Welcome to the Christmas Store!

For many years, a group of our neighbors has sought to provide high quality, new toys, and gifts for hard-working families in the core city Muskegon neighborhoods at an affordable price. Every child sees the same commercial yet Muskegon County’s ALICE population (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed) struggle to afford basic household necessities.


We believe there is dignity for families in purchasing their own Christmas gifts for their children and family.

Donate to the Christmas Store and give the gift of dignity this Christmas.

The neighborhood Christmas store makes the impossible, possible. Because of your donation, everyone can say, “We have done it together.” At the Christmas store, parents can purchase gifts or volunteer to earn credit to shop for their children at the Downtown Christmas store at greatly reduced prices.

Every gift donated to the Downtown Christmas Store turns into three gifts for our neighbors: A toy for a child, pride and dignity for their parents, and jobs for neighborhood youth during the summer work experience. All proceeds from the Christmas Store this year will support jobs for youth in the summer. You can donate funds, new toys or teen gift items.


The neighborhood Christmas store makes the impossible, possible.  Because of your donation, everyone can say, “We have done it together.”

CLICK HERE for a full list of what is needed before December 10th. To make a donation or join us this Christmas season, email us at hnp@communityencompass.org.

Check out the Christmas Store's Facebook page!


A generous helping of neighborliness!

What do you get when you blend Pathways for Better Health of the Lakeshore and Community Health Workers, Hackley Community Care, Mercy Health, MSU Extension’s Cooking Matters, Community enCompass’ McLaughlin Grows Farm and medical patients residing in the core city neighborhoods?  

You get a mix of people who met together for 12 weeks to try to make life a little better by eating healthy foods and learning new things like:

  • How to cut with a large knife

  • What a raw beet tastes like

  • How to get the most food for your money

  • Eating vegetables – fresh, frozen, or canned – is far better than eating none at all.

  • Healthy foods can actually taste good and can make you feel better!

  • There is a fantastic urban farm right in our neighborhood where you can pick up fresh produce every week to try new recipes!  


All of this and so much more made the time fly and made learning fun.  When food is the reward for learning – it always turns out positive!

The class that met every other Monday went something like this:

  • Learning generally about healthy foods and eating habits.

  • Receiving specific instructions for the recipe for the day.

  • Cutting, peeling, shaving, shredding, roasting, boiling.

  • Tasting everything that we cooked/prepared--Breaking bread together.

  • Going home with everything that was needed to try that same recipe at home

Now some of these folks were pretty good cooks already.  Take George, for instance.  He is known for his BBQ  ribs all over Muskegon.  And when he’s done talking about them, mouths begin to water!  And Isabella could teach everyone a thing or two about how to liven up fresh salsa.  


Some were “seasoned” cooks but still learned a lot.  Did you know that there is a safe way to cut an onion?  Did you know that the veins and the seeds of a jalapeno are the hottest part?  Did you know that the fennel bulb is very mild tasting, but the stems taste like licorice?

Some had some physical challenges that made cooking a challenge and some had food allergies and intolerances but adjustments were made so everyone could participate. Some cooked for one at home and some for an entire household.  We shared how we tried the recipes at home and the kinds of adjustments we made to fit our own tastes and our families’ preferences.  

One favorite memory is about Donald who stated at the first class when knife safety was the topic: “I don’t do knives.” Even with some gentle coaxing, Donald was adamant:  “I just don’t feel comfortable.”  And that was okay.  There were other jobs to do – like measuring and mixing spices, shredding cheese, and stirring mixtures.  But the class gave him just enough incentive to go home and start practicing and within a few weeks Donald was cutting, chopping and dicing with the best of them!  


At the final produce pick-up day at the Farm, everyone filled out a survey of the class.  Here is a sampling of the feedback from the participants- all of whom struggle with chronic diseases like obesity, hypertension, diabetes or elevated cholesterol.

  • Weight loss – “Helped me lose weight. I feel better.”

  • Increased consumption of fruits and vegetables – “I am eating more healthy food and I love eating veggies and fruit.”

  • Increased access to real produce – “Affordable rides” to the farm.  

  • Increased physical activity – It was useful to “get out of the house”

  • Increased knowledge of cooking healthy meals – “I learned how to cook foods I never met with.”  This program “helped me to make my food stretch.”

  • Elevation of mood and increased sense of well-being – “My barrier was my bedroom.  Now, I am cooking in my kitchen.”  It was “fun  - enjoyed making recipes at home and learning about different meals.”

