Volunteers prepare fruit bags for recipients Oct. 21 at the New Hope Food Pantry in Melvindale.
By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers
MELVINDALE – Volunteers at the New Hope Food Pantry at United Methodist Church, 3401 Oakwood Blvd., hope the new year will bring a renewal of their federal funding, in addition to a better economy.
Volunteer Janette Decaire said a paperwork error cost the pantry federal food assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for this calendar year at a time when it is much needed.
FEMA, more associated with natural disasters than economic ones, has used American Recovery and Reinvestment Act money to help the U.S. economy.
New Hope buys food from Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan, which secures, stores and distributes food to nonprofit agencies in the Detroit area.
“We did get government grants (in the past), but … we didn’t get (them) this year because somebody didn’t do the paperwork right,” Decaire said.
Pantry officials will apply again and try to get government grants for the upcoming calendar year. In the meantime, monetary and nonperishable food donations, as usual, are welcome.
“The cash helps us buy things from Gleaners,” Decaire said. “Donations we take all the time. We have (gotten) donations of hats, scarves, things like that, through different organizations here in town.”
Decaire and volunteer Bill Parker get many of their donations from Forgotten Harvest, a prepared and perishable food rescue program. They also go out and get donations from different bakeries, church groups, service organizations and school canned food drives.
Donations have been down recently, Decaire said, and volunteers appreciate it when Scouting organizations and school groups hold canned food drives for them. In addition to canned goods, they appreciate receiving cereal, nonperishable foods, diapers, baby food, formula and gently used clothing that has been washed.
“I bring in stuffed animals and books to pass out to the kids,” Decaire said. “Coats, hats, gloves – we have people coming in here with no coats, children with no coats – and we just give out whatever we have. We appreciate greatly anything people bring to us.”
Sue Herman, volunteer and Melvindale City Council member, said 17,000 people were helped by the pantry last year.
“What would be really helpful, even more than volunteers, would be if people would (hold) food drives,” she said.
Perishable foods, like meat that may be frozen, bread and vegetables, may be donated right before pickup.
Herman said she volunteers because she has the time and believes it’s a blessing to be able to help people. She helps clients determine their eligibility for help, and to find job training and placement programs if they are able to work.
“We help them find resources,” Herman said. “There are people that may not be aware that they should go to Supplemental Security Income for assistance.”
Volunteers also provide information about Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation Connectors.
“They may say, ‘I don’t have a car, I can’t get there,’” Herman said. “We can give them some help, so that’s a good thing.”
Sometimes, though, volunteering takes a toll on her.
“There are days that are very difficult, because there are so many people in so much trouble,” Herman said. “What we are seeing is many families coming together in the same house because they’ve reached the limit of their resources.”
She said food provided by the pantry won’t last the entire month, but will help them “stretch their budget.”
Volunteers also help with needs beyond food and transportation. They tell families about other resources that can provide help.
“They don’t realize that there are other places that they can go to change their lives,” Herman said. “(There’s) the employment and training center. And some people are very embarrassed and ashamed that they are here. I think that with my attitude, I can try to make them feel comfortable and OK.”
Anne Marschner of Melvindale used to come to the pantry for food. But after her phone lines got crossed one day with a food pantry volunteer, she came back to help. She said she has seen a variety of different people that need assistance.
“Young and old, different races, different situations – a little bit of everything,” Marschner said.
Volunteers anticipate that November and December will be “crazy” months when people will need the most help.
Food distributions usually are on the last two Thursdays of the month. However, during the upcoming holidays the pantry will be open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Nov. 18 and 23 and Dec. 23 and 28 at the church. No referrals are needed, but recipients are asked to bring proof of income. Food distributions are based on need and family size.
Anyone who would like to arrange to donate can call Decaire at (313) 383-2325 or New Hope United Methodist Church at (313) 383-6577.