When our board and staff attempt to identify the reason why Community enCompass exists, we end up with phrases like “Neighborhood Transformation,” and “SHALOM in the City.” Lofty dreams for a rag-tag team of people who are often stumbling towards good. The year-end process of digging through data always makes me wonder..... how will we know once we’ve arrived? How will we know when our neighborhoods have been transformed and we taste SHALOM?
Dozens of neighborhood teenagers spent their summers doing internships through the Youth Empowerment Project. The PAID internships created an opportunity of high school students to gain experience in the fields of youth work, agriculture, construction, and gardening, building interpersonal skills and developing their resumes
This summer, hundreds of volunteers have already partnered with our neighbors to invest time, money and effort along 5th and 6th Streets from Houston Avenue south into Muskegon Heights. The project activities have provided effects similar to that of a facelift, rejuvenating the existing physical built environment of our core city neighborhoods. These activities are lifting the spirits of those living in these neighborhoods as well, and allowing neighbors to show-off their amazing gifts of hospitality!
19 sleepy teens are climbing into vans in the parking lot. It’s dark, cold (and probably snowing), but there is an edge of excitement because they’ve worked hard to be here. It’s the start of the 6th annual YEP College Tour, and within minutes 19 high school youth will be on the road to Kentucky, visiting 5 colleges over 3 days. Two YEPs reflect on their experiences.
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.
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.
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.
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.
June 18th, Father’s Day, will kick off the 9th year of CATCH Camp, the summer day camp in McLaughlin Neighborhood. Summer camp is about more than fun-packed weeks of adventure trips, kickball games, and character lessons. It’s more than forming life-long friendships. It’s more than strengthening character and self-esteem. It’s all of this, to be sure. But it’s about something more.
Summer camp is also about building leadership. It is the time when young people (our YEPs!) who have been maturing socially and spiritually over the past year(s) get the opportunity to exercise their leadership before younger watchful eyes. Nothing builds one's confidence like having others follow your example and aspire to be like you.
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 growing number of our emerging leaders will be thrust into positions of significant responsibility that will further stretch their abilities and test their faith. They will work as farmers and mentors with McLaughlin Grows Farm, as camp leaders with CATCH Camp, as crew leaders with Royal Edge (our new and improved lawn care social enterprise!), and with our Home Rehab and Construction program at our newest home redemption project. By the summer's end, they will be exhausted. And significantly matured.
We need your help. We have the work for the kids. We have the staff to train and supervise them. What we need is the money to pay the kids for their work. Our goal is to hire 30 kids throughout the summer, awarding them $650 upon completion of a summer of job training!
Our YEPs just got back from Washington D.C. This was made possible due to the generosity of our neighbors who helped the YEP's raise the money needed to make this trip. The YEPs visited many D.C. attractions, including the newly opened National Museum of African American History & Culture, Georgetown University, and Howard University.
YEP Keyvon Carpenter reflects on what he learned on the trip:
"Although I’ve been in a big city such as Washington D.C., this trip still helped me to have a better outlook on the world. It allowed me to see what it was like to be in a state, where people’s lifestyle is different. It also helped me to better myself in regards to working with others, experiencing other lifestyles, and even maturity.
Georgetown University gave me life. The campus and the people are beautiful. The history behind it is amazing and the environment itself incredible. The fact that I’m going into my senior year, these college tours were one step closer to preparing me for the real world. Washington D.C, as well as Virginia, are gorgeous states. I’ve always said that I belong in the big cities and these two really made me feel like home. I love how it’s busy and everything is going at a fast pace; how people walk, ride their bikes, and taking the subway is so cool to me. This trip taught me many things in only four days. Both good and bad. Some bad things were the traffic and how rude some people were. But like Ms. Charlotte (YEP Director) said, “Focus on the positive.” That didn’t stop my joyness, not one bit.
Some good things were the attractions such as the Washington Monument, African American Museum, and even walking through the city. But most importantly, the people I came with. I love these people so much and I look at everyone as family. The love, the care, the laughter, the arguments, the happiness… I can go on and on, only shows how close we are. I am grateful for not only these people, not only YEP, but Ms. Charlotte, and the strong young man that she is helping my mom mold me into. I loved everything about this trip and it’s one of the many reasons why I never left.
I am a leader. I’m ambitious and I’m inspiring because of YEP. I will remain that way.
On behalf of Keyvon and all of the YEP's we would like to say THANK YOU to everyone who was involved in this trip, you have truly helped to make an impact on these young leaders lives.
The farm’s produce is grown clean, using organic practices and no harmful chemicals. We fertilize with locally produced compost (much from our own compost bins) and treat for pests with either soapy water, natural oils, natural predators, or by hand picking pests. Weeds are pulled by hand or hoe. No pesticides, herbicides or growth enhancers will ever be used at McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm, so your family receives the safest produce available.
But there is so much more that you support by participating in McLaughlin Grows CSA program:
McLaughlin Grows employs local youth throughout the growing season. High-school students participating in the Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) have the option of working on the farm, learning leadership skills, cooperation, patience, and earning practical work experience. By working on the farm, these youth learn the very basics of self-sufficiency…how to grow their own food.
McLaughlin Grows employs college-aged students as interns. They not only hone existing skills, but learn management and organizational techniques too, as they work with every aspect of farm operations.
The farm also helps middle school students in summer school who are in danger of not passing to the next grade level. Through “Growing Goods,” middle-schoolers learn about eating healthy, gain knowledge about growing their own food and build self-confidence and self-esteem. They also learn first-hand that they can make amazing things happen when working together as a team.
