Every month, residents of the Adams Park Apartments in Grand Rapids, Mich., gather to celebrate birthdays of fellow residents. The parties, which include games, birthday gifts and favors, cake, and ice cream, are hosted by members of three local Christian Reformed churches on a rotating basis.
The deacons of the three congregations have been involved with ministry at Adams Park for many years, but in 2009 the churches decided to team up to provide the monthly birthday celebrations.
Each party provides a valuable socialization time for residents, who play card and table games with church members before singing to each individual resident with a birthday that month and enjoying some cake.
These parties also serve to cement a sense of community among residents. In the past several years, residents have organized to have a say in what happens in the building.
Margaret Jager, a deacon at Boston Square, who also participates in a biweekly knitting group with Adams Park residents, said, “Residents want to be listened to. They have valuable things to say.”
Congregation members donate health and beauty items for each party. These gifts are distributed to every attendee at the party, but those with birthdays choose first. The first to go are laundry detergent and toilet paper, items that cannot be purchased with food stamps.
After building relationships with the residents, Jager said, “I am not so quick to make judgments! There are lots of stories behind what would have been a snap judgment for me before.”
Other members of these churches provide Bible studies, empowerment classes, weekly baked goods deliveries, and Christmas cards.