History

Introduction

Since 1900, Mel Trotter Ministries has helped restore faith and lives.

On February 24, 1900, Mel Trotter and a group of community leaders opened a Mission at 95 Canal Street in Grand Rapids, MI. Since then, hundreds of thousands of men and women have found Jesus, and restored their lives, thanks to the loving support they found at Mel Trotter Ministries.

Over the years, Mel Trotter Ministries has expanded and changed to keep up with the changing needs of the hungry, homeless and hurting people of our community. To learn about the work we’ve done in Jesus’ name over the years, we invite you to look at our history.

[1870 – 1900]: Mel Trotter’s Miraculous Transformation

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Born in 1870 in Orangeville, IL to an alcoholic-bartending father and a Christian mother, Melvin E. Trotter had little schooling. By age 19, he was drinking and gambling heavily. In 1891, he met and married Lottie Fisher. Sadly, Mel continued to drink and gamble, causing his family to lack necessities. Following ten days of a drinking binge, Mel went home and found that his two year old son had died. He promised his wife he'd never drink again, but in just two hours he broke his vow. Abandoning his family, Mel ended up homeless and suicidal in Chicago. On his way to drown himself, Mel was pulled inside the Pacific Garden Rescue Mission. There he heard of God's redemption of another alcoholic and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord.

Through Christ, Mel conquered his addiction and claimed 2 Corinthians 5:17 as his favorite verse: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." Mel quickly found a job, was reunited with his wife, and became very active at the Mission. In January of 1900, he went with the Mission’s superintendent to Grand Rapids, MI. There, Mel became the superintendent of a new Mission. On February 24, 1900, it opened at 95 Canal Street.

1870: Mel Trotter is born
1891: Mel Trotter marries Lottie Fisher
1897: Mel Trotter asked Jesus to be his Savior
1900: Mel Trotter becomes Superintendent for Mission founded in Grand Rapids

[1901 – 1940]: Mel Trotter’s Lifetime of Service

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Soon the Grand Rapids Mission moved to a new building on Market Street, which seated 750, the largest Mission auditorium in the country. In 1906 the Mission purchased the old Smith Opera House, which could seat more than 1,300. The old opera house was the home of the Mission until 1956.

Trotter, along with his brothers George and Will, helped to open 67 Missions across the country. In April 1940, he was stricken while doing Mission work in North Carolina, and never fully recovered. He died on September 11, 1940. Trotter's body is entombed in the Graceland Mausoleum in Grand Rapids Township.

1906: Ministry buys the Old Smith opera house, which they would occupy until 1956 
1917: Mel Trotter begins a ministry to World War I soldiers
1935: Formation of Maranatha Men’s Fellowship
1940: Mel Trotter passes into the presence of his Lord

[1941 – 1968]: Time of War and Social Upheaval

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Between the time of Mel Trotter’s passing and the start of WWII, John Shy became the MTM leader. During the hardships of the home front, we cared for the hungry and hurting of our community, did our part for the war effort, and offered support and prayers to servicemen.

By 1951, Rev. John W. Kershaw became our interim superintendent, and his ministry changed with the community. During the 1960s, our community’s needs changed even more dramatically, and we turned our focus to young people, children, and families. A great achievement of this time was the founding of Camp Mel Trotter, a free camp created to protect children from the daily problems of inner city life.

1941: John Shy follows Mel Trotter as the Mission leader
1941: 45: The Mission offers an outreach ministry to enlisted men
1945: Branch Mission is established to care for transient men
1950: We celebrated the Rescue Mission’s golden anniversary
1951: Rev. John Kershaw begins to serve as interim superintendent
1968: Camp Mel Trotter is founded to help protect inner city children

[1969 – 1999]: An Era of Growth

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As always, MTM continued to update its services to meet the community’s needs. In 1970s, we saw increasing numbers of men in their late teens and early twenties with substance abuse problems. To help them, we opened the first licensed Center for Substance Abuse Services (CSAS) in the Heartside District.

As more disadvantaged families struggled to meet their own basic needs, we started our Annual Back-to-School Day to distribute school supplies, and our Christmas Adopt-a-Family program. We also purchased the neighboring four-story John K. Burch building, which gave us the room to open our Women and Children’s Shelter, the largest facility of its kind in West Michigan.

In 1999, MTM started a vehicle donation and auto sales program, which enabled us to offer vocational training to our residents. The vehicles our residents reconditioned were sold to raise revenue for our ministry.

1968: Mission relocation to 225 Commerce Avenue
1970: Mel Trotter Ministries opens its own print shop to produce its materials and forms
1975: Diamond Jubilee celebration
1994: Our Mission Messenger newsletter is renamed the Challenge, and later the Journal
1997: First annual Golf Marathon of Hope organized to benefit MTM services
1998: Women’s and Children’s Shelter opens

[2000 – Present]: A New Century Begins with New Approaches

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Finding new and better ways to meet the needs of the Grand Rapids Community has always been the goal of MTM. Doing this requires revenue. To this end we opened five retail locations that directly support the work of the ministry.

We also found a new way to assist publicly intoxicated people by taking a leading role in the Grand Rapids Public Inebriates Task Force. Thanks to the program, intoxicated people are no longer brought to expensive hospital emergency rooms. They’re brought to specially equipped facilities at our shelter, where trained staff can monitor and assist them.

To help live-in recovery program residents, we offer free or greatly reduced dental, vision, and chiropractic services from local medical professionals. This strengthens their ability to become healthy, self-sufficient and productive. Moving forward, we’ll continue to find effective new ways to help the hurting and homeless of our community.

2000: We celebrate our 100th anniversary of service to the community
2002: The Shelter for Public Inebriates opens
2005: Mel Trotter Ministries opens its first retail store in Grand Rapids
2008: Our new Auto Training/Sales Center opens to begin refurbishing and selling used vehicles
2011: Transitional units for female graduates and their children are added, also allowing for more guests in the shelter
2011: Mel Trotter Ministries opens its fifth retail store
2012: The Day Center and renovated food pantry opens, providing classes, resources, and day shelter for the homeless
2014: 4x4 Program begins which focuses on transitioning guests out of homelessness by helping them find permanent housing and secure employment 

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