The current church is a 1995 unification of the St. John Evangelical Lutheran Church (founded on December 1, 1949) and the Kalamazoo Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church (founded on August 12, 1950). The congregations spiritual leader is Pastor Aija Graham who began her duties on January 5, 2015.
Worship services are conducted in Latvian due to the insufficient number of English only speaking members. Baptisms, weddings, funerals, and other special occasions can be conducted in Latvian and/or English as needs warrant.
The Kalamazoo Latvian Center, built in 1987, is located next to the Latvian Evangelical Lutheran Church. The building serves as the fellowship hall of the church and activity center for all Latvian social and cultural activities. Recent activities include: concerts, plays, Latvian Independence Day celebrations, Annual Rummage Sale and Christmas Bazaar. The building also provides space for the Kalamazoo Latvian School, where youth in grades K-8 have an opportunity to learn the language, culture, history and geography of their heritage.
The Kalamazoo Latvian School is currently undergoing a transformation to new leadership and plans to improve educational opportunities for learning the Latvian Language and culture.
Kalamazoo is just a short drive to Garazers Latvian Center. This center offers the opportunity to meet with Latvians not only from throughout the United States but from throughout the entire world. It is an avenue to explore and learn the Latvian language, culture, history, and arts that is seldom found outside of the mother country. If you are of Latvian ethnic origin, Garazers is a well recognized and beloved destination. Latvian children that have grown up in the Midwestern portion of the United States have Garazers as part of their ethnic pedigree.
Latvians began arriving in Kalamazoo in the early 1950’s due in part to the sponsorship of local Lutheran churches and the Dziemsu Vairogs men’s and women’s choirs. It soon became a haven for many displaced Latvian intellectuals, writers, and artists. By the late 1950’s and early 1960’s,there were two Latvian churches, a Latvian school, Boy and Girl Scout groups, several choirs, various literary groups, Daugavas Vanagi, and the Kalamazoo Latvian Association.
By the late 1960’s Western Michigan University began offering a Latvian Studies Program that attracted many students during the summer session then later on a year around basis.
In 1986 the Latvian Center was constructed adjacent to the now unified Latvian Church at 122 Cherry Hill Street in Kalamazoo. This multi-use, two level building became the home for the Latvian preschool program Pasacina and the Kalamazoo Latvian School on the lower level and a large hall with stage, dressing rooms, and adjacent kitchen and lobby areas on the upper level.
The Kalamazoo area has a diverse mix of employers, both large and small. Individuals seeking to establish or grow an existing business have numerous opportunities for guidance and assistance. Just to give you an idea of those opportunities, browse below.
Kalamazoo County has a number of very large employers: Pfizer, Stryker, Zoetis, Summit Polymers, Borgess Health Alliance, Bronson Healthcare Group, Parker-Hannifin, State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance, Western Michigan University, Cities of Kalamazoo and Portage, Kalamazoo and Portage Public School systems. There are also a number of large employers in adjacent counties such as: Denso Manufacturing Michigan, Perrigo, Kellogg, MPI Research, American Axle & Manufacturing.
WMU’s Parkview Campus is the home of the ever expanding Business Technology and Research Park, a high-tech business development park sharing a campus with WMU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
A number of individuals of Latvian ancestry are self-employed professionals living in Kalamazoo: Austriņš Family Dentistry, Enveron Corporation, Karlsons & Associates, Law Firm of Minka PLC, Pro-Tek Inspections, Galēns Blueberries are located in nearby Covert, Michigan. Kārlis Vizulis is the CEO of Performance Systematix, Inc. located in Grand Rapids and is one of the most successful entrepreneurs in West Michigan.
Southwest Michigan First is a not for profit service agency based in Kalamazoo seeking to assist businesses in expanding their operations or relocating to Southwestern Michigan. Please visit their informative website for more information.
