2016 02.15

Volunteer Spotlight



It would be no overstatement to say that over the past few years Jayme Dickinson has been one of our most faithful and loyal volunteers. What makes Jayme even more special is the fact that she came to 3MP as a frequent visitor more than three years ago. Then, upon entering high school, she began volunteering with us, desiring to be a part of the ministry that had impacted her deeply when she went through difficult times in her own life.

When not serving at 3MP, Jayme is a junior in high school, plays several sports, works, and is involved with her church in various activities. She first heard about 3 Mile Project from a member of her former church who helped with the construction of our facility on 3050 Walkent DR NW. Jayme remembers: “He told me that if I had trouble making friends at school, or if I was bullied, I could go to this newly opened place called 3 Mile Project. There would be staff and volunteers who would make every effort possible to make everyone feel like they belonged and were loved. “

For Jayme, this turned out to be true: “There was a great atmosphere here and I was able to come out of my bubble because there was no bullying. During a week of especially intense bullying in school, I came here to 3 Mile and shared with a number of the staff and volunteers. They sat down and talked with me and after that night, the whole week seemed much better.”

The reason why Jayme returns every week is because she wants to give other kids the same experience that she had. “I want to let them know that there are people out there who care for you, regardless of who you are and where you come from. I have a great memory from one of my nights of volunteering when I was playing Minecraft (a video game) with a lonely boy. After a while a group came up to him and asked if they could join in. They sat together all night and the lonely boy was smiling the whole time because he had made new friends.”

It’s always an encouragement for us to hear stories of how the ministry of 3 Mile Project touches the lives of young people from all over the Grand Rapids area. Jayme is a blessing because she is a constant reminder of why we are here. Thanks, Jayme, for your heart for young people.  We look forward to serving alongside you for years to come!

– Josef Disby, 3MP Intern and Kuyper College student


2016 01.21

Volunteer Spotlight



Chris has been volunteering with us at 3 Mile Project over the past two years and it is always a joy to have him around. His heart for young people and witty humor makes Chris an excellent fit and you will often find him playing basketball with the kids, working in the café, or in one-on-one conversations with our visitors.

During the day Chris works for a construction company and serves as the Senior Pastor at Redeeming Life Ministries in Muskegon. He first found out about 3 Mile Project through a local church event but it was not until his son became a regular visitor that Chris decided to get involved with our ministry.

“There is something unique about the atmosphere here at 3 Mile and the concept reaches every child that comes through these doors”, Chris says. “It has a huge potential to impact the kingdom of God.”

When I asked him about what has been the most rewarding experience so far, Chris replied: “I have had multiple one-on-one conversations with kids I don’t know. Every time I can make an impact in someone’s life is a blessing from God and helps build His kingdom.” And to the question of something memorable from his time volunteering, he responded: “Shooting hoops with Michigan State’s former star Allyssa DeHaan-Clark who happens to be a staff member here”.

Chris’ continued dedication to 3 Mile Project and the kingdom of God reminds all of us about the importance of why we are here. God has given us a field to sow and we want to be a part of scattering the seeds of faith, hope, and love in these young people’s lives by meeting them where they are, regardless of where they might be in their faith journey.

Thank you Chris for your service in bringing forth God’s kingdom through 3 Mile Project!

– Josef Disby, 3MP Intern and Kuyper College student

2015 11.12

The 3 Turns 5


As difficult as it may be for us to believe, the 3 Mile Project will celebrate its 5th birthday in just a couple of weeks.  I’ve spent a fair amount of time thinking about this over the past few weeks, marveling at how quickly five years can fly by and how we’ve been blessed as we’ve done our best to be faithful to God’s call to impact kids in West Michigan.

Because there was nobody out there for us to copy, we have to confess that we learned most of what we think we know after we actually opened the doors.  We did everything we could to anticipate what operating a 34,000 square foot youth center might entail but, at the end of the day, we knew that we were seeing only a small part of what God had in store for us.  We moved forward in faith, knowing that there was more on the horizon for us than we could begin to imagine.  And that has definitely been the case.

For example, we never imagined how kids would respond.  When we were remodeling our building during the summer of 2010 we’d look at each other every once in a while and ask, “What happens if we do all this and only 30 kids show up?”  The idea that we would have more than 19,000 individual young people visit us in our first five years of existence was beyond our comprehension.  Oh ye of little faith.

We never imagined the opportunity we’d have to partner with other organizations and ministries in our community.  We’ve already hosted 140 rentals during calendar year 2015 and we’ll easily reach 160 by the end of the year.  These partnerships support critical efforts by others to make even deeper impacts on the young people of our community.

We never imagined we’d become a matchmaking service.  We’ve had two couples get married who originally met as staff at the 3 with another marriage on the horizon for next July.

