When Lorrie Hockanson applied for a receptionist position at the food bank’s Cadillac branch 13 years ago, she didn’t realize how passionate she would become about the mission. A single mom, she was just looking for something to supplement her waitressing job, but soon fell in love with fighting hunger — especially because it hit close to home.
“We struggled,” she said. “I was working full time and raising two kids. There were times we didn’t have milk and bread. I went without a lot a lot of times — but not my kids. I wish I’d known pantries were around.”Lorrie’s personal experience facing hunger when her kids were young helps her resonate with the neighbors she serves.
“It really does take a special person to do what we’re doing,” she said. “You’ve got to have a passion for taking care of people and their needs. It’s not easy to ask for food. You’ve got to have somebody who doesn’t judge. I’ve been there raising my two kids. I was ashamed.”
Often, neighbors call or visit the food bank’s warehouse directly, so Lorrie regularly interacts with them, making them feel welcome and referring them to our agency partners in the area.
“It’s knowing you can help somebody. We had a family come in and they were so appreciative of everything. That’s the best thing — knowing that they won’t go hungry.”
Six years ago, Lorrie was asked to take on the branch manager position. At first, she was hesitant to be in a leadership role, but once she tried it, she loved it.
The Cadillac branch serves seven counties in Northwest Michigan through Mobile Pantries and by providing safe, surplus food to a variety of agency partners. The facility is quite a bit smaller than the Comstock Park warehouse, so Lorrie and her three staff members wear multiple hats. Particularly during the dark days of the pandemic in 2020, the team devoted long hours to ensuring their neighbors were fed.
“Last year was the craziest year ever, but it was the most amazing year I’ve been here,” she said. “With COVID, we never stopped. We were burnt out but we always came in with a smile.”
It was a tough year — the facility increased distribution by 63 percent last spring and summer. However, Lorrie said it was “the best year ever,” because of the sheer number of people willing to jump in and help those in need — whether it was someone eager to donate food or an agency partner being quick to help clients in need.
“There’s such a need to feed people. There’s such a need for the passion. I love what we do here.”