Lansing man starts a unique program to help people get back on their feet
LANSING, Mich. — The Fledge is like a community center, but it’s so much more. It’s a business incubator, a place to discover new opportunities, record a song or just find a safe place. More than anything, it’s somewhere for people to discover their passion and find happiness.
For the last several months, that’s something that Gary Tanguay says he’s needed. Tanguay says he’s been unemployed and down on his luck.
“The Fledge offers a plethora of resources wherever you’re in your life,” he said. “If you’re struggling, or if you need clothes, food, maybe a place to get out of the sun or maybe the cold, you can come here.”
Jerry Norris is the founder of The Fledge. Norris grew up in Lansing, and after graduation, went to the University of Michigan where he studied mathematics and computer science. After graduating college, he had a successful career traveling the world, but he said he gave it all up to return to his hometown.
“I had gone all over the world helping other people build systems and structures that worked for them, but I had never done that in Lansing. And I always say that Lansing raised me,” Norris said. “I felt obligated that I should get more involved in Lansing. As soon as I tasted that first involvement, it grew in me and made me realize that this is the work I should be doing.”
Norris is passionate about helping people and wants to see others thrive. That’s why he says he started The Fledge.
“It started out mostly for entrepreneurial people who wanted to start businesses,” Norris said. “I tell them about the three C’s – cash, competencies and connections. So, training them, getting them connected with people and trying to find funding for them.”
The Fledge is a place of possibilities. Norris says so many people have dreams, but unfortunately, life gets in the way.
“If you’re thinking about where you’re going to live, how you’re going to feed your kids tonight, who’s going to babysit your kids, what transportation you’re going to have, then you can’t think about a business,” Norris said. “You can’t think about going back to school, or you can’t think about personal development.”
So, the Fledge offers food and clothing and even helps people find transportation and housing. Giving people an opportunity to discover their passions and creating a sense of belonging.
Raeanne Mardigian learned about The Fledge and nominated Jerry Norris as a Good Neighbor.
“I nominated Jerry as a good neighbor because of what he’s doing for this community,” she said. “It is an absolute blessing and an asset of what he’s pouring into here. And we honestly need to be more mindful of it. More people need to hear about it.”
Norris says he is just a small cog in the wheel of life.
“Chief Seattle said the man did not weave the web of life. He’s merely a strand, and that anything he does to the web, he does to himself, and he was talking about polluting water, but it also applies on the good side. Anything I do for somebody else, I do for myself,” he said.
Jerry Norris, for always giving back to the community, you are this week’s good neighbor.
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