Luther was once a booming lumber town, but is now home to just 325 people. Historic buildings remain, lining the village’s main street, but much of Luther’s industry left with a late-1800s fire. For decades, the descendants of those who stayed made the most of forestry or outdoor recreational jobs. Faced with a small pool of local jobs, many young adults in rural towns like Luther must make long commutes. To avoid this, many choose to relocate to regions with more employment opportunities.
Frederick, 23, is not one of those young adults. As long-term residents of Luther, he and his wife bought a house and plan to stay – but this choice comes with challenges. Frederick is a certified welder, but two years ago, he decided to pursue a degree in engineering. This meant quitting his well-paying welding job outside of town and taking a step into the unknown. A career in engineering will help him increase his skillset, and enable the growth of the welding business he recently began.
As he works to complete his degree at Ferris State University, Frederick attends the recurring Mobile Food Pantry provided by the Luther Lions Club to help make ends meet. Generously sponsored by the Lake County Community Foundation, this resource provides Frederick and his wife with the produce and protein they need.
Frederick is able to do some part-time work for his welding business while continuing his education, but is looking for another job to bolster his income during summer break. His wife works part-time at an assisted living facility, and is about to pick up a job working at an air conditioning factory in Cadillac.
The jobs they hold don’t leave much wiggle room in their budget, making groceries hard to buy. After paying their mortgage, insurance and other bills, food assistance is a welcomed resource for this young couple.
“It’s a blessing to have,” Frederick said.
He believes it’s sometimes necessary for people to make short-term decisions that bring more challenges, for the sake of bettering a situation in the future. He is eager to finish school and use his newfound expertise to improve his business. In the meantime, food assistance makes it possible for him to pursue this dream.
Frederick’s perseverance and dedication will not only make a difference in his family’s life, but also in his community’s. Small towns like Luther benefit from innovative young adults like Frederick who stick around to strengthen their hometowns. Frederick’s welding business and engineering expertise will offer a needed service, and could potentially create local jobs.
Feeding America West Michigan could not be more grateful for agency partners like the Luther Lions Club and supporters like the Lake County Community Foundation. Organizations like these empower young entrepreneurs like Frederick to make the most of their situation by giving them a leg up.
Story written by Juliana Ludema, Communication Assistant