HARBERT — As the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 surges on, the need for Feeding America Mobile Food Pantry visits to area communities has continued to grow.

Recent distributions at Harbert Community Park (on Dec. 1) and at Woodland Shores Baptist Church in Bridgman (Dec. 2) drew long lines of vehicles that kept volunteers busy preparing and loading up boxes of food.

Episcopal Church of the Mediator provided volunteers for the Harbert Community Park distribution day, with members of the Rotary Club of Harbor Country and others also helping out .

Volunteer Linda Miller said the monthly food distributions seem to occur “with different weather every time” (on Dec. 1 it was cloudy and cold).

Rick Murphy of Feeding America West Michigan said the Mobile Food Pantry truck is constantly on the road, making stops everywhere from Harbert and Bridgman to Dowagiac and Hartford.

For the most part he said demand for food has increased during the pandemic, although the number of vehicles that line up for the drive-through distributions vary.

“Recently in Stevensville they started turning people away before it even got started because because they knew they’d already reached their limit. Same thing in Dowagiac.”

Helping out in Harbert on Dec. 1 was the non-profit organization Sons and Daughters United, which brought a U-Haul truck full of bread, English muffins, snack cakes and similar items to supplement the veggies, main dishes and supplementary food from the Feeding America truck.

Carol Beaman said Sons and Daughters United’s bread products are donated by National Transport Inc. in South Bend, a distribution firm that has overages each week.

In addition to Mobile Food Pantries, Beaman said Sons and Daughters United also delivers food to senior citizen facilities and church pantries in the area.

Heidi Southard, who helps organize the monthly Mobile Food Pantry visits at Woodland Shores in Bridgman said for the outdoor Mobile Food Pantry visits (normally held on the first Wednesday of the month) “a low month would have been 52, now a low month is 80 and we’re helping 100 pretty regularly. And it keeps growing every month.”

Woodland Shores also holds a twice monthly (once in December) Caring Cupboard pre-order program that has gone from serving 25 per week to 83. For more, visit The Caring Cupboard at Woodland Shores on Facebook.

Woodland Shores volunteer Shelby Basham (also a teacher at Tri County Head Start in Sawyer – “I like to come every month because a lot of my families come.”

A group of Bridgman High School students from the Key Club and National Honor Society joined the volunteers at Woodland Shores on Dec. 2.

High School junior Emma Barker (a regular volunteer and Key Club member) said about nine students participated from the two groups.

“I enjoy helping people,” she noted.

Southard said volunteers from local breweries such as Transient Artisan Ales and Haymarket also have been helping out each month.

In addition to fruit juice, tomatoes, bread, cakes and more, Murphy said sources of protein provided on Dec. 2 included hot dogs and chicken leg quarters.

Upcoming Feeding America Mobile Food Pantry visits are scheduled as follows: 4 p.m. Dec. 10 at Harbert Community Park, 13443 Red Arrow Highway (Hosted by Episcopal Church of the Mediator).; 4 p.m. Dec. 16 at Stevensville United Methodist Church, 5506 Ridge Road, Stevensville; 3:30 p.m. Jan. 5 at Harbert Community Church; 4:30 p.m. Jan. 6 at the Bridgman Fire Dept., 9765 Maple St. (sponsored by Woodland Shores Baptist Church).

For more, log on to: https://www.feedwm.org/mobile-pantry-schedule/

Emergency Food Pantry

Manager Linda Mangold said the Harbor Country Emergency Food Pantry has both a downtown Boutique (at 6 South Elm St. in Three Oaks) that is open on Friday and Saturday; and the main pantry and store up the road at 301 North Elm St. (open Thursday, Friday and Saturday).

She said the need for food has leveled off recently, likely because of increased mobile food pantry distributions.

“But the financial needs are climbing this time of the year with the electric and gas disconnects being scheduled again.”

Mangold said “a lot of generous people” have made donations to the Food Pantry “which has really helped a lot.”

“Right now we’re getting ready for Toys for Tots, contacting all of our families with children and making sure they’re either on the school list or on our list.”

Those interested in learning more can call (269) 756-7444.

Neighbor by Neighbor

Neighbor by Neighbor is helping low-income families in Harbor Country put food on their tables, keep up with the rent, and pay their utility bills.

Since March 1, Neighbor by Neighbor has spent $51,989 to pay rent and utility bills for 75 households (187 individuals). Seasonal jobs ended, reduced capacity in stores means fewer employees, restaurants closed to indoor dining have all contribute to impacting already stressed budgets.

Neighbor by Neighbor serves residents of Chikaming, New Buffalo and Three Oaks and as funds are available, Galien and Bridgman. If you need help or know someone else who needs help with rent/mortgage, utilities and food, call Neighbor by Neighbor at (269) 231-0648.

Donations can be sent to Neighbor by Neighbor, P.O. Box 197, Harbert, MI 49115. You can also donate to Neighbor by Neighbor through Paypal.

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