Posts Tagged ‘Nonprofit’

Calling the Next Generation of Leaders.

March 22, 2018 Leave a comment

Good morning and Happy Thursday! It is a beautiful morning in downtown Grand Rapids!



Yesterday was the annual meeting of the Trustees of Mel Trotter Ministries. It was one year ago that my term ended as Board Chair.

Last year I shared my reflections on this experience.

One of my great joys during this time was seeing the launch of Mel Trotter Ministries 2020 Strategic Plan.  Check it out to see some exciting things we see in the near future for MTM.



Detroit Nonprofit Day

Today,  I was reading about an upcoming event called Detroit Non-Profit Day

This is a one day conference on Saturday April 14th devoted to preparing non-profits for financial and sustainable growth.

Social entrepreneurs and those in the non-profit community should consider this workshop. You can sign up here.

Reflecting on Detroit NonProfit Day and  my experience at Mel Trotter as well as serving other nonprofits, got me thinking on nonprofit sustainability and prompted me to write this post.

This is an issue that all non-profits need to address:

how are non-profits going to stay viable in the future?


However, the issue I wanted to address in this post is sustainability in leadership.


My Call to Next Generation Leaders. We Need You.

I can appreciate the anxieties that many service-minded folks can experience when faced with volunteer/board service. Particularly the next generation/millennials.

Many feel inadequate and inexperienced.

I had a conversation recently with a friend – we serve on a committee together where the rest of the people around the table are successful influencers and leaders in the business community. My friend made the comment to me that “one of these things is not like the other.” He was pointing out the obvious – we, in both our minds,  stuck out like a sore thumb because our relative young age.

Simply put, when you are younger and sitting around a table full of gray-haired folks who have achieved much more than you, it is easy to let insecurity or doubt slip in.

This insecurity can be a road block for many in putting themselves out there for service.

If that’s you – here’s my call to you:

What you are experiencing is normal.

But get over it.

Fight through the temptation to be passive. Be bold and reach out to the organization that fits your passions.

Don’t do it for yourself – do it for the cause that you care about.

Because whether the organization acknowledges it or not – they need you.

They need your perspective, and they need you to get involved to gain experience and develop institutional knowledge in how their nonprofit works.

You only learn the strengths and the gaps of an organization by spending time in that organization in active service.


Here’s a selfish plug for Mel Trotter Ministries – interested in learning more about ways to serve or connect with the leadership? Join me for lunch.

At Mel Trotter Ministries, we are always looking for volunteers. We need people who have a heart for the hungry, homeless and hurting in West Michigan.  As we seek to end homelessness in West Michigan, one life at a time, it is a large task and we cannot do it alone.


This is my call to everyone, but particularly our next generation of leaders – millennials and beyond.

Ask yourself:


How can I serve?




Millennials – I’m reminded of the Bible – 1 Timothy 4:12 –

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers

The fact remains – the millennial and younger generations are our future leaders.

Now is the perfect time to get plugged into one of the many opportunities to serve and lead.

Please take this as your personal invitation from me –

Take the initiative.

Get engaged.

Just show up.



Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka


Join me at Mel Trotter Ministries 3rd Annual Season of Hope Event – Keynote by Author Ron Hall “Same Kind of Different as Me”

September 15, 2017 Leave a comment


Occasionally when I am walking in downtown Grand Rapids I will run into a guy with dirty clothes, smelling bad, looking homeless. When I am asked for money, my gut reaction is to want to help. Honestly though, oftentimes I have no idea what is the right response.


I will invariably pray for them, but I’m faced with the hard decision:

  • do I give them money?


  • do I buy them food?


  • do I simply direct them to Mel Trotter Ministries?


Should I be doing more?


Join me in hearing from Ron Hall, author of “Same Kind of Different as Me”  – you can check out the trailer to the movie, based upon the book, that is coming out soon.


Ron Hall’s friendship with a man that society had all but disregarded and given up teaches us all fundamental lessons – namely:

All people are valuable and loved by God. 


Hear from some of Ron’s experiences and valuable lessons.

As he tells us in his book:

To love a man enough to help him, you have to forfeit the warm, self-righteous glow that comes from judging.”
On Tuesday September 26, 2017 Mel Trotter Ministries will host its 3rd Annual Season of Hope Event at the JW Marriott with Ron Hall as our guest speaker.

We are still looking for corporate sponsors. Tickets are available here


Thank you to our Honorary Leadership Committee!

