Elissa 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 | Program & Fund Development Coordinator
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 graduated from Grand Valley State University, and enjoys kayaking, backpacking, tennis, and cooking extravagant 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: Tree Huggers, Fulton St. Farmers Market, Peninsula Trading Travel Gear, Romence Gardens
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
Seth Galligan | Communications Coordinator
After working as a humanitarian overseas, media producer in Ann Arbor, and a Graduate Assistant at Grand Valley State University, Seth Galligan joined Local First as Communications Coordinator, overseeing the organization's communications, media production, media relations, and social media operations. Seth is currently pursuing his M.S. in Communications from Grand Valley State University, where he is focusing on communication and media production. Seth is happy to be a part of furthering the goals of Local First because he believes that strong relationships are at the heart of a healthy, thriving, enjoyable community. Seth believes that turning neighbors into partners who mutually take ownership over developing our community is an excellent way to create lasting and meaningful relationships.
When not at Local First, you might find Seth at: Fruit Basket Flowerland, Marie Catrib's, Schuler Books & Music
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 at: Butch’s, Montello’s Meat Market, Globe Design & Vision
Hanna Schulze | Program Assistant
Hanna is a graduate of Grand Valley State University who has lived in West Michigan for nearly a decade. She has most recently worked for the city of Holland coordinating the Street Performer Series and activities at the farmers market. Hanna enjoys traveling, cooking, and exploring. 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 community that leads to a happy and prosperous lifestyle.
When not at Local First, you might find Hanna at: Nourish Organic Market, The Winchester, and Bistro Bella Vita
Samantha Vanderberg | Membership Assistant
Samantha Vanderberg joined Local First in 2013 as Membership Assistant. 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