"A Sanctuary in the City… Living Faith"

Vine Neighborhood Project

Several area churches partner and collaborate with the Vine Neighborhood Association (VNA). FPC works diligently to bring church and neighborhood partners together. The project’s primary goal is not merely to assist a low-income family in repairing and painting their home, but also to support
on-going resident-led street-revitalization efforts.  All partners recruit volunteers, mobilize ladders, and supply key on-site coordination.

“Members of our congregation seek to live faithfully by cultivating experiences of goodness, beauty, and fullness of life for all people in our city, beyond the walls of our sanctuary. Gratefully, we celebrate the opportunity to share in such a spirit-led effort with people from other congregations and community organizations. We hope the families and Vine Neighborhood will reap fruits of this collaboration for years to come. And we look forward to such occasions filled with God’s grace in the future!” – Pastor Weeldreyer


PAINTING NORMA B’S HOUSE: Vine St Project Update

The repainting of a house means so much more when it complements other nearby positive initiatives. And such was the case this year. Of course the painting thrilled owner Norma Berry,who had yearned for many years to give her house a proper paint job. But it also reinforced the many good things happening on nearby streets. Though somewhat lagging behind other areas, this northwest section of Vine is seeing a build-up of owner occupants and of housing investments more generally. The City of Kalamazoo has undertaken a series of street re-pavings, as well as a major park renovation. Residents have banded together to reclaim the Oak Street Garden and to install/maintain corner flower gardens all through the area. The neighborhood’s resurgence, here as in other sections of Vine, is well underway.

With strong support from Seth and our Outreach Committee, FPC again took the leading position in this fall’s project.  Pulling together the paperwork and overseeing the effort with First Congregational Church and Trinity Lutheran, Sam Clark played an essential coordinating role. The availability of funding from all three churches enabled us to hire both skilled carpenters to replace rotten siding and a professional painter to scrape off the old paint, re-nail loose siding, and otherwise prepare the house for painting. As the long-time owner of an older house on Oak St., Norma herself purchased the paint, furnished at a considerable discount by Vine’s Douglas and Sons store. So it was that a largely FPC painting crew primed a large portion of the house on a blistering hot Saturday. September 23rd. Suzanne Rose skillfully managed the paint and brushes; with contributions from a host of foodpreparers, Laura Boersma coordinated refreshments and lunch; and with help from all to keep ladders standing straight and safe, we managed to keep ourselves safe. Associate Pastor Chrissy Westbury proved to be one of the most intrepid and enthusiastic painters. Powered the following Saturday by a skilled and fast-moving crew from First Congregational Church, and complemented by another strong volunteer contribution from FPC, we largely finished applying a full two coats of paint. How we loved it when the last sections of ugly old siding were covered and when the “accent color” of dark blue was applied to the front and side gables. Our professional painter returned early the following week to finish up a few difficult areas. Active from the very beginning of the project, Dave and Sue Johnson also returned to help complete it.

We have so much to be grateful for:  the individual contributions of some 40-50 volunteers drawn from all three  participating churches; the provision of funds, both from the three churches and from Norma herself; the Vine  Neighborhood Association’s management of funds; the planning and coordinating functions provided by Sam Clark and Garrett Boersma; and not least of all, the blessedly good weather enjoyed on both painting days. Norma was agenerous and unfailingly cheerful participating owner.

Here are her own words of thanks:
“I am so grateful, not only because my house is now visually gorgeous, but also because I had this wonderful, uplifting experience of several dozen strangers coming together to do something just for me, just because they wanted to.  I’ve shared my story with friends and family, and in my happiness, also with perfect strangers. Almost no one is aware of this kind of generosity. Thank you for your kindness.”

— Norma Berry