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Elissa Hillary

Elissa Hillary | President

Elissa Hillary is committed to working at the leading edge of values-based capitalism, building sustainable local economies that put people first.  As the President of Local First since 2007, she has brought together nearly a thousand businesses in West Michigan to collaborate in building a vibrant community that encourages sustainable business development.  As a consultant, speaker, and thought leader, she has stressed the significance of building social capital through the mutual investment of the local business, consumer, government, and philanthropic sectors.  Under these initiatives, West Michigan’s economy and brand has thrived, with nationally-recognized growth and the birth of new industries.  Elissa was named Grand Rapids Young Non-Profit Professionals Exemplary Executive in 2010, a BCorp Measure What Matters Champion in 2014, and has three times been named one of Grand Rapids Business Journal’s “Top 40 Under 40” business leaders. She is a 2011 Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE) Fellow and BCorp Ambassador.  In her free time, Elissa enjoys traveling, running, hiking, and crafting delicious locally-sourced meals.

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

Amy Deel

Amy Deel | Operations Manager

Amy joined Local First in August 2010 as Membership Coordinator with extensive experience in the nonprofit industry, and became Operations Manager in 2016. A transplant from Flint, Michigan, 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: Brewery Vivant, Amore Trattoria Italiana, MadCap Coffee

Hanna Schulze

Hanna Schulze | Program & Fund Development Manager

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 things to do are apple picking in local orchards, and backpacking around one of Michigan's beautiful national parks. Hanna’s love for all things local begins with her love of great food; she believes that the greatest friendships start in the kitchen. Hanna has been on staff with Local First since 2013, and is passionate about advocating for a place-based, sustainable 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 joyful and prosperous life.

When not at Local First, you might find Hanna at: Sanctuary Folk Art Gallery, Fulton Street Farmers Market, and Vertigo Music.

Michele Lonergan

Michele Lonergan | Business Development Manager

Michele joined Local First in January of 2013 after working as Executive Director of the Lakeshore Independent Business Alliance for 5 years. She was a Membership Coordinator for the Lakeshore for two years, and in December 2014, became Business Development Manager. 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

Mieke Stoub

Mieke Stoub | Marketing Manager

Mieke is a native of Grand Rapids and, as the daughter of two entrepreneurs, has a deep appreciation of locally-owned businesses and the unique challenges they face. Prior to coming to Local First, Mieke built a nine-year career as an esthetician. After graduating from Grand Valley State University, she took her passion for bringing out the beauty in a person's face and turned it into a passion for promoting the face of an organization. She is inspired by the ways local businesses in West Michigan come together in order to continuously build the community. Mieke enjoys doing almost anything if it's outdoors on a sunny day, but has also been know to ride her motorcycle on a drizzly 45 degree afternoon.

When not at Local First, you might find Mieke at: G.B. Russo's, TerraGR, Spoke Folks, or catching a show at the Pyramid Scheme

Megan Dimmer

Megan Dimmer | Events Coordinator

Megan is a soon to be graduate from Davenport University. While in school, she worked with local churches to coordinate events that are barrier free to youth in the community. Megan is excited to continue the work of creating inclusive events that promotes the importance of local living for a community. Growing up in Grand Rapids, Megan has a great fondness for local art and food. She loves how those areas of business often bring people together in organic ways and minimizes social barriers to have conversations that would not be had otherwise. Megan is an avid reader, artist, and adventurer. There isn’t much she isn’t willing to do.  

When not at Local First, you might find Megan at: Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts, Long Road DIstillers, The Funky Buddha Yoga Hothouse or Gravity Taphouse Grille.

Anthony Wilder Puzzuoli

Anthony Wilder Puzzuoli | Membership Coordinator

Anthony moved to Grand Rapids in 2002 to attend Aquinas College. After graduation, Anthony worked in landscaping and for the West Michigan Environmental Action Council before he started working at Local First. He also holds a certificate in Sports and Commercial Turfgrass Management from Michigan State University. Anthony enjoys riding bikes, following baseball, petting animals, walking around, looking at buildings, and hanging out with his wife and friends.

When not at Local First, you might find Anthony at: Founders Brewing Company, Furniture City Creamery, The Sparrows, and Lake Michigan. 

Patty Fitzpatrick

Patty Fitzpatrick | Membership Coordinator

Patty has focused her career on improving and enhancing central business districts. Working with public and private sectors, she developed policies that advanced the physical, organizational and economic aspects of downtown communities. From 1993-2013 Patty was the Downtown Development Authority director for the City of Holland. Patty is devoted to local businesses and their special role in our communities. After her work with the DDA, Patty and her husband had the opportunity to live in Munich, Germany for several years, returning to Michigan in 2016.  She joined Local First in October, 2016. Patty enjoys gardening, traveling, playing her old guitar and speaking German with her Stammtisch group.

When not at Local First, you might find Patty at: Grow - A Saugatuck Diner, Fustini’s Oils and Vinegars, or Spring Sweet. 

Dana Eardley

Dana Eardley | Program Coordinator

Dana is passionate about finding community based solutions towards creating equitable food systems. Dana believes that together, our farms, restaurants, grocery stores, and food entrepreneurs provide the foundation for a strong local economy that celebrates a connection to our planet and our people. Dana enjoys hiking, farming, traveling, cooking, reading, and exploring Grand Rapids.

When not at Local First, you might find Dana at: Global Infusion, Ferris Coffee & Nut Company, Chez Olga, Brewery Vivant