Next Step of West Michigan is a faith based, social enterprise non-profit that provides job skills training, as well as employment opportunities in construction, manufacturing, and municipal clean-up that both stabilize and empower our teammates and result in high quality products and services for our customers.
We serve people who have barriers to employment—broken relationships, lack of resources, insecure housing, previous incarceration or addiction—but are determined to build a better future. This is possible when we engage with members of our community, inviting them to work shoulder to shoulder with us and helping them rediscover their identity as beloved, creative and full of dignity
We do this work in the 49507 neighborhood and greater Grand Rapids communities, at a time when our city is growing and we must decide whether we will allow the wealth gap to also grow, or if we’re dedicated to ensuring everyone in our city has equal access to resources and opportunities.
At the end of the day, our goal is to cultivate a sustainable place in our city where people can heal and grow through work and relationship—where all can thrive.
RESTORING: lives, homes, communities
To create a sustainable place where disadvantaged individuals rediscover their identity as beloved, creative and full of dignity. And ensure everyone in our city has equal access to resources and opportunities.
BY THE NUMBERS
In the past 12 years we have had the following impact through our social enterprise nonprofit model:
• 250+ individuals hired
• 265,000+ hours of paid work to vulnerable individuals
• Our financial model is 80% sustainable through our revenue
• Our 49507 neighborhood has a 25% unemployment rate, compared with 3.2% for the City of Grand Rapids.
• Historically marginalized neighborhoods like ours hold unlimited untapped potential.
David Bult - Executive DirectorDavid came to Next Step of West Michigan in summer 2020, leading Next Step’s adult and high school training programs. That summer also saw Next Step merge with Mel Trotter Ministries during founder Scott Jonkhoff’s time of leadership. In 2023, David took on the role of Executive Director at Next Step, overseeing our 4 divisions of skills training, wood manufacturing, city services, and construction. David’s passion is helping bridge the training and employment gap in the wood manufacturing and construction industries. He also finds joy in building relationships with others, working with gifted staff and volunteers, and experiencing God’s redemptive work in our community.
After 15 years abroad, David returned to his hometown of Grand Rapids. The bulk of David’s overseas experience was in Casablanca, Morocco where he started a furniture manufacturing company as well as a woodwork training center for underprivileged youth in the High Atlas Mountains. He still misses negotiating in Arabic and French, playing soccer, and a homemade Friday couscous.
David’s wife works in non-profit leadership serving southern Kent County and they just celebrated 28 years of married life and adventure together. While overseas, David completed his Masters in Furniture Design from UAL Central Saint Martins in London. He and his family feel blessed to be back in “Furniture City” Grand Rapids, and grateful for God’s open door at Next Step.
Bill Pettinga - Project ManageerBill Pettinga began working at Next Step of West Michigan in 2008 to help with the supervision of projects and the men that were passing through Next Step at the time. Bill brought 25 years of experience as a Design Build contractor to be part of the team that has established Next Step as a reliable General Contractor and Manufacturer.
As part of the leadership team, Bill has walked with Next Step through seasons of growth and challenge, while managing projects and partnering with the City of Grand Rapids among others.
The 100 Garden Street project was especially satisfying, and Bill finds great pride in building the current home of Next Step of West Michigan as a LEED Certified renovation.
Bill not only knows about building physical structures, but also, with God’s help, rebuilding a life after poor choices and alcohol abuse tore it down. This explains Bill’s passion and drive to walk alongside others to encourage and offer help as they rebuild their life.
Phil Nellis - Manufacturing and Public Works ManagerPhil Nellis manages our Manufacturing of Wood Products and oversees our Public Works crews. He and his family found Next Step when they were moving from Seattle in 2018 and he still can't believe a place like this exists.
Phil has 10 years experience as the senior pastor and as many years teaching master's courses as an adjunct professor at The Seattle School of Theology and Psychology (where he earned his MDiv). When he shifted out of full-time vocational ministry, his serious woodworking hobby landed him in a reclaimed industrial furniture shop in Seattle. After years doing this OR that, he realized that he prefers BOTH/AND.
Phil brings a blend of leadership, craftsmanship and a heart for healing and justice. Additionally, his experience growing up in Oaxaca, Mexico gives him a valuable multicultural perspective and bilingual ability.
Phil and Ruth have been married almost 20 years and have three wild pre-teen and teenage boys. As a father, he is always thinking about healthy masculinity and cultural currents. He is an outdoors enthusiast, artist, student of grief, hungry for joy. Phil is also a Spiritual Director and looks forward to sitting by fires in just about any weather if the conversation is rich.
Chris Austin - Public Works Lead Site SupervisorChris is the Lead Site Supervisor for our Public Works crew that cleans up parks, parking lots and bus stops in the city of Grand Rapids. Before joining Next Step in October 2020, Chris had a broad background in pastoral ministry, facilities management, retail management and sales. He is passionate about the investment and impact that Next Step has with individuals and in the larger Grand Rapids community.
When Chris is not working you will find him pastoring in the village of Sheridan, spending time with his wife, Jean, his two children and their families including his 5, soon to be 6, grandchildren. He loves to spend time on the water kayaking, fishing, and swimming or in the woods hiking and hunting, usually in the company of a family member.
The rest of the Next Step team are hard-working and talented people. Our teammates have history or circumstance out of their control that has held them back, but all of them are turning over a new leaf. Everyday, they build more than just products and inspire and support each other in a rare and inspiring way. Our teammates have much to teach the rest of us about life, and we’re grateful they choose to be a part of this organization.
In 2007 Next Step of West Michigan was formed as a 501c3 when our founder responded to a need: men in our community that needed work opportunities but were consistently met with closed doors. That year, three guys were hired to do cleaning, trash-outs, and simple maintenance work. In a few short years, the organization experienced tremendous growth. By 2009, Next Step had become a community development partner with the City of Grand Rapids and joined the Neighborhood Stabilization Program as a contractor. Over the next 4 years, we completed 11 full home remodels, putting at-risk folks to work and providing on-the-job training in the trades.
The opportunities to engage more people in more work kept coming- only now by way of manufacturing. In 2011-2012, we partnered with Starbucks to create bracelets for retail sale across the nation. We shifted gears and hired 22 employees, and over the next 7 months assembled, packed, and shipped over 25,000 bracelets a day. We have been engaged in manufacturing ever since as a way to offer employment to individuals with various levels of skill.
By 2017, the annual budget of Next Step exceeded $1.5 million, with 18 full-time employees on the payroll. We moved into the completed portion of our new 100 Garden SE location and started a new wood products manufacturing division.
In 2018 we partnered with the City of Grand Rapids to engage folks standing on the corners asking for help with work opportunities- every year since, our crews have cleaned the alley-ways of our city, removing green growth and brush and hauling litter and garbage to the dump.
In 2020 we were impacted by COVID19 along with the rest of the world. This impressed upon us the precarious nature of our neighbors’ economic stability and access to resources here in the 49507 zip code of Grand Rapids. The pandemic reinforced the urgency of our mission and vision to continue in our construction partnerships to offer low income housing, to persevere in our manufacturing and public works so we can offer employment and to launch a job skills training program to equip folks for the job market and link them to potential employment opportunities.
In 2021, we hope to continue to grow our job skills training program and expand our public work services to the city and the county. We will continue to work to provide low income housing through our construction and remodeling efforts and steady employment through our manufacturing program.