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Caregiving Network Occupies Special Niche

February 3, 2012

This is the tenth in a series of articles on agencies that participate in the Midland County Continuum of Care.

One Midland church’s venture into lending a hand to people in financial crises has grown into a community endeavor known as Caregiving Network.

It began when members of Christian Celebration Center, having decided to extend care to people in need beyond the four walls of the church, incorporated the Caregiving Network as a non-profit tax-exempt entity.

Volunteer Receptionist Jane Langrill greets clients at Caregiving Network

Other Midland churches, and other interested parties, joined the effort to express Christian concern for neighbors by providing assistance to Midland County residents who are living below the poverty level and unable to meet their own basic needs.

Today, with a full-time executive director and part-time office and financial managers and more than 40 regular volunteers, Caregiving Network, Inc. operates pantries for food, clothing, and household essentials and offers financial assistance through its gas-card and care fund programs from its facilities at 607 Gordon St.

In 2010 the Network provided 2780 people with the equivalent of 56,000 meals and gave clothing to 917 clients. The gas card program, which enables clients to get to medical appointments and employment, benefited 134 people. The care fund helped 277 families stay sheltered and warm with rent and utility bill aid.

Caregiving Network occupies a special niche among local agencies serving people at risk of homelessness. According to executive director Tom Vander Zouwen, the organization has from its beginning intended that its outreach be unashamedly Christian, interdenominational, and evangelical. “We are here to share Christ by deed and word,” he said.

Staff and regular volunteers are Christians and members of local churches. People who come to the Network are encouraged to relate to a congregation, based on their religious background.

Vander Zouwen considers the location of Caregiving Network’s office and storage facilities a distinct advantage. “We are close to downtown, very accessible to the people we want to serve,” he said.

Caregiving Network also confronts its applicants about their lifestyles. “We want to break the cycle of poverty,” Vander Zouwen said. Applicants for assistance are encouraged along the path to self-sufficiency by teaching them to budget and learn what changes in personal habits can do to improve household finances.

Caregiving Network Executive Director Tom Vander Zouwen looks over supplies of essential household items

Caregiving Network Executive Director Tom Vander Zouwen looks over supplies of essential household items

Financial support for the Network comes from individuals (45%), churches (30%), businesses and grants (25%), and amounted to $190,000 for 2010. Another $182,000 worth of in-kind donations and the dollar value of volunteer hours brought 2010 total effective income to more than $405,000.

Contributions to Caregiving Network are highly leveraged by cooperation with organizations such as Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, Hidden Harvest, and the Midland County Diaper Network. The Community Garden on Jefferson Avenue provides hundreds of pounds of fresh vegetables. Donations of food and good used clothing are always welcomed.

The Caregiving Network owns property at the corner of Gordon and Grove consisting of a church, school, and home once owned by St. John’s Lutheran Church. The residence houses offices and some storage. Food Pantry, Clothing Pantry, other storage, and a prayer chapel are in the former school.

Local congregations which support Caregiving Network financially include Christ Covenant Church, Christian Celebration Center, Church of the Brethren, Community Church – Nazarene, Eagle Ridge Church of God, First Baptist Church, Messiah Lutheran, Midland Evangelical Free, Homer United Methodist, Midland Free Methodist, Midland Mennonite, Midland Reformed, New Life Vineyard, Poseyville United Methodist, St. John’s Episcopal, St. John’s Lutheran, St. Timothy Lutheran, Sanford United Methodist, and Sunrise Baptist Church.

Caregiving Network participates in Midland County Continuum of Care, a collaboration of 28 agencies working to prevent homelessness by providing housing-related services to those who are homeless or living in substandard housing.

Caregiving Network’s website is:


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