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:

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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.

DONOR SPOTLIGHT: Keith and Donijo De Jonge

This week Keith and Donijo De Jonge, longtime and generous donors to Mel Trotter Ministries, answered a few questions regarding their involvement in Mel Trotter Ministries and the work they do to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus Christ to the hungry, homeless, and hurting within the Greater Grand Rapids area. Their work is significant and good and life changing for so many at the Mission. We are blessed to have them as supporters.

You’re a long-time, generous donor to Mel Trotter Ministries. Take us through your time at the organization. How did you get involved?

When Donijo was younger, she and her family were involved in small ways. Once we were married we discussed what organizations we would support financially and Mel Trotter was one of those organizations that topped the list because of the work they have done in the community. We wrote a small check to the organization, the donor team reached out to us shortly thereafter, and we have been involved ever since.

Why do you give? Do you give because yUnknownou are called to give? Is there a scripture verse or something your family instilled in you?

Growing up, our families taught us the importance of giving back to organizations. We have been granted certain times and talents and want to share those times and talents with others.

Why Mel Trotter Ministries? What has drawn you to stay with this work and this organization?

We believe in helping our neighbors and our community, and Mel Trotter Ministries is an organization with deep roots here in Grand Rapids. They help a vulnerable and often forgotten population, but in an instant any one of us – including our neighbors and friends – could need MTM.

Do you have a Mel Trotter story that you have found moving or inspiring?

Hearing Mel Trotter’s stories of success and recovery and hope inspire us to continue our involvement.

What is your prayer for Mel Trotter Ministries? How do you want to see us work and grow to continue demonstrating the compassion of Jesus Christ to the hungry, homeless, and hurting?

We want MTM to continue reaching out and helping all God’s children.

How or why would you encourage others to get involved in the work of Mel Trotter?

We believe everyone has time and talent to share, so we’d encourage folks to volunteer and get involved with MTM in any way they can. For example, consider donating spare items. Stuff around the house – like clothing, books, pots and pans, food and even spare change – that you no longer need. Springtime is here, which means spring cleaning at our house. Go through your closets, your shelves, and so on. Pack up stuff you don’t need and deliver it to a Mel Trotter Ministries store. Or save your spare change. Toss the coins into a cup or jar and at the end of the year, count it and donate it to MTM. If you get a turkey or a ham from your employer at Christmastime, or any time of the year, give it to MTM. These are small, but important and significant ways to help. These simple things inspire hope.

What is your favorite scripture passage? A passage that inspires you or prompts you?

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourselves. (Philippians 2:3)

The “Seeds” You’ll Need to Succeed

There are a few new Mel Trotter-related billboards popping up around town. They look like this:

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What is compassion demonstrated? What are seeds of transformation?

In our 2015 annual report, Gordon Oosting, the president of Mel Trotter Ministries’ board of directors, describes compassion demonstrated like this:

To be compassionate is to hold another person’s pain in our hearts. It is to feel the ravages of addiction. It is to swallow the scourge of disease. It is to suffer the misery of the marginalized. It is to endure the ache of hunger, the agony of homelessness, and the anguish of hurt. But compassion also incites action and motivates us to help, to give, to lift and to love, to pray and to support. Just as Jesus Christ did. He sought out the marginalized. He turned toward the poor. He loved those who were hard to love. He forgave without getting even. He welcomed the outlier. He took up the cross.

Our mission is to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus Christ to the hungry, homeless, and hurting in the Greater Grand Rapids area.

One of the ways we do this is through Seeds of Transformation.

What are our Seeds of Transformation?

These are the seven things we’d like our guests to have, to experience, to know before leaving Mel Trotter Ministries.

They include:

  • Sustainable Income – Our team helps guests obtain meaningful employment, while engaging them in financial counseling, budgeting, and financial planning.
  • Education – Guests complete their GEDs (or progress in them) and participate in Mel Trotter, college, or adult learning classes and computer training.
  • Faith – Guests learn about and experience the compassion of Jesus Christ and develop a relationship with Him. They find a church home and learn about discipleship.
  • Transportation – Our team helps guests obtain a driver’s license or begin to use public transportation. We also provide them with an auto voucher.
  • Permanent Housing – Our team focuses on finding permanent housing for guests.
  • Wholeness – Our team works with guests to help them recover from addiction. We also provide dental, vision, and medical care, as well as legal guidance.
  • Community Support – Guests are connected to churches, Alcoholics Anonymous groups, support groups, and their families to ensure continued success and recovery after their stay at Mel Trotter Ministries.

These “seeds” ensure our guests know and experience the love of Jesus Christ.

