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Video Highlight: Disrupting the Cycle of Poverty

Felicia and daughterTwo years ago, Felicia and her daughter (pictured left) were in a tough spot. Felicia was out of work and determined to leave an abusive relationship. They found themselves homeless and in need of a safe place to live.

Desperate for a fresh start, they came to Holland. They spent several months at the Holland Rescue Mission, but they dreamed of something better.

After a few months, Felicia was accepted into the Community Housing Partnership (CHP) which she hoped would provide an opportunity for a better life.

Felicia moved to Holland with big dreams for her family. She wants to own her own home, buy a reliable car and leave a legacy for her children and grandchildren. With the help of the Community Housing Partnership, Felicia has a stable home and a network of people who genuinely want to see her succeed.

“It’s really the first time I felt like I had control,” Felicia says of her time in CHP. “When you’re looking for help, you don’t have control of anything. You’re being told where to go, who to talk to, which line to get in. But here, I have support from others who are willing to take the time to hear my goals and support me to achieve them.”

Felicia wants to teach her children that things can always get better as long as you’re willing to persevere and work hard.

“I push [my kids] to be successful and not to settle,” she says. “But I have to set that example for them.”

The Community Housing Partnership provides her with the support network she needs to get back on her feet and to show her daughters that they can do it too.

“I can show them that the cycle of poverty doesn’t have to continue. It can break.” Felicia says. “If I can show them a better way, then they can see that they can be successful too.”

Click the video below to watch Felicia tell her own story:

posted on 7/14/14


Meet Scott! Our NEW Faith in Youth Partnership Director!

Scott ImageThe Faith in Youth (FIY) Partnership emerged in 2004 from a need expressed in the Ottawa County United Way Needs Assessment and by local school districts for after school programming for middle school youth. Good Samaritan partnered with several churches and was awarded an AmeriCorps grant from the Michigan Service Commission to fund AmeriCorps Members (volunteers). The AmeriCorps Members are placed at various churches and faith-based service agencies throughout the Holland/Zeeland area to assist with their youth programming. The impactful mentoring that happens when dedicated AmeriCorps Members are connected with at-risk youth is inspiring.

With all this wonderful work being done through FIY, it was important we found a new director equally as wonderful! We are excited to continue our FIY Partnership with newly hired Scott Baumgartner, LLMSW at the helm. We were interested in learning more about Scott and figured you would too! Check out our recent interview with him:

Q: Can you tell us a little about yourself (previous AmeriCorps experience, etc.)?
A: I am a 2009 graduate of Hope College, with my bachelor’s degree in History Education and a 2013 graduate of the Michigan State University School of Social Work with my master’s degree in Clinical Social Work. Between schooling, I spent two years as an AmeriCorps member through the Faith in Youth Partnership, serving at the Bridge Youth Ministry Center in Zeeland. Upon completion of my terms of service, I was hired at the Bridge as a part-time staff member, providing assistance in overseeing mentoring programming and providing communication support. I additionally worked this past year as a school social worker through National Heritage Academies at two charter academies in Grand Rapids.

Q: Why do you want to work for Good Samaritan Ministries?
A: Ever since my time as an AmeriCorps member, I have seen the compassion and dedication that Good Sam has in partnering with others in the community to bring about change. I’m a big believer in reconciling and working with others in order to achieve positive results, and I believe that this is what drives Good Sam as an organization as well.

Q: What excites you about your new position?
A: This position provides opportunities for me to creatively assess how to increase school engagement. There are so many outlets that can be utilized to increase the support that youth in our community receive, and I’m excited to develop new relationships and strengthen this partnership’s ability to meet the needs of our kids!

Q: What are you looking forward to achieving in your new position?
A: I would love to deepen the relationships that have already been established between our partners and the schools with which they engage. While this partnership has demonstrated the ability to make lasting impacts, I know there are more students that we can impact.

Q: Faith in Youth serves kids – what are your hopes and dreams for the kids in our community?
A:  I believe that there is a lot of talent and passion in each child, but they don’t always know how to find it in themselves. I hope that they can learn to tap into their potential in order to become actively engaged members of society, looking for ways to positively impact others because of who they are.

Q: Do you have any hidden talents?
A: I wish! I have a number of interests, but none of them are probably quite to the level of being hidden talents.

Q: What is your favorite dessert?
A: Key Lime Pie. Nothing else comes close.

Q: If your life was a movie what would the title be?
A: This might be the hardest question I’ve ever been asked. And my mind is frozen without thinking of an answer. So I guess I’ll go with “Brain Freeze.”
Well, there you have it! If you want to get on Scott's good side, it looks like Key Lime Pie will do the trick. Welcome to the team! We are excited to have you working to support our youth.

posted on 7/14/14


Mentored Student Wants to Give Other Kids a 'Step Up' to a Better Future

For ten years, Good Samaritan Ministries has been assisting local organizations that serve youth by providing them with AmeriCorps members to work with their after school recreational programs, school suspension programs, service projects, and mentoring.

This year, Good Samaritan Ministries is ramping up their efforts to help area youth by focusing more attention on providing middle school students with mentors.

