A Message from our Founder and Former Director

Our social enterprise nonprofit model includes revenue producing services that provide opportunities to earn an income as well as partner-supported programs designed to serve the most vulnerable and the common good.

Customers and municipal partners that hire us and donors who give to us, directly contribute to job creation, the training of under resourced individuals, and the personal growth and life transformation of community members who are healing broken relationships and overcoming addiction and lack of housing.

When our neighbors are...


We invite them to join our Public Works Program when we met them standing on the curb looking for work and income.

At Risk

We invite them to join our Skills Training Program, and they are often referred by Mel Trotter Ministries.

increasingly stable

We employ them to provide Wood Products & Manufacturing Services and/or Construction & Renovation Services.


They’ve likely graduated from a program and/or gotten a job we helped connect them to. Some still receive mentoring and transition support.

SERVICES & Programs


In 2020, Next Step expanded its focus on workforce development, launching a recurring 7-week woodworking & job skills training program. This program provides opportunities to sharpen life skills as well as technical job skills in a supportive environment with access to connections for employment in our community. During the training program, participants design and build various wood products individually and collectively. They are trained to safely use machinery, power tools, and hand tools. Structured for hands-on, experiential learners, our Adult Wood Training Program provides valuable employment skills and ultimately job placement in woodworking, furniture making, manufacturing and construction industries.

We’re growing this area of our work and would love to discuss with your organization what it could look like to grow skill development opportunities in our community.

Wood Products Manufacturing

We design and manufacture a wide variety of wood products for customers ranging from national brands to local individuals who are compelled by our story but most importantly are pleased with our high quality and competitive pricing. Examples of products we produce include retail display units for grocery stores and markets all over the midwest, as well as bat and bird houses for conservation groups. We can also join your manufacturing process via kit and part assembly, bundling, bagging, labelling, sorting and inspecting. Ask about our CNC capabilities.​ Next Step is always looking for new job opportunities for our employees. Support our mission by letting Next Step bid on your next manufacturing project!

Public Works Program

We partner with cities and municipalities to clean up alley ways, city parks, public parking lots, bus routes and other public areas. We cut back and remove green overgrowth in neglected corridors, provide landscaping services on foreclosed and abandoned properties throughout the county and are on-call to respond to illegal dumping activities. These opportunities present a practical entry point for low-skilled work candidates, who may otherwise be soliciting handouts, and serve as an ideal place for some folks to get enough of a footing to prepare for their next step in life. Our current partners are the City of Grand Rapids and Kent County. Municipal partners who hire us to clean up public areas are providing opportunities for the most vulnerable individuals to start fresh.

Construction & Renovation

We offer general construction and renovation services to our partner organization, Mel Trotter Ministries, and others that provide low-income housing to those who need it most. We oversee and execute much of the work on both residential and commercial remodels. Construction has been part of our DNA from the beginning because the trades provide an excellent opportunity for training and employing those seeking a new start and opportunity to earn income. We’re thankful for the partners who have trusted us on the journey:

• Mel Trotter Ministries
• The City of Grand Rapids
• Guiding Light
• Degage

• Kent County Landbank
• Family Promise.

We’re open to developing new partnerships with affordable housing organizations. Please contact us to begin the conversation.


Next Step of West Michigan provides a foundation in wood product manufacturing combining technical, occupational, and life skills training for high school students to create career pathways and bridge the skills and employment gap in our community.

Next Step will be at Kent Career Tech Center (KCTC) on Feburary 7 & 8, 2024. Come visit our table!