Who We Are
The Kalamazoo Deacons Conference is a faith based and faith guided organization doing the Lord’s work through this ministry. Although we would take great joy in sharing our beliefs and encouraging those who have not found the Lord, KDC does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, national origin, marital status, handicap or religious preference in regards to the services our guests receive. The vision of the Kalamazoo Deacons Conference is to glorify God by building a caring and compassionate community.
The mission of the Kalamazoo Deacons Conference is to share the Love of Jesus Christ by meeting the physical and spiritual needs of people in crisis. The Kalamazoo Deacons Conference shares Christ’s love with people in need tangibly through clothing, furniture, household items, personal care items and emergency financial assistance.
The Kalamazoo Deacons Conference (KDC) began in 1968 as a local ministry of the Christian Reformed Church (CRC). In the late 1960s, a group of church members from local Christian Reformed churches met monthly to examine the responsibility of CRC Christians in light of racial tension. An effort was made to recruit one couple or individual from each CRC church in Kalamazoo with the hope that they could be a liaison to their home church.
Several women from Westwood CRC responded to a need for “friends” of clients receiving assistance from the Department of Social Services. Margaret Cramer and Maxine Haak offered a cooking class from their kitchens for teenage girls from the northside neighborhood served by Immanuel CRC. Merlyn Duisterhof and Maxine Haak ran a sewing class for the same age group in the basement of the Second CRC, then located on North Westnedge Ave. The ladies soon convinced Rev. Luchies, pastor of Immanuel CRC, to establish a sewing center for women in the basement of Immanuel Church.
Marcia Shooks and Jessie Stapert saw Rev. Luchies’ involvement in the lives of people in the Immanuel Church neighborhood and along with Maxine Haak raised funds to hire an assistant for Rev. Luchies. In 1971, Ron Yonkers, a graduate of Western Michigan University, began part-time work. Although he left after a four-month trial period, the need for a diaconal consultant was evident. In 1973, Jim Nienhuis became the full-time Diaconal Consultant for the Kalamazoo Deacons Conference of the Christian Reformed Church.
KDC, located in a house on the corner of North Westnedge Avenue and Lulu Street, became independent from Immanuel CRC and was given the responsibilities of energizing the deacons of local CRC churches. Two-day training sessions were held to teach deacons how to carry out their mission of mercy in their respective churches and in the community. The deacons learned they could look to KDC for guidance and resources. The governance of KDC then consisted of two delegates from each CRC church and a smaller group elected as the board of directors.
When Art Hoekstra was hired in the early 1980s as a full-time director, the focus of KDC shifted from providing deacon training and resources to crisis ministry for neighborhood residents and the community at large. In the mid-80’s, KDC’s current location at 1010 N. Westnedge Ave. was acquired and from that time forward, the organization focused almost exclusively on ministry. Programs were developed to meet pressing needs but the most consistent was the Monday – Friday open-door policy that anyone would be welcomed by a person prepared to listen to their story and offer help. The KDC Endowment Fund was established with the Kalamazoo Community Foundation in the early 90s to receive gifts for long-term funding requirements.
In 1993, the board of directors recognized the need to expand the organization’s governance and support to all Christian churches. In 2001, because of the national economic slowdown and deteriorating financial conditions in the state of Michigan, KDC was challenged to reassess its program priorities and adjust staffing levels to accommodate the economic reality of the times. During this time, all programs were protected from financial cuts. The open-door policy, listening ears, and the meeting of material and spiritual needs continued. The board of directors determined in 2004 that the organization had financially recovered enough to again employ a full-time executive director. Terri Thomas was hired and, although not officially changed, prefers the title of Executive Servant.
KDC continues to be open five days a week serving guests with a variety of needs. We have the opportunity to serve people with the hands and heart of Christ during the week when many church doors are closed. We have devotions each morning from 9 – 9:30 and a prayer room where guests may pray with a staff member or leave a prayer request. In the last five years, KDC has served more than 10,000 people in crisis. In 2010, 4,104 guests were seen by Direct Response Servants, more than 4,600 people received free clothing and $49,612.80 was given in emergency relief.