Local nonprofit to host community engagement fair July 21

Published 4:58 pm Thursday, July 6, 2023

DOWAGIAC — A local nonprofit is gearing up to host an event that will provide local residents with information about education, wellness and community resources in the area.

MI Life in Numbers — a nonprofit organization created by Dowagiac resident Heather Olson to support and empower people living with type one diabetes — is hosting its first Community Engagement Fair from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday, July 21, at Marion Magnolia Farms, 57376 Twin Lakes Rd., Cassopolis.

The free event will feature several local nonprofits and organizations – including Hidden Acres, Niles Service League, Outcenter of Southwest Michigan Fallen Warriors and more – hosting booths at the event. Visitors can meet local vendors and get involved with their programs, volunteer or make connections.

“We were thinking of something we can do in the community and how we could get people involved and get our name out there,” she said. “Our goal is to raise awareness for our organization and programs and raise awareness for other participating organizations. I feel like there are a lot of organizations in our community that are doing awesome things but people may not know, so we wanted it to be a central location where people could come to meet these organizations and learn how to get involved.”

In addition, food vendors including Taqueria Del Rey, Kona Ice and Cooking For Comfort will be on site as well as live music by Jonny Love and John Schirripa. Olson hopes the event will lead to long-term partnerships with local organizations and community members. 

“We want the community to have a one-stop environment where they can check out all of these resources,” she said. “We wanted it to be a fun environment where people feel open and inspired to get involved.”

According to Olson, feedback from community members and vendors alike has been positive.

“I think everyone is super excited,” she said. “There aren’t many events like this so we’re excited to host this. We want to lift each other up and build each other up. I think it’ll be great for both organizations and community members to attend and have access to these resources. Being from a smaller area, resources like this aren’t readily available. We want to make sure people know the amazing things happening in the community and how to get involved.”

A graduate of Dowagiac Union High School, Olson attended Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan where she graduated with a bachelor’s of science degree in health communication and also nonprofit administration. After returning home to Dowagiac, Olson – who was diagnosed with type one diabetes at the age of seven – wanted to use her newly-obtained skills to give back to the community by starting a nonprofit geared toward helping people in southwest Michigan living with the disease. 

According to Olson, the name MI Life in Numbers was inspired by the daily diabetic task of monitoring blood sugar and counting carbohydrates each meal. The organization offers services including advocate programs, counseling services, empowerment groups and more.

Now, two years since its founding, Olson is happy with the growth the organization has experienced and looks forward to the organization’s community impact in the years to come.

“It has honestly been so amazing,” she said. “I don’t think everyone realizes everything diabetics deal with on a daily basis. I just think giving people hope that there is an organization they can turn to get the help they need. It has been amazing to work with our members and raise awareness. Our community support has been amazing; we couldn’t do it without everyone supporting us. We’ve had a great two years and it’s been a great journey.”