Why We Love Mel Trotter Ministries

Many members of our staff were recently asked what they love most about Mel Trotter Ministries. There were a variety of responses – all fantastic – that show their passion and dedication to serving the homeless, hungry, and hurting within West Michigan.

A few favorite quotes:

I love working here because, honestly, where else can we have the opportunity every day to change the world one life at a time and to provide the hope of Christ and the love of Christ to some of the most amazing children of God.” – Dennis, CEO / Executive Director

I love working here at Mel Trotter because I’ve been through this. I’ve been through the doors over there, all the way through it, through the programs, and worked my way up, and now I’ve been working here ever since.” – James, Executive Chef

Want to hear more?

Here are the remainder of the beautiful responses from our staff:

From Homeless to Harvard

Mel Trotter Ministries will host its first annual Season of Hope event this fall on Monday, September 28, at Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park. This unique and inspiring dinner event will allow Mel Trotter supporters and friends to enjoy community and connectedness, while listening to Liz Murray, an inspirational speaker.

lizmurrayLiz Murray is the subject of the Lifetime movie, Homeless to Harvard, and the New York Times best-selling author of Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard. She was born in the Bronx in the early 1980s to drug-addicted parents and became homeless at 15, when her mother died of AIDS and her father moved to a homeless shelter.

Liz is not unlike many of the men, women, and 50+ children who stay at Mel Trotter Ministries. Their eyes are filled with hope. They long for a better life. Will someone, somewhere see them not for who they are, but for who they could be? With a mentor, determination, and a dream, Liz persevered. She fought. She went from “homeless to Harvard.” Her story is moving, empowering, and provides us with a fresh perspective on both hardship and possibility.

How do we create possibility for others? Particularly for our homeless brothers and sisters? How do we see them not for who they are, but for who they could be? How do we turn a dream into reality?

One way is through your attendance and sponsorship of our Season of Hope event. All monies collected through this gathering will be used to support the work we do to end homelessness in the Greater Grand Rapids area, one person at a time. More specifically, the money raised will help us empower families to build a better future by maintaining a space that is both safe and welcoming for those who call our shelter home.

You can learn more about the event here.

Consider joining us. Tickets go on sale August 9. Sponsorships are also available.

Homeless Count Hits 7-Year High in Kent County

Mlive recently published an article with this title: Homeless Count Hits 7-Year High in Kent County.

You can read the article here.

Dennis VanKampen, our CEO and Executive Director, responded to this article with the below comments. It’s worth a read.

From Dennis:

It is important to remember that the Point in Time Count (PIT) only captures the homeless staying in shelters and homeless that can be located on one given night, and one night only. Exceptions to this one-night survey may be individuals and families that may be sleeping on someone’s couch for a night, people that paid for a cheap motel for one night (but lack stable income and housing) or those that may have been unable to take the survey that night for some other reason. So while the PIT Count brings awareness to the rise in homelessness the annual numbers are even more concerning. In 2014 alone, MTM serviced 7,258 unique individuals that were homeless, this number includes men, single women, but also many children and families.

Homelessness is a community problem. Because it is a community issue, it will take everyone in that community to end this chronic problem. It is not the fault or the solution of one agency. Ending homelessness in Grand Rapids will truly take the entire community- that includes non-profits, businesses, residents, and visitors. Why does everyone need to be involved in this solution? Because it’s a complex issue. Just like there was not one cause or solution to homelessness, there is not one reason an individual finds themselves homeless. The lack of affordable housing, stable long-term employment and accessible transportation are all large hurdles to jump in order to transition an individual out of homelessness. 

Another large issue to be addressed: finding ways to help and transition the mentally ill out of homelessness. This is an entire population that needs our attention.

Here’s where I think we have to remind ourselves that although homelessness is a large issue, the possibilities of a solution are greater. With the collaborations of non-profits, businesses, churches, residents and the entire city, it’s impossible to think that this is an issue greater than our hope and desire for change. 

