1115 ALTO AVE SE GRAND RAPIDS, MI 49506

Project Green Staff

Dallas Lenear
Executive Director

Stephanie Pierce
Advocacy Director

Marcquis Taylor
Resource Director

Bobbie Locke
Administrative Assistant

GFA GRASSROOTS FINANCIAL ADVOCATES

Project GREEN is powered by its people. Our vision is to “turn everyday people into money heroes.” And, our Grassroots Financial Advocates are just that. Through our partner organizations and other recruitment channels, Project GREEN recruits 5 people per year who will serve as GFAs. In that role, they commit to 12 hours/month for 12 months to enhancing their own financial well-being and helping others to do the same. For their commitment, GFAs receive a monthly stipend. GFAs participate in our Money Talk Workshops (link), and they participate in customized training that helps them to identify a financial advocacy project. Through their project, they work to bridge a gap or tear down a wall that keeps low to moderate-income households in Kent County from reaching their financial goals. This has included projects like making online banking more user-friendly for seniors to working towards making financial literacy a high school graduation requirement.

If you or someone you know would like to consider becoming a GFA, please click below to contact us.

You can hear directly from our GFAs as they tell their stories here

Jerlean McAlister
Cohort 2018

Jerlean is a ProjectGREEN Grassroots Financial Advocate working to identify individuals who have suffered from taking out payday loans. Helping them share their stories helps raise awareness about these debt traps and how long it can take to get out of them.

Mary McGhee
Cohort 2018

Mary is working to identify individuals and organizations to join her advocacy project. Ms. Mary’s goal is to get local financial institutions to make electronic banking more user-friendly for senior citizens.

Willie Mumper
Cohort 2018

Willie is working to identify individuals and organizations to join his advocacy project. Willy’s goal is to draft a grant proposal to pilot a non-traditional transportation service for a group of young adults to local employment for a period of 12 months.

Shanelle White
Cohort 2018

Shanelle is taking initiative to pursue an advocacy project that will help others build credit from the rent to homeownership transition.

Stephanie Pierce
COHORT 2018

Stephanie is working to identify individuals and organizations to join her advocacy project. Stephanie’s goal is to meet with the Director of the Dept of Education to stop the accrual of interest on student loans that are in deferrment.

Kileya DeBarge
COHORT 2020

Kileya DeBarge is a Grand Rapids native, an ambitious college student, and was raised with a strong developing mindset as her foundation. As a Grassroots Financial Advocate at Project GREEN, Kileya’s focus is helping fellow students achieve a solid understanding of student financial aid, one of the first and largest investments as adulthood begins. Her guiding quote: “Life will only change when you become more committed to your dreams than you are to your comfort zone.” In her spare time, Kileya enjoys music, writing, poetry, home decor and having “knowledgeable moments.”

Staci Nichols
COHORT 2020

Staci Nichols is Financial Services Representative for a downtown Grand Rapids credit union. For over ten years, she has educated the community on credit building and achieving home ownership, as well as transforming her own credit and financial picture for the better. Therefore, becoming a Grassroots Financial Advocate for Project GREEN was a natural fit. Staci strongly believes that with education and self-discipline, anyone can create the financial future they desire. She states, “My ultimate goal is to help underserved communities achieve the financial and political equity necessary to create positive generational change!”

Marcquis Taylor
COHORT 2020

In addition to serving as a Grassroots Financial Advocate, Marcquis Taylor is also Resource Director for Project GREEN. He is Founder/CEO of Taylorscapes, LLC, a landscaping and exterior management company. A devoted urban community activist, Marcquis’ passion is economic empowerment – helping people cultivate sound financial principles, destroy poverty, and create a legacy of generational wealth for their families.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS

Christopher B. Smith
Chair

Chris is an adjunct faculty member for Ferris State University, focusing on social work and social policy. He is also the Founder and CEO of NPS Consulting. He brings to Project GREEN many years of experience stemming from leadership positions in the areas of human services and community/economic development. Chris’ passion to solve social issues stemming from wealth and income inequality fit perfectly with Project GREEN’s economic empowerment initiatives supporting financial freedom for all.

Chris is an adjunct faculty member for Ferris State University, focusing on social work and social policy. He is also the Founder and CEO of NPS Consulting. He brings to Project GREEN many years of experience stemming from leadership positions in the areas of human services and community/economic development. Chris’ passion to solve social issues stemming from wealth and income inequality fit perfectly with Project GREEN’s economic empowerment initiatives supporting financial freedom for all.

Shellida Hancock,
Vice Chair

Shellida serves as a Corporate Benefits Consultant for SpartanNash. A devoted advocate of thriving communities, she started volunteering for Project GREEN in 2017 as a Grassroots Financial Advocate (GFA) and conducted the organization’s first Money Talks Workshop. Now a Board member, her zeal for Project GREEN is centered around her love of helping people understand how to stretch their dollars and live within their means during every stage of life – prepared for tough times and ready to build long term financial success.

Clarkston Morgan,
Secretary

Clarkston is COO of W4 Construction Group, a general contracting firm specializing in construction project management. One of Project GREEN’s financial literacy talks inspired Clarkston’s desire to join the organization’s work. With a devotion to breaking down long-term barriers caused by financial oppression, Clarkston saw Project GREEN leveraging a huge opportunity to positively impact communities of color through life-changing financial literacy education. He joined the organization as a Grassroots Financial Advocate (GFA) and now as a Board member, is instrumental in guiding Project GREEN’s community empowerment strategy.

