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By Sue Sprang

PORTAGE/KALAMAZOO – There are congregations where mission seems to be the norm – and Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Portage is one of them.

One of Prince of Peace’s most recent undertakings has been an overhaul of the Ranney Street House, which is owned and operated by Open Doors Shelters in Kalamazoo.

The Ranney Street House

The Ranney Street House

Since its beginning in 1970, Open Doors has used advocacy, partnerships, and housing to accomplish the placement of homeless and low-wage workers and their families, as well as individuals, into affordable housing. This is done through a residential self-help program where clients don’t have to worry about shelter while they seek employment, save for future housing, and address personal obstacles to stability.

Prince of Peace has a long history with Open Doors. Members provide Welcome Baskets with bathroom and cleaning supplies to new residents, provide monthly meals for the men’s facilities, provide cleaning and painting of some apartments, and do yardwork and grounds maintenance. Regular financial support rounds out the package.

Residents are young men whose lives are not unlike this room – stripped to a shell, in need of transformation.

Residents are young men whose lives are not unlike this room – stripped to a shell, in need of transformation.

Taking on the Ranney Street House, which was Open Doors first property and originally served as a drop-in center for youth, was a natural next step.

“It was amazing,” Bev Dirkin, member of Prince of Peace, said of the project. “It all fell into place.”

The congregation took on the commitment in good faith, knowing they would complete their task of renovating the structure, inside and out.

The will was there. The people were ready. What about the money?

“We raised funds through a ‘treasure’ sale and through monetary gifts from members,” Dirkin said. “We also received a Publicly Engaged Church grant from the synod.”

Youth, all the way through retired persons brought their various skill sets to the project. Among them was experience in areas such as carpentry, plumbing, gardening, and interior design.

The project was intergenerational, involving a variety of gifts and skills.

The project was intergenerational, involving a variety of gifts and skills.

The putting together of gifts and skills, desire and commitment, volunteers, and finances resulted in the complete transformation of the home – new carpet, kitchen cabinets, and furnishings; upgraded plumbing; wall creation; painting and repair; landscaping; and more.

Not only was the house transformed… lives will be transformed.

“The house will be occupied by young men who meet Open Doors’ requirements – staying sober and finding a job,” Dirkin said. “They will have the chance to turn their lives around.”

June 28 was a joyous day as Open Doors and Prince of Peace celebrated the completed renovation with an open house.

The open house included a dedication, tours, and thanks for a job well-done.

The open house included a dedication, tours, and thanks for a job well-done.

But the work didn’t end there. Volunteers from the church will keep the house and grounds maintained as they continue with other Open Doors projects.

“It is exciting.” Dirkin said. “Praise God!”

And from the congregation’s website:

“Prince of Peace is delighted to use our hands to do God’s work.”

 

Find out more about our synod’s Publicly Engaged Church grants.

Learn more about Open Doors Shelters.

Thank you to Prince of Peace, Portage, for sharing their photos. The title photo shows Jen Gatz making last minute preparations for the open house.