Human Services

Rootead Enrichment Center

Rootead’s mission is:​ Reclaiming the village through cultural liberation by holding spaces for internal transformation, healing arts and birthing justice.​ With support from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, the Youth & Cultural Arts branch of Rootead was able to host programs for youth and activities for families during the pandemic.

Pivoting during these times was very important to Rootead’s mission because people were not able to gather in-person, and we were not able to hold public spaces for Rootead families. In the beginning, it was very difficult to obtain the information needed to assess what the community wanted during the pandemic. Rootead’s staff focused on making the tools that they offer easily accessible, especially for the underserved community who only had access to laptops and Wi-Fi in public spaces like schools, libraries and work.

Rootead partnered with the Kalamazoo Youth Development Network (KYD Network) to help solve families’ needs for hotspots, free meals, homework help and other support services. This helped connect families to Rootead Collective, an online community for Rootead families. We transferred all youth and family programs and activities to virtual programming on the Rootead Collective.

Ultimately, Rootead hosted virtual workshops and programs that have impacted 60 youth. Youth streaming performances have reached over 6,000 views. When the weather was warm, Rootead was able to safely have Community Drum & Dance workshops outside, which impacted over 150 families while following COVID protocols. 

For more information, visit www.rootead.org

Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program — W/P Diner @ Washington Square

The Kalamazoo Probation Enhancement Program, or KPEP, helps people transition back to their community through residential and non-residential rehabilitation programs for adult offenders. Our programs offer evidenced-based treatment and structure, encouraging participants to take personal responsibility in their lives.

Employment is a large part of keeping people from returning to prison. We offer both a hospitality and a building trades program. In 2017, we opened the Walnut & Park Café as a way for our students to get hands-on experience in the food service industry. The response from the community has been so good, we decided to look at opening a second location, this time a diner with cook-to-order offerings and room for meeting space.

Construction has been moving along on the new W/P Diner @ Washington Square. The diner is located at 1324 Portage Street and will be home to your favorite eggs, baked goods and traditional diner fare. We hope to have the construction completed just as soon as possible.

The diner will have an oversized kitchen to allow our vocational training program participants to observe each station while also getting hands-on experience. Students will have training opportunities in hosting, serving tables, acting as line and prep cooks, and cashiering. With the addition of the diner, we will double the capacity of our Hospitality Vocational Training Program.

The community support from local foundations, the Edison Neighborhood Association and neighborhood residents has been phenomenal!

For more information, visit www.kpep.com

Ross Township Park — Park Renovations

Nestled next to the Kellogg Manor House on the east shore of Gull Lake, Ross Township Park includes five acres of land featuring sandy beaches, rolling lawn and a section of woods. The land was given to the Township by Mary Dwight in 1906 to provide every family in the area a summer lake experience, especially children. In 2019, the Ross Township Park Committee received a new mandate and dedicated budget to bring this under-utilized and neglected park back to life once again.

The Park Committee began its new effort by organizing, and in 2019, 600 volunteer hours were donated by residents, Gull Lake Area Rotary Club, and Boy Scout troops. The woods were cleaned out, walking paths were created, and picnic tables, grills and beachfront were all refurbished. A new well was also installed, and tree stumps were removed.

Our 2020 plan for the park includes many upgrades. A new playground will feature a swing set with toddler swings and an interactive spinami. Five more park benches will make the park more accessible and comfortable. The bathrooms will receive full upgrades, including new plumbing. Old railroad ties currently being used for parking stops will be hauled away, and 46 new cement stops will be installed. A picnic table that meets Americans with Disabilities Act standards will grace the pavilion, creating easier access for all ages.

Revitalization of the park also includes long-term goals in the updated Michigan DNR Park MasterPlan for 2020 to 2025. Our goal is to encourage all visitors, including kids, seniors and people with disabilities, to be in a natural environment for exercise and relaxation. Residents over 65 increasingly say that having a fun, active outdoor space to enjoy with grandchildren is a high priority.

Open from the first of May until the end of September, Ross Township Park has the best scuba beach in Kalamazoo County. There is an extensive underwater scuba park, including climbing wall. The Battle Creek and Kalamazoo Scuba Clubs, as well as the Marine Corps cadets, all do their rescue certification dives at our beach.

For more information, visit www.ross-township.us/parks.html

Southwest Michigan Miracle League — Field Construction

The Miracle League provides opportunities for kids, regardless of their abilities, to compete and experience the joy and benefits that come from playing baseball. Today, more than 300 Miracle League organizations globally serve over 250,000 kids with disabilities.

Miracle League games are played on a custom-designed field with a cushioned, rubberized surface to help prevent injuries. They have wheelchair accessible dugouts and a completely flat surface to eliminate any barriers to wheelchair users or visually impaired players.

The Miracle League is open to kids ages 5 to 19 whose physical or intellectual abilities are better served by the specialized playing field and rules of play that the Miracle League provides. A buddy assists each player onto the field and during the game, cheers the player on, and makes sure the player’s time is enjoyable and safe, while giving the parents a break to enjoy the game.

The Southwest Michigan Miracle League is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. We are building the Southwest Michigan Miracle League Field in Schoolcraft to serve the southwest Michigan area, including 4,600 kids in Kalamazoo County who have disabilities and could benefit from a Miracle League. The field will be located on US-131, with good visibility and easy access to people throughout the area. We broke ground and are planning to begin hosting games in 2020.

For more information, visit www.swmimiracle.org

YWCA — Edison Children’s Center

YWCA Kalamazoo (YWCA) is a leader in providing high-quality services and opportunities for the poorest families in our community through comprehensive programming and systems change work. While championing positive social change, YWCA responds to the needs of the community through programming in four strategic focus areas:

  • Promoting maternal and child health. We address complex public health issues like infant mortality with evidence-based home visitation and outreach programs.
  • Advocacy and systems change. We are working to create a just community by addressing systems that cause racial and gender disparities.
  • Caring for victims of abuse. We provide support for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault and human trafficking in Kalamazoo county.
  • Improving the lives of children. We offer accessible, quality early-learning and childcare in downtown Kalamazoo and the planned YWCA Edison Children’s Center. 

Planned to open in 2021, the YWCA Edison Children’s Center will provide comprehensive, early learning programming to infants and toddlers ages six weeks to three years, as well as 24/7 drop-in childcare for children ages six weeks to 12 years. It will be the first of its kind in the county and will help change the landscape of accessible and affordable childcare and early learning for the children and families living in the Edison neighborhood and the county.

For more information, visit www.ywcakalamazoo.org/affordable-child-care

AACORN

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.

For more information, visit www.aacornfarm.org

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.

For more information, visit www.communityadvocates.org

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.

For more information, visit www.dnswm.org

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.

For more information, visit www.housingresourcesinc.org

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 www.residentialopportunities.org