Attah Obande,
Treasurer

Attah is CEO of iNFable, an emerging social justice brand bringing awareness to causes through their popular line of socks. He is also Director of Dream Fulfillment at SpringGR, empowering underserved entrepreneurs to build strong, sustainable businesses. Originally from Nigeria, Attah’s road to victory went from a bumpy road learning about managing finances in the USA to a successful career in banking.  After hearing about Project GREEN’s mission, he immediately wanted to put his passion to work by making the road to wealth building smoother for individuals and families.

Willie O. Smith

After serving the people of Michigan at the Department of Corrections for 41 years, the new chapter for Willie is pursuing his passion for helping others achieve financial success. Now a financial counselor for New Hope Baptist Church, his transformative guidance teaches people how to live on less than they earn, save for their goals instead of going into debt, and avoid the trap of predatory debt like payday loans. His zeal for Project GREEN stems from the joy he gets from seeing community members thrive financially and build a lasting legacy.

Milinda “Mindy” Ysasi

Milinda is the Executive Director of The SOURCE, an organization focused on reducing employment barriers, increasing talent retention, and creating growth opportunities for employees of their partner organizations. A devoted community leader and lifelong Grand Rapids area resident, Milinda also serves as elected Commissioner for the 2ndWard of the City of Grand Rapids. Furthermore, she co-founded the Latina Network of West Michigan. Her support and enthusiasm for Project GREEN stems from her realization that in communities of color, there is certainly a focus on income, but not wealth generation. She appreciates Project GREEN’s very grassroots approach: instead of simply telling people what to do, personal and relatable stories are shared about common experiences and lessons learned. The result is personal economic empowerment with lasting results.

Shannon Cohen

Shannon Cohen is the Founder and CEO of Shannon Cohen, Inc., a firm with a mighty imprint and reputation for excellence. Shannon is a high-level consultant specializing in developing customized emotional intelligence, equity, and wellness colloquy for organizations across diverse sectors and industries. Shannon Cohen is author of the book, Tough Skin, Soft Heart: A Leadership Guide to Growing Stronger, Better, and Wiser and creator of a podcast of the same name. Shannon’s devotion to Project GREEN’s mission is rooted in having friends and family whose lives were damaged by the negative consequences of payday loans. Shannon served on the research team in Project GREEN’s early days.  As a researcher, she was surprised to learn that Grand Rapids has more payday loan outlets than McDonald’s restaurants. Shannon is a champion of Project GREEN’s initiatives to disrupt predatory loan cycles and help everyday people become their own money heroes.

About Project Green

Turning everyday people into money heroes!

Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion Statement

Project GREEN’s vision is to turn everyday people into money heroes. This vision is borne partly out of the reality that too many everyday people are money victims. The Kellogg Foundation reports that “POC in Michigan earn ⅔ of what their White counterparts earn.
The resolution of this inequity would result in an additional $15B in annual earnings, increasing Michigan’s spending power and stimulating the economy.” According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, the median net worth of a white family in 2016 was $171,000 – nearly ten times as much as that of Black households ($17,150). Traps continue to be set to maintain this disparity. For example, Pew Charitable Trusts reported that payday loan stores are 2.5 times more likely to be located in communities of color.

As Project GREEN does its work of raising Awareness of personal financial matters, encouraging and equipping Asset-Building, creating fair loan Alternatives, and doing Advocacy around economic justice, we do so with an eye towards communities with the most room for growth. As Kellogg notes, helping those most in need will in fact boost the overall economy.

Project GREEN is committed to maintaining a culture of diversity and equity in all of our programs and initiatives. As an organization of empowerment, our strength is in our promise to be inclusive, with intentional strategies to welcome all and uplift historically marginalized people within our reach. We seek to identify and equip local, diverse, intergenerational voices and leaders to herald their own experiences and to work together toward their own solutions.

While our economic empowerment work targets those historically marginalized communities in Kent County and beyond, Project GREEN affirms that:

1) No person is excluded from organization services due to discriminatory reasons including age, disability, economic circumstance, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, world view, political affiliations, spiritual beliefs, marital status, national origin or veteran status.

2) No one is excluded from consideration for employment or volunteer participation, regardless of age, disability, economic circumstance, race, ethnicity, gender, gender identity or expression, sexual orientation, world view, political affiliations, spiritual beliefs, marital status, national origin or veteran status.

3) The organization strives to intentionally increase inclusive practices and incorporate diversity throughout its mission, governance board, staff, volunteers, vendors and constituents.

Join us as we help families to rewrite their financial legacy!

Adopted by Board of Directors Friday, July 17, 2020

Project GREEN Features Two Core Activities:

Statewide Fair Lending Coalition:

GREEN will develop a statewide network of anchor institutions from 12 targeted communities across Michigan
who would work to counteract the negative economic impact of payday lending. Together, this coalition will:

1

Network to share strategies.

2

Collect payday loan stories from consumers.

3

Raise community awareness on predatory lending.

4

Develop a shared vision and strategy with partner organizations that will lead to an eventual public campaign.

5

Build the capacity of partner organizations and develop potential solutions.

6

Organize a fair lending education and advocacy campaign.

7

Work with traditional lending institutions to provide fair and responsible lending options within their communities.

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