Kenneth Graham & Linda Vos-Graham
James & Nancy Engen
Tom & Marcia Haas
Cate & Sid Jansma Jr.
Bill & India Manns
Tom & Jackie McGovern
Mark & Elizabeth Murray
Gordon & Karla Oosting
Janis Petrini
Jerry & Marcia Tubergen
Harold & Lori Voorhees, Jr.
Greg & Meg Willit


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Reflections from the Past-Board Chair at Mel Trotter Ministries.

March 28, 2017 1 comment

On Wednesday my year-long term as Chairman of the Board of Directors of Mel Trotter Ministries came to an end.

It truly has been my honor to serve. As I reflect on my year of service, I wamel-trotter-ministries-1122_20111229171415_320_240nted to share a few thoughts.

Who was Mel Trotter?

On Tuesdays throughout the year, Mel Trotter Ministries (“MTM”) hosts Meet The Mission Luncheons. On the back table after the luncheon you can find a book that we gift to our luncheon guests courtesy of Kregel Publishing titled “Man with a Mission.” It is the story of Mel Trotter.

MTM has been demonstrating the compassion of Jesus Christ to the homeless, hungry and hurting in West Michigan for over 117 years. What you may not know is that Mel Trotter was an actual man who lived and started the City Rescue Mission in Grand Rapids- the Rescue Mission that would one day bear his name.

You may also not know that Mel Trotter was an alcoholic, abusive man who squandered his paychecks on gambling rather than provide for his family.

Mel Trotter was intent on taking his own life one cold night when a companion directed him to the Pacific Garden Rescue Mission in Chicago, Illinois.

It was there that Mel Trotter encountered Jesus Christ. He surrendered his life to a Savior who loved him as he was.

Mel Trotter would go on to live a radically changed life. In 1900 Mel Trotter became the first executive director of the City Rescue Mission in Grand Rapids. He started and oversaw 68 other Rescue Missions across the country.

The transforming work that Christ has done in this one man’s life is the foundation of Mel Trotter Ministries.

MTM Today: Serving with Humility.

When I am asked about where I believe Mel Trotter Ministries’ is headed the first word that comes to mind is humility. I am reminded of Philippians Chapter 2:3-4, where Paul tells us to: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourself.”

MTM’s leadership team is, more than ever, committed to serve in humility. MTM has always endeavored to come along side our guests in humility to meet them where they are. But more than ever, MTM is striving to humbly seek out our community partners for the common goal of serving the homeless, hungry, and hurting in our community. As Dennis Van Kampen often says: “we can’t do this work alone.

A great example can be seen from MLive’s article from a few hours ago. MTM has identified a need in our community – homeless male youths. It is no secret that Kent County has an Affordable Housing Crisis.

In response to this need, MTM is partnering with local organizations to provide affordable housing to homeless young men. Echoing Dennis’ words – We can’t do this work alone.

My Call to Younger Leaders. We Need You.

At Mel Trotter Ministries, we are always looking for volunteers. We need people who have a heart for the hungry, homeless and hurting in West Michigan.  As we seek to end homelessness in West Michigan, one life at a time, it is a large task and we cannot do it alone.

This is my call to everyone, but particularly our next generation of leaders – millennials and beyond.

Ask yourself:

How can I serve?

Millennials – I’m reminded of the Bible – 1 Timothy 4:12 –

Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers

The fact remains – the millennial and younger generations are our future leaders.

Now is the perfect time to get plugged into one of the many opportunities to serve and lead.

Please take this as your personal invitation from me –

Take the initiative.

Get engaged.

Just show up.



Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

Michigan Legislation Update: The Urban Food Initiative. Community Revitalization To Include Downtown Grocery Stores.

February 15, 2017 Leave a comment

Two Thanksgivings ago I took my family to New York City.

Even amidst the chaos of protecting my 4 young children from darting out in2015-11-26-13-04-02to oncoming traffic – we absolutely loved the City.

We loved the walk-ability of City life – that you could walk down a block to a grocery store and get all of your household needs.

I love downtown Grand Rapids.

If Grand Rapids wants to encourage urban living, it needs a downtown grocery store.

Yesterday, House Bill 4207 was introduced in the Michigan house. Known as the “Urban Food Initiative” it would provide incentives for community revitalization that would include a downtown Grocery Store.

