HARBERT — Getting food to those who need it most increasingly involves drive-up service made possible by dedicated groups of workers and volunteers.

The monthly commodity distribution day at the River Valley Senior Center became just such a drive-up endeavor on April 8 as Tim Hawkins, Bill Kuipers, Mike Deeds and Billy Hedtke placed boxes in cars as they drove up outside the center in Harbert.

Hawkins, executive director of the Senior Center, said they are following the Governor’s Executive Order to only be open for essential events and services — and the distribution of government commodities is such a service.

Hawkins said the Senior Center staff “looks forward to re-opening our doors when the restrictions are listed and welcoming our clients back to the many activities and services that the River Valley Senior Center provides.”

He noted that another essential service still going on is using the Senior Center for a  Meals on Wheels of Southwest Michigan distribution center.

“To me these volunteer drivers who are out there continuing to provide a most important service in our communities are heroes. When I tell them that they shrug it off and tell me that they’re just continuing to do the right thing for their neighbors, but to me they are heroes,” noted John Gunner Gooch of Meals on Wheels.

He said five volunteer drivers handle the six routes that are based at the River Valley Senior Center  (areas served include the New Buffalo and Three Oaks areas, Chikaming Township and the Bridgman area).

“They know they’re doing a needed service out there in the community for home-bound people,: Gooch said, noting that drivers also provide a wellness check.

Gooch said he is keeping in contact with congregate clients who normally are served a Senior Nutrition Services/Meals On Wheels lunch at the center by phoning them at least twice a week.

“They tell me they really miss those nutritious lunches and the fellowship that goes along with them. Before or after lunch they also enjoy playing cards, putting together puzzles and using the new pieces of exercise equipment. They all look forward to resuming those activities, and hopefully it won’t be too long before they are able to return. I look forward to seeing them again in person,” he said.

MOBILE FOOD PANTRIES

On April 7, the Rotary Club of Harbor Country and Episcopal Church of the Mediator sponsored a Feeding America Mobile Food Pantry visit to American Legion Post 204 in Three Oaks.

Rick Murphy of Feeding America said the April 7 effort served about 65 families, all in their cars via a drive-through process.

“We pre-packed all the boxes with the food … put them in trunk and they would drive off.” he said, adding that he whole process took just 40 minutes or so.

Murphy said there were a lot of volunteers “and they got things done real fast.”

He said members of the fire department are slated to help direct traffic during the next Three Oaks distribution day (set for 4 p.m. April 16).

The Church of the Mediator also is slated to host a Mobile Food Pantry visit to the New Troy Community Center at 11 a.m. on April 27.

EASTER FOOD BAGS

The Rotary Club of Harbor Country also distributed 28 Easter food bags on Saturday, April 11, to families in Three Oaks, New Buffalo, Galien, New Troy and other local communities.

The effort was aided by Jackie’s Cafe owner Jackie Shen, who provided ham, pasta and soup. Cheese in the bags was from Old Europe Cheese of Benton Harbor while the Feeding America Mobile Food Pantry added bags of potatoes to the mix (which also included eggs purchased from Kevin Seifert, a former RYLA participant, veggies, rolls and treats from the Rotary Club).

Rotary Club Treasurer Darlene Heemstra said Shen told her she was getting hams to be distributed by club members, and the rest of the items were added (the club also distributes Christmas baskets to area families)

BIBLE BAPTIST DINNERS

Pastor Jim Bouslog at Bible Baptist Church in New Buffalo was among those who helped deliver bagged meals to cars on April 8.

“We’re doing a free meal the second Wednesday of every month (from 6 to 7 p.m.) and a food pantry the fourth Wednesday of every month,” he said, adding that church volunteers also have taken food to some shut-in people in the area.

CARING CUPBOARD

BRIDGMAN — During the coronavirus pandemic, volunteer Heidi Southard said the Caring Cupboard is open from noon to 2 p.m. Thursdays, and clients must fill out a Google form in advance (accessible through The Caring Cupboard at Woodland Shores on Facebook) before picking up food and other items during those hours.

“We have a grocery cart ready to go, all you have to do is pop open your trunk or your back door and we’ll put the food right in for you.”

Southard said people need to make sure they use their correct email and phone number so food doesn’t go to waste.

Those wishing to donate to The Caring Cupboard can go to the wsbchurch.com website and follow the giving tab where there is a Caring Cupboard option.

“Donations will be used to purchase food from Feeding America or to purchase human dignity items (toilet paper, detergents, paper towels, etc.) from our local stores.”

There also is a list of the Top 10 Needs (as of April 2 these included macaroni and cheese, soup, side dishes like Stove Top and Rice-A-Roni).

Southard she can arrange drop-offs of pick-ups for those messaging her on Facebook.

MORE EFFORTS

Linnea Berg of the Neighbor by Neighbor organization provided more examples of “Communities Working Together for More Effective Impact” including:

• Water’s Edge Church, New Buffalo Service League and Neighbor by Neighbor helping to pay car insurance for a man who just got a job.

• A Women’s Bible Study at Lighthouse Church in New Buffalo buying groceries for a homeless woman working with Neighbor by Neighbor.

• St. Vincent DePaul coordinating various Catholic organizations and funds to assist a laid off immigrant to catch up on bills.

• Church of the Mediator sending names of families that received Thanksgiving baskets to Neighbor by Neighbor so that $50 Hardings cards could be sent.

• An unemployed carpenter temporarily living with someone for whom he does repairs having his auto repair bill paid by the Harbert Community Church Helping Hands fund and Neighbor by Neighbor.

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