From March 16 through June, Feeding America West Michigan distributed an unprecedented amount of food — 8,956,560 pounds to be exact. This food — equivalent to nearly 7.5 million meals — wouldn’t have made it to the hands of our neighbors facing hunger if it weren’t for the support of 17 Michigan National Guard members who dedicated 2 1/2 months of their time to the cause.
Chief Kim and fellow guard member Melaney were among these soldiers, and both are musicians in the 126th Army Band.
“Everybody on the team here has been very dependable and it’s been really great to work with them all,” Kim said.
The team’s outstanding work ethic and eagerness to learn made them the most efficient volunteer group the food bank has ever had and were absolutely vital to our efforts.
They worked in the reclamation department — sanitizing, sorting and repackaging food — prepared emergency food boxes, filled our agency partners’ orders, and even helped distribute food at Mobile Pantries. Every minute of their time was invaluable and no doubt, a sacrifice.
Kim and Melaney were glad to help from the start, but both connected to our mission more closely after serving at a Mobile Panty. It was the first time they interacted with our neighbors facing hunger and from that point on, their passion for the mission only grew.
“I loved to see the faces and the thumbs up and even though we couldn’t hug each other or shake hands, I always stood at the end of the row so I could wave at people when they left and smile with my eyes even though we all had masks on,” Kim said.
Both Kim and Melaney have grown a similar passion for hunger relief and said that after having such an impactful experience at Feeding America West Michigan, they will absolutely be volunteering at food banks near their own homes in the future.
“I never would have imagined doing something like this as part of a mission for the National Guard, but it’s been one of the most rewarding things that’s ever happened in my whole life,” Melaney shared. “I would do it all over again.”
“I think we got as much if not more out of the experience as the food bank did,” Kim agreed.
Without the tireless work of the MI National Guard, Feeding America West Michigan would not have been able to serve so many neighbors during the pandemic. Each and every one of them is a hunger hero.