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Grand Rapids auction helps unsheltered population express themselves through art

Art is an outlet to express some of humanity's biggest emotions. That's why Mel Trotter Ministries in Grand Rapids offers art therapy to its guests.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The warm sunlight shines through the windowed concourse at the Goei Center on the west side of town, illuminating dozens of works of art. Staff members from Mel Trotter Ministries set up this makeshift art gallery for hundreds of people to see.

On Thursday night, the Goei Center hosted Mel Trotter's second annual Art and Experience Auction. The event raised $30,000 for Mel Trotter's art therapy program, which gives people experiencing homelessness an outlet to express their sometimes-powerful emotions.

"We are seeing more guests than ever and as we have more folks come through our door, it's even more important to have additional programming for them. Art therapy is part of what we do." said Beth Fisher, who serves as Mel Trotter's chief advancement officer.

"Oftentimes when folks are experiencing a situation of homelessness, it can be traumatic, as we know, and when there aren't words to put to what those experiences feel like to individuals, art is one way to get that point across."

The works of art up for bid on Thursday night were donated by local artists, many of whom have taken part in Mel Trotter's art therapy program. Auction organizers say those folks are proud to be able to help future guests at Mel Trotter receive the same kind of programming they were able to enjoy.

"It's so important for our guests because many of them feel as if they aren't seen, that they're not heard, and that they're not valued," said Mel Trotter president and CEO Dennis VanKampen.

"To be able to express themselves in art, but then to have someone appreciate it and recognize them for it, and see value in not only what they've done, but even more importantly in who they are, that is the first step toward healing. It's the first step toward changing your life, and it's the first step out of homelessness for many people."

If you didn't get a chance to attend the auction, but would still like to help, you can donate through Mel Trotter's website. The organization allows you to designate what program you'd like your money to go to. They're also always looking for volunteers.

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