So what do you get when you blend all of this together?  You get a pinch of personalities, a teaspoon of different cultures, a sprinkling of laughter, a cup of blessing from creating something together, a generous helping of neighborliness and a sense of satisfaction knowing life is just a little bit better!






We are Neighbor

My name is Kimberly Barnes, and I Am Neighbor!

This was my first time at the “Taste and See” Tour of our core city neighborhoods and Community enCompass. Wow:  I am so very impressed with the awesome programs that Community enCompass has their hands in, rebuilding our community. Love IS what Love DOES & Community enCompass is doing much with Love.  A great variety of amazing things are growing in our community as Community enCompass ministers through growth.

Taste & See is an awesome event, opening up the opportunity for people from within and outside of the City to get inspired with new ideas, network with others & see the investment growing throughout our community. We heard stories from families who have been changed for the better, from those who felt led to move into our neighborhoods to live, & from families who have been giving back to help our neighborhoods. Great “kingdom work” is being done in our community by Community enCompass. It was very encouraging for me to see the sheer number of neighbors involved in the programs working in the neighborhoods of poverty to redeem, restore, reconcile & change systems to create a better community.  


I really enjoyed the bus tour through the community which seemed to almost create a bridge for those Taste and See guests who don’t live in the core city, to see how Community enCompass is coming together to improve lives.  The tour gives first-hand looks into the many improvement programs building in our community. I will not forget the “taste” part of Taste & See. So many tastes from so many food vendors, at every stop throughout our tour! Taste & See spotlighted places in our community to eat out at & enjoy family time.

I noticed how lives are being transformed by love, by the importance of community, & beauty, the beauty of building SHALOM in the city by Community enCompass.   The theme, reiterated by every speaker: “I AM NEIGHBOR…”  Community enCompass is transforming neighborhoods & transforming neighbors with broad and deep programs, with vision, heart, and passion with an emphasis on neighbors. Community enCompass is shining so bright by opening up eyes in our community. Neighbors are starting to see the love for our community in a completely different way. Community enCompass, neighbors & surrounding neighbors are learning how to give more than money, by giving time volunteering. So many people are sharing from the heart with wonderful passion by stepping out in faith to serve our community.

Community Encompass has impacted our neighborhoods through McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm, the urban farm that grows & provides fresh vegetables throughout the community. Bethany Housing is awesome, through rehabbing of houses resulting in rehabbing of our communities & lives. The Youth Empowerment Project (aka YEP) opens doors for direct youth involvement in our betterment of our communities. YEP empowers youth to help their neighbors by learning skills to support lives.  We are also blessed to have Sacred Suds in our community, opening doors for people to be transformed by having the opportunity to clean themselves up, their clothes & their lives.  And the Pay It Back Program…. opens doors for our neighbors in jail to “pay it back” by volunteering with our programs that open up a two-way opportunity of not only giving back but also receiving back.

It is so great seeing the work being done in our downtown community with the help of so many caring people.  I AM NEIGHBOR!  YOU ARE NEIGHBOR!  WE ARE NEIGHBOR!

Written by Kimberly Barnes.

Follow THIS LINK for more images from Taste & See 2017.

Back to School Bash!


“We gave away 200 back packs, and there were at least another 100 people in line,” says Charlotte, YEP Director. That's 200 pre-K to 12th grade core city neighborhood youth with new school bags and supplies to start the new academic year.

The Back to School Bash is a yearly opportunity for neighborhood parents and children to gather at Muskegon Covenant Academy, the previous site of  McLaughlin Elementary School . “The closing of McLaughlin Elementary scattered the youth across the school district,”says Charlotte. “Some of the kids went to Moon, and Nelson; Some went to Marquette, or school of choice, and some went to charter schools.  Usually they end up back together at Muskegon High School.” So with the loss of the school and the scattering  of McLaughlin Neighborhood youth across many schools, the Back to School Bash offers the community an opportunity to bring everyone together to celebrate our youth and their education.


“It’s an opportunity for the community to come together and just have a good time,” says Charlotte who alongside Portia Kidd of Muskegon Covenant Academy to pull this event together that included games, bounce houses, prizes and clothes give-aways. We are grateful to the following partners who provided food, backpacks and school supplies: New Life Christian Center,Tyson, JT (a local barber who provided free haircuts), Journey Church, Greater Muskegon Optimist Club, McLaughlin Neighborhood Association, Molina Healthcare, and Axios. Also grateful to Muskegon Covenant Academy’s staff who helped to plan this event and opened their  doors for this community celebration.


