Nuestra Casa – The Gathering Place

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.

Building a Safe Place for Oliver

Judy Van Dyke – Good Samaritan Ministries

Good Samaritan Ministries provides leadership and organizational development for a local nonprofit, 3sixty that recently worked with 80 volunteers to help a family remodel their home for their 4 year old son, Oliver who has been battling neuroblastoma cancer. Parts of the home needed to become germ free for Oliver to live at home after receiving a bone marrow transplant.

After six busy weeks and 800 volunteer hours later the kitchen, stairway, hallway, bathroom and Oliver’s bedroom were all remodeled and ready for him to come home.

3sixty coordinated businesses and individuals that donated time, money, and materials to the project along with many professional builders, electricians, plumber, painters, drywallers and plasterers (most from the neighborhood) that shared their expertise to support the effort. There were many neighbors that came together to work on the project…many meeting for the first time because of their time shared in service. They did everything from demolition, to hanging drywall, to painting, to baking fresh cinnamon rolls for the work crews. Brian Wolthuis, the director of 3sixty was amazed at the generous outpouring from the neighborhood.

“We would have been completely unable to accomplish what we did without the neighborhood and the family’s own community in partnership. I’m thankful for the new friends, neighbors, and fellow servants that I’ve met in the process.” Now Oliver can be in a safe and healthy environment with his family because of the generosity and talents shared by a supportive community of care.

West Core Neighbors Fall Clean Up

Good Samaritan Ministries – Holland and Zeeland, MI – Judy Van Dyke

Good Samaritan Ministries partners with an RCA & CRC church to do community transformation in the core city of Holland, MI. Their site, the West Core Neighbors (WCN), is developing a deeper relationship with the neighborhood as they work together on things residents care about.

On a warm and sunny autumn day in October the WCN participated in a fall clean up. A community spirit was evident as 8 neighbors planned the project, Hope College provided the rakes, and New Community Fourth Church provided shopping carts to transport sticks collected for firewood. 24 students from the Phelps Scholar program at Hope College volunteered and worked with neighbors in their projects.

Students, neighbors, children and church members from New Community Fourth and Maple Avenue Ministries raked leaves side by side for over 70 homes in the core city of Holland. Assets were shared as the neighborhood garden was cleaned out, a shed was demolished, three years worth of dirty dishes were washed for an elderly neighbor, sticks were gathered and bundled for firewood and a neighbor’s dumpster was shared for all the neighborhood work. True community was experienced as people from various economic and ethnic backgrounds worked together for a common purpose.

Urban Farm

Rev. Judy Van Dyke is the regional CFA coach working with 3Sixty in the East Core City neighborhood of Holland. This idea was born from a resident in the neighborhood and is catching on with neighbors. It is a snapshot in time of neighbors working together for common good!

Jeff, an organic farmer, has always been one of the leaders in the neighborhood around 3sixty (East Core City Holland MI). He shared his desire to have an urban farm with other neighbors and they began dreaming together about how they could make this happen.

They had a desire to focus on teaching kids farming, nutrition and neighborhood beautification. Excitement and participation grew as more people affirmed the idea. Over time Jeff and his neighborhood partners were granted permission to use an old church preschool playground to farm a “pilot plot” for the 2011 season.

The building will be turned into an educational center. They hope to utilize the gifts and talents of local neighbors to work the garden as neighborhood interns. Seeds of ideas are being sown and the soil is being prepared for the spring growing season.

Teusink Neighborhood Garden

A year ago Suzie Steen became a Community Connector through a coaching relationship with Good Samaritan Ministries and has begun to use ABCD principles through their community outreach at Park CRC.

A historic farm owner and member of Park Church donated a half mile acre of land for the community to use as a garden this summer.

A planning group of neighbors and church members began to meet in March. The combined talents and assets of the group and other neighbors have contributed to the garden’s success.

The garden was tilled, a well dug, a blog was created, gardens staked, signs made, funds collected, garden storage cabinet built, picnic table donated, and compost box built for the shared use of the gardeners. 50 plots have been rented by the neighbors with an area of corn for everyone to enjoy.

Neighbors chat together as they work on their gardens and they are beginning to share their peas, beans, zucchini and other vegetables that are growing in abundance.

The progress and sense of community ownership is expressed on the blog created by a gardener on the planning team -