The Rapidian

Dégagé: A look inside

Degagé Ministries feeds hundreds of Grand Rapids citizens each day.

Degagé Ministries feeds hundreds of Grand Rapids citizens each day. /stevendepolo

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This article was written and edited by Meghan Apsey, Blake Botti, Michael Freitag, Ally Hughes, and Brie Rosencrants for EN 102-1593 at GRCC.

Each day between four hundred and five hundred Rapidians seek the aid of Dégagé Ministries for food, shelter, and a safe haven. French in origin, Dégagé means free and relaxed in manner. What first started out as a coffee shop in 1967 has now transformed into a four floor building that caters to the needs of the Heartside neighborhoods of Grand Rapids.  Dégagé is a non-profit, Christian organization that receives no state or federal funding. They receive all their funds from donations.

With four floors, Dégagé Ministries has many options for those in need. On the first floor, they have dining and tables for leisure. As you walk into the building you immediately feel a sense of happiness and appreciation in the air. When you enter the second floor, you enter the life enrichment center. This has private showers -- rare in other ministries -- and you can rent a locker for two dollars. Dégagé also has a place to do laundry and mailboxes that all are welcome to use. The third floor is known as “The Open Door,” a place where women at risk are able to stay for the night. According to Bonnie Mulder, an employee at Dégagé, they “house around 25 women each night and it helps women with their next step.” They also provide referral services when a patron is seeking a job. The last floor is the food pantry.

Though most people don’t realize it, Grand Rapids Community College actually has a role in the food distribution at Dégagé. Since 2005, GRCC has donated an average of $300 in food to the ministry each week. Before Nancy Rutludge, kitchen supervisor at GRCC, initiated the partnership, GRCC was forced to dispose of large quantities of perfectly edible food because GRCC follows a stringent dating system. Now, one of Dégagé’s regular drivers, Patrick, frequents GRCC every Monday collecting everything from basic ingredients like cheese to things like pre-made sandwiches. Through this partnership, GRCC has become more sustainable, and Dégagé’s food pantries stay stocked.

On any given day, you can walk past Dégagé and find several people standing outside the building. When one of these individuals, Dennis, was asked what Dégagé had done for him, he explained, “They helped me get my state ID, which is hard when you have no formal ID to begin with.” Dennis visits Dégagé three times a week and says it’s busy every time he goes there. He’s been very satisfied with the help he’s received: “I could sum it up in one word: tremendous.”

Dégagé is always seeking volunteers, especially those who can serve during the day. If you would like to offer your assistance, you can contact Bonnie Mulder at (616)-451-1661 or e-mail her at [email protected].


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