United States (MNN) — In a city known for its philanthropy and hundreds of churches, there are still significant gaps and hurting communities. This is Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Setting the Scene
Over 1,000 millionaires reside in the greater region of the Grand Rapids area. The city has been named one of the best cities for raising kids in the United States. At least 2,800 nonprofits are in the area.
Between the philanthropy and public services, it’s hard to believe that 43.7 percent of children under the age of 18 live below the federal poverty level in the city. The unemployment rate for young adults aged 16-24 was at 23.35 percent in 2016. However, these statistics are not a blanket statement. Instead, they vary based on racial demographics. For example, in 2014, Grand Rapids was ranked as the second worst city in the U.S. for African-Americans to live.
Grand Rapids is a city of oxymorons. The disparity of wealth and poverty is shocking, especially given the fact that there are hundreds of churches and hundreds of nonprofits in the area.
Bethany’s Work With GRCCT
That’s why Bethany Christian Services partners with a collaborative called The Grand Rapids Center for Community Transformation. GRCCT has a vision to transform the city into a place where all people can thrive.
“There’s actually five organizations. One is, like I said, Bethany. The other is a social enterprise, Rising Grinds Café. Another is Building Bridges Professional Services, a church-based community development operation called The Grand Rapids Nehemiah Project, as well as the local chapter of the NAACP,” Director and Founder of GRCCT Justin Beene explains.
The center has a unique focus on young adults aged 14-24. Beene says this means GRCCT’s work expands “from GED completion, mentoring, case management, working with youth in foster care and housing, all the way to advocacy.”
Bethany’s work with GRCCT focuses on the development of young adults. This includes life skills support such as help with career exploration, resume building, job searches, finding internships and paid employment opportunities, and even interview training.
Another aspect of Bethany’s work includes education. Bethany helps young adults with college planning, the admission process, GED courses, student housing, and high school completion/credit recovery.
Bethany also provides youth development and life skills classes, leadership and mentoring opportunities, and community development services at a free or reduced cost. Learn more about Bethany’s work with GRCCT here.
Opportunity for the Local Church
Last year the GRCCT served about 320 young adults. This year it is expecting to serve about 400 young adults. Beene says through GRCCT’s work there has been a decrease in trauma symptomology in the young adults served, and over 100 people have been placed in jobs. And the Church is invited to help.
“I think this is a real opportunity, for sure, for the Church to engage. I think, again locally, it would be great to see that statistics changed because folks in the Church have stepped up and decided to do something different. To make some sacrifices and to really work to change the system so that those who have been oppressed and marginalized really can have more opportunity to participate in, what I say, both the social and spiritual renewal of a city,” Beene says.
Through its Ignite: The Movement campaign, GRCCT is currently raising $3.65 million to purchase and renovate a space to support its operations, for the community to congregate, and to create jobs while also creating a venue for revenue in the community.
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“We welcome folks coming to [take] a tour. We say one way you can support us is just hire our landscaping company or go visit our coffee shop, and by making those purchases or using our catering service, you’re actually helping create jobs for folks who otherwise might not otherwise be able to find employment,” Beene says.
“Church groups have come here and actually done a short Sunday service and then actually got to work on our building. There are lots of ways that folks can engage.”
Pray for the GRCCT, the impact it is having in this community, and for God’s love to be made known through the process. Also pray the Church in this area would step up to the challenge of selfless, self-sacrificing love and get involved with community transformation.
Header photo by Tim Marshall on Unsplash.