Dégagé Ministries transforming lives through practical service


Photo courtesy of therapidian.org

Every day, nearly 500 people walk into Dégagé Ministries to receive shelter from the cold, a warm meal, a shower, as well as many other services provided by volunteers and staff. It’s located off of Division Avenue and Cherry Street, and nestled among the specialty shops of the Heartside Neighborhood in Grand Rapids. Dégagé, meaning “to be at ease” in French, fits the mission statement of the ministry, “To reflect the love of Christ to all who come through our doors by building relationships and offering programs that foster dignity and respect.” The Calvin Food Recovery Network contributes to the meal serving program by donating unserved food from the dining halls.

The people who experience hospitality at Dégagé struggle from overwhelming hardships: unemployment, disability, addiction and others. Dégagé workers walk alongside these people to find them housing, jobs and independence. Most importantly, Dégagé volunteers want every individual they serve to know that they are not alone in their hardships. Patrons are greeted by name, encouraged and invited to prayer circles and Bible studies.

Dégagé’s services try to fill the gap of need-based services in that mission field. Dégagé charges small fees for meals and other essentials so people may find dignity in caring for their own needs. Additionally, instead of giving money to panhandlers, Dégagé hands out vouchers for meals, showers, laundry, haircuts, and for long term support like ID assistance, housing searches and shelter for women.

Dégagé doesn’t receive federal funding. The majority of its sponsorship comes from individual donors, businesses and churches form various denominations. LaGrave Ave CRC, right up the road from Dégagé, supports the mission in more ways than one. LaGrave members serve at Open Door as donation drivers, cooks, food servers and assistants for abused women.

Outreach Minister Rev. Mike Hoogeboom has served at Dégagé since 1989. Hoogeboom emphasized  how discipleship is done there: “Everything Dégagé does is because they believe people have value as image bearers of God.”

Hoogeboom continued, “Our members and the people at Dégagé are separated by a socioeconomic gap. Dégagé helps bridge that gap when we eat, play games and hang out together. We need Dégagé as much as they need us. They’re helping us learn to love our neighbors by showing us that we are not so different from each other.”

The Food Recovery Network sends food to Dégagé every week. Megumu Jansen, senior, said, “FRN has been donating food to Dégagé for many years now, and we’ve begun to help them in other aspects of what they do. Just last semester, we began helping out with the bingo games that they do during their dinner service.”

The ministry’s meal programs also strive to be environmentally sustainable by using rewashable rather than disposable dishware.

Bob Kreter, a staff member at Dégagé said, “Our patrons feel the love of Christ because all of us truly live out this mission. How do we gauge this? Our patrons tell us.” The ministry exists to show the love of Christ by serving the needs of struggling community in practical ways while empowering individuals to rise above their challenges.

Learn more about Dégagé and support its programs by visiting degageministries.org or volunteer with the Food Recovery Network by emailing [email protected].