Volunteers from Resurrection of the Lord Parish, Standish, are answering the Lord’s call to feed the hungry in a big way.
In addition to their regular food bank, the parish is serving as a distribution point for a massive food giveaway effort by the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. Approximately 20,000 pounds of food are given away weekly at the parish, not including its regular food bank.
“If they come, we’ll give them food,” said parishioner Pat Adrian, who organizes the food bank and giveaway. “How could we turn anyone away right now?”
Increasing need, increasing response
Each Wednesday, about 30 to 35 volunteers organize a large drive-thru that winds its way through the church parking lot, where items such as canned goods, fresh produce, milk and bread are loaded into each vehicle without the driver exiting. The groceries are provided by the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, who purchases food from a variety of sources and receives donations from retail partners.
“We’ve seen an increase every week,” Pat said.
In the few months the parish has been hosting the giveaway, they have gone from serving 150 families to 288.
Pat believes the increase is due in part to word getting out, but mostly because of the recent economic crisis as unemployment rises. Additionally, many have not yet received financial aid through the federal stimulus or state unemployment benefits. As children are not in school, they are also home for all meals.
“We’re seeing a lot of people that would never have to come to the food bank that are coming,” she said. “It’s very sad, very sad.”
“We have increased our food distributions in response to the COVID-19 outbreak,” said Kara Ross, President and CEO of the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan. “The number of unemployed and furloughed employees in Michigan continues to increase, so the need for food will only grow. We will continue to use our network and resources to get as much food into the communities we serve as possible.”
Feeding hundreds requires a small army of volunteers who arrive around 8 a.m. for the 10 a.m. giveaway and stay until the food is gone and everything is cleaned, around 2:30 p.m. Parishioners, Knights of Columbus and even members of other faith communities come together for the same cause.
“Our volunteers are tremendous,” Pat said. “We have a good, good group that come and stay until we’re done. It’s a lot of work!”
Community Comes Together
“We could not do what we do without our partners, which include faith-based organizations, schools, and other community organizations,” Kara said. “Volunteers at each location direct traffic, sort food into bags or boxes, and load it into vehicles, helping provide food to the community and doing it in a safe manner…. It is truly a team effort. We pride ourselves on our ability to adapt and respond in times of crisis, and will continue to do all we can to serve those in need as we recover from this outbreak.”
“It’s a great witness of Christian faith and human concern,” said Father Dave Parsch, pastor of Resurrection of the Lord Parish. “It’s remarkable outreach. … It’s grown and grown and grown. It’s just a parade of cars and people. They’ve got quite a system.”
Father Dave also said they have received monetary donations from the community during this time of increased need, demonstrating that many people simply want to help in any way they can.
“I think it gives a lot of people hope,” he said of the food assistance. “It’s tough times for people, and everybody’s trying to do what they can. I’m sure it lifts their spirits greatly.”
For both the Wednesday giveaways and the regular food pantry, which is currently drive-thru only, all volunteers wear masks and gloves.
“We just want to be as careful for all of our volunteers and the public as we can right now,” Pat said.
Resurrection of the Lord Parish plans to continue hosting the giveaway as long as the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan continues to supply the trucks of food to offer.
“I just couldn’t live with myself if people were going hungry. I just couldn’t sleep at night,” Pat said.
To find a Food Bank of Eastern Michigan partner, visit www.fbem.org.