Human Services


AACORN’s mission is to provide life enrichment opportunities and residential options for adults with developmental disabilities in a supportive, caring community. AACORN believes that every individual has something to offer, that everyone deserves a life of purpose and meaning.

Incorporated in 2011, AACORN provides an option for adults with disabilities who have aged out of school and need a specialized program environment. A rural setting provides low-stress surroundings, and animal care, gardening, and daily living tasks offer purposeful activities.

AACORN’s life enrichment program has been transformative for individuals who experience high anxiety around large numbers of people, have diffculty communicating, and struggle with social interactions. Combining small groups with physical activity has been successful in reducing anxiety for these individuals. Other choices for self-paced meaningful engagement include arts and crafts, cooking, sewing, and making items for retail sale or donation to other nonprofts. Working and engaging in activities alongside other participants promotes strong interpersonal connections, aiding in the development of friendships among adults who have never before had friendships.

AACORN owns 40 acres of land, purchased from Tillers International, near Scotts, MI. Approximately half of necessary funds have been raised for the construction of an activities building which is critical for enabling the program to expand in both scope and participant numbers. Once the building is completed, plans include inviting community members to the site for special events, gardening, and volunteer opportunities. Long-range plans include a residential development focused around shared interests of gardening, small animal care, and rural life.

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Arc Community Advocates

The Arc Community Advocates has been serving Kalamazoo County for more than 65 years, providing vital free advocacy and training services for individuals with developmental and/or intellectual disabilities and their families. We exist as an advocacy organization to make it possible for each person with a developmental disability to participate fully in all aspects of community and to support the effort of each individual to determine their own future.

Our services empower individuals and families to live as independently in the community as possible. Our focus is educating, advocating, and empowering individuals and families to: navigate special education laws and supports; transition to adulthood; access housing, employment, and other community services; to obtain powers of attorney to reduce guardianships; and pursue long-term planning — all of which address milestone decisions across a lifespan. In addition, we advocate for policies that improve lives and access to the community, including affordable healthcare, because disability rights are human rights.

As an affiliate of Arc US and Arc Michigan, we utilize those relationships and the voices of families and individuals — whose diagnosis could be an intellectual disability, Down syndrome, Autism spectrum disorder, fetal alcohol syndrome, and many other diagnoses — to promote and protect their human rights and actively support their full inclusion in the community.

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Disability Network Southwest Michigan

Founded in 1981 by a small group of disability advocates, Disability Network Southwest Michigan educates and connects people with disabilities to the community resources they need to live independently, all while advocating for social change. Much of our advocacy work is focused on creating communities that value disability as human diversity, free of attitudinal barriers, where all people beneft with full access and inclusion.

We are a nationally recognized Center for Independent Living; this distinction makes us unique from other community based nonproft organizations. We believe that people with disabilities know best the disability experience; therefore, more than 51% of our staff and board of directors are people with disabilities. Our services are cross-disability; we serve people across all disabilities and ages. We believe all people with disabilities should be able to thrive and grow at home, in the workplace, and in their community. Our services are customer-driven; customers have the power to set their own goals and staff assist them in reaching those goals.

Our services consist of five main core areas — Information & Referral, Advocacy, Peer Support, Independent Living Services, and Transition — that impact not only people with disabilities but the communities they live and work in. Examples of our services include: assisting a person transitioning from a nursing facility back to community based living, building ramps to improve access to the community, advocating for accessible transportation and housing, and preparing youth for post-secondary experiences such as employment, college or living on their own.

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Housing Resources Incorporated

The mission of Housing Resources, Inc. (HRI) is the assurance of housing for the economically and socially vulnerable persons of Kalamazoo County. One way that HRI meets this mission is through Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH). PSH is a nationally recognized, cost-effective, proven solution to the needs of vulnerable people with disabilities who are homeless. PSH combines affordable housing assistance with voluntary support services while connecting people with community based resources including physical and mental health care and treatment. In many cases, PSH ends chronic homelessness for individuals and families.

Through our HUD PSH program HRI serves families of individuals with disabilities. Families may receive rental assistance and supportive services until their child(ren) turn 18 or exit the program. Individuals with disabilities may live at HRI’s Rickman House — an historic building with 49 beautifully renovated units — as long as they choose, with a rental subsidy and supportive services.

HRI believes that everyone deserves a home. The PSH program allows individuals and families experiencing homelessness the opportunity for housing stabilization, maximum levels of self-suffciency and an overall better quality of life.

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Residential Opportunities Incorporated

In 1978, Residential Opportunities, Inc. (ROI) began operations with specifc goals in mind: to help people with intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDD) come home from state institutions, rejoin our community, and experience fuller and more enriched lives. Forty years ago people lived in institutions or with their families, with limited access to education or employment. Back then, there were very few services available in the community for someone with a signifcant disability.

Today, in partnership with Kalamazoo Community Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services and other similar organizations, individuals supported by ROI thrive in our community — with or near family and friends. Today, individuals with an IDD celebrate birthdays and holidays, work and play in the community, take vacations with friends and family and have access to high-quality health care. Today, individuals with an IDD live alongside all of us, in specialized residential licensed group homes, supported living programs, or affordable rental housing apartments in neighborhoods with flexible staffng supports.