At Mel Trotter, we see hope! In 2014 alone, we helped 171 individuals find permanent housing and 112 find full time permanent employment. Many reunited with families, found support groups through churches and AA, etc. and for those who were searching for a relationship with God, many took steps in their faith journey to follow Christ, connect with a church and enter discipleship programs. Our mission is to demonstrate the compassion of Christ to the hungry, hurting and homeless and as this report shows there are many more of them, especially families and teenagers since the recession of 2008. 

My hope is that the PIT Count would ignite a serious conversation as a community that includes business leaders, faith leaders, community and government leaders, mental health and addiction experts and leaders from organizations that serve the homeless community, where we seek to collaborate for the good of each homeless individual and family so we can truly end homelessness one life at a time. No one should live under a bridge, in a car, on someone’s couch or in their shed, and no one should have to stay in a shelter, hotel or church basement one day longer than necessary to help them move into a future filled with hope, restoration, and dignity.

PGA Professionals Look to Break World Record on behalf of Mel Trotter

The world is full of some pretty impressive people who have done some pretty impressive things. Some of those things have become world records. Examples below:

  • The largest commercially available hamburger (164.8 pounds!).
  • The heaviest vehicle pulled over 100 feet (126,200 pounds – a FIRE TRUCK!).
  • The youngest person to climb Mount Everest (13 year old Jordan Romero).
  • The tallest man (Sultan Kosen at 8’1″).

Of course there’s a few more bizarre, quirky world records too:

  • The most people head-banging simultaneously (320 students in Australia).
  • The most people eating breakfast in bed (388 in East Shanghai, China).
  • The largest rice mosaic (17,827 square feet in Seoul, Korea).
  • The largest gathering of people dressed as penguins (373 in London).
  • The fastest 100 meter run on all fours (15.86 seconds in Tokyo).

This weekend, three Grand Rapids-based PGA Professionals will attempt a world record too, on behalf of Mel Trotter Ministries. Jim Bultema, Matt Koets, and Sam Stover, with Railside Golf Club, Screen Shot 2015-06-04 at 1.42.38 PMwill seek to break the record for most holes of continuous play in the 24-hour period leading up to our annual Golf Marathon of Hope.

Our team thinks these guys are pretty impressive too.

Not because of their endurance.
Not because of their golf prowess.
Not because of their general disinterest in SLEEP (something we quite enjoy).

Our team is impressed because these three folks are choosing to use their gifts and talents (while foregoing general comfort) to raise awareness and money for Mel Trotter Ministries’ women and children’s programs.

Want to support them in this endeavor?

You can pledge your support HERE.


This week Matt Collver, one of our donor relations officers, answered a few questions regarding his position at Mel Trotter Ministries and the work he does to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus Christ to the hungry, homeless, and hurting within the Greater Grand Rapids area. His work is significant and good and life changing for so many at the Mission. We are blessed to have him.

Name: Matt Collver
Position: Donor Relations Officer

What are your responsibilities at Mel Trotter Ministries?
I support our mission statement by creating and fostering relationships with our

donors.  I seek to present opportunities to align our benefactors’ philanthropic passions and interests with the needs of the mission. This is accomplished through building sincere relationships and educating our donors on the areas that we need support.

Matt and his wife, Liz.

Matt and his wife, Liz.

What is the best part of your job?
The best part of my job is getting to work for a Christian organization that is serious about being the hands and feet of Jesus in this community.

What is the most difficult or challenging part of your job?
Honestly, the most challenging part of my job is helping donors understand that when I call, or request a meeting with them, I’m not always asking for money!

What is your favorite Mel Trotter moment?
I have only been here 3 months, but my favorite Mel Trotter moment would have to be the foot washing and shoe giveaway event we held for our guests.  This was a very humbling experience that allowed me to interact with our guests by helping them find and try on new shoes.  It provided added motivation for the work that I do to support our mission.

In your opinion and/or position, what does compassion demonstrated mean?
In my opinion, compassion demonstrated simply means sharing a portion of the love and mercy that God first lavished upon us with others.

How do you demonstrate compassion at Mel Trotter Ministries?
I try to demonstrate compassion in all my relationships and interactions at Mel Trotter Ministries.  This means remembering the grace that God has bestowed upon us and in-turn extending grace to my co-workers, our guests, and anyone that I come into contact with.

