Fled the oppression of the M13 gang in Honduras

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ROOSEVELT PARK MINISTRIES: Building bridges across cultures and languages

Laura, a Honduran girl of 18 years, fled the oppression of the M13 gang in Honduras, was granted asylum at the border, and is now living with her cousin in Grand Rapids. She is employed by a business which packs fruit and walked past our ministry one day seeing the sign advertising English classes. She is now enrolled and an eager learner.

The Rodriguez family, father, mother and twin teenage girls are all enrolled in the ESL program. They were celebrating last week because the mother and two daughters were all approved for green cards in Detroit. This is another step forward in both their path to citizenship in the USA and in their English competency.

We had a very busy quarter with our English as a Second Language program (13 volunteer teachers, over 75 enrolled students and 10 evening and daytime classes. We also had a busy quarter serving people with income tax assistance with seven volunteer VITA CPA’s helping hundreds do their taxes. Family workers continue to serve old and young, as well as families. Jacky Osegueda continues to serve as our interim director. The board is seeking a new director and a new counselor to support the family workers.


Big changes are occurring in our neighborhood as revitalization continues. We are thankful for the Roosevelt Park Neighborhood Association which seeks to “maintain the integrity of our neighborhood as a good place to live, work and do business by empowering our neighbors to improve the community and prevent crime.”  And we encourage you to look at its website (https://rooseveltparkna.org/) for the latest news about developments in the neighborhood. Here are a few highlights from this webpage.

  • “Roosevelt Park has the highest concentration of Hispanic/Latino population in Grand Rapids. The neighborhood is 73% Hispanic/Latino and 14% African American.”
  • “97% of the residents say they feel safe walking the streets of the neighborhood during daylight. This declines to 71% at night.”
  • “The unemployment rate in the neighborhood is about 15%. The average household annual income is $27,000.”
  • “Households in Roosevelt Park are 44% larger than the Grand Rapids average. Forty percent of the population of Roosevelt Park is under 17.”
  • Plaza Roosevelt, a five-acre development along Grandville Avenue is bringing a new high school, expanded health care clinic and affordable housing to the neighborhood.
  • Habitat for Humanity is building 17 new homes now and has raised $9 million with which it will build or improve 400 homes.
  • Dwelling Place is building two apartment buildings containing 48 units.
  • At least eleven new businesses opened along Grandville Ave. in 2018.
  • Caesar Chavez Elementary School, The Potter’s House School, The Hispanic Center and RPM are strong trusted institutions in our neighborhood.
  • Jacky Osegueda, our interim director, is encouraging our volunteers to walk the neighborhood and strengthen connections


Roosevelt Park Ministries (RPM) had to adjust when Roosevelt Park Chr. Ref. Church, which was located across the street, closed and sold its building to The Potter’s House School which now uses the church for its Assembly Hall, classrooms, offices, etc.

We are still open and are located across the street on the southeast corner of the intersection of Grandville Ave. and Clyde Park Ave. We continue our ministries as a community development organization serving the Roosevelt Park neighborhood and many neighbors far beyond the neighborhood. People throughout Greater Grand Rapids seek our services.

We adjusted not only because of the closure of the church across the street and the perception it gave some people that we were also closed.  We also adjusted because our director of 20 years took new employment and our program director went back to school for an advanced degree. This added to the perception that we closed.  WE ARE OPEN!

We did some consolidation of programs but mostly we have continued because many people who work here are volunteers. We operate on a low budget with little administrative overheard. Our goal remains the same: Building bridges across culture and languages. Examples:

  • English and Spanish language learning continues. 13 volunteer teachers provide 16 two-hour classes every week and over 75 people are enrolled.
  • Income tax assistance service to hundreds of low-income people is provided free by about 10 volunteer CPAs.
  • Family counselors enable clients to solve problems related to jobs, housing, relocation, relationships, education, documentation and many other social problems. Bible studies are offered.
  • Your gifts keep our doors open. And they open doors for our clients every day as they discover a new language, a new culture, a new life, and new friends, and a new story of God’s Kingdom and Salvation.


The RPM budget for 2019 is $201,000, which is about $30,000 less than the 2018 budget.  Why the decline? Because we, ended last year with a deficit and small debt and because, like many small 501-C-3 non-profit organizations, we face declining income due to new tax law.  With the increase in the standard deduction and the limitation on deducting state and local taxes, fewer people are itemizing their deductions on their 2018 returns. Estate and gift tax exclusions were also doubled, which lessens the incentive to make bequests to charities. These changes cause an estimated $12 to $20 billion decline in overall charitable giving, according to the Tax Policy Center.

Our budget for staff expenses is about $75,000, program expenses about $70,000, general operating expenses about $35,000, promotion and marketing expenses about $10,000 and professional services budget abou$10,000.  About 50% of our income comes from grants and 50% from offerings and individual gifts.


About 25 volunteers donate hundreds of hours to RPM programs. For example, I currently give RPM many volunteer hours a week as ESL coordinator and teacher, pastor/counselor, liaison with churches/donors, and maintenance worker.


As it builds bridges, RPM provides what we call “cultural literacy” by giving recent immigrants from Africa, Asia, Europe, and Latin America the values and skills which will serve them well in the context of this new American culture they are learning to read, understand and live in.

The story of 19 year-old Maria is an example. Five months ago she was in the grips of the M13 gang in Honduras, living in terror.  Today she has a job in Grand Rapids. She is living with relatives, attending church, and becoming culturally literate at RPM.

Submitted by William VanTol
Liaison with Church and ESL Teacher

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