Specifically, HB 4027 would make “Urban Food Initiatives” allowable to receive funds under the Michigan Community Revitalization Program

The Bill defines Urban Food Initiatives as:

Property that will be used primarily as a retail supermarket, grocery store, produce market or delicatessen that is located in a downtown area…that offers unprocessed USDA inspected meat and poultry products or meat products that carry the USDA organic seal, fresh fruit and vegetables, and dairy products for sale to the public.”

Clearly having available and healthy food options in a downtown are necessary to City living. Check out today’s article from Next City about the Food Revolution in Detroit.

A downtown grocery store is necessary if a City wants to attract urban living – it is also necessary to provide healthy food options for those living downtown without readily available transportation.

I think particularly of the under-employed and the homeless who receive services from organizations like Mel Trotter Ministries. Grand Rapids has a need for affordable housing for the most vulnerable in our society. It would be great to see grocery options as well.

I am looking forward to tracking the progress of this bill. I am also encouraged by the many businesses in West Michigan asking the question: “How am I building a better community?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

A Lawyer’s Year-End Reflections.

December 29, 2016 Leave a comment

img_1338-002It is the end of 2016. I am having “big picture” thoughts as the year ends.

I have a pretty nice “big picture” view out of my office window.

Out of my office window from the 12th floor of 99 Monroe overlooks many ice skaters at Rosa Parks’ Circle in downtown Grand Rapids.

It is certainly a fun time of the year: my kids love Christmas break – being home from school, getting presents, visiting with family.

But right now I can’t help but feel a sense of heaviness in my heart.

My grandmother passed away last week. Traveling home to Saginaw to see her in her last days and attend the funeral was challenging.

The reality is that this time of year is hard for many people, for many reasons.

This week I was reminded specifically of this hard reality when I attended a court hearing for a real estate investor client. FYI, to any real estate owner or manager, a recent unpublished court of appeals case that you might want to check out: Anderson v Chaundy. This case provides a good example of what not to do when evicting a tenant.

If you want to feel depressed, just show up at any local courthouse for the landlord/tenant docket.

Invariably, you will see among those present, individuals whose spirits are down – for all sorts of reasons.

I was in the courtroom this particular day and couldn’t help but notice the hopelessness in the eyes of a particular individual being evicted for non-payment of rent. I also noticed the distinct smell of alcohol on this person, at 9 in the morning.

This person did not dispute that they owed rent. The result? This person would be ordered out of their apartment in ten days.

I’m not ashamed to say that as the current Chairman of the Board of Mel Trotter Ministries, I care very deeply about the homeless, hurting, and hungry.

Walking out of the courtroom, my “Mel Trotter” hat keeps my mind going…

What is going to become of this person?

Maybe they end up sleeping in their car, maybe under a bridge.

Hopefully this person ends up receiving help – to meet them where they are at. Places like Mel Trotter Ministries, that will take in families and individuals to care for them – provide them time to get into affordable housing.

An encouraging statistic – since January 2016, MTM has placed 217 families & individuals into permanent homes.

I’m not trying to bring anyone down during a festive time of year – but as this year ends I wanted to bring two “big picture” realities to the forefront:

  1. The Holiday Season aside, there remains great injustice in this world.
  2. There is great hope.

There are families and individuals that are truly hurting this holiday season.

There are people who have lost loved ones; lost homes. People who are victims of injustice.

The good news is that we can all do something to offer hope to the hopeless.

You can volunteer or provide a year end gift to support organizations locally, like Mel Trotter MinistriesKalamazoo Gospel MissionKids Food Basket, Volunteers in ServiceWestwood Christian ServicesHQ Grand Rapids, Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids, or globally, like International Justice MissionCompassion International, and many more.

I hope you will join me in this Christmas season and send out gifts and prayers to make an impact in the lives of those hurting.

Update on Community Development and Affordable Housing: Is an Answer Found in Social Enterprise?

October 31, 2016 5 comments

Today the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund released its five year Strategic Plan

If you are not familiar with the CDFI, the CDFI “works to spur economic growth and opportunity in many of our nation’s most distressed communities.2015-11-26-13-04-02

“The CDFI Fund’s mission is to expand economic opportunity for underserved people and communities by supporting the growth and capacity of a national network of community development lenders, investors, and financial service providers.”

Included in the overarching goal for the CDFI’s strategic plan is promoting community development. If you have a few minutes, take a look at the strategic plan.

The Affordable Housing Problem in Grand Rapids

As many of you may know, a few weeks back the Grand Rapids Chamber hosted an Issue Summit on the Housing Crisis in Grand Rapids.

