GRAND RAPIDS, Michigan (WXMI) -- Heather Hendriksen is the kind of person who believes showing up for people when it matters most is what matters the most.
Which is why she shows up to court for her employees, so much so, she says the local judges in Grand Rapids know her.
Heather’s not sharing her story for herself, and she’s not showing up to court for herself either.
She often times shows up on behalf of her staff at the Tropical Smoothie on Michigan Street.
Heather owns multiple Tropical Smoothie locations across West Michigan, but the one closest to downtown Grand Rapids holds a special place in her heart.
Because at that location, she hires people like Jaellen Kendricks.
Jaellen was just 14 when he got caught up in the justice system, part of the “Kia Boys.” But that is in his past.
At 15, Jaellen always wears his brother’s face around his neck.
A brother Jaellen lost to gun violence when his brother was just 13 years old.
Jaellen is becoming a father. After the hardships of life he’s seen, he’s excited for the chance to start life over. He’s determined to make a change.
Jaellen credits his mom, the Delta Pride program at the Juvenile Detention Center, and Heather for his new chance.
“You can talk to people, but everybody’s going to make their own decisions at the end of the day. But it’s always nice to try, and not leave people in the dark. Try to give people the same help that you got,” Jaellen said.
Now, Jaellen is ready to make new choices: starting with the decision to share with FOX 17, snapping a photo to send to his probation officer.
“Changing my life around, and trying to get the people I’m around and that I associate with to change their life around,” Jaellen said.
Because at the end of the day, Jaellen is a person just as human as anyone else.
A person, ready to make a change.
Heather says she hopes by sharing her story, more business owners will mentor the young people that walk through their doors.
“There’s so much potential in every human being. They’re surviving. They can’t stop and think, what am I going to do next?” Heather said.
Check out our list of community resources available to help in West Michigan.
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