They ensure #compassiondemonstrated.

How can you be part of giving our guests these Seeds of Transformation? How can you get involved? There are plenty of ways. Contact Jessica, our volunteer coordinator, to learn more! Email

Would you spend your spring break at a homeless shelter?

Yes? No? Erin Myhre, a senior in college, did.

Here’s her story:

For my last spring break of college, I wanted to serve somewhere interesting where I could gain perspective, learn more about God’s character, and experience something new. I am a biology pre-med major and I will be applying to a physician assistant program this summer, and I hope to use my medical training to bring spiritual and physical healing to the underserved populations of the United States. I contacted several homeless ministries, and Mel Trotter graciously offered to work out an intern-for-a-week deal. I took a Greyhound bus from my school a couple of hours away and spent the week of March 7 staying in Erin MyhreMTM’s women’s shelter and interning in the public inebriate clinic. I grew up in Portland, OR and homeless people have never been scary or unfamiliar to me. I’ve always made an effort to say hi or offer a meal, and growing up I enjoyed periodically serving at local shelters and ministries, but before my stay in the women’s shelter I had no idea what it actually felt like to be homeless.

I was not in Grand Rapids to have fun, but to get a small glimpse of homelessness. My roommates in the women’s shelter were wonderful and the ladies were welcoming (though they thought I was crazy for choosing to stay there), and through conversations I realized how incredibly privileged and blessed I am. I also realized how isolating it must feel to be homeless. When I looked out the window and saw families out for a day on the town, I felt separated, like I was in a completely different level of society. One day during a meal, I felt very self-conscious and inferior compared to the family serving the food, simply because they were giving and I was receiving. They had no reason to think that I was anything but a regular shelter guest, and I wanted to go strike up a conversation so I could slip in the fact the I wasn’t really homeless. But I kept my mouth shut, and let myself feel the difference.

Even though we don’t technically have class distinctions in the United States like in other countries, I find it quite disheartening that there is such a clear line between “them” and “us”—a line I did not understand until I was on the other side. During my time in the PI clinic, I saw many intoxicated men, often the same ones day after day. But when they started to sober up, I got to know them and they got to know me. I was able to develop initial relationships with them, and even though we are at very different places in life and our time to get to know each other was short, class separations were irrelevant because they, just like me, are people who love and hurt and need a Savior. I went out to lunch downtown with a friend after a few days at the shelter and clinic, and as we walked and drove around I saw several men that I knew or recognized from the PI clinic. It was heartbreaking because I knew them. I saw them every day. And they live on the streets. They’re not just poor forgotten homeless people. They’re dads, brothers, and husbands, with names.

Wherever I live from now on, I’m going to invest myself somewhere where I can get to know the homeless on a personal level. I never want to forget the perspective that I gained during my spring break, and I am so grateful to Mel Trotter for allowing me to stay in the shelter and work in the clinic. I also want to remember that even among the brokenness, God can bring redemption and hope. I pray that I never forget this experience, and never forget His healing power. I pray that I can be rooted and grounded in His Word so I can be His hands and feet, and be a light to everyone I interact with, wherever I may be.

AMEN. Thank you, Erin, for your work at Mel Trotter Ministries. We pray God’s richest blessings on you, as you seek and serve Him in this great, big world of ours.


This week Doreen Sturgis, our purchasing agent, answered a few questions regarding her position at Mel Trotter Ministries and the work she does to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus Christ to the hungry, homeless, and hurting within the Greater Grand Rapids area. Her work is significant and good and life changing for so many at the Mission. We are blessed to have her.

Screen Shot 2015-03-28 at 5.12.44 AMWhat are your responsibilities at Mel Trotter Ministries? I am the Purchasing Agent at Mel Trotter Ministries, which means I am responsible for purchasing all of the office supplies for the ministry. I also help the donor team with donor receipts and mailings, enter data on landlines, cell phones, donations, and access cards, and also maintain the key database and copiers/printers.

What is the best part of your job? I really enjoy my job and am thankful for it. I love my co-workeers, I love seeing guests transform during their stay here, and – mostly – I love seeing first hand the unlimited generosity of this community.

What is the most difficult or challenging part of your job? Sometimes I need to stop and remember just because I get it, doesn’t mean others get it : )

What is your favorite Mel Trotter moment? During the holidays, I love realizing that we can’t out give God. Three years ago we tried to give away hundreds of donated toys and gifts, but we were unsuccessful. We’d get rid of one batch, and another truck load of donated items would arrive. It was exhausting, but absolutely awesome at the same time.

