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Gary Ellens to retire as Executive Director of City on a Hill

Gary Ellens to retire as Executive Director of City on a Hill


After 16 years of leading growth as Executive Director of City on a Hill, Gary Ellens will retire at the end of 2022.


“The move, announced this week, comes at a time when City on a Hill is well positioned to serve our community for years to come”, Board Chair Henry Veenstra said.  Gary Ellens has been the Executive Director of City on a Hill since it was created in 2006.  City on a Hill has become a major resource supporting God’s work in our community and throughout the world because of the solid foundation that Gary has established.  


City on a Hill provides affordable, inviting and collaborative space for 35 ministries and non-profit organizations in its buildings at 100 Pine Street and 200 Taft Street  in Zeeland. It also directly operates four community resources ministries: The Health Clinic, Leader Renewal, the Café, and Doors of Hope.


 “It is a joy and a blessing to see God’s work being done by the many people who use this building. That work will continue far into the future thanks to God’s blessings and the faithful support of so many people in our community,” Ellens said.


“I count it a privilege to have been part of this, to work with so many good and faithful volunteers, staff, board members, and ministry partners,” he added.


City on a Hill’s story begins in 2005 with a vision by a small group of people of creating a place of hope and healing at a time when many ministries were struggling financially. At the same time, Zeeland Hospital was building its new campus.


The vision team was blessed when the hospital board accepted its bid to buy the soon-to-be vacant former hospital. “Step by step, the team felt God answering prayers and guiding them through the process of creating City on a Hill,” Ellens recalled.


Then the work began to transform the building and fill it with ministry partner tenants. Ellens came on board as a consultant in early 2006 and became Executive Director shortly after City on a Hill opened in June of that year.


Volunteer work and generous community support for major repairs has helped turn the former hospital into an efficient, attractive and inviting ministry center. The mortgage was paid off in 2018.  In 2021, the community responded with generosity to help fund extensive heating and cooling system upgrades that will serve the building for years to come.


City on a Hill now provides cost-effective and collaborative operating space for 35 ministries and non-profits that serve people locally and around the world.


City on a Hill’s mission has expanded to include treating the sick at the Clinic, walking with individuals and families in crisis at Doors of Hope, feeding the community’s body and soul at the Café, and supporting ministry staff through Leader Renewal.


“As a board, we will surely miss the vision, expertise, and faithful leadership that Gary has brought to City on a Hill, Veenstra said, but we have been blessed because he has developed a strong base that will allow City on a Hill to continue to serve for years to come.”


Ellens will remain in his position through December, giving the board time to find the person with the right mix of skills to lead City on a Hill into its next decades. The Lakeshore Nonprofit Alliance is working with the City on a Hill Board of Directors as a “Transition Guide” to help design and implement the recruitment process.  A job posting will be coming in the near future, but anyone interested in the position can reach out to Henry Veenstra at hkveenstra@chartermi.net or Gary Ellens at gary@coahm.org.

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