Next Step of WM Dedicated Helping Those Who’ve Had Doors Slammed Shut

Written by Paul R. Kopenkoskey on . Posted in Local

Next Step of West Michigan cutline No. 1 Michael Moore is blessed and amazed with what Next Step has done for him.Drugs and alcohol are the twin rudders that steered Michael Moore to encounter a run-in with the law and find himself behind bars. With a criminal record, finding a job that paid the bills and a landlord willing to rent to him were personal hurdles he couldn’t clear on his own.

“When I was in the streets, I didn’t care,” said the soft spoke Moore, 25, who now lives in a refurbished home and plans to marry his fiancé. “When I went to church, it was overwhelming because they always talked about judgment.

“Then Scott stepped up to the plate.”

The “Scott” Moore refers to is Scott Jonkhoff, founder and executive director of Next Step of West Michigan (NSWM), a nonprofit faith-based ministry that believes in the potential of men and women released from prison and rehab centers by integrating them into the workforce either as NSWM employees or connecting them with employers in manufacturing, property maintenance and construction.

NSWM also operates the Straight and Narrow Workshop that creates and sells handcrafted furniture from local hardwood lumber.

See people for who they are

Next Step of West Michigan cutline No. 235 Next Step founder Scott Jonkhoff stands near the building under renovation that will serve as his nonprofit’s headquarters.For some, showing up for work on time and working for a living is a new experience. Jonkhoff and his small staff get that. They see people for who they are now, not their past, Jonkhoff said. They give hope to those that others have given up on.

Such an outlook requires persistence, Jonkhoff added.

Moore admits he’s committed offenses several times that saw him leave and return to NSWM three times.

“Scott brought me back again,” said Moore. “I was blessed and amazed. When I came back a third time, things started to turn around and I started to open up at these tables.”

Rise and shine

The tables Moore speaks of is the Bible study/discussion that takes place most weekdays at 7:30 a.m. at the storefront that serves as NSWM’s headquarters located at 906 S. Division Ave. It’s one of several properties Jonkhoff owns.

Next Step of West Michigan cutline No. 3 A half-hour of Bible reading, discussion and prayer starts at 7:30 a.m. most weekdays.During a recent morning, a dozen men gathered to pour over James 2:1-13 which chastises those who commit the sin of favoring rich people over the poor, of wrongly judging others. The verses resonates with the men who’ve felt people looking askance at them because of their past.

NSWM supervisor Bill Pettinga challenged the men to be the first to show mercy.

“If we’re thinking more of the grace and mercy shown to us, we’re going to show that grace and mercy to other people,” Pettinga said.

Jonkhoff chimes in with a direct insight.

No head whacking necessary

“God is not going to whack us over the head,” Jonkhoff said. “He knows we’ve messed up.”

Next Step of West Michigan cutline No. 4 It’s not much to look at now, but when its’ done this area will serve as Next Step’s woodshop area.Jonkhoff said the idea to launch NSWM started in 2000 when he encountered a homeless man pushing a shopping cart in the middle of winter.

It’s was one of those spiritual eye opening experiences that told him his life needed to head in another director.

“I realized chasing after the dollar wasn’t living up with God’s Word,” said Jonkhoff.

In 2001, Jonkhoff sold the fastener company he owned, and then helped Habitat for Humanity to open one of its ReStore while working alongside men recently released from jail who were on work release. Jonkhoff discovered they needed work skills and a place to live. So he bought two homes located on Hall Street and S. Division Avenue.

That snowballed to Jonkhoff and his wife purchasing the building that currently serves as NSWM headquarters, hiring men to renovate it, which lead to NSWM becoming a registered nonprofit in 2008.

Community support strong

“Eighty percent of our budget comes from billable work,” said Jonkhoff. “The rest comes from charities, individuals and foundations. The community has gotten behind Next Step.”

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Growth and demand for NSWM’s services has thrown a renovation crew into the throes of renovating the 25,000-square foot former Kindel factory in the 1600 block of S. Division that was built in 1912 and manufactured high-end furnishings. The building was gutted when fire engulfed its interior in 2011. Fortunately by then the company had relocated after merging with a company in Wyoming.

Once the $1.6 million in renovations are done, it will be a LEED certified building, said Jonkhoff. The project will be completed in two phases.

“We’re busting at the seams for storage space and a wood shop that makes cabinets and does woodworking,” said Jonkhoff. “It’s about creating additional jobs.”

CONNECT

http://www.nextstep-wm.org/

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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