Eastown Community Association hosts pancake breakfast

The smell of sausage, maple syrup and warm pancakes rose as cold air swirled outside.

The sound of friendly chatter was met with warm smiles and handshakes. On Saturday, Feb. 9, the Eastown Community Association (ECA) hosted its annual meeting and pancake breakfast. The event was held at Calvin Christian Reformed Church from 8 a.m. until 11 a.m.

At 10:30 a.m., announcements were made followed by a raffle drawing. The raffle prizes were generously donated by local businesses.

Chad Sytsma, ECA board member, thanked the volunteers and people that made the event possible.

“We had no idea what to expect,” Sytsma said. “Historically, we’ve always done Tuesday night meetings. We decided a pancake breakfast would give people more time to hang out and talk, and we’re probably around 200-250 people this morning. It’s fantastic.”

Lindsey Ruffin, executive director of the ECA, was excited about the number of residents in attendance and about the possibility for growth in the community.

“We’re almost starting over because we’re doing things a new way,” Ruffin said. “We really want to bring residents in and get everyone really involved with everything that we do. And this is kind of a kickoff. Come see us. Come learn what we do.”

In addition to the increased attendance at the annual meeting, improved social media is credited as a powerful tool in raising awareness.

Ryan Waldron serves as the ECA’s social media and PR coordinator. By cultivating a strong online presence, Waldron and the ECA strive to reach more residents.

“A lot of people, particularly younger people, are on Facebook and Twitter,” Waldron said. “To reach out to them, particularly the student residents, is to be an online presence on those channels.”

The ECA is working on more innovative ways to involve the community. “We’re launching this new strategy where we’ll be having smaller events once a month,” Waldron said. “It could be a neighborhood clean up, it could be a community garden, it can be any number of things. That’s a great way to be involved for a one time kind of a thing.”

Through a variety of volunteer opportunities, the ECA is eager to engage residents with their community.

“It doesn’t matter to us if you’re a renter, if you’re a homeowner, if you’re a student; we love all of our residents and want everyone to be involved,” Ruffin said. “We have the committees, which are open to anybody.”

The greenspace, neighborhood events, block captains and public safety, communications, housing and special events committees compose the volunteer workforce that improves the Eastown neighborhoods.

In particular, the communications committee and volunteer participation are pivotal in the new monthly event movement.

“We have writers and photographers on the communications committee and they do our ‘Access Newsletter,’” Ruffin said. “They’re also going to start doing the promotion for all the little neighborhood events. Now that we have events every month, we’ll need volunteers for every event.”

The ECA works closely with local businesses to raise community awareness and local business support.

“Our next event is in March. Mid-March we’re going to do a meet and greet at Harmony Brewing Company,” Ruffin said. “My thought is, residents can come meet board members, meet me, know people’s faces.”

“Each one of you has a hand in making this one of the best neighborhoods in Grand Rapids to live in,” Sytsma said.