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From Housing to Hearts: How Kalamazoo Became Home

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Laurent

This blog post is from Chris Laurent, the new Corporate Events Director for the American Heart Association in Southwestern Michigan. Chris will oversee the Go Red For Women initiative and the Heart Walk events in the area. As someone who could have chosen any community to work in, we asked him to describe why he selected the Kalamazoo area.

I love how people from Kalamazoo love to be from Kalamazoo. They are the best ambassadors for the city, don’t you think?

You see it reflected in local activities, you can see the word Kalamazoo emblazoned on t-shirts, in art and in the support for the local sports teams. In fact, many people in the city suggested that I should call it home.

In the spring of this year, I stepped down from my role as Director of Chicagoland Habitat for Humanity. I served the Habitat mission for 10 years and loved the people, the cause, and the city of Chicago, but I was ready for a change.

The daily commute from my apartment in Logan Square to my office in the Loop had lost some of its sparkle, and at the end of the day I was missing evenings with my children and far too many games and recitals.

I was reticent to leave the culture and excitement of the cosmopolitan lifestyle, but I was willing to let go in search of something more manageable and family-centered.

I had taken my kids on a couple of weekend trips to Kalamazoo to visit the Air Zoo and Climb Kalamazoo and had begun to develop a little fantasy about relocating. Kalamazoo has the flair of a big city without the traffic and astronomical costs. Kalamazoo exhibits its passion for arts and culture in everything from the fine arts to its restaurants and passion for craft beers.

Kalamazoo is an intelligent community full of little bookstores and surrounded by institutions of higher learning. It’s also a community that promotes active lifestyles and has multiple fitness centers and yoga studios to choose from along with many parks and bicycle trails to experience. How could you pass those things up?

Cities seem to either be growing or slowly dying. Kalamazoo has invested in its future by investing in its schools, but also in its economic development. I am very impressed with the many organizations dedicated to business development and all they are doing to increase employment opportunities and to strengthen the heartbeat of this community. This is a city that is thriving.

During the short time that I’ve lived in the area, I’ve developed some favorite local businesses. At any given time you might find me at Bell’s Cafe, taking a class at Bent9 Hot Yoga, or talking business over at Water Street Coffee Joint.

Having completed my first American Heart Association Heart Walk in the Kalamazoo community. I am new to this area, but the Kalamazoo that I have gotten to know over the past five months is diverse, passionate and generous, and I am proud of how this new community has accepted me.

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