A Video Message from Our CEO

Dennis VanKampen, our CEO and Executive Director, recently shared a few thoughts concerning the mission and what God is doing in – and through – Mel Trotter Ministries this holiday season.

You can view his video blog here.

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Thank you for your continued support of our mission and vision to end homelessness in Grand Rapids. You are an integral member of our team, and we are grateful for you.


Many of our neighbors will face a “homeless” holiday season, so how can you help?

There’s one simple and important way you can help make this season a truly happy one for our neighbors in need within the Grand Rapids community: Mel Trotter Ministries’ 2015 Brown Bag Food Drive.

More than 43,000 pounds of food was gathered through our Brown Bag Food Drive last year. This was 8,000 pounds more than our originally-stated goal, but our shelves still ran empty when springtime rolled around. The Drive runs now until December 3.


  • Canned chicken, tuna, beef, or pork
  • Canned fruit and vegetables
  • Baked, dried, or canned beans
  • Peanut butter
  • Boxed potatoes, stuffing
  • Pasta and pasta sauce, macaroni and cheese
  • Rice and rice mixes
  • Gelatin or pudding mix
  • Breakfast cereals, pancake mix, and syrup
  • Cake, muffin, and bread mixes
  • Soups, sauces, stews, and gravy
  • Hamburger or Tuna Helper



Got a pair of long johns?

Each one of our volunteers is unique.

They are unique in their ethnicities and economic backgrounds.
They are unique in their age and abilities.
They are unique in their beliefs and ideologies.

But this is what they have in common:

They have all chosen to channel their passions and use their talents to end homelessness in the greater Grand Rapids area. 

John van der Veen is no different. John founded the Long John Run to benefit Mel Trotter Ministries in 2012. Our team asked him a few questions concerning this unique event. His answers are below: Screen Shot 2015-10-12 at 6.58.21 PM

Tell us about the Long John Run.

The Long John Run is a 5K walk/run in Grand
Rapids on November 7, with all proceeds
benefitting Mel Trotter Ministries. All participants are asked to wear their best long johns, thermal underwear, red union suit, pajamas, white knickers, winter knickers, etc. throughout the run.

But – besides having some fun – each year we also hope to accomplish three things:

  1. Have fun with family and friends.
  2. Create a unique opportunity to get outside and be healthy.
  3. Help those in need around us.

Why partner with Mel Trotter Ministries?

For years, my family has been involved in the work Mel Trotter does. We have participated in their evening worship services, we have served at the ​Mel Trotter Great Thanksgiving Banquet. Partnering with Mel Trotter for the Long John Run just seemed like the next step.

​My wife, our kids – we all love tScreen Shot 2015-10-12 at 6.59.02 PMhe mission of Mel Trotter. We love how it’s goal is similar to our goal – showing the compassion of Jesus to those around us. In Mel Trotter’s case, that means not just food and shelter, but also the Gospel. Two hands of generosity. ​

Why get excited about this event? 

The Long John Run is a fun, zany way for people to impact their community. And I get to help them be a part of something greater than themselves. How awesome is that?

How can we participate? 

Anyone is welcome to participate, regardless of ability or age. ​You can sign up here. Cost is only $15 per person (and you get a FREE t-shirt!). You can also learn more here.

The Start of Our Season of Hope

Mel Trotter Ministries marked the beginning of our season of hope on Monday, September 28, during its first annual Season of Hope event at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park. More than 400 people attended the event, which was a celebration of our gracious God and the good He is doing in – and through – Mel Trotter Ministries. In addition, more than $200,000 was raised to end homelessness in the greater Grand Rapids area.

Our response? Deep, deep gratitude.

Thank you for showing up in such a big, bold manner and for all you do to support the ongoing work of Mel Trotter Ministries.

An assortment of photos from the event are below:

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The West Michigan Hardly Homeless Panhandlers

WZZM recently shared an article concerning a newly-formed group in the Grand Rapids area: the West Michigan Hardly Homeless Panhandlers. The article opens with a brief introduction and this quote:

I don’t want my kids walking down the street with them on the corners. I don’t want people giving their money to panhandlers so they can buy drugs and alcohol.”

You can read the full article here.

How should we react to this news? To this group? As a homeless shelter? As Christians? As men and women seeking to offer food and shelter without exception to the worthy and the unworthy?

Here are a few thoughts from our CEO and Executive Director, Dennis Van Kampen:

First, I am not endorsing panhandling.

