Christ’s hands and feet
Community outreach is important to the Kalamazoo First Presbyterian Congregation. We have more than a dozen active programs and invite you to join us.
Founded by Kalamazoo FPC member Kim Cummings, Building Blocks works in the Kalamazoo community to help the various associations representing Kalamazoo’s low-income neighborhoods extend their organizing efforts to individual streets. From the beginning, Building Blocks operated not as a conventional grant-giving entity, but as a “collaborative.” The entities with most at stake—the neighborhood associations and the higher-education institutions providing the student organizers (primarily Kalamazoo College and Western Michigan University)—share the burdens of responsibility as board members and also labor together to shape the project itself. Although Building Blocks operates in distinctively small sites, the cumulative effect of its activities is impressive. Building Blocks has helped to regenerate community ties in 134 street-level target sites, supporting improvements in general quality of life as neighbors step forward to take collective responsibility. Neighborhood associations also have benefited from the influx of new leaders and new loyalties from local residents.
Celebrate the Vision
Celebrate the Vision is a ministry of faith, food, and fellowship. We serve a free home-cooked meal every Wednesday night at 5:30. Since COVID, we have served our meal outside our red South Street doors. During the summer, we usually grill. The gathering ends with special “Red Door Prayers.” Members of the FPC congregation and the Kalamazoo community are invited to join us.
CROP Hunger Walk
CROP Walks are faith-based community fundraising events sponsored by Church World Service (CWS). CWS has been working to relieve hunger and poverty throughout the world since 1946. CROP walks are held in April with our congregation and youth groups well represented. Twenty five percent of the funds raised locally remain here to fight hunger in the Kalamazoo area. Organizations that benefit from the proceeds include Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes, Open Doors, and the YWCA Domestic Assault Shelter.
The Outreach Committee designates funds to be utilized for disaster assistance, typically domestic. Prior contributions have aided areas affected by hurricanes/storms, flooding, tornadoes, border overcrowding, etc. As the needs arise, and are identified, funds can be distributed to a wide array of groups in need. Funds have also been used to generally support Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, which works in much the same way around the country/world.
Downtown Community Literacy Center
The Downtown Community Literacy Center opened its doors at First Presbyterian Church in April of 2014. Tutoring for adults is provided in reading, writing, and computer skills by church members. Tutors are always needed and appreciated.
Edison School Outreach Program
Our partnership with Edison Environmental Science Academy in Kalamazoo was started in 2000 by two retired teachers. Now volunteers assist in the classroom by tutoring, reading with the children, and making monthly birthday treats. Once in a while, church members bring their dogs so they can listen to the children read. Our congregation also supports the students with school supplies and books as holiday gifts.
Our congregation’s outreach to the West African nation of Ghana began in 1991 in response to an invitation from Frank Abror, a Ghanaian master’s degree student at WMU who attended our church during his time in Kalamazoo. His invitation resulted in the establishment of our outreach program to Ghana. Over the years, many members of our church and of the Presbytery have traveled to Ghana on mission trips to visit Presbyterian partners in the Volta Region of Ghana. In addition, we have hosted small groups of Ghanaian partners here in Michigan. Our Ghana scholarship supports 2-5 students annually in the Sokoda Bagble region of Ghana with primary and secondary education needs.
Our congregation supports ISAAC, an interfaith organizing network of congregations and strategic partners working together to build a more just Kalamazoo community. Areas of concentration include anti-racism, housing, and community violence prevention. For more information about ISAAC, you can check out their website.
The First Presbyterian Church’s Just Sanctuary program supports church leadership and members to live into our Christian values through actively confronting systemic racism in First Presbyterian Church of Kalamazoo and working toward a more just practice of our faith in our community and with our Kalamazoo neighbors. This is not a standing committee of the church, but a grassroots effort focused on how to more fully engage all of the congregation in doing the work of anti-racism.
Justice For Our Neighbors
This program welcomes and supports immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers through legal services and social actions. The clients of this program are refugees seeking green cards, migrant workers without status, mom-citizen family members of American citizens, young adults brought here as children, sexually trafficked individuals, employment authorization cases, and more. There are a wide range of volunteer opportunities available. For more information, contact the JFON office at 269-743-2501 or www.jfonmi.org/kalamazoo.
Kalamazoo Deacons Conference
The Kalamazoo Deacon’s Conference is a local Kalamazoo organization that recognizes the physical and spiritual needs of the working poor in our community and attends to these needs. Physical needs that are addressed include transportation, ID and birth certificates, clothing, food, personal hygiene items, household goods, furniture, and appliances. Employment help and self-development programs are key to a better future for their clients.
Kalamazoo Drop-In Child Care Center
The Kalamazoo Drop-In Child Care Center was established to provide free, short-term child care for low-income families. The Center enables parents with children from six weeks through five years of age to more easily attend medical appointments, go to job interviews, register for school or attend classes, and work toward self-sufficiency. Space is limited to 20 children per day.
Loaves & Fishes
First Presbyterian Church was one of the organizations involved in founding Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes back in 1982. Our congregation continues to provide food items, monetary and volunteer support for the “Food Bank Plus” which fights to end hunger in the Kalamazoo area.
First Presbyterian Church was one of the founding congregations of the Nicaragua Partnership. This Lake Michigan/Nueva Guinea partnership is the longest-continuing Protestant mission partnership operating through CEPAD (Consejo de Iglesias Evangelicas Pro-Alianza Denominacional – Council of Evangelical Churches for Denomination Alliance), a council of protestant churches in Nicaragua. Many FPC congregation members have been part of the mission trips to improve lives in rural Nicaragua through teaching better farming methods and practices, empowering women, pastoral education, and community organization and economic development.
Open Doors Kalamazoo is building a community of people who are overcoming homelessness through relationships, housing, employment, education, and sobriety in response to God’s love for all. They are privately funded by people who want to make a difference.
Rickman House Bingo
Rickman House is an assisted-living community for persons with mental illness. First Presbyterian Church volunteers run a monthly Bingo event for the residents. Prizes for the games include personal care items, food, and laundry supplies donated by congregation members or purchased with Outreach Committee funds.
United Campus Ministry at WMU
The United Campus Ministry is a collaborative effort with six other congregations in Kalamazoo to provide service learning and leadership for students of Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College. United Campus Ministry is located in Kanley Chapel on the WMU campus. The Reverend Kathleen Robertson King is director of this program. United Campus Ministry promotes three essential components to “Service Learning”: Getting Out (of one’s comfort zone), Mutuality, and Reflection. Other churches involved in United Campus Ministry are the American Baptist Churches USA, Church of the Brethren, United Church of Christ Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), St. Thomas More Catholic Parish, the Religious Society of Friends, and the Unitarian Universalists.
El Concilio Kalamazoo
For more than 30 years the Hispanic American Council — a non-profit, community organization has sought to serve the Latino community in the greater Kalamazoo area. As a liaison between potential clients and service agencies, the Council seeks to meet the needs of a special population often hindered by language barriers, cultural differences, and unfamiliarity with service agencies and institutions.
Through the programs and services offered, the goal of the Council is to assist Hispanics in attaining self-sufficiency and a higher level of social and economic well-being. The Council also strives to nourish and encourage the diverse cultural heritage of the Hispanic population.