Two social work professors, Vanessa Brooks Herd and Catherine Macomber, have been voted onto the board of a new non-profit called Saginaw Collaborative Inc.
The non-profit was formed to transform downtown Saginaw’s Warren Avenue Presbyterian Church into a space for multiple charity and community organizations.
The church has steadily lost parishioners over the years and no longer needs a building of the size of Warren Avenue Presbyterian. The 20,000-square-foot building has been a center for programs and services for many years.
“Many years ago, it was the site for SVSU interns that were working with the community center,” said Herd, who was voted in as vice-chair of Saginaw Collaborative. “At that time, several programs from the far east side (of Saginaw) were housed at the church because of the location.”
Herd and Macomber say the goal of Saginaw Collaborative is to serve community needs and provide services to the part of the city that may be forgotten as the downtown area develops.
“The presbytery wants (the building) to still be a part of the community,” Herd said. “Some of those smaller non-dominate clusters could be overlooked, and the church stands as a beacon for those groups to bring them into the conversation. … As things develop as it becomes more gentrified, we want to make sure that it retains some of the flavor that enriches a community.”
In addition to the services provided to community members, the collaborative will provide learning experience to the students at SVSU.
“We have lots of students, and those students need both volunteer hours at the beginning of their social work program and field placements at the end of their social work program,” said Macomber, who now serves as secretary of the Saginaw Collaborative. “So the opportunity here is for students to get hands-on experience out in the community working with individuals. My role … is to help grow this organization to something that will benefit the Saginaw community, but also the connection between the social work program and what our students can do to help benefit from those activities in downtown Saginaw.”
The organizations and board members are invested in the community at a personal level and are looking for organizations that can fill the church with resources for the community.
Over the course of the next few months, the board of directors will add more organizations and is looking to grow the services that will be offered at the site. They will apply for grants to fund and sustain the project and hope that it will serve as a self-sustaining beacon in the downtown community.