We are growing educational programs at McLaughlin Grows too! Preschoolers, elementary school-aged students, middle-schoolers, and high-schoolers come to the farm on field trips and for community service projects to learn about what it takes to put food on their tables. Programs are being developed so that teachers can find farm-based lessons in a variety of subjects such as math, history, language arts, art, and the sciences that help teach their classes about farming and growing food using these different venues. It is a wonderful way to bring students onto the farm and the farm into the classroom!
Special needs students come to the farm regularly to learn practical life skills, how to grow food, and to gain hands-on work experience through everyday activities. These young adults are given the opportunity to grow and stretch their abilities beyond what can be done inside the four walls of a classroom. We are also developing programs to bring senior citizens and youth together. Having multi-generational activities where those with experience guide their young neighbors through the steps of sowing seed, growing and caring for plants creates bridges of understanding and fosters a greater sense of responsibility for each other.
All of these things and more are what purchasing a CSA share through McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm supports. Neighbors coming together, children learning where food comes from, elders passing skills on to their littlest neighbors, people learning to eat and live healthier and happier, and so much more! We are one community…growing healthier, growing stronger, and growing together!
McLaughlin Grows Urban Farm is currently hiring interns. If you want to get involved in community farming check out the oportunities HERE
Stay up to date on all the farm activities on FACEBOOK
On March 17, 2017, the YEP’s (Youth Empowerment Project) hosted “Project Sawubona,” inspired by a Zulu word meaning, “I see you.” As YEPs, we invited students from other Muskegon school districts to come out and support the community of Muskegon.
We had planned to clean up two areas of the Muskegon community, cleaning up garbage and tidying up public spaces, but due to the weather (there was a blizzard that morning!) we had a change in plans. Instead, we helped Kids Food Basket program, a program where volunteers make sack lunches for the students of Nelson and the Heights elementary schools to send home with students from struggling families so they can have an evening meal. They put a cool twist on it with colors and designs on every bag, so each and every student can have something positive every day.
Thankfully, a lot of our peers came and supported us from all different schools and areas such as Oakridge, MCEC, Muskegon, Western Michigan Christian, Orchard View, Muskegon Covenant Academy and Muskegon Heights. First, we all had breakfast and designed the lunch bags and had positive bonding time with our peers. We also had an activity where we had a discussion about the positive and negative going on in our community and ways we could make it better.
After both of those activities, we went to Muskegon Heights High School and had a rally where outstanding talents and amazing acts of courage were shown. Keyvon (a YEP) danced boldly and amazingly, and Ms. Charlotte (YEP Director) sang gracefully. Wonderful things happened that day, but the most courageous was this: three boys from Muskegon Heights High School came up on the stage in front of everyone and shared what their school and city meant to them. Then, they asked for help from us, to get other people to see the Heights the way they do.
This was my first community project with YEP, and I was inspired by all of my peers. It was refreshing to know that other people felt the same or had similar feelings and thoughts as me regarding my community. After this experience, for the first time in my life, I believed that we can actually change the community we live in and maybe even the world.
Because of YOUR GENEROSITY we raised $5,029 and are now able to send the YEP's to Washington D.C!
The YEP's will get to visit different colleges and museums, as well as experience a large multicultural city and the center of governance of this nation.
They are just a little excited.
Why not read the YEP's thoughts on this amazing opportunity...
As a nation, we are becoming increasingly more aware of different ethnic groups within our communities. Within the next 20 years, the US will demographically shift from a predominantly white society to a predominantly minority society, but this awareness often comes hand in hand with very negative reporting. Unarmed black men threaten a predominantly white police force. Middle eastern immigrants are often referred to as extremists or even terrorists. The Latino community is continually referred to as “illegal” and job stealers. These narratives are routinely told and reacted to, despite being over-simplifications of extremely complex situations.
Due to the rise of social media, it is almost impossible for youth in the United States to ignore these narratives. Even if they live in a predominantly white, middle-class area. The need to be aware of racism in the US and how it manifests differently in different communities has become an important topic of conversation, but one that is often brushed under the carpet.
The youth group of 1st Lutheran church in North Muskegon, however, has taken a different approach. The group of predominantly white teenagers, in a city that is 94% white, decided that if they were to progress in the world, they needed to broaden their horizons. The youth group decided to connect with our Youth Empowerment Program (YEP), to start the important conversation of race relations and to learn from the experiences of those who encounter racism in their daily lives. “As a young woman going into the professional world, it is important for me to realize that the world that I see isn't the same world that other people see,” says Madi from 1st Lutheran.
The YEPs jumped on the idea, eager to share their experiences as Latinx, Black and White youth living and learning together in Downtown Muskegon, an area that is over 50% non-White. YEP Miranda reflected on racism at a recent workshop: “It's really prevalent in our society and it’s relevant to what's going on in my life and the lives of people I care about.”
It’s inspiring to see teenagers from different social and ethnic backgrounds walk through the maze of race relations together. “I am learning to look at all aspects of racism--not just what I have experienced. When I hear about racism I always thought it was a ‘black vs white’ thing, but I am learning there are other people who are being discriminated against, like Hispanics and Arabs too,” YEP Keyvon explained. “We all have something to learn and share here.”
At Community enCompass we are inspired by these youth leaders who are challenging all of us to engage more deeply in hard conversations towards healing and reconciliation.