Why mentoring? Mentoring has been proven to improve the lives of at-risk youth by reducing negative thoughts and behaviors and increasing academic and civic engagement.

At least, it did for David. david and maribel

David is an 11th grader at Holland High School. And every Thursday night he meets with mentors in the Upward Bound program at Hope College. They help him with his schoolwork.

They’ve helped him so much that David wanted to help someone else. So he signed up to be a mentor himself.  

“When I was in sixth grade, it was pretty easy so I didn’t do any homework. So I want to help these boys because I know now that homework is a big deal if you want to do well in school.”

Each Tuesday, David meets with sixth graders, Andres and Deandre, through the Step Up program. He talks with them and has fun with them. And he helps them with their school work just like his mentors do with him.

David says being a tutor is helping him to develop leadership skills because he has to keep the students on task and encourage them to do their best.

“I want them to do their homework and be more organized.” David says of his mentees.

David is passing on the benefits that he has gained from being mentored. And maybe – in a few years – Andres and Deandre will pass on what they’ve learned.

“David is excited about his future. He wants to go to college. These boys look up to David so now they’re getting excited about the future.” Maribel Andrade, AmeriCorps member for the Step Up program, says of David’s relationship with his mentees. “Now they can dream big for the future too. Maybe even go to college themselves.”

Posted on 6/19/14


This year's CG Golf Classic was a success!

We golfed. We laughed and talked. And together we furthered a good cause.

If you missed this year's event, you should check out our CHP video. Watch this video to hear from a couple (formerly) homeless mothers as they talk about the impact the Community Housing Partnership transitional housing had on them.


posted on 5/28/14


This is Not an Ordinary House

nuestracasavolIf you drive down 15th Street in Holland, you may see residents hauling lumber or putting up siding. They are renovating a house.

But this is no ordinary house. This is Nuestra Casa. This is Our House. And if you live in the core city, this is also Your House.

Nuestra Casa is a project of the Westcore and Washington School Neighborhoods - two of Good Samaritan Ministries’ Neighborhood Connections sites. Neighborhood Connections brings neighbors together to help each other and work for the betterment of their community. Nuestra Casa will provide residents of its neighborhood a space to work in and a place to share.  

 “It’s a shared space that will create a shared identity,” says Raul, PD for Westcore. “When people think about gathering with their neighbors, they’ll think of Nuestra Casa. It will be a way for them to connect with their neighborhood.”

Lois Maassen, Chairperson of the Board for Washington School Neighbors, envisions neighbors coming together who might not otherwise.

“It’s a place that’s owned by the neighborhood where common interests, common passions and common curiosity will connect people to each other.”

For updates on the work, check out the Nuestra Casa blog here.

This project funded in part by the Community Foundation of Holland/Zeeland.

posted on 5/22/14

NEW Circles Video

Good Samaritan Ministries was awarded "Best Fundraising Event" at this year's Circles National Conference for our Bloom Fundraising Luncheon! Were you there? If not, check out this video to see what our Circles participants have to say about their experience with Circles.













Won’t you be my neighbor?

You can probably sing most of the Mr. Rogers theme song to yourself. Maybe you remember watching it as a child. Maybe you watched it with your child and the theme song worked its way into your brain like children’s music will do.

However you heard it, you won’t forget the kind and gentle invitation to be a neighbor and friend.


“I believe that appreciation is a holy thing – that when we look for what’s best in a person we happen to be with at the moment, we’re doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something sacred.“  –Fred Rogers

We invite you again to be a neighbor and a friend.

Christians are called to share life together. Romans 12:15 says “When others are happy, be happy with them. If they are sad, share their sorrow. Work happily together.”

Volunteering is one way to live out this calling.

There are lots of good reasons to volunteer with us at Good Samaritan. But don’t take our word for it. Read what a long-time Good Samaritan Ministries’ volunteer thinks about her time as a Good Samaritan volunteer:

  1.  You can make a big impact without committing big time. The time commitment of a volunteer at Good Samaritan varies by program, but most of our volunteers serve just 2-3 hours a week. Marlene Von Ins loves it here so much she spends three afternoons with us a week! When asked why she keeps coming back, Marlene says “It’s a wonderful place. I love the people here. And I get to answer the phones which I love to do!”
  2. There is something for everyone to do. Marlene volunteers at our front desk answering the phones and greeting clients and their families at the door. Other volunteers mentor youth or serve as Circles® Allies spending time with lower income families to support their efforts to improve their financial situation. The only qualification to volunteer with us is a compassionate heart.
  3. Your work matters. If you are looking for an organization you can get behind, Marlene recommends Good Samaritan Ministries. If you volunteer with us you would be working to end poverty and homelessness in your own community – for your neighbors. “Working here I get to see a lot of people who are struggling just to survive. I’ve never had to worry about my house or putting gas in my car or even having a car, for that matter. It really impacts you to see that every day. We’re really helping people here.”

Good Samaritan Ministries’ vision is a healthy, engaged and compassionate community. Isn’t that the kind of neighborhood we all want to live in?

