Feeding America West Michigan fights hunger in partnership with more than 700 food pantries and meal programs in the 40 counties we serve. The food bank gathers millions of pounds of food every year and distributes it to neighbors facing hunger through these local partnerships.
In Grand Rapids, The Green Apple Pantry is one of these partners.
Yoli is the Pantry Manager and has been a part of the organization for about nine years. She wears many hats, such as overseeing volunteers and donations, and overall plays a huge role in keeping the pantry running smoothly for neighbors seeking food assistance.
“I love it here. This is my calling. It’s my purpose, my passion.”
Before working at The Green Apple Pantry, Yoli worked in social services. She recalls sharing resources for people to find food if they were ever in need. And now, she gets to be that resource.
“If you need help, one less thing I want you to have to worry about is how you are gonna be able to provide food or meals for your kids. If you show up at our doorstep, there is a need, and we’re going to serve you.”
When Yoli’s family was in a time of need in the past, it was difficult at first to accept that they needed assistance. But now, she works to reassure her neighbors in the community that it’s okay.
“You don’t have to share [your story], just know that I am here, we are here, to help you in any way we can.”
Norbert plays another essential role in this organization. He says his office is “with all the canned goods” and his job is to keep everything stocked and organized.
He used to be a sous chef responsible for different kitchens at Michigan State University, and his chef training took him to Germany, Switzerland and Canada. After meeting his wife, they moved back to the United States, and have been together for 45 years.
Like Yoli, his family needed food assistance in the past. As he packs boxes of food for neighbors now, he thinks about how these families are able to feed their kids with the food he’s providing and understands how big of a difference it can make.
Norbert also discussed the importance of donations and how the pantry greatly appreciates the items their donors bring. Food is often what is donated, but one special donation came in from Sharon, a retiree who likes to knit.
Sharon learned that an individual who used to donate hand-knitted items to the pantry no longer did that. So, she decided to fill that gap.
“There’s a void there that can be filled, that’s my motivation right there just to help the people.”
She feels thankful to be able to help those around her and she often finds ways to meet the various needs her neighbors may face. She has held drives for soap and toothbrushes, made bags for women at shelters to use when grocery shopping and made specially-sized bibs for children at a local center.
Organizations that work in partnership with Feeding America West Michigan, such as The Green Apple Pantry, are instrumental in our community effort to end hunger. The passion and motivation of those involved at these organizations, whether they be donors, volunteers or employees, continues to help change lives—one meal at a time. We are so thankful for our partnership with The Green Apple Pantry, as well as for the financial support of organizations like Wesco Inc and Reefer Service, Inc.
Story written by Content Specialist Kelly Reitsma