Meet Our Team
Amplify GR has a small, but dedicated team that is passionate about increasing opportunities for everyone in the neighborhoods we serve. Get to know our team!
Jon Ippel, Executive Director
A Grand Rapids native, Jon Ippel serves as the Executive Director of Amplify GR. Jon comes to the organization with 15 years of community development experience. Prior to joining Amplify GR, he worked in local government in the areas of city administration, sustainability, and community development. In those capacities, Jon launched a nationally-recognized and award-winning environmental sustainability program, developed several public-private partnerships that created over 300 affordable housing units, coordinated over $1 billion in City infrastructure projects, and served as the city director the 2012 NBA All-Star Weekend.
Jon feels passionately about the momentum in Grand Rapids and is committed to ensuring more residents in our community benefit from community growth through a holistic approach focusing on education, housing, jobs and entrepreneurship, and community wellbeing.
Jon is proud of the partnerships Amplify GR has formed with neighbors, nonprofits and local businesses alike. These relationships afford Amplify GR the opportunity to provide additional resources to both residents and businesses in the community.
Outside of work, Jon enjoys spending time with his beautiful wife and two kids.
Jon is a foodie and is always looking for and trying out new restaurants in Grand Rapids – especially those in the 49507 community.
Patrick Johnson Jr., Chief Operating Officer
As the COO, Patrick leads and coordinates the staff at Amplify GR that works under or across 4 organizational pillars – jobs + entrepreneurship, housing, education, and community wellbeing. He is responsible for staff communication and team congruency for AGR’s multi-layered approach to community development that works at the intersection of people, place and partnerships.
Patrick’s role is vital to assist and help lead the team in furthering the work so that all neighbors have a greater opportunity to participate in and benefit from community growth.
He comes to Amplify GR from Bethany Christian Services where he served as vice president of human resources for 4 years. He led a team of individuals who were committed to acquiring top talent and serving internal staff at the highest level. His professional experience of more than 15 years includes finance, operations, human resources, executive management, with several senior-level positions in both the nonprofit and for-profit sectors within West Michigan. Patrick holds a bachelor’s degree from Grand Valley State University in Business and Cultural Development.
Patrick serves on multiple boards in various capacities including finance chair of The First Tee of West Michigan, vice chair of The Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance, and treasurer of Ready for School.
Patrick grew up in the neighborhood and has family still living in the area. In his spare time, he enjoys cooking and playing golf when he is not spending time with his two daughters.
Amy Knape, Senior Director of Fund Development
As the senior director of fund development, Amy cultivates, stewards, and leverages philanthropic resources to advance Amplify GR’s work across 4 organizational pillars – jobs + entrepreneurship, housing, education, and community wellbeing. She is responsible for grant management, donor engagement and stewardship, and strategic philanthropic efforts that advance the organization’s multi-layered approach to community development at the intersection of people, place, and partnerships.
Amy comes to Amplify GR from the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology (WMCAT) where she worked in fund development for 11 years, most recently as director of development. While at WMCAT, she oversaw donor relations, grant management, fundraising events and strategic communications. She was also a staff lead on WMCAT’s $8.5 million Leave Your Mark capital campaign in 2018. Amy earned a bachelor’s degree in public relations from Western Michigan University and holds the Certified Fundraising Executive (CFRE) credential.
Amy has significant experience in engaging donors and partners who want to invest in place-based work, as well as expertise in stewarding our community’s resources.
In the community, she serves on the Board of the East Grand Rapids Schools Foundation, is a member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals, and is a sustaining member of the Junior League of Grand Rapids.
Latesha Lipscomb, Engagement and Relationship Director
Latesha Lipscomb is a Grand Rapids native who has a passion for working to better the lives of the city’s urban residents. Latesha previously served as the Community Engagement Project Manager, facilitating the Heartside Quality of Life Study for the City of Grand Rapids Planning Department. The Quality of Life Study was a multi-layered process intended to foster neighbor participation and involvement to positively impact experiences through urban planning and design, with the overarching goal of producing increased equitable outcomes for all.
Latesha also held past roles with organizations such as the Grand Rapids African American Health Institute and the Inner City Christian Federation, where she tirelessly advocated for those with quieter or muted voices in the city’s most vulnerable communities.
Latesha is a graduate of Boston College where she studied Political Science and maintained a focus study in Faith, Peace & Justice. She studied American Government and Public Speaking through Junior Statesmen of America at Yale University and went on to graduate from Boston College Law School in 2005. She adheres to the Jesuit ideal of “service to all mankind” and describes Community Engagement as her “purpose-driven life”.
You can also find Latesha serving on several local boards and committees like the Downtown Grand Rapids Inc., Goal 2 Alliance, the Mayors Census 2020 Complete Count Committee, the Great Start Collaborative Parent Coalition, and the DGRI Downtown Neighbor Network. Through these assorted collaborations with local groups, Latesha’s body of work is a shining example of what authentic community partnership looks like and what everyday people can achieve when supported by a champion.