We never imagined we’d become an incubator for youth ministry professionals.  Four of our alumni have taken paying positions in youth ministry and we’d like to think that their experience here played some small role in that.  Equally important, we’ve developed a staff of mostly young people who are making an incredible impact in their communities, not only here but in their neighborhoods and their places of work.

We never imagined we’d be able to provide an important opportunity for young people to think and act beyond themselves.  By allowing high school students to volunteer here we’ve given young people the opportunity to serve and, by serving, to learn what it means to be a difference-maker.  I can’t wait to see how that experience impacts their lives in the future and, more importantly, impacts the lives of others with whom they come into contact.

We never imagined the impact we’d have on individual kids.  This is a hard thing to measure but we know we’re making a difference, not only from the things we hear but because of the kids who come back, week after week after week.  Many of these young people have been exposed to a different way of life – to a world where there are expectations about how you act and how you treat others.  They’ve also been reminded that there is a way of life that leads to hope, joy, meaning, and purpose.  The truth is, we’ll never know the depth of the impact we’re making.  We simply trust that our effort to be faithful to this ministry of softening hearts will be multiplied beyond anything we can do on our own.

Five years has flown by.  We’ve been blessed to meet so many great people and to be invited to be a part of their lives.  We are humbled by the opportunity to be a part of something so much bigger than any of us individually.  And we have learned that just when we think we’ve got it all figured out, God shows us something new.  I can’t imagine what the next five years will bring.

– Stan, Executive Director

2015 04.02

What This Place Really Needs

During a Saturday evening not too long ago I was stopped next to one of our basketball courts by one of our 5th grade visitors.  Looking up and without preamble she asked me, “Do you know what this place really needs?”

That question always stops us in our tracks.  In order to remain as fresh and relevant as possible we continually seek student feedback and are always ready to listen when one of our visitors is willing to give us their opinion.

“Why don’t you tell me what you think we need,” I responded, smiling with encouragement.

“Penguins,” she replied, like it was the most obvious answer in the world.  Unblinking.  Deadly serious.

My mind immediately went to the ramifications of having a colony of penguins in our building.  Penguins being tossed back and forth over our volleyball net.  Penguins on skateboards.  Penguins demanding anchovies on their pizza.  Penguin diapers.

She must have realized that she had lost me for a moment because she immediately added, “Wouldn’t that make this the coolest place ever?”

I couldn’t argue with that.  “Yeah, it would!” I replied.  But having had a minute to think, I was pretty sure I had found an out.  “But where would we get them?” I asked.

“The internet,” she replied without missing a beat.  “You can buy anything there.”  And away she ran, on to her next adventure.

Just to be sure, I typed ‘penguins’ into the search box on Amazon the next Monday morning.  I found stuffed penguins, penguin books, penguin duct tape, and even penguin Pez dispensers, but no live penguins.  I’m hoping they become available around the same time that Amazon starts using their flying drones for deliveries.  How cool would it be to see a penguin flying above the City of Walker on the way to its new home at the 3 Mile Project?  And forget about us, what about that penguin?  After millions of years of flightless existence that little guy would be the Orville Wright of his species!

Anyway, no penguins yet.  But you never know.

– Stan, Executive Director

2014 11.10


Most of us have had heroes in our lives that we’ve idolized and done our best to emulate.  Yours might have been an athlete, teacher, musician, business leader, or parent but, regardless, heroes can play an important role in our lives by providing encouragement, motivation, and an example to which we can aspire.

As a non-profit organization dedicated to investing in the lives of young people, we’re constantly on the lookout for heroes.  Those who volunteer their time here to make a difference in the lives of our visitors are certainly heroes in our book.  But at this time of the year, during our annual birthday celebration and fundraiser, our thoughts turn to another kind of hero:  those who can support our efforts financially.

In the nearly four years that we’ve been in existence we’ve hosted more than 17,000 individual young people during our regular open hours.  Our mission to provide a safe, exciting, and encouraging place where young people can invest time and build community has certainly resonated throughout our community.  The fact that we let kids in the door for $5 doesn’t hurt, either!

It should be obvious, though, that it costs us much more than $5 per visitor to operate this place.  In fact, our admission fee generates less than 20% of our annual budget.  The remainder is made up from a variety of sources, including fundraising.  As a charitable organization, we actively fundraise and, in fact, we will need to bring in nearly $200,000 in gifts this fiscal year to meet our budget.

We believe that there are those among us who have the means, passion, and desire to play a significant role in the lives of young people through the act of giving.  In other words, heroes.  Please consider making a charitable gift to the 3 Mile Project as part of our annual fundraising initiative.  You can give online by visiting or you can send a check to us at 3050 Walkent Dr. NW, Grand Rapids, MI, 49544.  We’re looking for heroes just like you!