How do you demonstrate compassion in your daily life?
By trying (but constantly failing) to love others like Jesus.

What are other ways you’ve seen compassion demonstrated at Mel Trotter?
Each day, severely intoxicated individuals are brought to our Public Inebriates Clinic at Mel Trotter.  These individuals are very often belligerent and it truly takes a saint, in my opinion, to minister to their specific needs. Our nursing staff demonstrates compassion by providing care and concern to people that nobody else would even want to deal with, let alone care for.  They are forced to handle situations, that admittedly, I could not handle and remain patient no matter what is thrown at them (both literally and figuratively).

What is your favorite Bible verse? 
“Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1:9)

Our deep thanks to Matt for all he does for Mel Trotter Ministries and the people we serve. His work is invaluable, and we are grateful to have him. 

Grand Rapids’ Child Discovery Center Visits Mel Trotter Ministries

Earlier this year Grand Rapids’ Child Discovery Center sent its second and third grade class to visit Mel Trotter Ministries and to learn more about homelessness. The classes had been asked to brainstorm ways they could transform their community earlier in the year and, overwhelmingly, the children desired to end homelessness, believing every person should have a home. Below is an account from Rosalie Kaser, a teacher at the Child Discovery Center, regarding this study:

Our teachers contacted several homeless shelters in Grand Rapids and invited them to share their mission with each of our classes. The children soon decided they wanted to help Mel Trotter Ministries over the course of the year, because Mel Trotter helped children too. 

Six different groups were formed: 

  • Donations
  • Food 
  • Family Bonding 
  • Making Books
  • Dollhouse
  • Games 

The Donations group asked our school community to donate gently-used goods, clothing, toys, and diapers. The Family Bonding group created games Mel Trotter families could play with. The Food group made items for a bake sale and raised more than $170 for Mel Trotter Ministries. The Making Books group wrote stories for families to read together. The Dollhouse group built a dollhouse for the children and photo 2the Games group created games for older children to enjoy. A few weeks ago, each group brought their donation – whether it was money or goods or games – to Mel Trotter Ministries. They were so excited to share their gifts and to better the lives of those living at the Mission. 

Over the course of this study, our teachers asked students how they could tell someone was homeless. Their response was expected: people who stand on street corners with signs, asking for money, and wearing raggedy clothes. But now we know this: people become homeless for a variety of reasons and many of them are just like you and me. We trust that this experience will teach our students to help others in their community now and always. 

HUGE thanks to Rosalie and Grand Rapids’ Child Discovery Center for their generous gifts! It is a wonderful treat interacting with the children of our Grand Rapids community, as they learn the good they are capable of and the difference they can make.

Introducing the New CEO and Executive Director of Mel Trotter Ministries

Mel Trotter Ministries is thrilled to announce Dennis VanKampen as the organization’s new Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer. Mel Trotter Ministries’ Board of Directors appointed VanKampen unanimously. His appointment was met with applause from Mel Trotter Ministries staff and volunteers and will be effective June 1, 2015.

Listen to what Dennis had to say about his recent appointment in this video blog:

Screen Shot 2015-05-11 at 9.00.11 AM

More about Dennis: Dennis has served Mel Trotter for the past three and a half years as Vice President of Programs. He was responsible for overseeing the Mission’s Emergency Shelter, Employment and Housing Programs, Food Pantry, PI Center, and all Dental, Chiropractic and Vision Clinics. He has more than 17 years of experience leading non-profit organizations, including several camp and retreat centers in Michigan. He currently teaches professional and graduate studies at Cornerstone University and also serves as a lay pastor in a local church.

From Gordon Oosting, president of Mel Trotter Ministries’ board of directors: After much prayer and a thorough and deliberate selection process, we are delighted to announce Dennis VanKampen as our new Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer. Dennis has a thorough understanding of and love for the homeless community within Grand Rapids. His passion commitment to reconciliation, restoration, and renewal is great, and we look forward to working with him in this new role.