“A lot of people chip in” — small pantry in Negaunee on-call to serve

Food pantry volunteer Kathy stands with Yasna and Billy around a cart of food

When Billy and his wife Yasna, a nurse’s aide, moved from Marquette to Negaunee recently, their change in circumstance made it difficult to put food on the table. A friend suggested they check out their local St. Vincent De Paul, where they now visit when they need a little extra help with rent or groceries. In addition, they regularly attend Mobile Food Pantries hosted in the county.

“It helps us. The volunteers are great,” Yasna said.

Kathy (left), a volunteer, with Billy and Yasna.

The Negaunee St. Vincent De Paul food pantry and the Mobile Food Pantries the couple attend share a connection — Feeding America West Michigan. The food bank sends Mobile Pantries filled with fresh produce and other food to host sites across Marquette County, with support from organizations like the West End Health Foundation, which sponsored two local Mobile Pantries this year. And, when our partner food pantries, including Negaunee’s St. Vincent De Paul, need to stock their shelves and freezer, they order pantry staples and frozen food from us.

This St. Vincent De Paul is hidden away in downtown Negaunee and is open by appointment only. In addition to food, neighbors like Billy and Yasna can visit the location for help with mobility equipment, rent, utilities or even a toilet seat or bus ticket.

Steve and Tom stand in the food pantry.

“You can call us almost any day of the week,” explained Steve, the pantry’s director. “They will call us and we’ll make up a box of whatever they need.”

Steve and a team of twelve volunteers are on-call to head over to the St. Vinnie’s whenever anyone needs help. When a neighbor needs it, they’ll even deliver a box of food directly to their home.

Steve has directed this St. Vinnie’s since 2010 and shared he just loves “making the community a little bit better.” He won’t back down from a challenge when it comes to helping someone. Once, a neighbor needed a bus ticket to Denver within a couple of days. Because of their location, this was a challenge — but Steve managed to secure one. Another volunteer made the neighbor lunch for the ride.

Downtown Negaunee

Negaunee boasts a population of 4,500 and is home to some of the few remaining mines in the U.P. Other than that, there aren’t too many jobs, so the population — reflecting the situation of many small rural communities — is aging.

“A lot of times they just want somebody to talk to them,” Steve said. “They just want someone to get to know them, to hear their stories.”

In addition to seniors, however, the team does serve some families, and often serves neighbors without homes, many of whom camp nearby.

Speaking of his community’s willingness to get involved with the St. Vinnie’s, Steve said, “It’s different. A lot of people chip in where it’s needed.”