Tag Archives: Detroit

Community leader Don Tack to receive Guiding Light Mission’s inaugural Good Samaritan Award

BY: Sparkly Stellafly
PHOTOS: Dianne Carroll Burdick

Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.  ~ Proverbs 19:17

It is often said that actions speak louder than words.

In 1991, a Pastor and college professor by the name of Don Tack became frustrated by the lack of emphasis on relationships with poor people in Grand Rapids.

He didn’t just talk about it, though. He took action.

And while Don Tack has never done anything for accolades, he will be recognized for his tremendous community efforts when he receives Guiding Light Mission’s inaugural Good Samaritan Award at their Annual Banquet on October 9, 2014 at the Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park.

One of his first actions was developing a training course for lay people, a combination of both classroom and field work that would teach them Biblical foundations for helping the poor. Tack offered the course for $45, and after a couple weeks of promoting it, registration was only at four people. With the help of Grand Rapids Press religion writer Ed Golder who wrote a compelling story about what Tack was attempting to do, registration quickly rose to 43 people for the first class in May of 1991.

At the end of the semester, Tack challenged members of the class to complete a weekend “field assignment” and spend a weekend on the street, living as if they were homeless. They could bear no evidence that they were not homeless, and would sleep in shelters, eat food at the missions and fully experience what the poor community was living on a daily basis. Tack’s class project turned into a front page story in the Grand Rapids Press and greatly helped elevate his cause in the community. This effort was the beginning of what is now known as Servants Center, an organization started by Tack as a result of his concern about the drift of churches away from having direct relationships with the poor.




Servants Center Opens its Doors
During the time that Tack and his class spent in their field work, the class was split into two groups. One stayed at Mel Trotter and the other at Guiding Light Mission. Tack had heard talk of disparaging conditions at Guiding Light Mission and elected to stay there to see it firsthand. Sadly, the talk was true—from urine on the floor to violence between those staying there, to abusive treatment by the staff.

Witnessing this made him even more determined to help this population to be treated as humanely as possible. He wanted to make sure they had appropriate housing and people around them who made them feel loved. Don Tack officially opened Servants Center in 1993 for the purpose of enhancing the reputation of Christ among the poor and homeless by providing a high quality relationship-based street outreach to mentally ill poor and homeless in Grand Rapids.

With the help of a husband and wife who knew of Tack’s work, he was able to purchase the first rooming house for clients of Servants Center. The house, located on Coit NE, served as a model for churches to use in aiding the homeless. As Tack continued to expand his ministry, the media paid attention, with his work being included in papers from Detroit to Rotterdam, Holland.

In 1996 the Servant’s Center became a 501(c)3, and eventually partnered with Dwelling Place to handle the housing. The staff of Servants Center began to focus on taking people into Social Security to apply for benefits. Then, they took it one step further and began taking guardianship of these individuals, which gave them the ability to fill out their paperwork and help with applications for government benefits. Word spread of their work, and they began to receive more requests for guardians.

As Servants Center matured, the organization began to focus on one exclusive population, poor and homeless individuals suffering from neurological diseases such as schizophrenia. Some of these individuals had been living on the streets for 20 or more years without their medication. The work with this population was much more labor intensive and often resulted in less success, but Tack felt it was the most necessary for this vulnerable population.


Servants Center Continues On
In 2000, Servants Center received a tremendous boost to their efforts when they were awarded a grant for $100,000. This allowed them to care for 75 people and hire staff including an account manager and a social worker. Clients were staying in adult foster care homes, some in their own apartments, and there was a small percentage that could not be placed because of their backgrounds. These individuals stayed at places including the YMCA, Heartside Manor, and the Morton House—all of which have ceased to exist. But this ministry continues their work and is continuing to find housing solutions in addition to finding employment, helping to manage bills and finances, and working with churches to guide them on helping this population. They host events including Sunday messages, training seminars, and consulting services.

Don Tack retired three years ago and Servants Center continues the work he began. The organization now has a staff of four who manage between 40-50 clients each, continuing their street patrols and receiving an average of one request per day for their services. Tack has continued his ministry through Poverty Ministry Consulting, which serves to help “teach and equip churches to develop Biblical outreach to poor people in any setting—urban, suburban and rural.”

We can all honor Don Tack’s efforts by taking a moment to reflect on the gifts we have been given and look at how we can reach out to help those who need it most. Let’s all follow his example by taking action when we see needs that are unmet.

Dr. Carolyn King is Seeking Peace



As a woman who is always seeking peace, Dr. Carolyn King has fun with her name. She once had a former business called C. King Peace Psychiatry.

(Get it? If not, say it aloud.)

This independent and spirited woman also likes being called Dr. King as it reminds her of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. –– a man she truly admires. When she got married, King didn’t take her husband’s last name because, as she says, “Dr. King sounded too good.”

Dr. Carolyn King

Along with the playful monikers, King currently has two job titles. The first is Child and Adult Psychiatrist –– a title she says comes from her education –– and the second is Behavioral Health Ambassador.

“I had to lobby for this title,” she says.

King believes a lot still needs to be done in terms of education to remove the stigma associated with mental health issues. She hopes we will one day discuss mental health similar to how we now speak about breast and prostate cancers. It used to be that people rarely talked about these “taboo” cancers, but today it’s commonplace.

