The former CEO of the AmWay Group, Dick DeVos always seems to me to have been a man with a mission to prove himself to be one of the top business people in the U.S. since he made his way to the family owned business in the mid 1970s. The first steps the graduate of the Grand Rapids, Michigan public school system decided to take in the business founded by his father, Richard, were not at executive level, which impressed me as many individuals would have immediately asked for a position at boardroom level.
After spending a decade working with the AmWay Group in a range of different areas of the business the major donor to the Kennedy Center for the Arts was entrusted with his first executive position at AmWay; however, founder Richard DeVos still challenged Dick to prove himself by placing him in charge of the under performing foreign markets division. I was impressed by the way Dick DeVos turned around the foreign markets division and saw huge increases in business for the AmWay Group; the success DeVos found saw him trusted with the leadership of the Orlando Magic NBA Franchise before his arrival as the CEO of AmWay.
The DeVos family have always impressed me with the philanthropy they undertake on a regular basis, including the estimated $94 million they gave to charitable groups in 2014 by creating The Windquest Group that allows he and wife Betsy the chance to invest in various business opportunities in the Michigan area and beyond; for myself the most impressive aspects of Windquest are the small scale investments that are based around Michigan to help a local economy that has been struggling since the 2008 economic downturn.
Michigan Live has recently been given access to the charitable giving of the DeVoss family that has given away over $1.2 billion dollars. Organizations benefiting from this charitable family include education, health, community, art and culture organizations. The founder of Amway has allowed each of his children to set up their own charitable foundations to support the causes that matter most to them and they have in turn become philanthropists with a deep appreciation for their father’s example.
I am incredibly grateful to my parents for initiating and encouraging by example the tradition of philanthropy within our family. We are happy to be a part of this great community!
One of those children is Dick DeVos. He has been instrumental in revitalizing downtown Grand Rapids, Michigan.
While people may be most familiar with DeVos, who provided leadership in revitalizing downtown Grand Rapids including the building of the DeVos Palace, his leadership is arguably most evident in the development of the downtown market. The cornerstone of the market is market hall where shoppers find a variety of fresh products including fish caught from the local lakes, produce from local farms, and fresh flowers that compares to the largest flower markets in Europe.
The market also includes many classes and events for all ages. During the school year, visitors find cuisine from around the world featured giving diners the chance to pretend they are on vacations to exotic locations like northern Italy without having to leave Grand Rapids. During the summer, this area features the popular summer camp for kids where they can explore food and nutrition from garden to table.
Individuals who wonder if they have what it takes to create their own food products for sale are welcome to use the incubator kitchen equipped with a commercial pastry area, production areas and packaging areas. The great news for these individuals is that the kitchen is staffed with professionals who can guide the innovator each step of the way.
This educational experience is something that DeVos values highly as the Dick and Betsy DeVos Family Foundation is dedicated to giving the majority of its funds to this cause. He is so dedicated to education he has even founded his own public high school, West Michigan Aviation Academy which celebrates his passion for education and for flight. Dick himself is an avid pilot and frequently lands his own helicopters in the downtown market area like he does in the video below.
None of this would be possible except for the dreams of Dick DeVos who often can be found at the Grand Rapids Downtown Market. Dick was responsible for giving much of the money to get the area established. Additionally, his ideals of hard work and sharing permeate every aspect of the facility. After leading Amway for many years, Dick turned his focus on revitalizing downtown Grand Rapids. Now, everyone can enjoy the benefits of his dream to have a revitalized downtown area where everyone can find something that they need.