Ada Bible Church Volunteers
Sheri Klassen began volunteering at Mel Trotter Ministries shortly after Covid. Not only has she continued to show up on a regular basis for the last two years, she is leading the collective volunteering charge as part of Ada Bible Church.
“It’s one of the good things that came out of the pandemic,” Sheri said. “Ada Bible wanted very much to keep engaged in the community, and we’ve been able to do that at Mel Trotter.”
Along with Sheri, there are four or five additional Ada Bible Church members who volunteer twice a month, primarily in the MTM Kitchen or donation sorting room.
Whether they are prepping or serving meals or sorting through ongoing donations provided by MTM’s generous donor community, the volunteers from Ada Bible show up and spread cheer and the Good News of the Gospel to both MTM guests and staff.
I’m just so impressed by how well people in your mission are treated and loved.
“When there’s a need, God always brings people to me!” Sheri said. “We now have more people to step in and be a part of more volunteer opportunities, and we are looking forward to increasing our volunteer frequency soon.”
When that increase happens, many of the Ada Bible volunteers will be headed to Next Step of West Michigan, a division of Mel Trotter Ministries. Next Step provides workforce development programs for men and women looking to learn life and job skills in an effort to secure full-time manufacturing jobs.
After graduating from a seven week cohort training program successfully, graduates are immediately placed in manufacturing positions with local companies who have partnered with MTM, where they earning a starting wage of $18/hour.
Ada Bible recently brought a group of men from their Cascade church campus to the Next Step facility. Sheri and the group of male volunteers had lunch with some of the guests going through the current cohort, and that is where they first met Paul.
“Paul and one other female guest shared their stories with us over lunch,” Sheri said. “They told us about their families and it just makes it more, well, it makes it more real. You can’t really understand all that folks go through when they are experiencing homelessness or hunger or devastating financial situations unless you spend time with them.”
Sheri moved to Grand Rapids when she was sixteen and has been here ever since. She is mom to two adult sons, Andrew and Mark, and five grandchildren: Harper (13), Drew (10), Hadley (9), Charlotte “Char” (7), and Benjamin (5). She gives credit to her sister for first introducing her to what homelessness really is. As head of a homeless shelter in Mount Pleasant, Michigan, Sheri’s sister shone a light on all that goes on within an organization that exists to move people out of homelessness as quickly as possible.
“I knew roughly what Mel Trotter was about, but after being here and seeing how loved, how well cared for, and how respected every person is, I shifted my perspective a bit,” Sheri said. “Now, I’m not only trying to help end something [homelessness], but I am helping guests ‘have a purposeful life and know God. That just speaks to my heart.”
Paul’s story, in particular, profoundly impacted Sheri.
In addition to volunteering at Mel Trotter, Sheri and the Ada Bible team often volunteer at other organizations that help those in need. “Once when we helped at another facility, we took purses filled with items that those living on the streets might need: Kleenex, granola bars, anything that made sense to put in a purse. When we handed them out to the guests who were waiting in line, we were all in tears. Everyone was just so grateful to receive these small items—because they have nothing.”
Which is why Paul’s story moved Sheri so deeply. When he shared his story the day she and other Ada Bible folks volunteered at Next Step, she asked him a simple question.
“What is one thing can I do for you today?” she asked, expecting an answer similar to the purses they provided to the other organization.
Paul replied, “I just want a sleeping bag so I can be warm at night and sleep.”
Sheri couldn’t believe her ears. She had no idea that Paul was unsheltered, choosing to stay on the streets even while part of the seven week workforce development cohort.
Because of Sheri’s intentional relationship building with Paul, he is now staying inside MTM—in one of the recently renovated dorm-style rooms. Paul has his very own room which he shares with one other individual. The two of them share a private bathroom with the two residents on the adjoining side.
“He just needed a place to stay, to feel safe and cared for as Jesus cares for us” Sheri said. Our volunteers who come to Mel Trotter are just so touched. “We get many more blessings than your guests do.”
When asked for one final parting word about what volunteering means to Sheri, she did not hesitate in answering.
“God uses everything we’ve gone through. I’m just so impressed by how well people in your mission are treated and loved.”