New leadership inspires community partnerships, more resources for nonprofit

Published 7:55 am Wednesday, April 3, 2019

NILES — When people in need walk through the doors at the Ferry Street Resource Center, nonprofit leaders want to ensure that they get more than help to keep their lights on.

Since late last year, the organization has transformed, bringing in new leaders and a vision to broaden services and give residents in need life-long skills.

For more than 10 years, the Ferry Street Resource Center, 620 Ferry St., has provided social service resources to community members. In November, Ric Pawloski was chosen to serve as the executive director and continue that legacy. Pawloski replaced Greg Nasstrom, who decided to leave the organization.

Harry Lockridge, the board president, said Pawloski’s leadership had changed the way the Ferry Street Resource Center operates and its overall goals. 

“Our main focus [had] just been to provide services, but Ric’s vision has been to get people to be sustainable and not be dependent on services all their life,” Lockridge said.

One of the significant changes residents will see is a focus on uniting the Ferry Street Resource Center with multiple community partnerships that can assist people with more than their immediate needs.

“How do we get them from, ‘I can’t pay my electric bill,’ to working?” Pawloski said. “We know [basic needs] are important, and we know that’s necessary, but it’s also important to provide people with an opportunity to be sustainable as opposed to being here for emergency assistance.”

GateWay Services is among the new partners with the nonprofit. Connecting with Ferry Street has allowed GateWay to find more people who could benefit from the GateWay to Greatness Jobs for Life program. Through the program, those struggling to find employment get expert help and coaches to help them find a career path.

Since partnering with Ferry Street, Tim Smith, the executive director at GateWay Services, said Jobs for Life has more than doubled the graduating class in the program.

“When Ferry Street feeds those clients to our program, we will take as many as they want … because we are serving people here,” Smith said.

Pawloski also works for GateWay, serving as the organization’s program director for the Jobs for Life program. While he holds two separate titles, he said his responsibilities involve intermingling the services both entities can provide.

Pawloski wanted to bring other community partners on board that could continue to help residents in need to facilitate life skills. Chemical Bank is another partner that will be working with the nonprofit to start offering financial literacy courses. Residents will also see partnerships with the Berrien County Friend of the Court and many other community partners. Pawloski wants to see Niles provide the number of social services that can be found in the northern part of the county.

“The goal is to try to build a bridge between north and south [county], so bringing resources that they have to access in the north [here],” Pawloski said.

Overall, people in need can find services in emergency and housing assistance and resident resources, such as employment services and the Area Agency on Aging, to name a few.

In the time that it has served the community, Lockridge said the nonprofit had faced some challenges with meeting financial goals. This has led to cutting employee hours to make up for the difference.

Through their newly found partnerships, Pawloski hopes to see the Ferry Street Resource Center have a greater outreach and therefore spread the word about what the organization does. By spreading the word about how they can help the community, Pawloski hopes to see it influence donors to contribute to the organization. 

Lockridge, who has served on the board for more than 10 years, said those who visit the Ferry Street Resource Center would notice a difference in professionalism and focus on growth.

Looking to the future, the nonprofit leaders said they look forward to seeing what the Ferry Street Resource Center can achieve.

“I’m excited for where we are headed,” Pawloski said.

The Ferry Street Resource Center is open between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday to Wednesday and 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday. To learn more about the organization, visit