In celebration of the 50 years of the Office of Race Relations (ORR), we are featuring the stories of people in the CRC who have been actively demonstrating a passion for multicultural congregations and a commitment to antiracism. We call people who have been exemplifying these ideals, “Champions of Justice.” These “Champions” are the nominees for the Dante Venegas award that will be presented at Inspire 2022 in Chicago next August.
We are proud to introduce Donna Molegraaf as one of these nominees.
Here’s a little more about Donna and her work:
Donna and her husband John have been members of New Life Christian Reformed Church in Spring, Texas since 1980. They have three children, seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Donna serves as the Executive Director of the Old Town Spring Heights Community Association, a group of churches that differ in ethnicity, culture, and denomination, that organized in 2006 to serve the Spring community. She worked at New Life for 20+ years and was involved in the forming of Old Town Spring Heights Community Association.
She was also the administrator of a large African American church in The Woodlands TX for eight years. As an administrator with a deep love for people, this work is near and dear to her heart. Building relationships through deep conversations has helped her better understand differences in perspective. Her administrative gifts, love for people and a commitment to God-given identity for everyone make her a champion of anti-racism.
Donna’s thoughts on her antiracism advocacy work:
“The Old Town Spring Heights Community (formerly referred to as “The colored people across the tracks”) is located just a couple miles from our church. Our pastor at the time, John Medendorp, heard about it because there were youth from our own church who knew it as a place to buy drugs. As he walked through the community, he met a pastor there who shared his vision for community transformation, and the idea for our organization was born. We joined with the Church of the Living God, Methodist, Baptist, Community Bible Church and Missionary Baptist churches to form our ministry.
This community had been visited by well-meaning white churches/groups in the past who would come in short term with the attitude of we are going to fix you, so residents were somewhat leery of us at first. We went in with the long-term goal of forming relationships. We bought a BBQ trailer and we started by having a “Day in the Park” every month and invited church members and residents for a free meal and some games and entertainment. As time went on, more and more people started coming.
We began listening to their stories and their felt needs. One of the first needs they identified was the need for street lights, so the first major project was to get 47 street lights installed. We ask residents to donate a small monthly amount to help fund them. As we worked on different projects with them, residents began to take pride in their community.
Another major project we have been working on for several years is restoration of the community’s cemetery, which we have had designated as a Texas Historical Cemetery.
Things we do regularly are:
- Monthly community meetings
- Community Worship Services at the different churches
- Pastor Swap Sundays between member churches
- Fellowship Events & Community clean up days
- Work projects at resident’s homes
Several years ago we hosted a few luncheons for the older women in the community to hear their stories and gather historical information. One exercise the facilitator did was to hold up pictures of various events in black history to get first reactions from the ladies. When she held up a picture of President Obama there were tears in many eyes around the table and I began to fully internalize what it meant to them to have one of theirs being president. It continues to be a privilege for me to be invited into the lives of my African-American friends and to learn from them.”