David Kalita and Karen Gates

Photos by Klodian Butler © 2009


Karen and David co-founded The Ark Association September 7, 2000. Each had trouble finding the exact agency or program to rise above the adversities of physical, mental, addictive and financial challenges. Hope for restoration and improvement of the quality of life was hard to grasp. An informal study of 75 individuals, conducted in 2000 by the co-founders, discovered the majority had experienced major setbacks, relapse in behaviors, and a sense of frustrated hopelessness in their attempts to receive the assistance they needed. The individuals surveyed struggled with any single or combination of physical, mental, financial and addictive challenges. A necessity to bridge the gap between the individual's need and the provisions to address that need became obvious. So The Ark Association was formed to overcome the obstacles of acquiring the resources, tools, and supportive structure necessary for personal empowerment to experience the fullness of life. The original filing with the State of Michigan was under The Ark Foundation; however, the Board voted a name change in 2006 to alleviate any possible confusion as our primary purpose was not to be a philanthropic foundation created to award grant funds to nonprofit organizations such as ours.

The Ark Association targeted the Corktown/Southwest area of Detroit for its initial programming. It has a high disadvantaged, at-risk population. According to Census Bureau statistics, this area has a large low or moderate-income level. There are many homeless shelters, vacant buildings and expressway overpasses in the area where the homeless population finds shelter (documented by a recent count done by the Homeless Action Network of Detroit). According to crime statistics on file with the Detroit Police Department, this area has a high incident of crime consisting of drug trafficking, gang warfare, murders and thefts. Recent studies performed by Drug Abuse Treatment Outcome Studies (DATOS) show that many drug and alcohol dependent individuals would be involved in several of these people groups prior to receiving any type of intervention or treatment. This community reflects our mission statement.

The one identifying advantage we hold is our volunteers. Many of our volunteers have been in similar situations (homelessness, addiction, mental health challenges) and identify with the individual, which motivates their compassion. This also gives an advantage in opening a door of identification for the recipient. As they see someone who has been in their shoes now walking as a productive member of society giving back to that society, it gives them hope for a change in their own situation. The organization builds relationships with other agencies, groups and individuals to support the recovery movement, supports other groups without trying to "own" every issue. The organization creates a system of effective leadership, management and accountability while remaining, creative and flexible in internal and external problem solving. The agency collaborates with other organizations to bring about social change in Detroit including but not limited to New Detroit, Safe Step, Surrender House, Loaves and Fishes of Southwest Detroit, Living the Principles, Stanford House, Serenity House, The Jesus House, The Mercy House, and Peacemakers International.

© The Ark Association, a 501(c)3 nonprofit located in Detroit, Michigan.