Michael’s Story: Neighborhood Participation and Personal Transformation


Karl Williams (L) and Michael Vanord (R)

Wayne Squires

Partners in Neighborhood Transformation (a ministry of The Other Way)

Karl Williams works as the Coordinator of Community Connections on behalf of a west side neighborhood partnership in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He spends a great deal of time catalyzing listening efforts, identifying assets, and connecting residents to serving opportunities.  This is done with support, encouragement, and participation of six organizational members in the partnership, one of which is Partners in Neighborhood Transformation (a ministry of The Other Way) that provides coaching and training for asset based development work.

Karl met Michael in August in the midst of neighborhood conversations and connecting activities and discovered Michael was homeless, living under the Franklin Street Bridge.  Michael was looking for work even as he needed help in having basic personal needs met.  Karl was able to get Michael actively involved in a neighborhood service team focused on “neighbors helping neighbors to build our community from the inside out.”  Michael found himself assisting with food distribution, moving furniture into homes, doing light home repairs, fixing small engines, and landscaping residents’ lawns…activities which utilized his gifts and experiences.

Karl also assisted Michael in his job search, encouraging him to highlight his home repair skills and truck-driving experience.  (For several years, Michael drove a truck for a nationwide firm.)  Michael was initially able to find a floor replacement project for which he was paid, and then through a bit of unexpected networking that occurred through his volunteer work in the neighborhood, he landed a full-time job as a truck driver for a local business.  Karl reports this has not only brought great encouragement to other unemployed volunteers but also fueled his own passion for recognizing and using the gifts of every neighbor…regardless of their life situation(s).


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