– Stan, Executive Director

2014 09.03

School Year Schedule

Now that school is back in session it’s time for us to switch back to our school year schedule.  We maintain two separate schedules (summer and school year) as part of our effort to be available to as many young people as possible.  Being open on weekend evenings during the school year for our youngest visitors allows them to visit us without having to worry about getting up for school the next morning.

Beginning with the week of September 1 we will be open for high school students on Thursday evenings from 6-9 pm; 7th & 8th graders on Friday evenings from 7-10 pm; and Saturday evenings for 5th & 6th graders from 6-9 pm.

We’re now entering our fourth year of existence and are looking forward to another great year of investing in the lives of young people.  We have a number of exciting events and activities planned for the coming year and are looking forward to what’s in store.  As always, please feel free to contact us at with questions, comments, or concerns.

– Stan, Executive Director

2014 06.30

Rising Above the Darkness

We experienced our first power outage during open hours last Wednesday evening.  We were about an hour into the evening when the lights went out as the result of a storm in the area.  Our emergency lighting came on immediately and, after a few shouts of surprise, things calmed down and our staff was able to have a brief discussion about how to proceed.  Since the kids seemed to be having fun, we believed we could keep them safe, and it’s a significant undertaking to send everyone home, we decided to remain open and make the best of the situation.

Of course, we made some adjustments.  Recognizing that the darkness poses particular challenges we closed off portions of the building in an effort to bring everyone together.  We reassigned staff, knowing that we needed to be extra alert and aware.  And one of our enterprising staff members made a quick trip to Meijer, picking up a couple hundred glowsticks and then distributing them to everyone in the facility.  By recognizing the threat, remaining vigilant, coming together as a community, and spreading our own individual lights throughout the building we overcame the darkness and created a memorable evening.

As students were leaving at the end of the night we had a number of young people ask if we could turn off the lights again next week, too.  We have no interest in inviting the darkness to become a regular visitor.  It’s comforting, though, to know that we’ve been given the tools necessary to rise above it.

– Stan, Executive Director

2014 05.06

Seasonal Schedule

Our attendance follows somewhat predictable cycles, including a trend for lower attendance during the summer months.  That only makes sense.  There are times when it can seem like we get only four or five days of summer here in Michigan, so folks want to take advantage of every spare second of nice weather.  Unfortunately for many of us, our jobs get in the way of spending every day at the beach or cottage so we have to cram all of our summer activities into a few precious weekends.

This being the case, we’ve had a gut instinct for some time now that we’d be available to more young people in the summer months if we were open on weekday evenings rather than on weekends.  We recently confirmed our suspicions by surveying our list of fifth through eighth grade parents.  As a result, we’ll be instituting a new summer schedule beginning with the second week of June.  From then until school resumes in the fall we’ll be open on Wednesday evenings for 7th and 8th graders and Thursday evenings for 5th and 6th graders, from 6 pm to 9 pm on both nights.  As we have in the past, we’ll discontinue our hours for senior high students during the summer months.  From this point forward we’ll maintain two consistent schedules of operation:  our current hours during the school year and these new hours for the summer months.  The new summer schedule begins on Wednesday and Thursday, June 11 and 12.

As we did last summer, we’ll follow the lead of local school districts when it comes to advancing students, meaning that we’ll ‘graduate’ students to their next grade at the conclusion of classes this spring.  This means that students who complete the 4th grade this spring will be considered 5th graders when school ends and will be allowed to begin visiting our facility on Thursday, June 12.  Current 5th graders will be considered 6th graders when school ends and will also attend on Thursday evenings.

Current 6th graders will be advanced to 7th grade when classes end this spring and will attend on Wednesday evenings beginning on June 11, along with current 7th graders who will be advancing to 8th grade.  Further, since we suspend high school hours for the summer, we’ll allow existing 8th graders (freshmen in the fall) to continue to attend throughout the summer on Wednesday evenings.

We recognize the fact that not everyone loves change.  But change with a purpose is a good thing, and we believe this new schedule will result in more young people staying connected to the community that has developed here.  We trust that you’ll enjoy your summer – should it ever arrive – and that we’ll continue to experience the privilege of investing in your child!

– Stan, Executive Director

2014 04.29

Be Ready.

Bullying is nothing new.  From the beginning of time there have been people who have used threat, intimidation, and force to exert their will over others.  If we’re honest with ourselves, we can all recall times in our lives when we’ve been the targets of bullies.  In fact, the names and faces of those who have threatened and embarrassed us are easy to recall, no matter how many years in the past those incidents took place.

The difficult truth is that there will always be people who feel the need to use their power to aggressively control or harm others.  Unfortunately, preaching a message that bullying is bad has never done much to put an end to this type of behavior.  Sure, we can do our best to be on the lookout for bullying and protect those who are targets, but the truth is that, even here, we can’t be a part of every conversation or interaction that takes place.   So, despite our best effort, it still happens.  And with the advent of social media, bullying has now moved from the relatively limited confines of the playground or locker room to a much broader audience on the worldwide web.

