Since 2008 Great Lakes Urban has been strengthening neighborhoods to transform lives. In that time, we have learned that sustained and transformative change often requires the support of an anchor partner, especially during the early stage of establishing a Neighborhood Connector program.
One such anchor partner and authentic friend of the Godfrey Lee neighborhood in Wyoming, Michigan is the Lee Street Christian Reformed Church, or Lee Street CRC. Lee Street CRC began in 1926 with a vision to provide a new community of faith for those living in the Godfrey Lee area. At the time, the neighborhood was primarily composed of recent Dutch immigrants and farmers. Today, the Godfrey Lee neighborhood is still a largely immigrant community; however, with a vibrant Hispanic flavor. In 2013 Lee Street CRC embarked on a lengthy discernment process to understand how they might become a meaningful partner with the community, given these demographic shifts. The process resulted in a commitment, among other goals, to strengthen 'neighbor-to-neighbor connections in the Godfrey Lee area.'
Lee Street CRC has made good on this goal, in part, through its support of Great Lakes Urban's Neighborhood Connector program. Funding from Lee Street CRC has made it possible to recruit, train, and support a part-time Neighborhood Connector, Doris Perez. Doris has engaged her neighbors to reweave the social fabric of the neighborhood. As neighbor-to-neighbor connections have increased, new life and new activities have emerged. Local businesses have been supported as they navigate the pandemic; local youth and have been engaged; community gardens and urban arbor projects have been launched; individual needs have been met with the support of neighbors and partners; and much more. Importantly, the renewed vigor, vision, and connectivity will continually be nurtured by a team of resident leaders that have formed the Godfrey Lee Listeners.
Not only has Lee Street CRC provided consistent funding over a 3-year initial commitment, but members of the congregation that are also Godfrey Lee residents are actively engaged in the effort through prayer walks and neighboring activities. And, other members of the congregation volunteer their time, lending energy and support to locally identified projects and providing for locally identified needs.
Increasingly, the neighborhood is owning and leading its own development and residents are engaging in and directing their future. Over time, new individual donors and anchor partners - like Lee Street CRC - will make it possible to replicate the program. As a result, new neighborhoods in Wyoming will launch their own Neighborhood Connector programs, providing Doris and the Godfrey Lee Listeners a peer network to lean on for mutual support and ongoing learning. This is the path that other West Michigan communities, such as Holland or Grand Rapids, are already following.
Thank you, Lee Street CRC, for carrying forward, with prophetic imagination, a vision for inside-out, relationally-centered, and place-based transformation. Anyone wishing to join in this journey with Lee Street CRC through a gift of time, talent, or treasure may do so by visiting greatlakesurban.org or by phoning, mailing, or emailing Great Lakes Urban's Director, Eric Smith, at any of the means listed below.