Dégagé Ministries Names New Executive Director

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

degDowntown Grand Rapids homeless shelter Dégagé Ministries has named Thelma Ensink as executive director following the retirement of longtime executive director Marge Palmerlee.

Ensink brings a wealth of leadership experience with her to the executive role, most recently in positions with Grandville Calvin Christian Schools. Ensink is familiar with walking alongside the marginalized, which began when she was a young girl growing up in South Africa during apartheid and continued when she immigrated to the United States and worked as a paramedic in Grand Rapids for American Medical Response. It was her work as a paramedic that first introduced her to the patrons at Dégagé.

Her other careers include managing a rural Ionia County medical practice, developing curriculum programs for students and cofounding Ambassador High School.

Palmerlee joined Dégagé 27 years ago, first as a volunteer and then as executive director for 23 years. Under her leadership, the organization has grown to serve more than 500 people each day, employs 50 staff and has a budget of $2 million. One of her most significant contributions to the Heartside community is the Open Door Women's Center (Open Door), which she spearheaded in 2003, at a time when safe overnight crisis services were not readily available for women. Since then, more than 4,800 women have stayed at the Open Door and numerous women have been relocated into sustainable housing as well.

Palmerlee helped to raise more than $4.7 million of the $6.7 million for Degage's expansion and renovation project. Construction has begun.

"It has truly been an honor and a privilege to be a part of Dégagé Ministries," Palmerlee said. "As I reflect on the past 23 years, I stand in awe at all the people God has brought together to further His kingdom. I have had the joy of working with courageous board members, compassionate staff, committed donors, and faithful volunteers. But it is the amazing patrons we serve who inspire me every day! Words cannot describe the blessings I have received knowing we have walked this journey together, obediently following the Lord's leading. It is a joy working with bold staff who dare to dream big dreams and step out in faith to make them happen."
Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
Author: Paul R. KopenkoskeyWebsite:
Paul R. Kopenkoskey is a full-time freelance writer and editor for an assortment of publications including Grand Rapids Magazine, Grand Rapids Business Journal, and Faith Grand Rapids magazine. He has completed his first novel with the working title, Karl Beguiled. He and his wife, Barb, live in Wyoming, Michigan. They have three children and five grandchildren.

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