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'Derek's Place': Mom honoring son's memory with homeless outreach

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Posted at 11:11 AM, Apr 29, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-29 19:00:37-04

KENT COUNTY, Mich — Every weekend, rain or shine, Theresa Adkison hits the streets of Grand Rapids to help the homeless.

It's an effort Adkison started after losing her son Derek at age 32.

"I see Derek in all of them. I believe that there are lost souls that deserve love," she said. "When Derek died I made a promise to him that I would spend the rest of my life helping people like him, so no other mom had to go through this."

Derek, Adkison's only son, passed away in 2018 after years of battling addiction.


Derek's Place was created in his honor.

At first the nonprofit had plans to create a physical space, providing resources to people in recovery.

But Adkison said all that changed after a poorly attended taco dinner fundraiser.

"I had all of this food that was leftover and everybody's like, what are you going to do with this food? And I'm like, Well, I'm not going to throw it away. I said I know where there's people that would want this," explained Adkison.

Adkison took the leftover food to Heartside Park to feed the homeless, where she was touched by their gratitude and even a small offering that was collected there for the non-profit.

"They just really touched my heart. So after that, I just started going down there," she explained. "Before that day, I was a person that wouldn't look an un-housed person in the eyes... I didn't understand them. I stayed as far away from them as possible."

Adkison has now made close friends on her weekly trips to distribute hot meals and other basic necessities in Fuller Park and around downtown Grand Rapids.

"They're always like, Oh, my gosh, God sent you here. You're an angel. And I'm like, you know what? I'm just a regular mom. I just do this because, you know, I love you. And, you deserve to have something warm in your belly," she told FOX 17 News. "I feel like, if I don't go, then are they going to get a hot meal that day?"

Adkison is closing in on nearly 2,000 meals handed out.

She credits the ladies at Our Hope, a rehab residential treatment center where Adkison works, who often volunteer to pitch in and help cook meals.

Adkison has expanded to add special holiday meals, like at Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter.

"Everybody deserves to eat. They're human beings just like the rest of us," she said. "I just always want people to know that no matter what their circumstances are, they are worthy of love, and they deserve to live their best lives."

Adkison plans to continue the outreach efforts indefinitely.

"Till I die," she said. "I'm not going to stop doing it. I made a promise to Derek."

To learn more about Derek's Place, visit the group's Facebook page.

As the FOX 17 and Lake Michigan Credit Union Pay it Forward Person of the Month, Adkison is receiving a $550 prize.

Know someone who should be featured next month? Nominate them here.

Meet Alicia Mathieu, our March 2022 Pay it Forward Person of the Month.