Think back again to the times in your life when you’ve been bullied.  Wouldn’t it have been great if someone had told you how to effectively deal with it?  Imagine if someone had given you a few simple techniques on how to avoid becoming a target or how to respond when someone tried to physically or verbally intimidate you or someone you knew.  We’re going to try to do that here.  We’ve formed a partnership with the Knights Lights group at Kenowa Hills High School to provide monthly seminars here at the 3 Mile Project to equip young people with tools to respond to bullying.  Knights Lights is a group of high school students who are passionate about helping young people deal with bullying.  Many of them have stories to share about being bullied.  Some of them admit to having been bullies themselves.  So once a month they’ll be here during our open hours, sharing practical tips on how to respond to bullying.  They’ll provide a brief twenty minute presentation that our visitors can choose to attend and then stick around to answer questions and interact with younger students.  The first presentation will take place on Friday, May 2, for our 7th & 8th graders and again on Thursday, June 5 for our 5th & 6th graders, and then continuing to alternate on a monthly basis.

Bullying is ugly, hurtful, and dangerous.  We will continue to do everything in our power to put a stop to it here at the 3 Mile Project and to help those who bully recognize that being mean and hurtful does not lead to an abundant life.  In addition, however, we want to help young people put some practical tools in their toolbox that will help them overcome bullying when they experience it.  Thanks to the Knights Lights for helping us make this happen!

– Stan, Executive Director

2014 03.17

Child Sues Parents

The following is a commentary written by Ruben Navarrette and is reprinted from the Washington Post Writers Group:

“Mexicans have a saying that should serve as a warning to today’s parents, not only south of the border but also in the U.S.  It loosely translates as:  ‘If you raise crows, they’ll scratch out your eyes.’

Believe it.  Just ask Sean and Elizabeth Canning, of Lincoln Park, N.J.  Their 18-year-old daughter, Rachel, is now perhaps the most famous spoiled brat in America.  She is also an epitome of the millennial generation but really ought to be rebranded ‘Generation E’ – for entitlement.

The Cannings seem to have been in denial that they had raised a crow until they got served with legal papers.

Rachel is suing her parents for support.  Having left home (she either ran away or was kicked out, depending on whose version you believe), she asked a court to declare she is ‘unemancipated’ and order her parents to pay tuition for her private high school, cover her living expenses until she can support herself and spring for her college education.  She also wants mom and dad to cover her legal bills.  You know, the ones she incurred by suing them.

Maybe Rachel’s parents do owe some restitution – not to her but to the rest of society.  They seem to have helped her get off course.

Sean Canning, a former police chief, admits he was better at laying down the law with the officers under his command than with his daughter.

I’m a liberal, liberal parent,’ Sean told the New York Post.  ‘I wish I could have grown up in my house.’

You have to wonder if the chief has figured out that, with young people, being too lenient often does more harm than being too strict.

From media reports, it seems the Cannings wanted to raise a child with a lot of self-esteem.

Mission accomplished.  When you sue your own parents, you’re no shrinking violet.  The trouble is, what Rachel Canning has is what psychologists call ‘cheap’ self-esteem.  The real thing comes from striving, failing, persevering and eventually succeeding.

When the Cannings finally demanded that Rachel do chores and adhere to a midnight curfew, she rebelled.

Of course.  You set rules and expectations for your kids when they’re 8, not 18.

Rachel got the money to file the lawsuit – $12,000 – from the parents of a friend.  John and Amy Inglesino say they’re footing the bill, and letting Rachel stay in their home, because they want to see her realize her potential.

If there is an unspoken code between parents, the Inglesinos have demolished it.

At this point, the Cannings claim that they just want to put their family back together.

‘We love our daughter,’ Sean Canning told the Post.  ‘She’s our pride and joy.  The door is wide open.  We want her to come home.’

That’s another mistake.  Rachel made her choice, and now she has to live with the consequences.

Recently, a Superior Court judge denied the request for private school tuition and living expenses.  Another hearing will be held in April to decide whether the Cannings have to pay for college.

Let this be a cautionary tale.  Too many parents are lost.  They set out to care for their children and wind up coddling them, which only makes their offspring whiny and weak.  Before long, the kid is convinced that the adults – parents, teachers, ministers, coaches, etc. – are nothing more than a fleet of personal assistants whose only job is to ensure that the precious little darling experiences a constant state of bliss.

Too many parents today seem to be traumatized by how strict their own parents were, and they’re determined to do the opposite.  They obsess over whether their kids are happy, indulge every whim, and strive to be their child’s ‘BFF.”  Before long, the kid loses respect for them and pushes them around.  Every day, at little league games or school events, I see parents bullied by their kids.  A few are being outright terrorized.

And you know the rules.  You don’t negotiate with terrorists.”