The Rapidian

Serving Heartside neighborhood for 50 years

This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dégagé Ministries. Though the physical location has changed several times, the services have greatly expanded, and the number of people being served has grown tremendously, but the foundation upon which this ministry was formed has remained firm.
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By Marge Palmerlee

Where were you in 1967? Some of you were newly married, and some of you weren’t even born yet. Some of you were starting careers, moving away to college, or, like me, enjoying the simple life of a high school student. There are years in our lives that pass by quietly and are easily forgotten. But there are also the extraordinary years full of such significance that nothing is quite the same.

Fifty years ago, when a group of Calvin College students opened a coffeehouse ministry in Grand Rapids, I don’t think they could have imagined the significance of the event. When they planned the details to create a relaxing environment and named it Dégagé, could they have imagined it would become Heartside’s community center? When they organized their Board of Directors and drafted their vision for the ministry, did they boldly dream that their vision would endure for five decades?

This year we are celebrating the 50th anniversary of Dégagé Ministries. I’m having fun looking through old photos and reading board meeting minutes and other historical documents from those Calvin College students. One document I’m reading was produced on a mimeograph machine. (How many of you remember the smell and smudges of that purple ink?) The document in front of me states the early goals of Dégagé:

First: Christian – A Christian framework with Christian goals Second: Personal – work with individuals on a one-to-one level Third: Holistic – Concerned with the whole person.

I was struck with how little has changed in 50 years. Those are still our goals! The physical location has changed several times, the services have greatly expanded, and the number of people being served has grown tremendously, but the foundation upon which this ministry was formed has remained firm. I am eternally grateful to those early founders for embracing those goals that have stood the test of time.

As we look through boxes of old records and gather stories, we would love to hear from you. How has this ministry impacted your life? Do you have a favorite memory? Has someone you met here come to mind as you drive down the ever-changing streets of Grand Rapids? Just this week I talked to Bonnie Kamp. Bonnie was one of those first members of Dégagé when she was a Calvin College student and now resides in New York. She shared with me that Dégagé had a profound impact on her and set the course for her life. It changed how she viewed people and prepared her for a career as an Adult Protective Services worker.

As we celebrate this milestone and ask for God’s blessing over the future of this ministry, we are ever mindful that this legacy was built by the countless people who have shared their hearts, time, and gifts over the years. If you are one of those people, we sincerely thank you. If you have a story you are willing to share, please email me at [email protected] or call me at (616) 454-1661. Together we will give God the glory for the numerous lives that have been touched by this ministry!

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