Human Services

Prevention Works

For 27 years, Prevention Works has helped build a stronger community by providing prevention strategies and health education services to youth and families. Our programs are recognized for enhancing social emotional health, substance use prevention, violence prevention, parenting and family life skills. Prevention Works partners with schools, churches, youth agencies and neighborhood community centers to remove barriers for the participants we serve.

Along with the entire world, Prevention Works underwent a paradigm shift due to the global pandemic, immediately closing all programs and services. There was a service delivery crisis given our limited ability to connect with our community. As a result, Prevention Works had to reimage how to connect to the community with vital services.

Virtual program delivery required us to marry technology with tenacity, exploring new engagement strategies to connect to the ones who need our services the most. Operational priorities required staff to rely on upgraded technology. Prevention Works joined community collaborations to improve accessibility efforts for youth and family participants, alongside the Kalamazoo Youth Development Network and the Kalamazoo Public Library.

Despite the barriers, Prevention Works responded to the “call to action,” opened its doors, and created a Community Learning Hub. The Hub provided a safe and structured learning environment with accessible Wi-Fi, technology, tutoring, mental health services, school supplies, meals and staffing to supervise in person learning for Kalamazoo Public School students. Prevention Works provided wraparound support services, prevention programs and social emotional development for 12 male students and their families. All 12 completed their academic year and advanced to the next grade.

Due to the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety experiencing an increase of youth crimes, Prevention Works partnered with Public Safety, the Kalamazoo County Juvenile Court, the Boys & Girls Clubs and Youth Opportunities Unlimited to offer comprehensive wraparound support for 15 of the most vulnerable, justice impacted youth (ages 14-18). Prevention Works was the host site for this summer program and also provided programming to support the youth.

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Sherman Lake YMCA

A lot has changed at Sherman Lake YMCA over the past two years, but our commitment has remained the same – to always be here for our community when they need us most, with open arms and caring hearts. More than a gym, a pool or a camp, the Sherman Lake YMCA is about elevating community for all who live here. In “normal” times, we do that by helping people get healthy, by connecting seniors to in-person social networks and by teaching our campers about Honesty, Caring, Respect and Responsibility (or what we call HCRR). Recently, however, elevating community has meant something much different.

In response to the needs of families with school-aged children in our community, we created the Sherman Lake Scholars program in the fall of 2020 as an adaptation of our summer day-camp program. Half of each child’s day was spent online completing schoolwork and the other half was spent outdoors participating in traditional camp activities. More than 90 children participated in this program between September 2020 and March 2021. While the true cost of Sherman Lake Scholars was cost prohibitive for many families, we were able to implement a tiered pricing model, allowing families to pay what they could afford.

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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. 

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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