About Mel Trotter Ministries

225 Commerce Avenue SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503 | 616-454-8249 | meltrotter.org

Mission Statement: Mel Trotter Ministries exists to demonstrate the compassion of Jesus Christ, through rescue and restoration for anyone experiencing hunger and homelessness.

Vision Statement: Through the power of Christ, bring an end to homelessness in West Michigan, one life at a time.

In 1899, city leaders in Grand Rapids discovered an influx of homelessness and addiction. They called the Pacific Garden Rescue Mission in Chicago for help and Melvin E. Trotter, a former homeless and hopeless alcoholic, was tapped to start the Grand Rapids City Rescue Mission in 1900. In his forty years of running the Mission, he tapped many others to help start 68 other Rescue Missions across the country.

1870-1900: Melvin Trotter's Transformation

Born in 1870 in Orangeville, IL to an alcoholic-bartending father and a Christian mother, Melvin E. Trotter had little schooling. By age 19, he was drinking and gambling heavily. In 1891, he met and married Lottie Fisher. Sadly, Mel continued to drink and gamble, causing his family to lack necessities. Following ten days of a drinking binge, Mel went home and found that his two year old son had died. He promised his wife he'd never drink again, but in just two hours he broke his vow. Abandoning his family, Mel ended up homeless and suicidal in Chicago. On his way to drown himself, Mel was pulled inside the Pacific Garden Rescue Mission. There he heard of God's redemption of another alcoholic and accepted Jesus Christ as his Lord.

Through Christ, Mel conquered his addiction and claimed 2 Corinthians 5:17 as his favorite verse: "If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature." Mel quickly found a job, was reunited with his wife, and became very active at the Mission. In January of 1900, he went with the Mission’s superintendent to Grand Rapids, MI. There, Mel became the superintendent of a new Mission. On February 24, 1900, it opened at 95 Canal Street.

1901-1940: Mel's lifetime of Service

Soon the Grand Rapids Mission moved to a new building on Market Street, which seated 750, the largest Mission auditorium in the country. In 1906 the Mission purchased the old Smith Opera House, which could seat more than 1,300. The old opera house was the home of the Mission until 1956.

Trotter, along with his brothers George and Will, helped to open 67 Missions across the country. In April 1940, he was stricken while doing Mission work in North Carolina, and never fully recovered. He died on September 11, 1940. Trotter's body is entombed in the Graceland Mausoleum in Grand Rapids Township.

1941-1968: The war and social upheaval

Between the time of Mel Trotter’s passing and the start of WWII, John Shy became the MTM leader. During the hardships of the home front, we cared for the hungry and hurting of our community, did our part for the war effort, and offered support and prayers to servicemen.

By 1951, Rev. John W. Kershaw became our interim superintendent, and his ministry changed with the community. During the 1960s, our community’s needs changed even more dramatically, and we turned our focus to young people, children, and families. A great achievement of this time was the founding of Camp Mel Trotter, a free camp created to protect children from the daily problems of inner city life.

1960-1999: An Era of Growth

As always, MTM continued to update its services to meet the community’s needs. In 1970s, we saw increasing numbers of men in their late teens and early twenties with substance abuse problems. To help them, we opened the first licensed Center for Substance Abuse Services (CSAS) in the Heartside District.

As more disadvantaged families struggled to meet their own basic needs, we started our Annual Back-to-School Day to distribute school supplies, and our Christmas Adopt-a-Family program. We also purchased the neighboring four-story John K. Burch building, which gave us the room to open our Women and Children’s Shelter, the largest facility of its kind in West Michigan.

In 1999, MTM started a vehicle donation and auto sales program, which enabled us to offer vocational training to our residents. The vehicles our residents reconditioned were sold to raise revenue for our ministry.

2000-today: A New Century with New Approaches

Finding new and better ways to meet the needs of the Grand Rapids Community has always been the goal of MTM. Doing this requires revenue. To this end we opened five retail locations that directly support the work of the ministry..

We also found a new way to assist publicly intoxicated people by taking a leading role in the Grand Rapids Public Inebriates Task Force. Thanks to the program, intoxicated people are no longer brought to expensive hospital emergency rooms. They’re brought to specially equipped facilities at our shelter, where trained staff can monitor and assist them..

To help live-in recovery program residents, we offer free or greatly reduced dental, vision, and chiropractic services from local medical professionals. This strengthens their ability to become healthy, self-sufficient and productive. Moving forward, we’ll continue to find effective new ways to help the hurting and homeless of our community.

For More information on our history, please visit our website: https://www.meltrotter.org/themission/history