Rose Maskart is not an average 70-year-old. She lives in Gladstone, Michigan, but travels throughout the Upper Peninsula to volunteer at many different mobile pantries that need additional help. The mobile pantries where she volunteers are spread out, but she doesn’t seem to mind. Rose hops in her car and drives long distances just to help others in need. She is one of the kindest people you could ever meet. With a genuinely good heart, and a kind soul, Rose deserves to be in the spotlight today.
When we met Rose in Newberry, at the Project Homeless Connect event, she had driven 100 miles just to be there. Newberry is a town surrounded by wilderness, which has caused it to be vastly isolated from surrounding cities. This is true for many towns in the U.P. Rose said she will often drive 60 miles or more to volunteer and has been doing so for almost three years. After her husband died she said that “for everything we did together, I did something we never did.” Volunteering at a mobile pantry with Feeding America West Michigan was one of those things, and when she found out how much of an impact she could make on the lives of others, she continued giving her time.
After attending her first mobile pantry, she said to herself “oh my god I didn’t realize there were this many people who needed that kind of help.” She later discovered that many in need weren’t even coming because they didn’t have the means to get there. “These areas need it so bad,” she said. To help reach some of the families who can’t make the trip, for one reason or another, many volunteers in the U.P., including Rose, have taken it upon themselves to deliver to those still in need. “We just ring the doorbell, zip off and wave as we’re leaving,” she said. Often, members of the community are unable to attend because of the sheer distance between their home and the event, a lack of transportation, some are too sick or elderly to go, and some are so isolated that they’re unaware the resources exist.
Many have taken it upon themselves to help deliver these resources to those who are unable to access them. However, according to Rose, a lot of the volunteers are in need themselves. “It’s gotta be a community effort,” Rose said. These communities desperately need the help, and without volunteers, Feeding America West Michigan could not make the impact that it does. Rose believes that volunteering is “something that has to be done,” you “go where the need takes you,” she explained.
When you attend a mobile pantry, you meet a lot of different people in a lot of different situations, and often they need more than food. For example, Rose spoke about a day when she noticed that a child’s car seat was broken, one of the volunteers had an extra one that they were willing to part with. That family received a sense of safety alongside the food they received. Others may not need something in a physical sense, but they may need emotional support. Rose mentioned a man who had tears rolling down his face while he was receiving food. His pride was broken, he had always cared for his family, but in that moment, he couldn’t. Our pantries, mobile or otherwise, are about more than just food. They are a great place to bring together a community. The sense of community that is formed at these mobile pantries make people, particularly those living in rural areas, feel less isolated. No matter how much food we give, our volunteers are making some of the biggest differences in people’s lives. We are eternally grateful.
Story written by Molly Kooi, Communications Intern