Charlotte states, “This is  more than just having a good time. It’s about showing up for our youth. They get overjoyed when they see you, they see your presence in their school building, they see your presence in their community, and to be able to acknowledge them and their joy and give them a hug and ask, ‘What grade are you in? My, how you are growing up! It’s good to see you.’ That's what this event is.”

We wish all of our neighborhood youth the best of luck as they embark on this academic year!



4th Street Facelift

Phew: What a summer!  So much work has been done.  One of the highlights this summer has been our “4th Street Facelift” Project.  Community enCompass was 1 of 10 organizations across the state to be awarded a $50,000 grant from the Michigan State Housing Development Authority (MSHDA) for neighborhood enhancement projects. Competition was hot with 36 projects across the state applying, and the grant was a catalyst for neighborhood organizing in a powerful way.


We structured our neighborhood enhancement efforts around the Midtown Square area of Nelson Neighborhood, wanting to build upon the City’s investment of 9 single family homes built last year. Most of the families on 4th street are homeowners, however many are either single-parent families or fall into the “ALICE” (Asset Limited Income Constrained & Employed) population, families who are employed but aren’t paid enough to cover the basic costs of housing, childcare, food, healthcare, and transportation. In short, these are neighbors who are  one “crisis” away from poverty.

We floated the idea of the “4th Street Facelift” with many of our neighbors who were both excited and relieved at the prospect, as many were overwhelmed by the cost of looking after their home and simultaneously struggling to make ends meet. “4th Street Facelift” helped us achieve three goals: 1) Build on the momentum of the Midtown Square Development 2) Help our neighbors who were struggling with increased pressure from the inspector's department, 3) Share skills and knowledge with neighbors and 4) Build on our mission of engaging our neighbors to build community together.


So what did we do?

Partnering with over 250 volunteers, 10 families from 4th street, youth from our YEP and a handful of experienced contractors we worked with 10 4th Street families to landscape, fix and paint porches/foundations, and add new siding/windows to several homes.   Together we sanded, scraped and painted, trimmed, edged, mowed and planted.

“It’s been great to see neighbors engaged in this project, getting to know each other, sitting on their front porches, watering their lawns and taking care of their landscaped yards,,” says Kimi, project director.


“We’ve had folks from the city and neighborhood associations share their excitement about the “4th Street Facelift” and how we were able to stretch $50,000 and make every dollar count, by leveraging volunteers and in-kind donations. So they've asked how they can support the community to do this project again next year, on another street!”

We would like to thank everyone who has been involved in 4th Street Facelift: : the volunteers from local churches, neighboring states and even Canada! . Thanks to  those who offered their skills and their tools. And most importantly we would like to thank our neighbors who are making this neighborhood a model neighborhood by being engaged and facilitating change!


One of the greatest joys in neighborhood development work is seeing young leaders growing up to take positions of influence and responsibility in the community.  This summer a large number of our emerging leaders (YEP’s) were thrust into positions of significant responsibility that stretched their abilities and tested their faith.  They worked as farmers with McLaughlin Grows Farm, as camp leaders with CATCH Camp, as crew leaders with Royal Edge (our new and improved lawn care social enterprise!), lot beautification under the direction of Sprinkler Works, and with our Home Rehab and Construction program at our current “home redemption project” on 4th street. The internships have ended, they are exhausted.  And have significantly matured.

We needed your help.  We had the work for the kids.  We had the staff to train and supervise them.  What we needed from you was money to pay the kids for their work, and you didn’t let us down. Because of your support, the summer was a success. YEP’s not only learned new skills while working summer jobs within the community, they also represented Muskegon as ambassadors to the multiple volunteer groups who partnered with us over the summer. Each group left having learned something new about Muskegon and its core-city neighborhoods because of the time spent working alongside our young leaders.

Due to the success of the “on job trainings” that the YEP’s completed and the enthusiasm from both the YEP’s and our neighbors, in 2017-18 Community enCompass will be offering more YEP Work experience opportunities for high school youth, YEAR-AROUND. To kick this year-around program off, we are launching the “YEP Fund” as an ongoing opportunity for you to support young leaders in the core-city neighborhoods. YEP: “Empowering youth to become LEADERS NOW, while forever changing their futures, as they become PILLARS of SOCIETY.”

For more information on the YEP program and the possibilities of this up coming FUND please contact Charlotte Johnson at hnp@communityencompass.org

Muskegon Prescribes Food for Health!

When the last grocery store moved out of the downtown area of Muskegon, we were left with a “food desert,” a low-income area, that has limited access to affordable and nutritious food. Many neighbors in the core city neighborhoods are without transportation, so access to fresh fruit and vegetables is difficult.  The result of this has been an increase of chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease, fueled by the mix of unhealthy food and lack of exercise. Through efforts of groups like McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm and the Muskegon Farmers Market (open 3 times a week through the summer months), affordable, healthy, fresh produce is becoming more available to the community.

But it’s still not enough. Nationally the average American is eating a calorie rich diet, with excess amounts of saturated fats, and sodium, our diets are lacking in enough fruits, vegetables, whole grains, calcium, and fiber. This has contributed to some of the leading causes of death in the USA, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, strokes and some forms of cancer.

So what’s the answer?
We are killing ourselves with our diets, and the pharmaceutical remedies are often expensive and cause other health issues. So what can be done? Check out our new and innovative program called, “Muskegon Prescribes Food for Health (MPFH). For the last year, Community enCompass has convened a table of advocates of farm, food and health to develop a core city neighborhood health system to support our low-income neighbors.

Through MPFH, doctors from Hackley Community Care will prescribe patients veggies from McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm as part of their patients’ wellness plans! Cooking and nutrition classes alongside the prescriptions for fresh produce at McLaughlin Grows will offer patients 12 weeks of fresh food from the farm, helping to put them on a path towards a healthier diet and healthy life.

“The average income of our core city neighborhoods is below the poverty level. And even though there may not be a lack of food, there is a lack of education about food—we want to change that. We want them to know there is a connection between good nutritious food and better health,” said Patti Walker-Moran, AmeriCorps VISTA member at Community enCompass.

A pilot project of MPFH officially began August 15 with 24 participants and will end October 31. In 2018, we will launch a bigger program that will expand the number of participants.


I chose to serve.

This summer AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate members serve in neighborhood development efforts while connecting with neighbors, volunteers and partners in the McLaughlin and Nelson neighborhoods. They have brought their passion and perseverance to where the need is greatest within the community. We are happy to have them serving with the YEP, McLaughlin Grows, Growing Goods, CATCH Camp, Rehab and Lawn Care programs. 

We recently asked two of our Summer Associates, Danielle and Fluarry to talk to us about why they decided to join our team?

Summer Associates Danielle and Fluarry

Summer Associates Danielle and Fluarry

"When I heard about this position as an AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate with the Growing Goods project, I felt immediately drawn to it, submitting my application the same day. My previous employment as a barista was becoming monotonous and tiresome, while the lure of garden work, youth development, and creative opportunity was loud. I listened to that noise, and I marvel every day at the personal growth that has come from that decision.

A primary component of the success of Growing Goods is the positive community it creates for the students; forming these relationships with the youth has offered me an abundance of laughter, patience, and perspective. Additionally, collaborating with a strong, positive team of supervisors and high school Peer Leaders has shown me the fruitfulness of teamwork, and given me the support to voice my input. I feel fulfilled in ways that no other job has been able to do, though this feels less like a job and more like a place I get to go to learn, serve, grow, be creative, have fun, etc. It has given me highly transferable skills in leadership, initiative, time-management, and community building.

Though I have only been apart of the Growing Goods team for a couple of months, it feels like it’s been much longer due to the inclusion from my supervisors since the beginning, empowering me to dive right in and contribute. This will be a difficult project (and team) to walk away from, but I am infinitely grateful for the lifelong enrichment it has provided."
-Danielle Warren

"The AmeriCorps VISTA Summer Associate position with the YEP (Youth Empowerment Project) serving in leadership development has been good for my soul. The consistent support and guidance from AmeriCorps VISTA Leader, Arisha Coffee & YEP Director, Charlotte Johnson allowed me to grow in immeasurable ways.  I am grateful for the opportunity to work so closely with the youth in the YEP Program. The experience has allowed me to be in community with people and to work with youth.

I have been away from my hometown,  Muskegon for seven years to complete undergrad and graduate school. I moved away from home to gain a broader perspective on life. I became disconnected from my passions and over focused with success in academia. This summer experience has allowed me to positively reintegrate back into my community and learn daily from a great group of youth.

I chose to serve to take a break from school. I chose to serve to find meaning and purpose outside of academics. I wanted to give myself a real chance to seek true joy, peace, and balance while engaging in experiences that I am truly passionate about. I am very thankful for the opportunity to work with a great group of people through a super chill organization. This was a good summer."
-Fluarry Jackson

It is through people like Danielle and Fluarry that Community enCompass is able to effectively walk alongside our neighbors in the core-city neighborhoods of Muskegon. We always have opportunities open for people to join our team. Why not check out our OPPORTUNITIES page to find out how you can be a more active neighbor in the core-city neighborhoods.


