Good Samaritan Ministries

Bringing the whole family into the circle

Good Samaritan Ministries received a $45,000 multi-year grant from our Community’s Endowment to develop and launch the Circles Youth program which will support low-income youth in breaking the cycle of poverty by increasing academic engagement, goal directed behavior and relationship building skills.

When the first Circles class graduated in June of 2015, Good Samaritan Ministries held a picnic to celebrate and have an opportunity to hear from participants about the experience. “We wanted to get at the retention piece; what were the factors that were important to staying engaged and what were some of the barriers,” said Executive Director, Linda Jacobs.

“We kept hearing the theme of how important it was that their children be involved — that their children learn what they did not learn as children.”

The Circles program brings people of diverse incomes together to help low-income individuals and families achieve their financial goals.

While the program already offered childcare, Good Samaritan Ministries saw an opportunity to begin working with both parents and children in a more integrated way. This represents a two-generation approach which research shows is more effective at moving the whole family toward long-term economic stability than efforts that target only parents or only children.

As Good Samaritan Ministries began developing curriculum for the Circles Youth program, they found partners close to home and across the country.

With many families bringing preschool aged children to the program, Good Samaritan Ministries reached out to Ready for School to help design and deliver developmentally appropriate activities for the youngest participants.

Good Samaritan Ministries’ experience leading the Faith in Youth mentoring program for middle school students and facilitating asset-based community development through Neighborhood Connections offered them further insight in to how to best structure Circles Youth.

“Circles is a game changer because it allows us to leverage all of our relationships — all of the other things we’ve done over the years — and allows us to take everything we’re doing to the next level,” observed Jacobs.

The Circles program is available to adults in 80 communities around the country, and Holland/Zeeland was one Circles Chapter that identified the need for a complementary youth component. Good Samaritan Ministries is working closely with six other Circles sites around the country to test and refine Circles Youth curriculum.

Along with curriculum development, the Community Foundation’s grant has allowed Good Samaritan Ministries to hire a dedicated director for Circles Youth who has a master’s degree in psychology and brings significant experience working with school aged children and the behavioral and emotional issues they may be navigating.

“It has truly been a blessing,” said Rockandrea Frazier, who is participating in Circles with her two young children. “It’s helping me and my kids at the same time. We really enjoy it.”

For Good Samaritan Ministries, the Frazier family’s experience speaks to the heart of why the Circles Youth program matters. “Our mission is to end homelessness and poverty and this is what Circles Youth is all about,” said Board President and Circles Volunteer, Brenda VanderMeulen.

“You have to get at the systemic issues. I’m most excited to see kids who are starting to see that there’s another way to do things. I love that it is so simple and yet so profound.”

To learn more about Good Samaritan Ministries, visit

Featured in the Community Foundation’s 2015 annual report. Written by CFHZ’s Vice President of Community Impact, Elizabeth Kidd, in 2016 — we believe that stories of impact are timeless and always relevant.