A commitment to give, and to serve
From the start of their life together, Helen and Rich made a commitment to give. In the beginning, that meant tithing — giving 10 percent of everything they earned to the church.
They never would have guessed that their commitment would expand and grow to change the future — and skyline — of their hometown of Grand Rapids.
A foundation for giving
Helen’s giving had its roots in her upbringing by parents George and Wilma Van Wesep, for whom Hope College dedicated its 800-seat concert hall in the Jack H. Miller Center for Musical Arts in 1985. George and Wilma were educators who raised Helen in a home filled with love, Christian values and music. They laid the foundation for Helen’s passions and giving years later.
“She always enjoyed giving money away,” said son Dan. “It was a joy for her, to see the difference it could make. And she wasn’t one for giving it away and then walking away. She was always engaged.”
Her civic and community involvement ran deep, influencing everything from the U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots campaign to Calvin College to schools elsewhere in Michigan, New Mexico and Zambia.
Helen and Rich’s impact extended to their adopted home of Orlando, Florida, too, through the DeVos-family owned Orlando Magic NBA team and the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation, which has given generously to programs improving the education and health of children in the city.
An inspiration to her family
Her example inspired her children to surprise Helen with major gifts to the state-of-the-art medical center that now bears her name, the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids.
While touched by their generosity, Helen was reluctant to see her name on the building. In the end, “she accepted the honor graciously,” said grandson Dalton DeVos, “and became one of the facility’s most ardent supporters and advocates.”
Helen and Rich made a major commitment to underwrite the hospital’s Child Life Program and Helen was a regular visitor, including annual trips with her grandchildren each Christmas. (Her family continues that tradition to this day.)
Give and serve
In all her philanthropic efforts, two things guided Helen — a love of Christ, and a hand-me-down saying from her mother: “When a job is once begun, never leave it ‘till it’s done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.”
Motivated by that idea to not only give but serve, Helen and Rich generously devoted their time and talents to innumerable concerns, and bestowed millions of dollars on deserving projects, principally through the Richard and Helen DeVos Foundation.
“Helen’s and my philanthropy through our foundation is a gesture of ‘I believe in you,’” Rich said.
Their benevolence has supported music, the arts, education, health care, churches, food banks, guilds, service clubs and more. Helen’s passion projects were the Grand Rapids Symphony Orchestra, the Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital and fostering Christian education.