We invite you to work happily together with us as we all pursue the sacred task of loving our neighbor.

How you can be a good neighbor

Serve as a Circles® Ally. Circles® participants meet once a week for a couple hours in the evening. Dinner and childcare are provided. This is an opportunity for you to build friendships with neighbors who are struggling financially and support them as they work to build a better future for their family. Contact Stephanie Soderstrom at or call 616-392-7159 ext. 108.

Volunteer with a neighborhood group. The mission ofNeighborhood Connections is to equip and strengthen under-resourced neighborhoods through relationship building and collaboration. We currently have 6 neighborhood groups in both Holland and Zeeland. To find out which neighborhood you live in and to join your neighbors in building your community, contact Judy Van Dyke at or call 616-392-7159 ext. 114.

Serve as a mentor for a homeless family. The Community Housing Partnership provides short-term housing to homeless families in Holland and Zeeland. Time commitment varies. This is an opportunity to encourage and support a homeless family as they transition to permanent housing. Contact Stephanie Soderstrom at or call 616-392-7159 ext. 108.

Serve as a mentor for an at-risk middle school student.  Our Faith in Youth Partnership places AmeriCorps members in various youth programs in Holland and Zeeland to mentor middle school students. They also recruit additional mentors on behalf of their program. To enquire about these opportunities, please contact Denise Massey at or call 616-392-7159 ext. 107. Or you may contact our partner sites directly. Visit our website for links to our partner sites.

Serve in our Clearinghouse. Our Clearinghouse provides information and referrals to clients who call with specific needs for food, shelter, clothing etc. Time commitment is 3 hours a week during the day. Contact Marjorie Rosario at or call 616-392-7159 ext. 110.

Serve at our front desk. Front desk volunteers help direct phone calls and greet clients as they come into the office. Time commitment is 4 hours in the morning or afternoon. Contact Marjorie Rosario at or call 616-392-7159 ext. 110.

Swing a hammer. Nuestra Casa is a project to renovate a home on W 15th Street into a warm and welcoming gathering place for neighbors. Volunteers are needed almost every Saturday to continue renovation work. All skill levels are helpful! For more information visit their blog at

posted on 4/24/14


So, what do they actually do in Circles®?                                                                                                                                                                                                         

In Circles® low-income individuals who are motivated to work their way out of poverty are called Circles Leaders. That’s Tim. He found Circles® through 70x7, an organization that serves formerly incarcerated men and women.  Tim has been working hard to better his life, and he’s succeeding.

tim and jayTim is paired up with Jay, his Circle Ally. Jay is a neighbor who joined Circles to offer encouragement and support to Circle Leaders as they achieve their financial goals. This partnership has given Tim the strong relationships and confidence he needs to take classes at Michigan Works and spend time with a local electrician – what Tim hopes to become. And it’s not all about him. Tim is in Holland’s Neighborhood Leadership Academy learning how he can lead efforts to build a stronger community. Most importantly, Tim cares about being a good father to his children.

Tim has hopes for his life that he never dreamed of several years ago.

How does all this wonderful work happen?

At around 6:00 on Thursday evenings, Tim meets up with Jay, his Ally and neighbor, at Moran Park Church. When Circles® came to town, he saw it as an opportunity to keep the momentum going on his path to recovery and a better life. 

From 6:00 to 6:30, everyone eats dinner together. “I enjoy the people there. We’re like a family.” Tim says of the group.  Everyone needs a family.

At 6:30, everyone wraps up their dinner and gathers in a circle to convene the meeting. Each person takes a turn to tell the group about something New or Good in their life.

When that’s finished, the group begins that night’s special activity. Sometimes they have a guest from Fifth Third Bank train them on something that could help with their financial goals, like using a savings account. Other times they discuss those things that are bigger than their individual situations-like laws and policies- which affect their ability to escape poverty.

But most of the time, the Circle Leaders take time with their Allies to combine their efforts and further the Leaders’ specific goals and aspirations.

Tim has set big goals for himself and his time with Circles. And what he really wants to do is be an electrician and own his own business.

But he isn’t really sure how to make it happen.

“I benefit from [Jay’s] tutelage. He knows some of the little details about starting a business that I don’t. And he holds me accountable” Tim says of his relationship with his Ally, Jay.

Jay agrees.

 “More importantly, we encourage each other. We share life and our spiritual journeys. Each time we meet we check in on the progress of our respective plans.” Jay says very seriously, “My life is better because Tim is in it.”

Then comes Tim’s favorite part of the night: the Appreciations. The group gathers in a circle again. This time it’s to offer mutual encouragement and support to everyone in the group. It’s important to the group to end the night with words of affirmation that empower the Leaders to go out and take the steps necessary to accomplish their goals. 

 “When we create a culture of ‘together we can’ thinking, we can achieve almost anything” Ally Jay says of Circles ®. “We’ll have each other’s back and together our gifts will matter to each other and our neighborhood.” 

posted on 3/20/14

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Good Samaritan Ministries
513 East 8th Street | Suite 25 | Holland, MI 49423
P: (616) 392-7159 | F: (616) 392-5889 |