Building Bridges Professional Services is an innovative social enterprise that is working to eliminate poverty and holistically develop urban youth in the community. Building Bridges specifically works with youth ages 16-24 that are at a high risk for delinquency, unemployment, homelessness, and lifelong impoverishment. The program employs at-risk young people to deliver high-quality lawn care, landscaping, snow removal, and construction services on a fee-for-service basis, while holistically developing youth through spiritual discipleship, increasing employability andDontae Thumbs up job skills, teaching a strong work ethic, and providing youth with direct career paths.

Building Bridges Professional Services was initially developed in response to a report issued by a Grand Rapids Community Forum on Violence in 2006, which identified two systemic issues that contributed to youth violence and delinquency in the community: 1) a lack of accessible employment opportunities for local youth and 2) a lack of structured, collaborative, and consistent approaches to providing inter-agency services to families and youth. The report also called for a greater level of involvement from churches and religious leaders in responding to neighborhood problems, and the need for creating a sense of community in city neighborhoods. To address these issues, Building Bridges began in the summer of 2007 as a seasonal employment program for low income youth who faced barriers to securing a job. During its first summer in operation, Building Bridges employed eight youth to perform basic lawn care services, 82 percent of whom had a previous felony or misdemeanor charge, and 70 percent of whom had been involved with the foster care system.

In the years since its inception, Building Bridges has grown significantly and expanded its programming to holistically impact more youth participants. The program has grown from offering 8 part-time positions during the summer oJamal Weed whippingf 2007 to 30 full-time and part-time seasonal positions during the past year; additionally, in just the past two years, the program has grown from maintaining 70 local properties to over 300 at the present time, including a large number of foreclosed and vacant homes owned by the Kent County Land Bank Authority, Inner City Christian Federation, Habitat for Humanity, and other community development organizations. Furthermore, Building Bridges added a Construction Division in 2012, which has rehabilitated a number of vacant and foreclosed properties in some of the city’s most impoverished neighborhoods. The program also received a grant from the Area Agency on Aging (administrator for the Kent County Senior Millage) this past January to offer free and low-cost property maintenance services to low income seniors in the community.

Over the past year Pastor Artie Lindsay and Justin Beene have been working together to develop a deeper relationship between Building Bridges and Tabernacle Community Church that makes sense, is clear and aligns with each other’s missions and capitalizes on each other’s strengths while not adding any additional costs. We are pleased to announce that as of May 2013 Tabernacle Community Church’s elder team approved and formalized the relationship between the two parties and TCC is now a core partner of Building Bridges Professional Services, along with Bethany Christian Services’ Youth Services Department. We are excited about the opportunities offered by our new relationship! Specifically, Bethany Christian Services will recruit, screen, interview, and hire youth for the program as well as raise funds to pay for their wages and provide overall oversight of the day to day operations. TabernLawrence Smilingacle Community Church will hire all the professional landscaping and construction staff supplied by earnings made from rendered services. Additionally, TCC has already begun providing the program with spiritual discipleship and devotions, administrative support and advice, and a contract to take care of the grounds of TCC.

Over the next year, as you see youth maintaining the grounds or coming to church please be sure to pray for them and the program and welcome them into our communityTCC’s human resources and networks will be integral as the program pursues new initiatives for further development, including offering classes for youth participants on spiritual and personal growth, forging new partnerships with local businesses, and locating mentors for the young peopleWe believe that TCC’s community presence will be a valuable asset in assisting Building Bridges in living up to its full potential as a vehicle for community transformation.

For more information on Building Bridges services, visit their website at www.buildingbridgesprofessionalservices.com