Muskegon – By October 18, 2016, 80 educators from schools within Muskegon County will have completed half-day workshops to learn more about the “be nice.” initiative designed to help prevent bullying and suicide. Thanks to a $250,000 investment by 17 area businesses and organizations, the costs of the launch kits, training, and ongoing support are covered for the next five years.

A product of the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, be nice. is a self-starting curriculum and kit for schools, communities, and businesses. It follows the model: N​otice, I​nvite, C​hallenge, and E​mpower. It has been used to help create a positive, cultural change through simple, daily actions.

Larry Hines, President of the Hines Corporation of Muskegon and Jeff Elhart of Elhart Automotive in Holland headed up the be nice. funding drive to serve students in Muskegon County. “We believe the be nice. program will better prepare our young people to deal with the day-to-day challenges they face, and provide them with a valuable resource to help them air their concerns without fear or humiliation,” said Hines. A fund called the “Wayne Elhart be nice. Memorial Fund” has been established through the Community Foundation for Muskegon County to manage the funds.

 The complete list of donors include the Hines Corporation, Nichols, ADAC Automotive, Betten Baker Auto Group, CCM Investments, G & L Chili Dogs, Huntington Bank, Lorin Industries, Northern Machine Tool & Die, Parkland Properties, Port City Group, Quality Tool & Stamping, Swanson Pickle Co., Tyler Sales, Warner Norcross & Judd, Webb Chemical, and the Wayne Elhart Memorial Fund.

Muskegon Area Intermediate School District Superintendent John Severson said, “We are extremely grateful for the investment our business and community leaders have made in the be nice. program to benefit all 28,000 of our students. The mental health of our kids directly impacts their success in the classroom and their future as career and/or college ready adults.”

In March 2015, Elhart lost his brother and business partner, Wayne Elhart to depression. In response, Jeff and his family have been on a transformative journey of grief, understanding, and hope. They have now created memorial funds within the Oceana Community Foundation, Grand Haven Area Community Foundation, and the Holland Zeeland Area Community Foundation for the purpose of supporting matching funds for the same program.

be nice. provides comprehensive mental health education for elementary, middle, and high school students and can complement other mental health initiatives already established within schools. The be nice. program is currently active in over 100 schools across West Michigan and Ohio and is rapidly expanding with increased desire from districts for mental health education and access to funds.

The first year investment for the be nice. kit is $1,500, plus an optional $500 fee for a professional kick-off assembly with special guest speakers and musicians. The second and third year renewal fee is $500, which includes updated lesson plans, additional online resources and marketing collateral. (

According to the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan, one in five people will develop a mental health condition at some point in time during their lives and fifty percent of all mental illnesses develop by the age of 14.

Founded in 1990, the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan provides ‘be nice.’ and ‘Live Laugh Love’ educational programs for schools and businesses throughout the Midwest on mental health awareness, bullying and suicide prevention, and offers Mental Health First Aid certification courses. The Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan strives to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental illness and works to ensure every individual is supported in their journey to a full, healthy life by educating and building awareness throughout the community. Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the Mental Health Foundation of West Michigan is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization.


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