ROI’s focus is on helping the individuals we serve pursue their goals, dreams, and desires by providing the necessary tools to help people determine what a meaningful life looks like to them — whether it’s seeing the Detroit Tigers play, shopping in a marketplace, enjoying a play at the Civic Theatre, going to Disney World or on a Caribbean cruise. We have even helped people get married and have a honeymoon. Our Representative Payee Services program has helped people manage their money for nearly 40 years. Additionally, we have created a state-of-the-art intensive autism treatment program and outpatient treatment programs for children with autism. If past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior, the next 40 years should generate even more success for hundreds of people with disabilities.

For more information, visit

Prevention Works

Since 1995, Prevention Works has been the community’s foremost nonprofit in prevention and health education services. We serve thousands of local youth and families, many of whom come from marginalized communities, economically challenged backgrounds, and/or are struggling to maintain the unification of their family. To make the greatest impact, Prevention Works uses a multistrategy approach with a mission of giving people tools to make healthy decisions. Prevention Works partners with more than 100 local organizations. Our programs are effective, evidence-based, and demonstrate positive outcomes for our community — in particular, demonstrating long term, positive impact on youth development.

Just one of the many programs that show positive outcomes for youth development is Peer POWER, which was developed with the help of outside evaluators. Peer POWER is an afterschool program geared toward youth ages 9 – 13 and designed to increase the likelihood that youth make healthy, positive decisions and resist peer pressure. There are 12 sessions of learning in two different curriculum topics: Substance Abuse Prevention and Violence Prevention. Peer POWER is based on the Health Belief Model, uses a Peer Education approach to program delivery, and is facilitated by high-school-age Peer Educators. Oversight is provided by one adult Outreach Worker at each session. All staff are highly trained in the program curricula, facilitation skills, professionalism, positive behavioral support, cultural sensitivity, trauma-informed practice, and social-emotional learning and development. The program mutually serves the high-school-age Peer Educators by increasing individual social and emotional development and positively impacting school and work readiness.

Peer Educators and Outreach Workers are recruited from the target population and represent marginalized communities. The youth participants have the opportunity to experience a diverse team of educators who serve as positive role models and mentors. Peer Educators not only deliver accurate educational information, but also work to enhance a sense of community and collaboration within the target neighborhoods and among the participants.

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WGVU Public Media/Kalamazoo Lively Arts

WGVU’s Kalamazoo Lively Arts series connects artists with the community through the creation and sharing of stories about the many artists and art forms helping to define Kalamazoo. In 2016, through 13 weekly programs, Kalamazoo Lively Arts shared the stories of more than 50 artists and groups, representing a wide variety of visual art, performance, and many other forms of expression. This series is designed to give the public a deeper look, striking a balance between entertainment and educational value.

To provide multiple viewing opportunities, expand the reach of the series, and give the featured artists and arts groups maximum exposure, WGVU broadcasts each weekly episode several times throughout its 28-county-wide coverage area, home to approximately 2.5 million people. This series is also shared via social media and uploaded to a dedicated WGVU Kalamazoo Lively Arts webpage at:

YWCA/Cradle Kalamazoo

Cradle Kalamazoo, led by YWCA of Kalamazoo, is a multi-agency initiative with a mission to reduce infant mortality among babies of color from 15 to 6 per 1,000 live births by 2020, by promoting safe sleep practices, health equity strategies, reproductive health options, and by supporting families through home visitations.

Partners are working to implement evidence-based strategies that can eliminate racial disparities while reducing infant mortality rates, including coordinating care and services offered by family support programs dedicated to providing services for pregnant/expectant mothers, family members, and infants. These programs connect parents and infants with resources, both inside and outside the home.

According to Terra Bautista, a Cradle Kalamazoo leader, the initiative “has been a catalyst for change by bringing together several sectors of our community to impact progress.” Thanks to Cradle Kalamazoo, “individuals are now developing leadership skills that empower them to spearhead change within their organization and their circle of influence, reaching out into the community and drawing others in.”

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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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Open Roads Bike Program

Open Roads is a youth development program that teaches social skills and bike mechanic skills to youth in order to better prepare them for their future. What began with four kids and two adults in a classroom at Kalamazoo College in 2009 is now located in the newly-revitalized Riverview Launch and has grown into dozens of programs offered around Kalamazoo. Young people in our programs can build and earn a bicycle, learn to make repairs, gain leadership and vocational skills, and so much more. Instead of telling youth what not to do, with Open Roads they are told what is expected; they are taught how positive behavior looks and sounds, and are acknowledged for demonstrating it. We focus on five simple ideas we call our ROADS expectations: R — Respect, O — Own your actions, A — Attitude counts, D — Discipline, S — Safety.

We collaborate with other organizations and schools in order to reach youth most in need of skill-building after-school programming. This year we are excited to join forces with the Kalamazoo Nature Center and Read and Write Kalamazoo for new summer Earn-a-Bike camps. We will also be helping youth at the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Home, Lakeside Academy, and Comstock High School complete our Earn-a-Bike Program. Finally, we will resume our weekly summer Fixapalooza bike repair clinics with the Vine Neighborhood Association and Peace House.

We are proud of every young person who has earned their own bike and gained new skills through hard work and commitment. It has been a fantastic journey. In the coming year we are focused on creating a community full of safe, active, and healthy young bicyclists with a wide range of social, leadership, and vocational skills.

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