The WEST SIDE ECUMENICAL MINISTRY, founded in 1966, is dedicated to making the west side a better place to live. This community and service organization serves a multi-cultural constituency through 12 core programs. The ministry is an ecumenical agency where churches from different denominations work together through social development programs. The agency was founded to help those in need, and offered such programs as youth services, family development, food assistance, and outreach and day treatment for teen substance abusers. Other endeavors include sponsoring Head Start programs and the Near West Theatre, tutoring people in English, and working with the elderly. WSEM promotes self-sufficiency by the empowerment of those who seek help.
The organization's first full-time executive director was Rev. Byron White of Detroit, a pastor, businessman, and lawyer, who came to the agency in 1968. He was succeeded in 1974 by Dr. George Nishimoto, who came from the United Church of Christ in New York City. Rev. David A. Miller served as executive director 1980-83, followed by John Terry in 1984. Rev. Robert T. Begin, a Roman Catholic priest and lawyer, was executive director from 1985 to 1993. He was succeeded by Elving F. Otero, who served as a nonprofit administrator for over 30 years in the Cleveland community.
In 1994 the organization served 32,000 people and had a budget of $3.6 million. Approximately one-half of the income came from government grants and contracts, the remainder from various sources, including foundations and contributions.