The people of Grand Rapids, Michigan have enjoyed a champion in Dick DeVos form more than a quarter of a century. Never was this more apparent than in 1991 when DeVos became aware of a plan to build a sports arena near the downtown area of the city.
DeVos was in a great position to soon become the CEO of his family’s Amway company but decided to put forth the effort necessary to push back against the planned sports arena.
DeVos’ problem with the arena was his fear that the project would prove as destructive to Grand Rapids as similar projects had been to the city of Detroit.
DeVos and others in the area started the Grand Action group. The business leaders later became the driving force behind a number of notable constructions that changed the look of the Grand Rapids skyline, as well as, the city’s trajectory.
Dick and wife Betsy are both heirs to fortunes left to them by their families. The couple has spent much of their adult lives attempting to influence policies and improve institutions both in Grand Rapids and the state of Michigan as a whole.
The DeVos’ have been top donors to the Republican Party of Michigan and have used this influence to affect state laws regarding labor and education.
However, the DeVos’ have stood up for the people of Grand Rapids in many ways other than affecting the political landscape of the area.
The couple gave nearly $140 million to a variety of charitable programs and initiatives over a period that began in 1989 and ended in 2015. The donations were used to benefit programs that promote health and human services, arts and culture, religion, and other things affecting the people of Grand Rapids.
The DeVos’ made the first donation of $12.5 million toward the construction of a children’s hospital in Grand Rapids. The hospital is part of the Spectrum Health System and cost $103 million in all to build. The hospital is named in honor of Dick’s mother, Helen Devos.
Dick DeVos is especially happy with the positive impact the hospital has made on the Grand Rapids community. He says before the hospital was built parents in his city would have to drive to Chicago or Ann Arbor in search of the medical attention their children needed. This would cause parents to miss work and spend money on travel. Now the health care needs of children in Grand Rapids can be met in their city of residence.
Another main interest of Dick and Betsy DeVos is education reform in the state of Michigan. In fact, Betsy DeVos is the acting Secretary of Education for the United States. Dick DeVos made his biggest impact in the area of education by founding an aviation charter school.
Betsy DeVos says she is proud of her husband for joining her in the fight to ensure children from poor families are provided with the same educational opportunities as children from more affluent backgrounds. Mrs. DeVos expresses her belief that where a child grows up should not determine their educational possibilities.
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