Ecumenical Senior Center

In 1982, Arthur and Edna Carlson of Chicago retired and moved to Kalamazoo, where they observed a need for a program to help elderly African American seniors in the community with financial support. In 1983, after sharing their concerns with their priest at St. Augustine Cathedral, the church’s outreach committee created the Ecumenical program. Ecumenical means unity and the uniting of organizations, individuals, and churches, and the program aims to help seniors truly embrace this definition. The initial goal of this program was to enhance the seniors’ self-esteem with dignity and respect, and to deliver services to make their lives better.

In 1992, the Ecumenical Senior Center (ESC) was established by the Carlsons at 702 N. Burdick St. with funding from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, the Dorothy U. Dalton Foundation, the Raskob Foundation, and support from St. Augustine’s Cathedral, Mt. Missionary Baptist Church, and St. Thomas More Parish.

Twenty-four years later, the ESC is still operating strong. Over the years, ESC has broadened its focus to include comprehensive resource and referral, health and welfare, and nutritional services, as well as successfully maintaining operations as an activity center. In 2012, ESC leadership implemented a strategic plan that promotes positive giving, enhances an improved quality of life, and increases collaborative
partnerships within the Kalamazoo community.

In the fall of 2013, ESC leadership hired a new executive director, Dr. Denise M. Washington. Dr. Washington’s leadership platform is based on providing the most optimal services for senior clients (55+, handicapped and/or disabled) while maintaining a “home away from home” environment.

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