With that goal in mind, King tirelessly advocates in her role as Behavioral Health Ambassador to eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health. In addition to treating patients at Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services, she appears at events and on local TV and radio stations talking about topics such as stress, holiday blues, self-esteem, postpartum depression, and more. King regularly shares her knowledge about anything having to do with the brain, especially on how to “love the brain.”

Originally from the east side of the state, King moved to Grand Rapids six years ago and began working for Pine Rest shortly afterward. She relocated because she found the perfect home. After five years of looking, King decided the house was worth it and moved her family across the state.

She soon discovered the culture in West Michigan is a bit different from where she grew up and it was an adjustment.

“I am a product of Detroit, and not a mild-mannered, soft-spoken product,” King says.

Now six years later, her life in Grand Rapids is busy with family, work, and exercising –– this former aerobics instructor loves Zumba and yoga.

Inquiring about her family, King laughs and quickly replies, “I have two sons, two dogs, two former husbands, one mother, and one fish.”

She divorced from her second husband in May, but she doesn’t want condolences. She prefers “congratulations” instead, as she considers both of her marriages to be learning experiences.

“I did two 10-year journeys into marriage and with each husband, I learned something different,” she says.

Dr. Carolyn King

King may be single again, but she is certainly not alone. Living with her now are her mother, her 10-year-old son Jelani, a niece, a medical student, dogs Pepperjack and Winn-Dixie, and a fish.

Her oldest son Gary is 19 and away at college. He’s studying theatre at Columbia College in Chicago and hopes to be an actor one day. Sharing his mother’s good looks and vibrant personality, he stands to succeed.

So, what’s it like to have Dr. King, the psychiatrist, as a mother?

“She is a really amazing woman who is smart and creative,” Gary says. “She knows how to make learning fun, but she lets you know if you mess up.” He adds that King could be a “monster” when he totally messed up, but says he went off to college so “it was effective.”

Younger brother Jelani shares Gary’s love and admiration for his mother.

“She is awesome,” he says. “She doesn’t make you do too little work and she doesn’t make you do too much.”

King’s dream home has five bedrooms and an abundance of space. There is plenty of colorful artwork throughout and a lot of Martin Luther King, Jr. memorabilia inherited from her father, who died when King was only 9. He was an ardent follower of the peace movement.

What’s most interesting about the house is that it has two kitchens and King doesn’t cook. While admitting this, she laughs and says, “Can I say that out loud? Really loud?”

King decided at age 12 that she wasn’t going to cook and, after all these years, she’s stayed true to that decision. When she was only 3, she also decided that she wanted to be a doctor and followed through on that choice as well.

Not all children are as decisive, nor do they all know what their career options are. That’s why King co-founded, along with Don J. Tynes, MD, an organization called Reach Out To Youth (ROTY) nearly 24 years ago. She was in medical school at the time and wondered what could be done for black history month.

King and Tynes decided to take a group of children through the college’s medical lab so they could gain an appreciation for the human body and consider medicine as a possible career.

The tour was a success and now ROTY hosts an annual event at the Wayne State University School of Medicine with help from the Black Medical Association. The program is open to children, ages 7-11, and parents who have an interest in medicine. The idea is to expose them to a profession they may not know much about.

More than 200 Detroit area students and 100 parents participate annually and the event happens on February 2 this year.

Dr. Carolyn King

To become a child and adult psychiatrist, King’s education took 18 years to complete. She first earned her Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree in Psychology from Wayne State University in 1989 and then her medical degree (M.D.) from Wayne State University School of Medicine in 1993. After that, she completed five years of an adult psychiatry residency followed by two years of a child psychiatry residency at the University of Michigan. She graduated in 2000.

As a member of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, she has served on their Consumers Issue Committee for almost 10 years. This national medical association acts as a resource for information and is often used by the media, the Mayo Clinic, and other organizations.

At Pine Rest, King works in both the inpatient and outpatient areas. She treats people who have attempted or are considering suicide and those with major depressive disorders such as Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder. Patients with ADHD/ADD, Autism, Asperger’s, Anxiety, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Postpartum Depression, and other mental health issues are seen by King as well.

King takes a holistic approach to treating patients. Physical problems such as thyroid issues or Anemia can affect one’s mental health so patients are usually given a physical as part of their treatment.

“It’s all one body and the brain is just another organ of the body,” says King. “Our brain is our behavior organ.”

Dr. Carolyn King

As a psychiatrist, she is able to prescribe medication to patients. King says it’s sometimes necessary to alter a person’s brain chemistry by lowering Dopamine, increasing Serotonin, or with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) in order to treat them. She often finds that therapy is 70 percent effective and medication is 70 percent effective, but when the treatments are combined, they are 80 percent effective.

King thinks it’s “very empowering” to help patients see that they do have alternative ways to respond to situations and that they can control their behavior. The “ah-ha” moment they experience is rewarding for her to witness.

She treats around 8-10 patients a day, or around 700 patients a year on average.

Whenever she’s working, King serves as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychiatry for the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and has medical students with her all of the time. They even go along when she’s on TV or radio shows to talk about mental health issues.

Like her patients, King’s own brain needs rest and relaxation in order to function well so she tries to get plenty of sleep and exercises regularly. And when she has time in the summer, she heads to Detroit to enjoy the 33’ Chris Craft she shares with her Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority sister, Pam. Travel is an activity she enjoys as well.

No matter what she has going on, Dr. Carolyn King will keep sharing her vast knowledge about mental health and she will continue seeking peace.