Potter’s House Purchases Building Where it all Began 3 Decades Ago

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

ph235Potter’s House Roosevelt Church cutline No. 1: Potter’s House Superintendent John Booy stands in front of Roosevelt CRC with some of the school’s students.The Potter’s House has recently purchased the building where the interdenominational, multi-ethic Christian school got its start more than three decades ago.

Potter’s House Superintendent John Booy said the school closed the sale on the former Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church, located at 811 Chicago Dr. SW, in Wyoming, on Aug. 31 for $375,000. He does not expect the school to be in debt long-term. At press time, donors have all but paid $7,200 on the purchase price, Booy said.

The building was constructed in 1950 when it was then known as Grandville Avenue Christian Reformed Church and was renamed Roosevelt Park Community CRC in 1994.

Sept. 1 significant

On Sept. 1, the school’s staff and children were led in a procession from its adjacent middle/high school at 810 Van Raalte Drive SW to the church where worship and prayers of blessing were held while the peal of church bells were heard throughout.

Sept. 1 is a significant date in the Potter’s House history because that is the birthday of one of the founding teachers, Nellene Duimstra, Booy said. Duimstra died of cancer in the mid-1990s.

“Nellene gave her whole life to this school,” Booy said.

Started as a neighborhood ministry

It was handful of college graduates who launched in 1974 a neighborhood ministry that operated out of their homes after they moved to Roosevelt Park, a low-income area located in the Southwest Side of Grand Rapids.

They initially worked with an average 150 kids weekly teaching academics and the Bible. In time they realized their two-hour meetings with them wasn’t enough to bridge the gapping holes in the kids’ spiritual, academic and emotional lives.

They decided to launch an interdenominational Christian school where its students were the clay and God was the potter molding their lives through day-to-day instruction, (hence the name The Potter’s House).

Then, starting with its inaugural 1981-82 school year, Roosevelt CRC agreed to allow it’s then all-volunteer staff of teachers instruct students in its basement with one condition: They had to shuffle a classroom around so a group of seniors dubbed the “Golden Agers” could play shuffleboard on Tuesday mornings because the deck was smack dab in the middle of teacher Mark Van Zanten’s “classroom.”

“I don’t think anyone thought the school could survive with an all volunteer staff,” Booy said. “There were so many signs that this was a whim, that this was just a fledgling start.”

These days, The Potter’s House has proven itself to be far from a school in the making.

Waiting list of 200

From its initial 12 students, the school has grown to an enrollment with an average 560 preschool-12 graders some of whom hail from 34 countries. It has a waiting list of 200 children, Booy said. In addition to the elementary/middle school, The Potter’s House operates a high school at 2500 Newport St. SW in Wyoming.

Booy said the elementary/middle school is burgeoning at the seems so plans include using the church for worship, band, English as a Second Language classes and is exploring the use for area worshipping church. Moreover, the church will serve as a studio for artist-in-residence Jamie Treadwell, who calls himself an urban monk.

“We’re hoping the church will be used for corporate worship and outreach to the neighborhood,” Booy said. “We’re site specific. We want to be a positive part of this neighborhood.”

Author Information
Paul R. Kopenkoskey
About:
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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