In your opinion, what does compassion demonstrated mean? But for the grace of God, there go I. Even if we are broken or down or hurt, God loves us, and He uses us. God says whatever you have done to the least of MINE you have done to ME. That’s a powerful thought.

How do you demonstrate compassion at Mel Trotter Ministries? I try to pay attention to my surroundings and listen to God in me. It may be a smile or a hello that keeps someone going. It may be helping someone, even when it’s not convenient. It’s even using our resources well when I’m purchasing goods for the Mission.

How do you demonstrate compassion in your daily life? I try to be the friend, wife, sister, daughter, mother, and child of God that I was made to be. I have realized that our struggles are not about us, but about what God can do with our struggles. Who can we help as a result of our struggles?

What are other ways you’ve seen compassion demonstrated at Mel Trotter? I see it in the way our staff cares for – and encourages – one another.

What is your favorite Bible verse? “God has not given you a spirit of fear, but a sound mind, power, and love.” (2 Timothy 1:7) Both of my daughter’s know this verse by heart. It is one that I shared with them over and over in life. It is also a verse our family has clung to during difficult times.

Our deep thanks to Doreen for all she does for Mel Trotter Ministries and the people we serve. Her work is invaluable, and we are grateful to have her. 

Registration now available for our Golf Marathon of Hope!

Mel Trotter Ministries’ annual Golf Marathon of Hope will be held on Monday, June 8, 2015, at Railside Golf Club in Byron Center, Michigan. This is one of our largest fundraising events (thanks to some really, really generous supporters), and we LOVE IT for a variety of reasons. A short list provided below:

  1. WARMER WEATHER. It’s time to de-thaw, Michigan. Time to soak in the sunshine. Time to bring out the bikes. Time for boat rides and backyard bonfires. Time to run and to play and to be OUTSIDE. And we CAN’T EVEN WAIT. Prepping for the Golf Marathon of Hope means it’s time for summer. Bring it on.
  2. KIDS. There are more than 60 kids living at Mel Trotter Ministries, and several of them will be at our annual Golf Marathon of Hope this summer. They’ll come for lunch and stay for the bounce house. They’ll mix with Screen Shot 2015-03-19 at 8.40.20 AMSparty and mingle with Griff. They’ll putt, chip, drive, and have a BLAST. Many of them are already looking forward to spending the day with you. But they have no idea your participation – or the participation of another 200+ golfers – will help them and their parents find more permanent housing, secure better jobs, and build brighter futures.
  3. GOLF! Enough said? Let us grab our clubs. Let us gather our friends. A day at Railside Golf Club is quite welcome. The competition is good, the camaraderie even better. Eager to see so many of our supporters in one place playing a game we love.

But most importantly, COMPASSION DEMONSTRATED. The folks that participate in our annual golf outing – you – have a heart for the lonely and the marginalized, the hungry, the homeless, and the hurting. Your desire to end homelessness in Grand Rapids is as great as ours, so you show up – year after year after year – to support the work we do to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus Christ to the hungry, homeless, and hurting within tScreen Shot 2015-03-19 at 8.39.06 AMhe Greater Grand Rapids area. And hopefully you have a little fun while doing it!

Registration is now available for this great event, and we’d LOVE to have you join us. Monday, June 8, 2015, at Railside Golf Club in Byron Center, Michigan. How about it? You can learn more and register here. You can also share this event with friends on Facebook here.

Have you filled your Hope Tote?

Spring has sprung, friends! The much-anticipated warmer weather has arrived, so – naturally – we’re foregoing jackets and wearing shorts and considering flip-flops for the weekend. That’s what we do in Michigan. 40 feels like 70 after the winter we’ve had. Bring on the t-shirts! The sunglasses! Maybe even the beach!

But before we get too ahead of ourselves…

Spring has also brought the official launch of our Hope Tote campaign! Not familiar with this campaign? Let us tell you about it. Hope Totes is our annual personal care items drive. We’ve partnered with hundreds of individuals, families, churches, schools, youth groups, businesses, and more to fill bags with new, unopened personal hygiene items. These bags – however simple – bring hope to those in our community who struggle to meet some of their most basic needs.

Want to help?

Here’s what we need:

  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Socks
  • Shaving Cream
  • Shampoo and conditioner
  • Deodorant
  • Lip balm
  • Soap
  • Brush or comb
  • Shoelaces
  • Hand or body lotion
  • Disposable razors
  • Feminine hygiene products

You can drop off items at our downtown mission or any of our thrift store locations. We’d love the help and promise to share your items with those in our neighborhood who need them most!

Learn more here.