The Rapidian

International Gala Marks UCOM’s 25th Anniversary

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UCOM 25th Anniversary Gala

When: September 21st, 5:30 - 7:30

Where: 1311 Chicago Dr Sw, Wyoming MI

Tickets: $60 ind. or

$500 for a table of 10

Come and Celebrate 25 years of UCOM!

Tickets can be reserved by visiting:

Family at UCOM

Family at UCOM

Tuesday, September 21st from 5:30pm to 7:30pm United Church Outreach Ministry (UCOM) will host a gala dinner in honor of their 25th anniversary featuring international cuisine and honoring community leaders who were instrumental in founding the organization.  Tickets are $60 each or $500 when you sponsor a table for 10.   Only 200 tickets will be available for the event to be hosted in a big tent in UCOM’s parking lot at 1311 Chicago Dr SW.  Tickets may be purchased online by clicking on the Faces of UCOM banner at, or by calling 616-241-4006.

            The event which kicks off a major fund-raising initiative for this faith-based community service organization honors some of the founders of UCOM, including the founding president, Elizabeth Dole; the Rev. Ken Whitwer and the Rev. Dr. David Lee Smith; and Jan Williams, who for 17 years served as program director and administrator for the organization. The Rev. George Heartwell, mayor of Grand Rapids, and a long-time UCOM supporter, will present the awards.

             For 25 years UCOM has been striving to help the people of Southwest Kent County better themselves and for 25 years it has been an agent of hope and compassion in a community in desperate need of both.

            Over the past quarter century much has changed at UCOM.  From its origins as a small food pantry with its after school tutoring program called Homework House, the organization has grown and blossomed into nearly two dozen different programs.  Whether through its work as a VITA (volunteer income tax assistance) site, its partnership with the Humane Society (as a site offering low cost veterinary services), or through the growth of its founding program Homework House (serving 400 students in two area schools and in the early stages of developing a third site), UCOM continues to challenge the notion of the organization as a traditional food pantry.

            Though quite different today from its initial incarnation, the food pantry aspect of UCOM remains.  In fact, the food pantry has grown to become one of UCOM’s most recognizable components.  As one of UCOM’s founding programs the food pantry initially served only a few dozen families, however UCOM has grown into one of the largest food pantry/resource centers in West Michigan.  It currently helps over 60,000 individuals annually.

             Yet according to Executive Director Bruce Roller the emphasis for the organization going forward promises to be elsewhere.  The pantry will surely be a key piece of the puzzle in the future he says, but the goal is to reduce the number of families dependent on the pantry’s emergency services.  Other programs, such as UCOM’s long running financial skills program and the community and urban gardening program still in the planning phase, aim to lift members of the community to the point where they can be more self sufficient and will need fewer emergency food services.

            Many things have changed at UCOM since it was founded 25 years ago and while much more will likely change over the next 25 years UCOM intends to remain in the community that gave it life.  25 years from now when UCOM is celebrating its 50th anniversary it may be a very different organization than it is today, but there should be little doubt that it will be continuing the promise inherent in its motto, “Resources for Living, Hope for Life.”

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