The Summit brought speakers representing many community stakeholders, including representatives from 616 DevelopmentGrand Rapids Urban League,Rockford ConstructionICCFMSHDA, and many local non-profits, including Mel Trotter MinistriesHQHeartside Ministries, on this lack of affordable housing, what is as Mayor Bliss emphasized, admittedly, “a complex issue”.

I have previously offered my own perspective, both as a lawyer representing real estate developers/investors, and as Board Chairman at Mel Trotter Ministries.Is there an answer found in Social Enterprise?

Last week Jim Harger with MLive posted a thorough article on the affordable housing crisis.

One community partner highlighted was Pastor Jim Davis and his company “Purpose Properties

“The mission of Purpose Properties is to “raise enough money from local foundations and philanthropists to buy market-rate and affordable rental properties in the city.”

According to Jim Harger’s article:

Purpose Properties plans to charge market rates for its properties to those who can afford them and use their profits to subsidize the rents of those who cannot afford market rates.”

My thoughts:

This is social entrepreneurship at its finest. Social entrepreneurs engage their community by using the power of business to solve a social problem.

We need more businesses and community stakeholders to approach our community problems like Jim Davis and Purpose Properties.

The question we should all ask ourselves: Am I working to build a better community?


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka

About Propaganda Doughnuts’ Closing and West Michigan Business. Working to Build a Better Community.

July 13, 2016 11 comments

A few days ago MLIVE posted about Propaganda Doughnuts’ closing on South Division in Downtown Grand Rapids.

I was a fan of Propaganda Doughnuts. Occasionally on Sundays after church my family would pick up some doughnuts and go to a park with some friends. I am sorry that I won’t be able to do that any more.

Polarizing Comments.

According to MLIVE, “Propaganda Doughnuts posted to Facebook – then apparently removed – an explanation for why it has closed after two years operating on South Division Avenue. A screen shot is being shared on social media:

‘It was too much to ask our customers to accept being harassed and approached by panhandlers. Customers were also having to walk past intoxicated and passed out people on the sidewalks and in the doorways.”This area is no longer acceptable for customers who just want to stop in and get some great doughnuts and coffee.'”

Kind of a polarizing statement. I understand why the post was apparently removed. You will find people who completely agree with the author’s sentiment, and others who don’t.

If anything, Propaganda Doughnuts’ departure from downtown Grand Rapids and its comment provide an opportunity to ask questions.

Personally, I think a relevant question businesses can ask in similar  circumstances was identified by Thomas J Curry of the OCC. Mr. Curry addressed a crowd talking about the great community development work going in in Detroit. He asked this question:

“Are you working to build a better community?”

Don’t hear me wrong – the Problems are Real.

Propaganda Doughnuts had a legitimate complaint. Homelessness, crime and poverty are realities in downtown Grand Rapids.

A few months ago for National Reentry week the US Attorney General issued a press release citing:

“Every year, more than 600,000 people return to our communities after serving time in federal and state prisons…another 11.4 million cycle though local jails.” 

For more information, check out the Department of Justice’s Fact Sheet issued in connection with its first ever National Reentry Week.

These real problems don’t always have readily visible solutions.  However, local businesses should pause and ask the question: “Am I working to build a better community?”

Business Doing Good. Social Entrepreneurship.

More and more businesses are finding their identity in doing good for their community. Michigan is gearing up to pass legislation to allow for the formation of Benefit Corporations.  B-Corps are for-profit businesses that are committed to social good.

A few weeks back I authored a post titled  West Michigan and its Thriving Culture of Social Entrepreneurship.

This list  of “B Certified” companies includes Cascade Engineering, The Image Shoppe, & 616 Development. These are West Michigan companies committed to creating a material positive impact on society and the environment.

Businesses asking the Question.

Many businesses are continually asking the question posed by Mr. Curry: “Am I working to build a better community?

These businesses are socially minded. Purpose Driven. Whether B-Certified or not. I think of Express Employment Professionals in Grand Rapids as one example.

In conclusion: a call to local business.

Local businesses – I encourage you to partner with local non-profits. Work together to build a better community.

If you aren’t familiar with the leaders in a particular organization, introduce yourself.

You don’t need an excuse to invite dialogue on some difficult issues affecting our community.

Connect with Mel Trotter Ministries – A standing invitation from me – join me for lunch.


Twitter: @JeshuaTLauka