Since it's founding 21 years ago by the former Roosevelt Park Community Christian Reformed Church in partnership with the Christian Reformed World Relief Committee, RPM has grown to include 25 programs. Services range from employment help, to counseling and legal services, to youth development, community enrichment and tax services, as well as support services, such as translation of documents.
"Roosevelt Park Ministries started with the deacons of that church who said we want to reach out to our neighbors and make this neighborhood a little less like hell and a little bit like heaven," said Steven Drewry, executive director of RPM since 1998.
"That's the unofficial mission statement. They realized they didn't understand the language (Spanish), culture and issues."
Following RPM's launch, the nonprofit partnered with Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association to conduct an area-wide survey to assess residents' needs. The assessment's results indicated English as a Second Language, literacy, teen/youth programs and family enrichment services were needed most.
Helping ground children and teens spiritually, emotionally and physically are key to their development, said Drewry. To help achieve these goals, summer youth camps, girls and boys clubs and Tweens Rising Up Through Him are provided.
"We know how Jesus has taken our messed up, broken lives and made us whole, although it's a process and the process begins at childhood," said Drewry. "We're helping them to become whole in everyway."
The Roosevelt Park neighborhood is in Southwest Grand Rapids and is bounded by Wealthy Avenue to the north, Burton Street to the South, Clyde Park/Godfrey Avenue to the west and Century Avenue to the east.
That geographical boundary continues to be RPM primary service area that enjoys a bustling Hispanic populace.
"The majority of our neighbors are Hispanic," said Drewry. "They may be only Spanish or Spanish-English but they are Spanish dominant. The children may speak Spanish but they are English dominant."
Labyrinth of emotions
Drewry said he sporadically hears of a household stormed by U.S. Immigrant and Customs Enforcement.
"There are times when the ICE raid increases in intensity and during those times, concern increases," said Drewry. "Since the last time of the presidential results, the anxiety level has increased with a labyrinth of emotions. There is certainly apprehension in our area. No doubt about it."
When RPM, 1530 Grandville Ave. SW, started offering free year-round income tax preparation to low- through moderate-income households, people who live outside Roosevelt Park were drawn to the nonprofit organization.
Last year alone, 1,000 people received tax services.
"The IRS does not allow us to discriminate on the basis of anything except income so we started getting people from all over the city," said Drewry. "So we changed our bylaws and our mission to service people of Roosevelt area and surrounding areas."
Christ-centered, holistic support
With annual budget of $253,900, RPM mission is to provide Christ-centered, holistic support to people living in and around the Roosevelt Park community.
"It's faith-based and it's in the Lord's name and for His glory but it's not in the name of any particular church or denomination," said Drewry. "Our mission has always been to provide Christ-centered holistic support to people. The Christ-centered focus and faith –based focus has not changed though we do say we're ecumenical."
RPM relies on a staff of nine staff members, a 12-member board of directors and volunteers to keep its multiple programs running, including Bree Bode, who was hired in 2015 as the second program director of RPM.
"The opportunity to be with and living in community is satisfying to me," said Bode. "We're fortunate to be in the space where we can be with the community instead of solely for the community. That's what keeps me humble that's what keep me intact with my work and keeps me passionate about being here."
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