Nuestra Casa – The Gathering Place
July 25, 2011 Leave a Comment
Judy Van Dyke – Good Samaritan Ministries
There are approximately 200 vacant homes in the central city of Holland, Michigan. The home at 253 West 15th Street has been sitting vacant for the past 12 years. Two years ago the home was given to the church across the street, New Community Fourth Church (NC4th). Good Samaritan Ministries (GSM) has been working in partnership with NC4th and Maple Avenue Ministries to do community transformation in this neighborhood. Judy Van Dyke, the Neighborhood Connections Director has been leading an Advisory Team consisting of neighborhood stakeholders and supervises an AmeriCorps member, Raul Garcia as the neighbors, Community Guy. Raul applies Asset Based Community Development methods in this neighborhood to bring people together around things they care about. Raul and the church began listening and dreaming with the neighbors about what they would like to see happen to this deteriorating, vacant home. They soon learned that their shared vision was to create a community center for the neighborhood with an efficiency apartment above to establish a central place where neighbors could connect, share information, skills, resources and knowledge. Nuestra Casa – The Gathering Place was the name they chose to reflect the diversity and desire of the neighbors to meet in this place.
Over time the church and neighbors learned that they couldn’t move forward because the cost was too great to renovate the home. Their dream was put on hold until a group of women from Women’s Day of Service walked into GSM and asked the question, “We are celebrating our 10th anniversary of doing community volunteer projects and we want a challenge this year…something that would have a lasting impact on our community. Do you have any ideas for us?” Immediately thoughts came together to have this group of 100 or more women walk with the neighborhoods to begin renovating this home into a community center. The neighbors could begin to dream again.
Plans are underway and progress is being made on the home. The church and neighbors went in front of the City Planning Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals to receive a conditional use permit to have a community center. A steering committee has been formed to work on program development, construction, coordinating volunteers, fundraising and communication. Neighbors are working on interior home demolition, developing a volunteer database, planning a yard and bake sale, working on program development and creating a blog. Today there is energy and new life starting to take shape in this home. A bike ministry and Community Garden are already happening at Nuestra Casa. It will be exciting to see this Extreme Makeover unfold. This home will be a neighborhood place of life, hope and belonging for years to come.