Edison School Project
The First Presbyterian Edison School Project began its ninth year in the fall of 2008; a total of 52 tutors and classroom helpers participated. Each volunteer spends an hour or more each week in a classroom. Many of them also accompany classes on field trips; adopt a classroom and provide birthday treats, snacks or school supplies on a regular basis; or donate money to the Edison Fund. In December, each student received an appropriate book as a gift. This year, five “canine companions” brought their dogs into classrooms, and the children loved reading to them.
Free Clinic of Kalamazoo
The Free Clinic of Kalamazoo was founded in 1993. It is a volunteer-based health clinic that provides medical treatment, health education, advocacy, and referral services without cost to the estimated 30,000 uninsured residents of Kalamazoo County.
Members of the church attended the Ghana Mission Network meeting at Stony Point Presbyterian Center, Stony Point, NY as representatives of the partnership between the Presbytery of Lake Michigan, PC(USA), and the Ho-East Presbytery, Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana. Plans are under way to bring representatives of our partner churches in Ghana to Michigan in 2010 for the first general council meeting of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), to be held at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. Several members of our church who have traveled to Ghana contributed money towards scholarships for senior secondary school students from the village of Sokode Bagble, Ghana.
Habitat for Humanity
This was the 22nd year that volunteers helped support the Kalamazoo Habitat Blitz sponsored by Kalamazoo Valley Habitat for Humanity. Volunteers participate in the blitz each year on one or more of the four Saturdays in June. The projects include clearing debris, renovations to the interior and exterior of the houses, and preparing and serving lunches for work crews. Also, members of the church have participated in five annual mission trips to Slidell, LA, to help the East St. Tammany chapter of Habitat for Humanity build new homes for those who lost their homes in Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes
For more than 27 years, Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes (KLF) has been the main charitable source of emergency grocery/ food assistance for the hungry in Kalamazoo County. Established as a collaboration of approximately 20 Kalamazoo area churches, each operating an independent food pantry, KLF was founded in 1982 to provide a central access point for individuals and families seeking emergency food supplies, and for efficient collection and distribution of grocery resources throughout the Grocery Pantry Program Network.
Martha's Table, started in November, 2007, is an ecumenical ministry for God's children who currently have no spiritual home. At 4:00 p.m. each Sunday, Martha's Table partner churches and guests—many of whom are homeless—come together to experience Christian fellowship through worship and a meal hosted by First Congregational United Church of Christ in downtown Kalamazoo. Through this ministry, in addition to supporting the guests in the challenges they face, we gain a better understanding of the realities of poverty and what it means to live “on the street” in Kalamazoo.
Michigan Organizing Project
First Presbyterian Church has been a member of the Michigan Organizing Project (MOP) since the fall of 2007. The group has four issue campaigns: (1) Housing for the Homeless, (2) Immigration Reform, (3) Jobs, and (4) Racism/Profiling. The Outreach Committee has chosen to participate primarily in the Housing for Homeless Task Force, consistent with our church's commitment to address homelessness in the Kalamazoo community.
Ministry with Community
MwC is a haven in Kalamazoo for people who are hungry, lonely, or homeless. Staff and volunteers welcome "members" when they drop in to do their laundry, take a shower, get a haircut, volunteer, pick up their mail, enjoy a cup of coffee, find support for their recovery, seek help in sending for birth records, see a social worker, or simply rest. The resulting relationships begin to form a positive community for many. Through this community, people who "drop in" also help to serve meals, clean, unload groceries, make candles, and organize social events. These valuable contributions help members to build self-esteem, positive relationships, and hope for the future.
During the summer of 2008, the Presbytery of Lake Michigan hosted a delegation of ten partners from Nueva Guinea, Nicaragua. Our church and North Presbyterian Church jointly hosted the visitors to the Kalamazoo area over the Labor Day weekend. Six families served as home-stay hosts and others helped by providing local transportation. Pastors, staff, and the members of both churches enthusiastically welcomed the visitors and participated with them in various activities.
The Open Doors Shelters provide transitional housing to low?income working people. The Shelters invite several churches to renovate and furnish apartments in newly purchased buildings. Last spring the Outreach Committee offered to renovate and furnish one of these apartments. Several church volunteers performed the necessary cleaning, painting, and repairs, and many others donated furnishings.
Transformation Prisoner Re-entry
The goal of the Transformation Prisoner Re-entry program is to increase the success rate of offenders who transition from prison. The program fosters effective risk management and treatment, offender accountability, and community and victim participation.
United Campus Ministry
The mission of United Campus Ministry (UCM) is “to infuse the task of education with a vision of the redeemed world where the hungry are fed and children are nurtured, where the homeless find shelter and the prisoners are set free”. Each year UCM provides opportunities for hundreds of college students to work with children in the Kalamazoo area, with Habitat for Humanity, and with the homeless, the hungry, and the underserved in urban areas throughout the region. Students are trained to take leadership roles in “urban plunge” trips, such as weekends working in Detroit or Chicago soup kitchens, and on Alternative Spring Break trips. In addition to its Bible study component, UCM involves students in putting their faith to work and encourages them to continue to serve "the least of these" throughout their lives.