Michigan Church Gets New Family Assistance Facility

The Family Assistance Program, a ministry of Calvin Christian Reformed Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., has a brand-new facility after the program outgrew the church parsonage, its previous home. Through this ministry, the church provides clothing, coats, and boots to people in need.

“It’s almost like one-stop shopping for Family Service Workers and Head Start Counselors,” said Bobbie Talsma, program director. Volunteers sort through clothing donations, sew clothing and blankets from fabric donations, and shop for sales on winter boots and coats with monetary donations. With those items, the volunteers fill orders placed by caseworkers from 16 Head Start schools and 18 family service agencies in Grand Rapids. Talsma said that with every order they fill, they include a little quilt, teddy bear, book, and a prayer.

What began almost 46 years ago when one woman provided clothing to a family going through difficult times has grown to serve 3,300 people last year. In the 1970s, the Family Assistance Program moved into the church’s parsonage. But the program grew and faced the problems of limited space and an aging building.

“The basement leaked and there were mildew issues,” said Ron Rozema, the project chair. “The first floor was jam-packed with clothing, the garage was reception and clothing space, and the attic was inventory. Narrow stairways and tight spaces didn’t lend themselves well to the program. Quite frankly, it was dangerous.”

The church removed the parsonage and built a 5,500 square-foot facility to suit the program. More than half the project was paid for by donations. “The actual cost for the project now appears to be ending up right around $572,000 thanks to remarkably generous gifts from a number of our suppliers, resourceful use of materials, and volunteer labor,” said Rozema. For instance, virtually all of the cabinets were built and installed by members of the congregation.

On July 29 the official ribbon cutting ceremony took place. In attendance were church members, neighbors, caseworkers, representatives from partnering organizations, and Grand Rapids mayor George Heartwell.

The new space will allow volunteers to respond more efficiently to caseworkers and therefore allow the church to better serve its community in God’s name. “This ministry is done through the power and to the glory of our Lord,” said Talsma.

About the Author

Lori Dykstra is a freelance writer.