See this post

But I am still bothered by the sentiment of this group.

I recently spoke to a church group with nearly 200 members. I asked – by a show of hands – how many of them had ever served a homeless person in a food line? Or had brought a homeless person a cup of coffee? Or a sandwich? Almost every hand went up. Then I asked – by a show of hands – how many had ever engaged a homeless person in conversation? Beyond a simple greeting? Only five hands went up.

It’s very easy for us to describe homeless men and women as “the other” or “the outsider.” 

But here’s what I’ve learned in my 4+ years serving the homeless in greater Grand Rapids: the homeless are not much different than you and me.

We are all dependent on the mercy of God and the kindness of one another

What happens when we see everyone – including the homeless – in that light?             

I was told – growing up – that everyone could and should pull themselves up by their bootstraps. But what if you don’t have boots? Or your bootstraps are broken?

Most homeless families in Grand Rapids had nice homes and good jobs five or so years ago. But then the economy tanked. Or they lost their job. Their spouse was diagnosed with a significant illness. Medical bills piled up. Bankruptcy. Foreclosure. Death. Mental illness. Divorce. 

The factors are endless. 

But we cannot sweep these issues – and these people – away by saying, “We don’t want them here.” 

There are a handful of great organizations working to end homelessness in Grand Rapids. Mel Trotter Ministries is one of them. These organizations exist to serve a vulnerable population and to walk beside them as their lives are made new in Jesus Christ. 

God’s heart for the poor is clear. 

The question then is this: does our heart match His? 

I’ll take care of you anyway.

A nurse in our Shelter for Public Inebriates, shared the below concerning her work to care for an often unloved population within our community: public inebriates. It is a testimony of grace and goodness and compassion demonstrated. Thank you to this particular nurse – and to all of our nurses – for her selfless love.

Imagine waking in a ditch with no recollection of how you got there. Imagine being an ex-convict or having HIV. Imagine being lost, alone, and rejected. Now imagine walking into a homeless shelter, still reeling from the alcohol you chose to deaden the pain.homeless shelter

Can you picture yourself still wet from the dew? Head pounding? Your body odor wafting through the tears in your clothing? What will people think of you? What will people say?

At Mel Trotter Ministries, we say, “I’ll take care of you anyway.

My calling is to provide compassionate nursing care to the homeless population in Heartside. My job is at Mel Trotter Ministries, in their Shelter for Public Inebriates. The Shelter for Public Inebriates is a safe place for individuals to recover from alcohol and/or substance abuse intoxication. Our team provides medical assessment and care, triaging anything from heart attack to blistering sunburn.

What else do we do? 

We hold garbage cans when stomachs refuse the nourishing food we provide. We carry limp, tired, and worn out bodies to and from bed. We keep guests accountable for their recovery and provide guidance and support. We perform CPR and save lives. But we also lose lives – to the community, to ignorance, and to demons that are too strong for our guests to overcome.

But we always come back and do it all over again.


I chose to apply and develop my nursing skills at a non-profit homeless shelter because I know so many of us are one bad circumstance – or series of circumstances – away from homelessness. Life can change in an instant. It could be me or my neighbor searching
desperately for someone to say, “I’ll take care of you anyway.” 

This job has its challenges. I’ve seen and experienced unimaginable things. But I am honored and blessed to be a nurse here, to be a part of this community. Why? Because I get to be a part of giving others God with just a few simple words: I’ll take care of you anyway

Mel Trotter in the Summertime

The challenges homeless individuals and families face during the winter months are obvious:

  • Lack of proper clothing to protect from the elements
  • Prolonged exposure to the elements resulting in frostbit, hypothermia, etc.
  • Minimal access to a balanced, nutritious food

The challenges homeless individuals and families face during the summer months may be a little less obvious.

But homelessness doesn’t take a summer break.

Homeless individuals and families in the Grand Rapids community experience an increased risk of heat stroke, dehydration, heat cramps, and other health problems due to exposure to our hot, Michigan sun.

How does Mel Trotter help combat the summer heat? Especially for the little ones who stay at our shelter?

One way is through partnerships with area churches and organizations. These partnerships allow the 50+ kids that stay at our shelter to attend VBS (Vacation Bible School) programs, sports camps, overnight camps, and more.

Our team snapped a few photos recently of some of our kids heading to Thornapple Covenant Church in Ada, Michigan. Their excitement was tangible and is evident in the photos below:

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