Stanton-based churches partner with United Way and Feeding America for food distribution
By Brandon Schreur | on May 04, 2020 | The Daily News
STANTON — Standing in Central Montcalm High School’s parking lot on Thursday afternoon, Beth Bellows and a number of volunteers from Trinity Church and First Congregational Church in Stanton gathered to hand out box after box of donated food to local families.
“Obviously, with COVID-19 and the loss job jobs, there’s an inability to have food on the shelves at all the stores, at all times,” said Bellows, assistant to the lead pastor at Trinity Church. “We wanted to make sure people didn’t go hungry. We wanted to make sure they have the resources to continue providing for the families with the food they needed.”
Working together, the two churches have partnered with United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties and Feeding America to provide food for families within the Stanton area who might be struggling or in need.
“We want to make sure we can help as many people in the community as possible,” Bellows said. “There are no restrictions on income or requirements that need to be met. We just want to help.”
Shortly after the coronavirus pandemic began, United Way and the two churches started distributing food out of a Feeding America food truck to families in the Save-A-Lot parking lot in Stanton every two weeks.
According to United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties Executive Director Terri Legg, the location has changed to the Central Montcalm parking lot for the remainder of the distributions due to space and expected traffic.
“The last time they did it at the Save-A-Lot, it caused a serious traffic problem,” said Legg with a laugh.
Partnerships with entities like Trinity Church and First Congregational Church, Legg noted, is something United Way takes great pride in.
“There’s really an amazing connection there,” she said. “With our schools changing structure in the way they’re teaching, they’re not able to have kids in school. We instantly knew that we wanted to get food into every district in some way, shape or form. There are districts that are giving out food, but that doesn’t necessarily always get into the hands of everyone who needs it — especially with so many people on unemployment during this time.
“Through United Way granting, we funded food trucks throughout both counties through Feeding America. We had to find partners who were boots-on-the-ground and ready to volunteer to help pass some of that food out. The churches came through and wanted to partner with us, and they’ve been great to work with.”
Jamey Nichols, senior pastor of First Congregational Church, estimates they likely gave away more than 100 boxes of food on Thursday.
“We counted somewhere around 45 to 50 cards that had lined up,” he said. “Many of those cars received two boxes. Sometimes families carpool or they’ll be picking it up for someone who doesn’t drive.”
Nichols said volunteers are also delivering boxes of food out to community members themselves.
“We’ve got connections in our church, other churches or in the entire community. If there’s someone who needs food, we can take it to their house if we know they can’t get out,” he said.
With another distribution at Central Montcalm scheduled in another two weeks, Nichols said the churches’ goal was to provide families with as much food as possible.
“We chose to order our food trucks in two-week intervals. Other distribution sites have done six consecutive weeks — some are done now, others are going to be done next week,” he said. “Ours is going to take us past the end of May. For our purposes, we thought that’d serve us a little better. It draws out the distribution and makes the whole process last a little longer.”
“I’d strive for people to look at the calendar on our website,” Legg agreed. “The goal is to continue to get food support out to the community now through probably the end of the year in different ways, shapes or forms. Granting will be the second phase of that. We’re looking at how we’re going to be moving from crisis to recovery and supporting local communities by mobilizing volunteers to get food out.”
For Bellows, the distribution experience is something she’s proud to be part of.
“We’re going to keep doing this until the food runs out,” Bellows said. “These food trucks have been a blessing directly from the hand of God. It’s because of him and the willingness of his volunteers that we are able to bring the truck to our community.”
Visit liveunitedm-i.org for more information on United Way or to donate.
LOCAL FOOD TRUCK SCHEDULE
Here is the current Feeding America food truck schedule organized by Ionia-Montcalm United Way:
• May 7: Settlement Lutheran Church, 1031 Johnson Road, Gowen, 11 a.m. to noon.
• May 11: Saranac High School, 150 Pleasant St., 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
• May 14: Central Montcalm High School, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
• May 25: Saranac High School, 150 Pleasant St., 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
• May 28: Central Montcalm High School, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
• June 8: Saranac High School, 150 Pleasant St., 10:30 to 11:30 a.m.
• June 11: Central Montcalm High School, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.
• June 25: Central Montcalm High School, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.