Fundraiser for Grace Center to be held at Railway Café

Published 9:43 am Wednesday, March 6, 2019

DOWAGIAC — With a heart for serving women and helping to educate local youth, Selina Ivens set out to open the Grace Center Women’s Day Care and Sarah’s House.

The Grace Center will double as a place for women to come for meals and home economics programming during the day and a location for youth tutoring during the evenings. Sarah’s House will be a halfway house for teens aging out of the foster care system and teens who have been emancipated from their guardians. As she continues moving toward the opening of the center and the house, Ivens is seeking funding and support for the programming she currently offers.

The only component lacking from the Grace Center is the center itself. Funds and donations gathered from the Pop-up Restaurant Fundraiser from 4  to 8 p.m. on Saturday, March 9 at Railway Café will go to support programs Grace Center already provides without a central location.

Ivens provides community service and support by making and delivering meals to local residents ages 70 and up who may not otherwise have meal support. With the elderly meal program, Ivens serves about 30 people. In the summer, the Grace Center Youth Camp week takes local youth to Dowagiac area offices, farms, departments and more to learn about how the Dowagiac community functions as a cohesive whole.

For Ivens, keeping Grace Center programming functioning is as essential to the community and the people she serves as getting the center itself open. Her desire to help her home community has always taken precedent over logistics.

“There are other things I can do in the community. I like organizing and putting things together. I love Dowagiac, and I’m glad to have grown up here and be a participating person like my dad and others in my family,” Ivens said.

Keeping the programming of the Grace Center operating is not a sole venture, however. Ivens is still actively preparing the location at 404 Front St. in Dowagiac to be the home of the Grace Center and Sarah’s House. She is planning for Sarah’s House to be up and running by fall of 2019 and hopes the Grace Center will be open in 2020.

Ivens is also looking forward to who will be involved with the Grace Center in the future. She hopes Southwestern Michigan College students looking to fulfill volunteer hours will consider tutoring local youth who come to the Grace Center.

Although there are several steps left to go before she is ready for regular volunteer staff, she will also be looking for more help as Sarah’s House moves into its final stages of opening, and she believes fundraisers like the one on Saturday will help gather interest.

Until the center and the house are open to serve the Dowagiac community, Ivens is continuing to do what she knows best: making savory food. At the Pop-up Restaurant Fundraiser, donors will get to taste Ivens’ rib tips, catfish fillets, barbecue chicken, baked beans, French fries, spaghetti and marble cake all for the price of a $10 donation. According to Ivens, it’s not only a taste of fundraising food, but a taste of her current work for the elderly meal program and a taste of what she will serve for women who come to the Grace Center.

“We try to keep people fed,” Ivens said. “I enjoy making food that helps people.”