By Jami Gibson

This month, I started volunteering at a local community center. Baxter is an inner-city neighborhood in Grand Rapids that has a 33% poverty rate in addition to crime and drug issues. In order to help and restore hope to the residents of the neighborhood, Baxter Community Center (BCC) has been serving the needs of the community for over 40 years.

BCC addresses the basic needs of individuals both young and old. They not only provide youth mentoring services, but also daycare and child development activities to assist working parents and create a safe haven for children after school. The center even offers wholistic health services to treat the mind, body, and spirit.

What I find rewarding about helping out at Baxter is that the community center isn’t just putting a band-aid on a problem, but rather, they are trying to fix the core issues by helping individuals become productive and self-sufficient. They provide tax preparation and financial services, but they also offer classes on money management, budgeting, and goal setting to help residents achieve financial independence. They supply families with clothing and food, and in addition, offer classes on how to plant and maintain a backyard garden and provide the residents with seedlings to start that process as well.

Further, the residents and volunteers help to maintain a community garden – planting, tending to, and harvesting the crops. Once a week, residents can take a cooking class to learn how to use these local, in-season crops to make healthy, inexpensive meals. In the late summer and fall, residents learn how to can and freeze the produce to preserve food for nutritional and financial benefit.

All of these services work together to instill a sense of hope and security in the people of the Baxter neighborhood while providing them with tools to be successful. It’s wonderful to see Baxter residents and volunteers work side-by-side for the greater good of the community.