February 27, 2024

ICCF’s Earliest Volunteers

Before ICCF Community Homes became officially incorporated, before there was one paid staff member, before there was even an office, there were volunteers.

The beginnings of what would become ICCF started when an elderly woman named Mary Van Houte donated her house to Eastern Ave. Christian Reformed Church in 1973. At the same time, the congregation’s Social Concerns Committee had begun discussing ways they could alleviate the urgent housing needs in their neighborhood.

The following year, in 1974, eight people from the church put the two ideas together, pooled their money, and purchased the home from the church. Over the course of a year, working largely on weekends, they refurbished the house beautifully and sold it to a local family. They dubbed this new venture “Project Conserve.” Among those first Project Conserve members were Marlin Feyen, Vonnie Feyen, Ed & Ruth DeVries, Bob & Norma Van Koevering, Bill & Annette Byl, Frank & Sally Jonkman, John & Evelyn Hamstra, and Phil & Lynn Hamstra.

The next year, more friends joined Project Conserve, including Gilbert & Hermie Besselsen, Don & Minnie Hunderman, and Pete & Mary Niewiek. Annette Byl shared, “We credit God’s blessing for the growth of Project Conserve and later ICCF, and the impact they have had in our community.” Ed DeVries added,“We looked at it more like an opportunity than a challenge. We wanted to do something that would benefit the community.”

This small group of hardworking volunteers responded to the needs of their community in a tangible, back-breaking, and costly way. Pouring out their own time, energy, and funds, they created a place where one, then two, and then a dozen, and now hundreds of families find safety and stability. ICCF’s original volunteers identified a need, saw they could make a difference, and jumped in to help their neighbors. 50 years later, their work is still making a difference.

Do you have a story to tell about ICCF’s early days? We would love to hear from you! Submit stories and photos to [email protected]. This story first appeared in our Winter 2024 Blueprints newsletter. Click here to explore all stories from this edition. 

ICCF Community Homes

ICCF Community Homes is the oldest non-profit affordable housing provider in the state of Michigan. Active in the Grand Rapids area since 1974, ICCF serves over 2,000 households a year through its programs and services. Program offerings include Family Haven emergency shelter, over 700 units of affordable rental housing, newly constructed homes for purchase, homeownership education and financial counseling.

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