By Jennifer Morrison (MI-Stories.com)
S.O.U.L. of Philanthropy
An heir to the D&W grocery store chain founder Roy Woodrick, Bob Woodrick was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1932 and graduated from Catholic Central High School. He made his career at D&W, beginning with sweeping floors at age fourteen. Bob’s wife and daughter are among the founders of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, and he became a champion for the cause of cultural diversity in Grand Rapids.
D&W Foods was founded in 1943 as a small corner grocery store in Grandville by Roy Woodrick and his partner, Sid DeVries. The name of the store came from the first letter of the two partners’ last names. Roy’s son, Robert, was born in 1932 and began his career at D&W by sweeping floors there at the age of 14. He graduated from Catholic Central High School and joined the U.S. Air Force where he spent four years. After two years in a food distribution program at Michigan State University, he returned to Grand Rapids and the family business. Robert took over the company’s second store in Cascade, Michigan. Eventually he rose through the ranks at D&W to become president in 1976, then CEO and chairman from 1988 until 1994.
Bob has played a major role in battling racism in Grand Rapids, giving presentations on the subject, serving on boards, and leading initiatives and cultural diversity programs for businesses and organizations. He founded the Institute for Healing Racism in 1997, which offers classes to individuals to explore issues of racism. He has also served on the board of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance. His wife, Aleicia, and daughter Georgia Woodrick were founders of the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Bob and his wife serve in many other ways in the community.
Ties to the Philanthropic Sector
Bob and Aleicia Woodrick have been involved in a variety of community organizations, including the Heart of West Michigan United Way, the Student Advancement Foundation, the Inner City Christian Federation, Grand Rapids Community Foundation, Butterworth Hospital, Habitat for Humanity, and Special Olympics. Aleicia and the Woodrick’s daughter, Georgia, were among a group of women who founded the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum in 1997. Bob and Aleicia gave major financial contributions toward the project and helped to direct the fundraising.
After giving a talk to the Grand Rapids Dominicans on justice in the workplace, Bob became interested in fighting racism. He began giving presentations to local organizations, averaging over one per week for a period of several years in the 1990s. He was involved in establishing cultural diversity committees and programs for local businesses and organizations, including at D&W. He initiated the Woodrick Institute for the Study of Racism and Diversity at Aquinas College that later became the Bob and Alicia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center at Grand Rapids Community College. He gave major support to the Institute for Healing Racism at Grand Valley State University and the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance in Holland.
Key Related Ideas
Woodrick was born during the Great Depression in Grand Rapids, Michigan. His father founded D&W Foods, where Bob spent his career. Bob and his family were volunteers and philanthropists for a number of community causes. They played a major role in developing the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Bob became a leader in initiatives that oppose racism and promote cultural diversity.
Important People Related to the Topic
- Aleicia Woodrick: Aleicia is Bob’s wife and partner in philanthropy. Aleicia was among a group of women (including Bob and Aleicia’s daughter, Georgia Gietzen) who founded the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum. Aleicia was also active with the Grand Rapids Art Museum, Grand Rapids Opportunities for Women, and other community efforts.
Related Nonprofit Organizations
- Heart of West Michigan United Way: United Way is a leader and community catalyst, mobilizing the caring power of individuals and organizations to help people measurably improve their lives. http://www.waybetterunitedway.org/
- The Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance seeks to dismantle racial, socioeconomic, and institutional barriers to ensure that people of all ethnic backgrounds have equal access and opportunity to participate fully in the life of the community. http://www.ethnicdiversity.org/
- The Grand Rapids Children's Museum celebrates childhood and the joy of learning by providing an interactive, hands-on environment that inspires learning and encourages self directed exploration. http://www.grcm.org/
- The Grand Rapids Community Foundation: Michigan’s oldest nonprofit organization pools donations in order to invest them and make grants to a variety of charitable organizations. http://www.grfoundation.org/
- Woodrick Diversity Learning Center: The Bob and Aleicia Woodrick Diversity Learning Center at Grand Rapids Community College is a resource to the college and community to promote and ensure individual growth, respect for human differences, and to foster an inclusive learning environment. http://www.grcc.cc.mi.us/ShowPage.cfm?PageID=21
Related Web Sites
- D&W Foods was first opened in 1943 by partners Sid DeVries and Roy Woodrick. The first letters of their last names make up the name of the store. In 2005, D&W sold all their stores to Spartan. Some stores retain the D&W Fresh Market name. http://www.dwfreshmarket.com/ Read about the company’s history at Wikipedia. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D&W_Food_Centers
- Grand Valley State University: Grand Valley offers a strong liberal education, fostering critical thinking, creative problem solving, and cultural understanding. The mission is to educate students to shape their lives, their professions, and their societies. The university website is at http://www.gvsu.edu/
Bibliography and Internet Sources
Woodrick, Bob. “Racism Lives Through Denial.” Grand Rapids Press, Jan. 14, 1996, p. E1
Clipping file and oral history in the SOUL of Philanthropy collection in the Grand Rapids History and Special Collections of the Grand Rapids Public Library
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