Project Hope’s Strong Community Backing Enables Ministry to Aid to Those in Need

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

hope1Project Hope’s thrift store offers for sale clothes, household goods, decorations, furniture and jewelry.Nestled in the largely rural and farming area of Dorr Township is a ministry Annetta Jansen initiated in the 1950s in her basement and garage on 142nd Avenue for people who lacked adequate food and clothing.

Few would have blamed Jansen if she chose to wallow in her own troubles. Divorced and responsible for raising five boys and a daughter, Jansen instead elected to pray with the people who accepted her donations.

hope2The ministry’s backroom stores an ample supply of food for qualified low-income people living in northeast Allegan County.Although Jansen died at age 72 of pancreatic cancer in 1997 her ministry was already on its way toward coalescing into what it is today: The nondenominational Project Hope Annetta Jansen Ministry Center.

Jansen's home church, Dorr Christian Reformed Church, was the chief motivator for continuing the ministry in 1994 when it expanded its outreach to include a mentoring ministry and clearinghouse.

Project Hope is today located inside a cavernous 12,000-square foot building located at 1808-143rd Street. It's the ministry's third site. Much of the labor and materials were donated to make the structure possible, which includes under one-roof a handful of offices, a warehouse and a walk-in freezer and cooler.

hope3A board lists employment openings for job seekers.The ministry became a 501c3 nonprofit in 1995 and its legal moniker is Project Hope of Northeast Allegan County.

Project Hope's heartbeat

An essential heartbeat of Project Hope is its volunteers. While its staff includes an executive director and directors of compassionate care, retail, food pantry and an assistant of retail, the ministry's determination to assist those in need is made possible through the strong backing of the Dorr community.

It includes an average of 125 volunteers who greet pantry clients, pray with people, sort the groceries and donated merchandise, price the items for sale, bag groceries, input inventory into a computer and deliver groceries once a month to the homebound.

hope 4Sandy Zuidersma is Project Hope Annetta Jansen Ministries’ executive director.But that's not all. An average of 40 churches ranging from Roman Catholic to Christian Reformed, Lutheran, Baptist, United Methodist, Assemblies of God and Greek Orthodox also support Project Hope.

So do a number of businesses that donate their services and time.

Last fall a concert that featured the Williams Family and the Burgess Brothers raised enough money to purchase more than 22,000 pound of food for the ministry's pantry.

Friendships are formed

"People form friendships here," said Project Hope executive director Sandy Zuidersma. "They feel it's like one big family of God. Everybody feels we're all working together for the cause of Christ."

hope5The east side of Project Hope is its thrift store entrance and the north side is the pantry entry.Project Hope is home to three ministries: its thrift store, which is open to the public and gives its pantry clients a 50 percent coupon off of their thrift store purchases; a pantry that served 6,022 families living in northeast Allegan County in 2014; and its clearinghouse program that served 366 families last year which helps qualifying people to avoid a gamut of challenges such as utility shut-offs, evictions from their apartments and homes, help with car repairs, prescriptions and the cost of funeral services.

Recently counselor Mike Shanahan started volunteering his services as a life advisor for those who are battling depression, are in the full grip of grief over the loss of a loved one as well as other mental health challenges.

Project Hope also offers budgeting and life skills classes to enable people to break from the cycle of poverty.

"It's amazing how God covers His people," Zuidersma said.
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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