As many founding stories go, GRAPE came about in a fully unexpected way.  But as the saying goes, necessity is the mother of invention. That was certainly the case for me when I found myself being isolated as an academic librarian.

In early 2009, the daytime student population at my college plummeted dramatically. Simply put, the then 6-month recession made taking out a student loan a risky proposition. As a result, the college library suddenly felt like a tomb.

Could I survive 8 hours of quiet by myself? Well I could. But it was certainly difficult to do so every day. Leaving the library to seek out co-workers was not really a viable option. So my immediate solution was to get involved with social media. Something was still not right however. On LinkedIn I asked if anyone desired to meet in person – and found a lot of affirmation. It seemed rather natural then to invite everyone who was interested to meet. And so the remark “Lets meet at the Black Rose bar & grill downtown” started a chain of events still going on today.

As I approached a conglomeration of strangers, one man stuck out his hand and welcomed me to join him. I didn’t know Dan Banta then and little did I know that he would change my life (that’s not hyperbole). With GRAPE, I became much more adept at introducing myself. And I felt far more self-confident about my future. And so I began to make many new friends. The type of friends – like Dan – that encourage your endeavors, give you hope, and enrich your life.

GRAPE would not be what it is today without Dan’s follow-through. With his sales background, social media savvy, and connections, GRAPE was able to grow quickly. Even other groups began to emulate us. And for the past four years, we’ve had a wonderful time. Its really quite gratifying to meet new people and make new friends every month.

Ultimately however, Dan’s employer was bought out and he was let go from his sales position. Being that he no longer commuted from Grand Haven, he found it difficult to stay heavily involved with GRAPE. Consequently, he is leaving GRAPE leadership to me. This month the GRAPE team is throwing a tribute party for him at Celebration Cinema North’s Wave Room. Hope you can be there to provide your own “Dan story”.

Blog post by John M Potter