On April 28, the Rockford American Legion held its 64th Mobile Food Pantry in honor of longtime Legionnaire Randy Ingraham, the man who helped get the hunger-relief program started six years ago.
When Randy’s daughter, Feeding America West Michigan volunteer coordinator Dena Rogers, came to the Legion in 2009 and proposed the idea of hosting a Mobile Pantry, Randy, his wife Shelia and their good friends Jim and Val Poot were the first to step up. The two couples each donated $250 to kick off a partnership that would become a major force for hunger relief in northern Kent County.
To date, the monthly Mobile Food Pantry at American Legion Merritt Lamb Post 102 has provided over 400,000 meals and remains the only Mobile Pantry in Rockford.
April’s Mobile Pantry included a large selection of fruits, vegetables, beverages, and baked goods, as well as a hundred pounds of food collected by the Land of Lakes Association, to which Randy and Shelia belonged.
Before the food was distributed, former post commander Clyde Sinclair read a resolution honoring Randy’s legacy, adding, “It’s only through the donations and service of people like Randy and Dena and Shelia that this pantry is possible.”
After leaving the Air Force, Randy went into the heating and cooling business, eventually becoming part-owner of B&V Mechanical in Wyoming, Michigan. Randy and Shelia starting dating as sophomores at Cedar Springs High School and were together 50 years.
“They did everything together from morning to night,” Dena said.
The couple had a special fondness for Harleys. “Every summer we would take our motorcycle to go on a two-week trip somewhere,” Shelia said, recalling how they would pack their bags and decide where to go on the fly.
One year, they made it as far as Nova Scotia: “We’d come out of the driveway, flip a coin, and say, are we going to go right or left, and we went left.”
Dena stood in the Legion hall with her mom as the families gathered to receive food. She said her dad’s example of generosity influenced her decision to work in hunger relief.
“To just look out and see the faces, it’s just impactful to know that I’m in the right place and doing the right thing.”
To be a part of the solution to hunger in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula, consider making a donation or volunteering your time at Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank.