Phone Ministry Project is helping close the gap in the digital divide

Neighborhood Journalist Mary Reed interviews coordinators of the Helping Our Neighbors Phone Ministry Project, for her show: Level UP!

Level UP is a series about great people who are doing great things in our community.

Watch the full interview


Helping Our Neighbors, a program through First United Methodist Church, is giving away free phones locally to those in need.  The initial goal for the Phone Ministry Project was to raise enough money to provide 100 cell phones to homeless individuals who were in the You Are Not Alone (YANA) program, or were living in Kalamazoo encampments.  Helping Our Neighbors (HON) gave away their first free phone in October 2021 and by May 2022 had given away 502 phones.


Dick Shilts, project coordinator from First United Methodist Church, and Daniel Bruce, Cricket phone representative, have formed a unique bond centered around making life for others a little easier. They’ve helped connect those who are bedridden, homeless, or have to make hard financial choices between owning a phone or paying living expenses. 


One $50 donation will buy two phones.  Dick and Dave envision HON becoming a national model to address the digital divide. The digital divide refers to the gap between those who do, and those who don’t have access to modern technology and information.  


This project has dispersed all individual donations and one Board of Justice grant from United Methodist Church, and will have to pause their program until they can raise more funds.  


You may connect with the HON program through one of their partner sites;  Integrated Services of Kalamazoo, Urban Alliance, Douglass Community Association, Ministry with Community and the Kalamazoo Public Defender's office. 


Connect with Dick Shilts at or phone 269-567-8023.