People’s Church is located in Kalamazoo, a city in southwest Michigan equal distance between Chicago to the west and Ann Arbor/Detroit to the east. Each city is about 120 miles away and easily accessible by car along I-94. Many small lakes and rivers surround Kalamazoo and the much larger Lake Michigan is just a 45 minute drive to the northwest. Kalamazoo is the major city of the Kalamazoo/ Portage Metropolitan area, having a population of 350,000.
This unique name, “Kalamazoo”, is probably derived from a Native American word meaning “boiling water” which the early French settlers notated as they established this river town as an important trading post between Lakes Michigan and Huron. Later on, when it became a thriving 20th century city, Kalamazoo became known for its paper products, the Checker Cab, Gibson guitars, Upjohn Pharmaceuticals and the site of the nation’s first downtown pedestrian outdoor mall. Today, the cabs and guitars have gone, but the rich medical traditions remain and have expanded. Pfizer Pharmaceuticals has purchased the Upjohn Company, and from that union has emerged Zoetis, a global animal health company. Stryker Corporation, the international surgical and medical device manufacturer, uses Kalamazoo as home base. Recently, Western Michigan University has partnered with the two local teaching hospitals, to create the newly formed Western Michigan University School of Medicine. Construction of this new campus is helping bring people back to the city and revitalizing the developing downtown area. Other well-known businesses are A. M Todd Company, a leading producer of dietary spices and Bell’s Brewery, one of several fast growing local craft brewers in Kalamazoo.
Three excellent colleges have thrived here for many years. Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Community College educate some 34,000 students annually. The much smaller and highly regarded Kalamazoo College is one of the 100 oldest colleges in America. Recently, our public school system became nationally known for its innovative “Kalamazoo Promise” program. It was started in 2006 through the generosity of anonymous donors who wanted to encourage educational opportunities and advancement for all public school students in the city. Presently, every graduate of the Kalamazoo Public Schools is provided with a scholarship for up to 100% of tuition costs for up to four years at any university in the state. Because of this unique program, enrollment has increased and academic standards have steadily risen.
Kalamazoo’s climate offers full pleasures of the four seasons. Our proximity to Lake Michigan often provides us with abundant snow fall and the opportunity to enjoy winter sports. In return, the many surrounding lakes and rivers offer warmer activities during the long, pleasant summers. There are many parks within the city which are enjoyed any time of year, the most popular being Bronson Park, where Abraham Lincoln spoke a few words while on a campaign trail in 1856. Just north of town (near our church) is the Kal Haven Trail, a popular walking/biking path which leads through the country side to South Haven on the shores of Lake Michigan.
For a city of its size, Kalamazoo has a rich and varied cultural life. A popular Art Hop is presented each month where local artisans display their crafts in a large downtown bazaar. Other institutions, such as the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts, The Kalamazoo Valley Museum, the Kalamazoo Public Library (National Library of the Year 2002), and three performing theaters, are all conveniently located downtown.
In addition to the advantages of being a three college town, Kalamazoo is musically enriched by a multitude of regularly performing musical groups. The Kalamazoo Symphony, The Fontana Chamber Society, The Philharmonia Orchestra, The Bach Festival, Early Music Michigan and The Kalamazoo Singers attract many listeners. Various homegrown groups, ranging from folk and bluegrass to klezmer bands, perform in many local clubs throughout the city. Kalamazoo also hosts The Gilmore International Keyboard Festival, a biennial event which is recognized as America’s most prestigious piano festival.
Yet, within this culturally rich community, there is still a strong need in Kalamazoo for “helping hand” organizations to assist those in need. The most active agencies are Loaves and Fishes (food), Ministry With Community (homeless), Kalamazoo Gospel Mission (housing ), Open Doors (low income housing) and ISAAC (social justice). We at People’s Church are involved with all of these agencies by volunteering and providing support. It is an important part of what we do as a church community.
Southwest Michigan Population
Source: U.S. Census 2010, Claritas 2014
Southwest Michigan Households & Income
Source: U.S. Census 2010, Claritas 2014
Race & Ethnicity
Cost of LivingSource: ACCRA Cost of Living Index by the Council for Community and Economic Research|2014 Quarter 2
|Arena||Labor Force||Employed||Unemployed||Jobless Rate|
|Berrien County, MI||72,532||68,162||4,370||6.0%|
|Branch County, MI||19,677||18,520||1,157||5.9%|
|Calhoun County, MI||65,744||62,041||3,703||5.6%|
|Cass County, MI||25,484||24,136||1,348||5.3%|
|Kalamazoo County, MI||128,501||121,675||6,826||5.3%|
|St. Joseph County, MI||29,786||28,250||1,536||5.2%|
|Van Buren County, MI||35,387||33,291||2,096||5.9%|
Source: Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget, September 2014
Commute to Work
|Albion College||Albion, MI||4-year||Private||1,382|
|Andrews University||Berrien Springs, MI||4-year||Private||3,551|
|Glen Oaks Community College||Centreville, MI||2-year||Public||1,270|
|Kalamazoo College||Kalamazoo, MI||4-year||Private||1,379|
|Kalamazoo Valley Community College||Kalamazoo, MI||2-year||Public||11,052|
|Kellogg Community College||Battle Creek, MI||2-year||Public||6,002|
|Lake Michigan College||Benton Harbor, MI||2-year||Public||4,548|
|Southwestern Michigan College||Dowagiac, MI||2-year||Public||2,639|
|Western Michigan University||Kalamazoo, MI||4-year||Public||24,598|
Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), Early Fall Estimates: Fall 2012