Justin Mandosking says his biggest accomplishment is being a father who is present in his 8-year-old daughter’s life. He wants to give her the best life possible. In summer, he takes her to pick berries and sweetgrass and enjoy nature — activities centered around their Anishinaabe and Ojibwe culture.
After his daughter was born, he remembers having only powdered mashed potatoes to eat in the apartment he lived in with his little brother. At first, he shared, he felt too “prideful” to visit a food pantry, but soon realized he would go hungry if he didn’t.
“I would tell someone in that position: There’s no shame in having to get food. The resource is there to help you.”
His daughter’s birth sparked a desire in Justin to do something different.
“I realized I should go to school and improve my quality of life.”
He started school, but dropped out a couple of years later to work two jobs. Recently, he went down to one job and decided to give school a go again. He enrolled at Bay Mills Community College, 15 minutes from his home in Sault Ste. Marie, where he’s now studying Anishinaabemowin.
“When I was in early adulthood I would hear elders talk about the language and how important it was for people to learn about it and carry it on. I felt like they were speaking directly to me. Whatever I decide to do long term, I’d love to incorporate language.”
Justin usually purchases groceries with SNAP to help make ends meet. Especially when his daughter was at home doing virtual school. During that time, it was much more expensive for him to ensure she had a full plate, so this resource helped.
A couple of months ago, he saw on Facebook that BMCC was hosting a Feeding America West Michigan Mobile Food Pantry for community members in need. He thought the resource might help his family, but first thought of a friend in need who lacks transportation.
He drove the friend to the Mobile Pantry. Then, he got a call from another friend who needed a ride. He drove back and brought her as well. The following month, Justin drove three neighbors to a Mobile Pantry happening in the Sault, even though he didn’t need to receive food himself.
“Wanting to help others has been instilled in me in my community, especially in my tribe,” he said. “They’re always extending a helping hand.”
Tenniel, who works at BMCC and is involved in the school’s Mobile Pantries, thought Justin would fit for this series because he’s “a great example of resilience.”
“Justin has changed his life dramatically over the past six years,” she said. “He is heavily invested in the healing to wellness program; this program helps support individuals in recovery. Moreover, Justin is very much involved within traditional Native American teachings. I believe that Justin is a leader within our community, and we shall see great things to come from him in the future.”
Being a face of the food bank isn’t all about big donations; it’s about big hearts. Justin’s fits the bill.
“I know what it’s like to not have a vehicle and to not have food. I’ve had so many people help me,” Justin said. “If I know someone in need, I want to give them a helping hand.”