Tag Archives: Holland

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.

“Toast the Sunset” Celebrating the Solstice on the Beach in Muskegon


On the longest day of the 2012, those who Love Muskegon watched the Summer Solstice sun descend at Pere Marquette Beach.

Linda Medema and Katie Trzaska have dedicated their careers to the love of Muskegon. Linda Medema serves on the team that manages the Frauenthal Center for the Performing Arts, a vast complex that can host three concerts in a single night, the largest event in the restored Michigan Theater, built in 1929, with seating for 1700 people. In November 2010, the City of Whitehall tapped Trazska to manage the 400 seat Howmet Theater in north Muskegon County, a position that came open when the Sable Points Lighthouse Keepers Association asked Cindy Beth Davis-Dykema to keep watch over the lighthouses managed by the association. Davis-Dykema has exceeded expectations, adding the White River Lightstation to the association while assisting Trzaska in growing youth theater programs at the Howmet.

All of these lakeshore treasures are never far from the mind of the Community Foundation of Muskegon County, who has diligently searched for programs to share the resources of Muskegon with all residents of the county and the thousands of visitors who arrive each year. The foundation found Peter Kageyama, a consultant who sparked the Love of Cities movement with his book, For the Love of Cities, and in December 2011, Kageyama’s message inspired thirteen local professionals to dare the cold waters in swimsuits, bearing high letters spelling out their passion: “LOVE MUSKEGON”.

The foundation brought back Peter Kageyama for a second engagement, early in the warmer month of June 2012, and added the team of Peter and Michelle Royal. The Royals have become in demand around the TEDx circuit for their ability to facilitate audiences and record ideas in a living work of art called a graphic recording. The graphic recording from the Love Muskegon sessions has found a place in the plate glass windows of the Frauenthal lobby, close to the statue of Buster Keaton, a summer resident from the years of the Actors Colony, 1908 to 1938, in the dunes of Bluffton. Teams in the audience were challenged to create rituals for Muskegon, and Medema and Trzaska asked their team to hold a “Toast the Sunset” event at 9:28 PM on Wednesday, June 20th, 2012, and the team rallied behind the idea. So as evening came to Pere Marquette Beach, visitors found Trzaska waving a sign in welcome and Medema explaining the idea to over 120 guests, assisted by a bullhorn.

A few groups brought fancy cheeses and crackers to enjoy before the sparkling, alcohol free Catawba toast. One group sprinted for wind chopped Lake Michigan to dive in before the sunset. Bluffton resident Kara Olson, a management consultant once based in Los Angeles, taught her sister’s children the fine points of beach volleyball, the two children recent arrivals from Texas. The Love of Muskegon has existed for decades, with Native Americans of an Ottawa village greeting European setters in 1837. Joe and Jane Catey have celebrated their love for decades of Pere Marquette Beach sundowns. Wednesday night, the couple observed their 53rd Wedding Anniversary on the concrete porch of the bath house, facing sundown and sharing cake and cheeses, using a walker as an impromptu picnic table. The couple have loved Muskegon by raising their children in a home on the beach and leading local organizations, such as the local educational team called Darling Cetaceans.

Tom Whitehead and his wife Donna have sailed Lake Michigan from the channel of Lake Muskegon for years. Whitehead explained that clouds make the Muskegon sunset spectacular. He enjoyed his experience watching the sunset celebration in Mallory Square during his visits to Key West, but the cloudless skies failed to diffract sunlight into purples, blushes and mauves. As a man of the sea, Whitehead quickly pointed out the position of the sun above the twin piers of Muskegon harbor, and explained how the sunset travels towards Holland after the Summer Solstice, a journey of 66 degrees from West-Northwest to West-Southwest. The couple knows how to keep a community on course, and the two have participated as community foundation ambassadors, a donor leadership group of the Community Foundation for Muskegon County.

A bank of clouds along the north horizon caused a last minute adjustment when the blazing sun set behind them minutes before the official time of 9:28 PM. Thus, Medema and Trzaska accepted an idea from the audience. Toast the sun’s disappearance and toast again when the official time arrived. The people drank to that idea twice. The twilight lasted for more than twenty minutes, and since everyone had at least a cellphone camera, hundreds of pictures of friends and family standing close together rose up to the stars and out onto the Internet. As soon as the sun had officially set, the Freighter Manitowoc set forth from the channel for Holland and Chicago, a fact confirmed by Lieutenant Mark Taylor of the Muskegon Fire Department, the Muskegon correspondent for BoatNerd.Com, an online periodical based at Port Huron, Michigan’s Great Lakes Maritime Center. A first responder trained as a rescue diver, Taylor shows his love for Muskegon by keeping a unblinking eye on Lake Muskegon and the big lake.

Dogs are cherished in Muskegon; however, our best friends were asked to bring their human friends to a Canine Solstice on the Dog Beach south of Pere Marquette, a second park called Kruse Park. Canines have welcome to play, swim and cruse the strand of beach below a length of dunes that hosts a complex system of dune walk trails. The dog beach extends from north Kruse Park to the Beach Street curve. Chris Willis organized the Canine Solstice, a woman who moved her family to Muskegon from a blueberry farm in Nunica to enjoy the dog beach.

When she learned that the city was considering the closure of the dog beach, Willis organized the Friends of the Muskegon Dog Beach to avert the crisis. Willis operates a human performance firm, Media One, in Grand Haven, providing human resource consulting to Amway and Hewlett Packard. Attracted by event, Photographer Joe Gee brought his camera and his dog Happy and captured the fun as Happy led him around. Gee specializes in lakeside photography for canines and their humans; also, he has documented the eagles of Mona Lake and the flooded Celery Flats. Willis’ passion for making the dog beach a home for all four-legged friends has paid off for Muskegon. Painter Topher Crowder, an adjunct professor at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, purchased a beach front home for his family and their dogs. Crowder has taken up painting Alfresco on the dog beach, a series of paintings he plans to exhibit in handmade frames.