Latesha loves to curate experiences for audiences and takes pride in hosting events that are empowering and uplifting for women in transition and teen girls. Latesha is girl power in the flesh and firmly believes that the future is female!
Danielle Williams, Director of Economic Opportunities
Backed by more than a decade of experience in corporate communication and marketing, and more than 20 years in community development and philanthropy, Danielle serves as the Director of Economic Opportunities at Amplify GR.
In her role at AGR, she loves working with entrepreneurs to connect them with physical space, financing and technical assistance to grow their businesses. Danielle also works with employers to bring quality jobs and career opportunities to the neighborhoods AGR serves. Danielle’s passion to pursue economic equity stems from being a life-long servant leader in her hometown of Grand Rapids.
In 2017, Danielle started her own firm, DMWilliams Consulting, LLC (DMWC). As principal of DMWC, she used her expertise in partnership development, change management and communication, to tap into her true passion – applying design thinking to solve complex community problems. She worked with a variety of clients, including the City of Grand Rapids Southtown Corridor Improvement Authority.
Danielle loves dogs. She has two chihuahua mixes, Buster and Coconuts, that she adopted from the Kent County Animal Shelter.
Bethany Underwood, Operations Manager
As the Operations Manager for Amplify GR, Bethany Underwood is the behind-the-scenes rock star that keeps everything running smoothly. Bethany has an extensive background in project coordination and community engagement, having held past roles as an executive assistant and volunteer archivist.
Her career has taken her to cities across the U.S., including Oakland, CA and Indianapolis, IN, but as a Detroit-native, she settled back into the Mitten state full-time in 2015. In 2017, she started her role as the operations coordinator at Amplify GR. Bethany is proud to come to work each day to widen education and career pathways for all neighborhood residents while supporting initiatives committed to business development and growth.
In Bethany’s spare time, she winds down with a good book and practices yoga.
Bethany owns a small business and keeps herself busy designing greeting cards and gift baskets.
Jenny Luth, Communications Manager
Jenny Luth has nearly 18 years of experience in public relations and strategic communications in agency, corporate and nonprofit settings. As a resident of the Amplify GR service area, she has spent significant time volunteering with Amplify GR and its partners to ensure equitable outcomes for the community.
She most recently served as communications manager for the West Michigan Center for Arts and Technology. With her nonprofit and industry experience, Jenny is well-positioned for this crucial role with an organization based in the community where she grew up.
Serving as communications manager, she works closely with the executive director to set the strategic communications plan and vision. Jenny leads promotion and oversees the education of external audiences regarding the shared vision, goals and strategies of holistic community development. She works closely with the Amplify GR team, partners and community stakeholders to highlight stories in the neighborhoods served.
Over the last 70 years, five generations of Jenny’s family have lived in the Boston Square neighborhood.
Contale Tolbert, Executive Office Coordinator
Contale has a Bachelor of Science degree from Ferris State University in Healthcare Systems Administration and comes to Amplify GR with experience as a human resources consultant and medical secretary from Metro Health Hospital and as a school testing coordinator through Artic Medical Laboratories. She also has 27 years of volunteer experience as the church office administrator/assistant youth leader at Deliverance Outreach Ministry in Grand Rapids.
“I was born and raised in the SE side community of Garfield Park,” shared Contale. “I’m passionate about creating greater access to opportunity for neighbors through my work at Amplify GR because this is the community that raised me – plus much of my family still lives here.”
As the executive office coordinator, Contale acts as a cohesion point for staff to help coordinate, facilitate and complete projects and host neighbors seeking information about Amplify GR’s work in four areas – economic opportunity, housing, education and community well-being.
Contale loves spending time with her daughter, husband and family (many who live in the 49507 area).
Retired, Grand Rapids Public Schools
Retired, Osterink Construction
Father Jose Quintana
Shrine of St. Francis Xavier & Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
Doug & Maria DeVos Foundation
HourGlass Testing Solutions and WMCAT
Neighborhood Advisory Committee (NAC)
A group of about 17 volunteer neighbors advises the process of growth in Boston Square and Madison Square. The committee meets a dozen or more times yearly and works in partnership with Amplify GR staff and leadership.
Amp the Good Grants Committee
A small group of neighbors meets quarterly to review grant submissions from other neighbors looking for funding from Amplify GR’s Amp the Good grant program that focus on building community. Grants are awarded based on the review and feedback of this neighbor-led committee.
A small group of artists who live in the neighborhood meet quarterly to lead beautification and engagement efforts through various forms of art. This has included picking artists and themes for murals while engaging through the installation, public photo series honoring legacy neighbors and more.