City of Kalamazoo, Parks and Recreation Department — Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market

The Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market on Bank Street in the Edison Neighborhood attracts several thousand residents every Saturday from May through November. This popular activity provides residents and non-residents with fresh fruit, vegetables, meats, cheeses, pastries, delicious food truck cuisine, and a variety of handmade crafts and artisan items.

The market is a place where many Kalamazooans do much of their weekly grocery shopping, visit with neighbors, enjoy live music, and support their local economy. Monthly night markets on Thursdays have turned into a great event for the community with live entertainment and activities for families.

The City of Kalamazoo and key partners like the People’s Food Co-op have been working for several years on improvements to the market. The City has convened numerous meetings with stakeholders to determine desired improvements and upgrades for the site. A plan was finalized in 2019 that includes upgrading existing vendor sheds, constructing a new vendor shed along the western edge of the site, improving parking, upgrading the restroom/office/storage building, creating a fruit and vegetable-themed playground, adding an indoor market event building, and realigning Bank Street and the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail.

Phase I construction will begin September 8, 2020, and will include upgrades to existing vendor sheds and the restroom/office/storage building, the new vendor shed to the west, new concrete/asphalt paving in some areas and the realignment of Bank Street.

For more information, visit www.kzooparks.org/farmersmarket


Kalamazoo Cultural Center — Epic Center Renovation

The Kalamazoo Cultural Center, in partnership with the Arts Council of Greater Kalamazoo, has re-envisioned the garden level of the Epic Center in downtown Kalamazoo. This project will take place in two phases, the first focused on increasing the capacity of the Crescendo Academy and the second to rework the north end of the level. A grant from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation helped to create the financial foundation of our project. This renovation will activate and re-invigorate this space that invites creatives, makers and anyone seeking space for creative expression. Our new garden level, which will open in late 2021, will include more studio space, more office space, a multipurpose theatre and additional public gallery space. We are so thrilled at the prospect of being able to offer enhanced amenities for use by all of our arts community.

For more information, visit www.kalamazooarts.org/epic-center/

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

Vibrant Kalamazoo — Eastside Gateway and Pocket Park

Vibrant Kalamazoo supports the Kalamazoo County Land Bank’s work to “Repurpose, Renew and Reconnect” abandoned and blighted properties in Kalamazoo County. Our shared goal is a county where residents in every zip code enjoy economic stability and quality of life. 

Vibrant recently supported the community-defined and embraced Eastside Gateway and  Pocket Park, a mixed-income, energy-efficient, small housing development on East Main Street and Foresmen Avenue. This project is the neighborhood’s first new construction housing development in over 50 years. The Gateway was the result of intensive community engagement and the generous support of more than 50 local partners. Over 200 people attended the Open House & Eastside Celebration in May 2019 to celebrate its near-completion.

As a community that has at times felt forgotten, Eastside residents feel a resurgence of neighborhood pride. Eastside stories were showcased in an intergenerational oral history project, Eastside Voices, a companion Gateway project co-sponsored by the Eastside Neighborhood Association and co-coordinated by artists Buddy Hannah and Sid Ellis. Art elements inspired by the stories are featured in the Eastside Gateway and Pocket Park  and in a mural at 1616 East Main, future home of Eastside Square, a mixed-use development of affordable, energy-efficient housing units, commercial space, and a pocket plaza, also envisioned by residents.

Vibrant’s work is uplifting Eastside voices through story, art and new developments that represent the community’s vision in residents’ own words of a “can do,” “safe,” “warm,” neighborhood with additions that “blend in, but stand out” and “reflect the comforts of home.”

For more information, visit www.kalamazoolandbank.org/


Western Michigan University Foundation — WMUK Public Radio

2020 has been a transformative year for WMUK 102.1 FM, the regional NPR station from Western Michigan University. This year began a significant strategic expansion of the station’s commitment to news, information and the arts, with assistance from the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation.

The cornerstone of this project was the launch of a new dedicated classical music station, serving listeners in Kalamazoo and Portage on 89.9 FM. The service, called “Classical WMUK,” can also be heard on the HD-2 digital channel of 102.1 FM. Locally-hosted programming on this new service begins with “Let’s Hear It,” a morning arts interview program hosted by Cara Lieurance. That’s followed by midday classical music with Jack Perlstein. Grant support also showcases some of the best and brightest jazz talent from our region through hour-long “Jazz Currents” special features presented by Keith Hall, an associate professor of Jazz Studies at WMU.

WMUK’s coverage of arts and culture doesn’t end there. The Foundation also directly supports the station’s weekly local feature “Art Beat,” as well as reviews of local theatre productions at The Civic, Farmer’s Alley, the Barn Theatre and more. These features reach a weekly audience of almost 25,000 people across Southwest Michigan and Northern Indiana.

Since 1951, WMUK has served at the forefront of technical and programming innovation for our region. We continue to do so, broadcasting award-winning, in-depth local, national and global news and analysis, as well as cultural coverage, entertainment and music programming 24/7.

For more information, visit www.wmuk.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