Grand Rapids Initiative for Leaders Community Leadership Program.

Since 2010 I have worked with a group of residents of Adams Park Apartments. As “Community Builders” they have developed strong voices for advocacy for their desires for their community. In the past year, they presented a workshop at the regional CCDA meeting and they helped redirect a series of church picnics to include them as leaders and full participants in providing good food for neighbors. Most recently, they are participating in a community gardening project that will help bring fresh vegetables into their community where diabetes and hypertension are epidemic and few residents make the trip to Meijers or Duthler’s for fresh vegetables.

(Randy died on April 15, 2017, having coped courageously with a brain tumor for over a year.)

Kate Kooyman (2015)

David LaGrand (2017)

David LaGrand worked for eight years as an Assistant Kent County Prosecutor. In 2000, David moved to private practice. Currently David concentrates his practice in the areas of family and criminal law. Some of his greatest achievements involve working with his clients and their community to seek socially responsible solutions to the breach of law.

David has been active in the West Michigan business community. The LaGrands and their neighbors opened the Wealthy Street Bakery in 2003. The bakery has received numerous awards and national recognition for facility rehabilitation, neighborhood revitalization, and business success.

David is also active in state and local politics. He was elected to the Grand Rapids City Commission in 2007 and to the Grand Rapids School Board in 2012. While on the City Commission, David assembled the Grand Rapids Restorative Justice Initiative, and began a Restorative Justice program in the Grand Rapids court system. He continues to speak and teach on Restorative Justice issues.

David lives in Grand Rapids with his wife Melissa and their four children, John, Isaac, Helen, and Julia. He is a member of Eastern Avenue Christian Reformed Church, where he leads a prison ministry.

Brady Middleton (2016)

John P. Walsh (2015)

Dr. John P. Walsh is originally from Chicago, Illinois. He completed his undergraduate degree at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale receiving a B.A. degree in Administration of Justice with a minor in Philosophy. He then completed an M.A. in Administration of Justice at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, as well as a Ph.D. in Criminal Justice at Indiana University, Bloomington. In addition to his academic degrees, Dr. Walsh has also served as a sworn police officer within the Chicago Police Department and as a policy analyst within the Cook County, Illinois Sheriff’s Office and the Cook County Department of Corrections. His current research interests have focused on the culture and politics surrounding overcrowded prisons and jails, incarceration ideologies and the reciprocal relationship between incarceration and the community. His focus on restorative justice practices as an alternative paradigm to current correctional approaches has led to research, evaluation and service projects within Indiana, Illinois and Michigan.

Clifford Washington (2015)