Kalamazoo is the home to Western Michigan University with about 24,000 students offering undergraduate and graduate degrees; Kalamazoo College with over 1400 students; Kalamazoo Valley Community College currently enrolling more than 13,500 students.
The Kalamazoo area has a number of outstanding public and parochial schools preschool and K through 12th grade. The Kalamazoo Public Schools are home to the nationally recognized Kalamazoo Promise Program – students that have successfully completed grades K-12 in the Kalamazoo Public School District, may have their entire undergraduate tuition paid for at any State of Michigan public university, community college, and/or 15 Michigan private colleges.
Kalamazoo and the surrounding region offer an abundance of opportunities to explore the world of nature. The Michigan State Parks have hiking and biking trails, water sports including swimming, boating, sailing, kayaking, fishing, and much more. Camp grounds are throughout Michigan and offer first class amenities that are clean and well maintained. Michigan also offers a vehicle license plate that allows your car and it’s occupants free admission to the state parks.
The Kalamazoo Nature Center has hiking trails, displays of various raptors and owls, as well as interactive displays, children’s learning center, and lecture facility that exposes the entire family to a participatory environment to gain a fuller appreciation of the natural world.
While not in Kalamazoo, the Meijers Gardens and Sculpture Center of Grand Rapids, Michigan is a world class botanical garden with many greenhouses that demonstrate various environments and the plants that thrive there. Throughout the gardens and greenhouses there is a delightful sculpture park blending with the natural environment.
The newest display is an 8 acre Japanese Garden with traditional tea house, zen garden, lakes and waterfalls, and much more.
This represents only a fraction of the world of nature that is just outside your Kalamazoo doorstep.
Less than 1 hour away to the West is Lake Michigan. Sandy beaches and fresh water swimming are in abundance.
An amazingly diverse and cosmopolitan cultural and art scene exists in Kalamazoo independent of the institutions of higher learning but at the same time also enriched by them with Miller Auditorium at WMU and Dorothy Dalton Theatre at K College. To name a few:
Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra
The biennial Gilmore Keyboard Festival
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
Kalamazoo Public Museum
Kalamazoo Air Zoo
Gilmore Car Museum
Kalamazoo Civic Theater
Farmers Alley Theater
Monthly “Art Hop”
The Barn Theater (summer) at nearby Augusta
There are always shows, plays and concerts to attend year round in a number of venues.
There are more than 450 restaurants throughout the greater Kalamazoo area that reflect the diverse ethnic background of this wide ranging cosmopolitan city. Many of our residents began as college students from far away lands who, found that they missed their own ethnic cuisine. As a result, the restaurants and eateries of Kalamazoo began to cater to this diverse clientele. To name a few, Middle Eastern, Indian, Chinese, Greek, French, Thai, Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, and American tastes are all represented here.
Kalamazoo, being in Michigan’s fertile agricultural heartland is nationally known for it’s vineyards and orchards. Wineries exist throughout the region and offer tours, as well as tasting experiences.
Wine not your thing. How about beer?? Livability.com has ranked Kalamazoo as one of the top 10 Beer Cities in the U.S. (#4 actually). According to DiscoverKalamazoo.com , we are home to Michigan’s oldest microbrewery, as well as, the oldest craft brewer east of Colorado. The demand has become so great that in 2013 Kalamazoo became the home to 6 new breweries. Local breweries and beer-centric restaurants and pubs can be found in abundance in our fair city.
Kalamazoo has lots to offer in the way of Local, nutritious food choices. There are a lot of local farmers, many of which use organic practices and have lengthened the growing season using various methods such as hoop houses.
The Kalamazoo Farmers’ Market is open every Saturday from the beginning of May until late November; night time markets are scattered throughout the season and feature shopping, live music and good times.
A short drive out of town brings you to fresh produce from roadside stands. Apples, peaches, strawberries, blueberries, watermelon, sweet corn and asparagus.
Local grocery options range from Meijer, Hardings, D&W, Sawall, and Earth Fare.