What a crazy summer!

What a crazy, busy, blessed summer! We would like to take a few moments to share some of the great things happening in YOUR core city Muskegon neighborhoods.

The YEP's 

The YEP's 

Thanks to those of you who generously donated to our YEP program and to MI Works, we have been able to employ 25 YEPs within our summer projects, from CATCH Camp and the Farm to our housing rehabs and lawn care services. The YEPs have been able to earn a wage while also developing their leadership skills within the community. We could not do our work alongside our neighbors without the input and energy of the young leaders in the YEP program. Thank you for your donations and support!

Volunteer from Catholic Heart work Camp cleaning siding on 4th street.

Volunteer from Catholic Heart work Camp cleaning siding on 4th street.

This summer has seen the launch of a strong effort to rejuvenate 4th street. The #4thStreetFaceLift is an ongoing effort to revitalize our community, to bring neighbors together sharing tools, time and skills to help each other clean up yards, repaint houses and weed sidewalks. Some of you may have been following the progress of our #4thStreetRehab, a house we saved from demolition in the winter and have brought back to life through the help of volunteers from near and far. Both the #4thStreetFaceLift and the #4thstreetRehab have been made possible by you, our neighbors who have given of yourselves to help our neighborhood grow. We appreciate your donations and support.

Finally, we have a very exciting public art project on the go in partnership with King David’s Masonic Lodge on Mason Street, the YEP’s and West Michigan Artist Elloy Villarreal. Together they have collaborated on a two-story mural on the side of King David’s Lodge, portraying black leaders from the past and present, locally and nationally who have inspired today's young leaders within the YEP program. We are deliberately being coy on the details of this exciting project until its grand unveiling on August 5th. But if your curiosity gets the better of you why not take an afternoon to drive down 5th street and try and spot it, maybe you could even guess what it’s going to be!

Can you tell what it is yet?

Can you tell what it is yet?

Because of your continued support, YOU have created a summer full of learning and service for core city neighbors and youth. So why not come and celebrate with us and the YEPs!

Saturday, August 5th, from 4 to 7 PM, at King David Lodge, 260 Mason Ave.

Join us as we honor and celebrate all the youth that have successfully completed the 2017 Summer YEP Program, and unveil the new public art mural painted to highlight black leaders who have inspired our YEP's.

Questions? Call Charlotte Johnson at (231) 728-3117 or email hnp@communityencompass.org

We all hate tax season.

Tax season is always a headache. The forms, the numbers, do you file as a household or individual? Do you qualify for one of the seemingly thousands of different Tax credits? Do you file online or by mail? The forms themselves seem specifically designed to confuse and baffle. They leave you with a sense that maybe you ticked the wrong box, that carries on for weeks after. Some of us forego the stress and pay for others to prepare our taxes for us, buying the peace of mind of knowing if anything goes wrong, it wasn't our fault.

Charles Fritz

Charles Fritz

The headache of tax returns often leads to many people filing wrong records, meaning they end up paying higher levels of tax than they should or do not receive the refunds or credits that they are eligible for. This has the largest impact on low-income households already struggling to make ends meet. A low tax return, or even worse, a tax bill can become the last straw pushing households down the spiral of debt and soaring bills towards poverty that we see so often within the ALICE community of Muskegon.

That’s where VITA comes in. VITA has had a site at Sacred Suds for many years, helping low-income individuals and households file correctly and get the returns they’re entitled to and need, helping pay their bills and put food on the table. Other such sites included Baker College, Goodwill Industries, Muskegon Heights Library and Tanglewood Park.

Richard Olson

Richard Olson

Charles Fritz and Richard Olson are part of the VITA team based at Sacred Suds through tax season, volunteering a day a week for 11 weeks, using their skills to help their community. This year they helped 126 households and individuals with an average income of $12,703 receive an average of $771 in federal and state returns. For a total of $131,626 returned to our core city neighbors.  When combined with the efforts of the other sites in Muskegon a total of $2,198,802 was returned to low-income households in Muskegon.

So on behalf of our neighbors and community, we would like to say a big THANK YOU to the volunteers like Charles and Richard who worked so hard this year, helping the hardworking families and individuals of Muskegon navigate the quagmire of filing taxes and collect the refunds that they deserve.