Two months after Laurie and Jack Ellens began volunteering at The Community Basket in Dutton, the previous director asked if they’d be willing to take over. Laurie had previously worked in apartment rentals, so she didn’t know much about running a pantry, but three years later, she and Jack are still at the helm. Now, they serve 75 to 100 families each month.
The pantry is largely supported by the community, and since the start of the pandemic, more than 50 percent of the food they distribute to neighbors in need has come from Feeding America West Michigan.
“We come down here every other Friday. I used to buy eggs from Meijer, but when you’re buying 80 or 90 dozen, that’s a lot of money,” Laurie said. “The food bank started carrying them. It’s much easier and cheaper.”
This Thanksgiving, they’re providing baskets to families that include foods like potatoes, vegetables and apple sauce — plus turkeys they received from the food bank. Laurie and Jack get to know the neighbors who visit their pantry regularly, and have noticed many are particularly looking forward to the Thanksgiving baskets.
“Groceries are higher and some of them aren’t working,” Laurie said. “It’s a little bit of relief allowing them to have something to serve if they’re going to have family over.”
No matter the time of year, Laurie and Jack take time to make the neighbors they serve feel welcome and treated with respect.
“We have a lot of senior citizens and we like to joke around with them. They say, ‘you guys make it so fun to come.’ For some of them, it’s their month’s supply of food.”
In their community, Laurie and Jack said everyone helps everyone. Quite a few times neighbors who’ve received help have returned to give back.
“We have a lot of people who come back with a donation and say ‘you helped us during our time in need. How can we help you?’”
This holiday season, many are in need, but many like Laurie and Jack are there to help. Feeding America West Michigan is honored to be working alongside our pantry partners as they help ensure neighbors across our service area have food to celebrate!
Story written by Communication and Marketing Specialist Juliana Ludema.