GRAND RAPIDS — Heartside Ministry and Mel Trotter Ministries, two nonprofits with missions concerning housing and homelessness, formally merged as of Jan. 1.
Since 2017, the two Grand Rapids-based organizations have partnered in a shared services agreement that combined operational functions including human resources, facilities management and information technology. Further reducing operating costs, eliminating potential duplication of services and creating a greater effect for the populations the agencies both serve were the driving forces for the merger, according to organization officials.
“We have enjoyed a partnership with Mel Trotter Ministries for the past two years, and have realized the benefit of combining our teams and services to provide more for the people we serve,” Heartside Ministry Executive Director Gregory Randall said in a statement. “We’re attempting to show radical hospitality to the same people Mel Trotter serves and we’re pursuing the same donors and volunteers, so it makes sense for us to collaborate in a formal manner.”
As the partnership became known among donors and key stakeholders, it became apparent that the idea of collaborating resonated in the community, executives said. Both boards approved a formal merger at their December 2019 meetings.
“In recent years there have been donors, community leaders and even board members that have suggested and even advocated for Heartside neighborhood agencies to combine forces, so we knew the time was right to take this next step,” Mel Trotter Ministries CEO Dennis Van Kampen said in a statement. “We will be better stewards of the talent and treasures given to us and grow in ways that perhaps wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.”
Heartside is a neighborhood located in downtown Grand Rapids. The district is a developing area in the city and home to hotels, museums, parks, Van Andel Arena, Downtown Market Grand Rapids and the $160 million, 62,500-square-foot Studio Park development.
However, the neighborhood has also undergone considerable urban decay, contains numerous abandoned buildings and includes a substantial presence of people in the city who are experiencing homelessness.
Randall and Van Kampen estimate it will take most of 2020 to sort out the best approach to combining all of the services offered by Heartside and Mel Trotter. Heartside Ministry will retain its name and current location at 54 S. Division Ave. and will operate as a division of Mel Trotter Ministries.
The executives anticipate an eventual move of Heartside Ministry staff and programs to Mel Trotter’s headquarters, located at 225 Commerce Ave. SW, in an effort to reduce operational expenses in maintaining two locations.
“We want to ensure continuity of services for our neighbors and guests, so we will not be making any immediate, bold changes with regard to the kinds of services we provide or how we provide them,” said Randall, who intends to continue in his role as executive director of Heartside Ministry’s services. “We know that this news might be confusing and perhaps overwhelming to those we serve, so we want to take a measured approach and provide the best care we can for our neighbors.”