Lifes Challenges Drive Pearce

September 26, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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ROCKFORD — Similar to those he strives to help, Tom Pearce doesn’t back down from a challenge.

Pearce, the executive director of the North Kent Service Center began his life of ministry at a young age and has continued to this day. It was also at that young age that Pearce discovered his passion to help the disadvantaged, two interests that exist in his career at the NKSC.

But Pearce’s story begins as a college student at Grand Rapids Baptist College, now Cornerstone College where he studied communications and drama, while becoming a youth pastor at five different churches across the state. After graduating from Grand Rapids Baptist, Pearce worked in a church outside of Detroit, where he stayed for two years before deciding to apply to the seminary at Grand Rapids Baptist.

During the application process however, Pearce received a call from the college asking if he would be interested in becoming director of admissions for the college and the seminary – a position Pearce could not turn down.

“It was an opportunity to use my faith to reach the needs of the community and to speak and recruit for the college,” said Pearce. “I worked there for three years and then decided it was time to try other things and really develop my passion to help the disadvantaged.”

For the next few years Pearce worked with Mel Trotter Ministries and spoke in churches and in the community to raise awareness of the program’s resources, needs and services.

During his time there he was asked to start a substance abuse recovery center in Alabama, from scratch – another challenge he stepped up to. The Shoulder, which started in Texas, asked Pearce to start the new recovery center as well as serve as its executive director.

“I was intrigued to start something new,” said Pearce. “I got started and then was able to help them hire my replacement when I left to come back to Michigan.”

Pearce and his family moved back to the area to be close to family and return to a familiar life, while Pearce worked for a year with his hands in numerous projects for Mel Trotter and other organizations in the area.

In 1990 Pearce happened to be looking through the paper for different opportunities at a full time level, it was then that he came across an advertisement seeking a new executive director at NKSC.

When he applied for the position Pearce took the initiative and asked to come and tour the facilities, something no other candidate had asked. And something that impressed the retiring executive director at the time, weeks later, Pearce had the job.

Today, he leads NKSC, an organization founded in 1973 as a place where people in need could go to receive crisis help. It served as a relief to churches who were suffocated by all those in need, and also could offer extended services that some churches could not.

Starting out as Rockford Community Service Center, NKSC then expanded its services to all of Kent County and changed its name to reflect the change. Two years ago the organization experienced additional growth and moved from a 6,000 square foot building to a 16,000 square foot building to accommodate all the services it currently offers.

“We are more than just a food drop off center, although that is a main resource we offer,” said Pearce. “We also offer Meals on Wheels to seniors who can’t leave their homes, financial assistance with tax preparations and counseling for those in need. We really built on what was being done and doubled the number of families that now receive our help.”

Pearce said NKSC’s mission is to address the need of the community and asses what the emergencies are of families in the area and to address it and expand on the basics of what can be offered.

For example, Pearce said finding jobs is a critical issue for many families in the area currently, and as the organization grows he said he would like to identify ways to help families with that need.

And to meet the needs of so many families Pearce said he also sees the importance of partnerships and joint projects. For financial advice and counseling, NKSC works with several financial experts, as well as for life and basic skills classes, conflict resolution, parenting, hygiene and job seeking.

“I don’t believe in reinventing the wheel, if there is another organization out there that specializes in a service, why not go to the experts,” said Pearce. “There are so many needs in the community and we realize we can’t fix everything but to give people the resources to help themselves until they get back on their feet is very rewarding. We are moving as quickly as we can but we are really trying to be proactive instead of reactive.”    

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