GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- Melvin Eledge is an ambassador. But he has no embassy; he strolls downtown Grand Rapids and answers questions from visitors to the center city while serving as a kind of concierge for the streets.
"We provide directions, information, high level customer service to anyone downtown," Eledge says. He is now the operations manager of a group of 16 people who are officially Downtown Ambassadors and who wear distinctive teal color shirts.
One of their most important roles is to help people who are lost, to the point of walking them to their destinations. In September, various Ambassadors assisted 150 lost souls.
They also serve as extra eyes and ears for police, though Eledge considers downtown Grand Rapids perfectly safe for families. "It’s a very safe place to be," Eledge says.
The Downtown Ambassadors program began in 2012 and is funded by revenue from parking fees.
Ambassadors are unarmed and operate – on foot, bicycle, and Segway – in the downtown district six days a week, generally between the hours of 7AM and 3AM. For assistance call (616) 250-8263 to reach the Ambassador on duty.