Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism assistance programs.

While the vast majority of residents of Kent County have some form of income or a home, sometimes they may face an unexpected emergency. This is when the team at Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism may be able to help. The charity is a resource for those who need either advice or financial assistance in times of crises. They offer a range of programs to help neighbors in need.

Counselors will meet with the applicant and provide support on a case by case basis. It is most difficult to get financial help, and more likely referrals are given. However some clients receive a one-time allocation to assist with one month’s rent payment or a portion of a mortgage payment. The agency also provides basic items like free clothing, emergency food and household goods. GRACE often provides for needs that other local programs do not address, and counselors from the charity can also supply referrals to other community or state of Michigan government resources.

Food and hunger prevention programs

A Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism pantry emergency supplemental services to eligible Kent County residents. Groceries, canned goods, fresh perishable items and more may be served. Income qualified families can receive free food once per month. The pantry uses local donations to keep operating.

Holiday aid is offered too. When funding as well as donations allow it, GRACE offers meals, food, and small gifts too. Volunteers serve Thanksgiving turkeys, Christmas meals, and Easter Holiday food baskets. The goal is to spread joy to those families that are either living in poverty or struggling.

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, or CSFP, provides free foods for hundreds of income-eligible seniors and families with children under age six. GRACE can provide more information on CSFP, and direct people to application sites. This is mostly government aid for residents who are not eligible for the WIC program. Groceries are given out on a once-monthly distribution. They will usually have up to 40 pounds of healthy, well-balanced, and shelf-stable foods.

With any food program, the goal is to supplement a household's existing supplies of groceries so that they are able to use the money they save to pay for other bills or housing expenses. Or maybe a client will use the extra savings to pay down debts and/or purchase other essentials.




Other poverty fighting services from GRACE

The After School Program for high school students across Kent County runs Monday through Friday and offers struggling, at-risk students the following supportive services. They are mostly offered by volunteers and local teachers.
Spiritual development
Tutoring and Homework help, including computer literacy
Conflict resolution as well as character training
Free Snack and Meals

Referrals are available to other resources in Kent County Michigan such as the following. The staff will direct clients to these and more.

  • Head Start, which is an early childhood development program.
  • Vouchers for child care needs.
  • GRACE has information on grant programs for the working poor from TANF, food stamps, section 8 housing, and others.
  • Community clinics and public medical care for health care services.
  • Resources can support pregnant women, single moms and families with infants and young children.
  • Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – This provides low cost medical care for residents under the age of 128.
  • Non-profit credit repair and debt counseling services.
  • LIHEAP for paying heating bills and financial aid for other energy costs.

These services can help a client gain long term solutions to their hardship. This can be met by the food stamp program, which offers EBT cards to help a family stay out of hunger, as it can pay for their groceries. Other services work in similar ways.




Specially trained case managers work with struggling clients to resolve complex life issues. GRACE will help them develop an overall sense of family unity and well-being, ensure basic survival needs are met and ensure independence for their future. Action plans and goals are established between the resident of Kent County and case managers to help them achieve a strong, solid foundation for their future.

The mostly volunteer run Grand Rapids Area Center for Ecumenism operates across the community. Information, referrals, and other


By Jon McNamara

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