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Staff

Elissa Hillary | Executive Director

Elissa S. Hillary, Executive Director Since 2007, Elissa Hillary has served as the Executive Director of Local First, an entrepreneurial nonprofit working to build a sustainable West Michigan economy grounded in local ownership. Her energy and creativity have helped Local First quadruple business membership, expand regionally, and develop programs that promote sustainable development, reduce waste, and increase community vibrancy. Elissa is a BALLE Fellow, Grand Rapids Young Non-Profit Professionals Exemplary Executive and a twice recognized “Top 40 under 40” business leader. She writes a monthly column for Grand Rapids Magazine, serves on the Grand Rapids DDA’s Board of Directors, the Downtown Market’s Leasing Committee, and the HUB Grand Rapids Board of Advisors.

When not at Local First, you might find Elissa at: The Green Well, Art of the Table, Gazelle Sports, Celebration! Cinema, Kingma's Market

 

Amy Deel | Membership Coordinator

Amy joined Local First in August 2010 as Membership Coordinator with extensive experience in the nonprofit industry. A transplant from Flint, MI, Amy moved to Grand Rapids in 2002 and fell in love with the vibrant community. Working with Local First has allowed her to see that local business is a large part of what makes Grand Rapids unique, successful and a wonderful place to live. Amy’s favorite part of working for Local First is seeing the passion and drive of business owners as well as watching their successes as they continue to grow.

When not at Local First, you might find Amy at: Amore Trattoria Italiana, Brewery Vivant, MadCap Coffee

 

Meghan Disselkoen | Development Manager

After working in nonprofit administration at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Aquinas College, Meghan Disselkoen joined Local First as Program & Fund Development Coordinator, focusing on event planning and donor relations. Meghan now works for Local First as Development Manager, helping to grow the capacity and outreach of the Local First Education Foundation. Meghan graduated from Grand Valley State University, and enjoys kayaking, backpacking, tennis, and cooking from-scratch meals. "My favorite part about the work that I do at Local First is that I truly believe it empowers people to create change in their community. You don’t have to have great influence, or a lot of money to vote with your dollars – even $5 can create a significant impact. Supporting local businesses is attainable for anyone and everyone, and I believe that’s where true change starts."

When not at Local First, you might find Meghan at: Fulton St. Farmers Market, Peninsula Trading Travel Gear, Romence Gardens, Nantucket Bakery

 

Melissa English | Administrative Coordinator

Melissa English joined Local First in May 2011 as Administrative Coordinator. She has a B.A. in English and Environmental Studies from Aquinas College and enjoys reading, studying wildlife, and exploring Michigan’s outdoors with her beautiful family. “I love the work I do at Local First because it always shows me new ways to positively transform my experiences. A simple thing like grocery shopping – so often a source of frustration and agony in our culture – becomes an occasion of joy and an opportunity to enhance my community when it is done at my favorite local businesses."

When not at Local First, you might find Melissa at: Hop Scotch Children's Store, Global Infusion, Tree Huggers

 

Michele Lonergan | Membership Coordinator

Michele joined Local First in January of 2013 after working as Executive Director of the Lakeshore Independent Business Alliance for 5 years. Prior to going into non-profit work, Michele was the owner of a locally owned independent bookstore, Tree House Books, for 8 years in Downtown Holland. Michele is an avid reader of all genres, loves to eat and cook ethnic food, is a big fan of foreign films and loves to plan and execute epic hiking trips in far-flung places around the world. "Working for Local First is a natural extension of my passion for living locally. Creating relationships with the local businesses in my community enhances my sense of well-being and provides me with a strong sense of connection with my fellow citizens."

When not at Local First, you might find Michele atButch’s, Montello’s Meat Market, Globe Design & Vision

 

Anthony Puzzuoli | Interim Membership Coordinator

Anthony joined Local First in December 2013 to help out when several staff members were out on maternity leave. He is a graduate of Aquinas College and has previously worked at West Michigan Environmental Action Council. Since moving to Grand Rapids over ten years ago, he has seen the impact local businesses have had on turning Grand Rapids into the exciting, energetic city it is today. Anthony enjoys baseball, running, reading, going to the beach, dining out, and spending time with his friends.

When not at Local First, you might find Anthony at: Founders Brewing Company, The Anchor Bar, Frosty Pints, Grand Rapids Public Library

 

Hanna Schulze | Program and Events Coordinator

Hanna is a graduate of Grand Valley State University and has lived in West Michigan for over a decade. She loves to travel and enjoys experiencing new cultures and traditions. Though Hanna has a penchant for adventure, her heart belongs to Michigan, especially in the Autumn. Her favorite thing to do is go apple picking in one of the many local orchards our beautiful state has to offer. Hanna’s love for all things local begins with her love of great food; she believes that the greatest friendships are built on a full stomach. Most recently, Hanna worked as an Event Coordinator at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market, and has been on staff with Local First on a part time basis since April 2013. She couldn’t be more excited to join the team full-time! Hanna is passionate about promoting a locally-driven economy because she values the relationships it builds between neighbors and businesses. She believes that buying and selling local goods fosters a sense of pride in one’s community and leads to a happy and prosperous life.

When not at Local First, you might find Hanna at: The Downtown Market, Bistro Bella Vita, Lemonjello's Coffee

 

Samantha Vanderberg | Communications Coordinator

Samantha Vanderberg joined Local First in 2013 as Membership Assistant and later in the year became the Communications Coordinator. She graduated from Calvin College with a degree in English and Writing and enjoys reading, cooking, and photography. "Local First encourages community members to buy products and services from local businesses. In turn, those businesses are better enabled to give back to our community. I love working for an organization that helps our West Michigan community grow stronger not only financially, but relationally as we support one another."

When not at Local First, you might find Samantha at: Martha’s Vineyard, Hopcat, Cherry Deli

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