2019 ~ The Year of Pontiac

By Peggy K. Goodwin

At a celebration hosted by All Saints Episcopal Church, the Mission and Outreach Committee of Christ Church Cranbrook declared 2019 “The Year of Pontiac” and selected five key non-profit organizations to become their major partners for the year.  “The partners were chosen because of their impact on bettering the lives of people in Pontiac, our neighbors to the north,” said Senior Pastor Manisha Dostert of the Mission and Outreach Committee.

From feeding hundreds of people each week to providing wrap-around services, community gardens, recreation, tutoring and outreach to returning citizens, the five partners include:  All Saints Episcopal Church, Baldwin Center, Bound Together, Micah 6 and Oakland County Sheriff’s Office / Oakland County Jail.

While All Saints does many things for the community, they were especially moved when Pontiac was designated a ‘food desert’ by the Department of Agriculture.  “We realized a systematic response was required,” said Reverend Chris Berg, Associate Pastor of All Saints Episcopal Church.  In 2014, they marshaled the resources of their church and the community and launched a Saturday Breakfast and a Produce Market that feeds hundreds of people each week.  

Likewise, Coleman Yoakum founded Micah 6 in 2012 to address the food desert in Pontiac, but quickly expanded to include a church program, a community center and kids’ programs.  “Through planning, prayer and discernment, we moved to Pontiac, purchased Webster Elementary and will develop it into a small business incubator over the next three years, and expand our garden and play space for events in the community.”  

Elizabeth Longley of The Baldwin Center, one of Pontiac’s oldest non-profit organizations, stressed the importance of their Soup Kitchen, which provides at least one meal per day, six days per week, to hundreds of people.  “But we want to help people move from dependency to self-sufficiency.  Programs include the Soup Kitchen, Clothes Closet, health visits, support and training groups and youth services.

Bound Together was formed with one mission in mind:  To address the academic needs of elementary school children, grades 1-6.  “Our tutoring program makes it possible for children to thrive where they may struggle in large classrooms.  The greatest reward is to see a child blossom both academically and in life. We celebrate their success and provide structure and encouragement,” said Jane Porter, Executive Director.

Addressing the complex needs of incarcerated individuals in order to prevent recidivism is a major goal for the Oakland County Jail.  While providing ministry is the mission of the Jail and Outreach Ministry, Lt. Melissa McLellan, Jail Administrator, stressed the importance of helping incarcerated people with their overall mental and physical health needs while in jail, and providing basic needs to help set them up for success when they are released.  “More than 24% are homeless and 30% live with a mental illness, so support services and church partners are crucial if we are to prevent recidivism,” she said.

Christ Church Cranbrook is providing each partner with a grant of $5,000 and other resources.  They are encouraging the community to support these partners through support and volunteerism.  

Members of the Mission and Outreach Committee include Vanessa Boyce, Senior Pastor Manisha Dostert, Peggy K. Goodwin, David Jensen, Tim Miller, Blythe Murphy, Amy Ryberg, Melinda Saylor and Tiffany Morris-Street.  Please visit signupgenius.com for volunteer opportunities.