On the day of the Mobile Pantry, eight-year-old Owen Ronning was wearing a white Avengers t-shirt and running from one side of the truck to the other, climbing into the bays to unload bags of lettuce and boxes of nectarines for the people in line. He seemed unaware of the stir he’d created in the community.
This Mobile Pantry was Owen’s idea, funded by money he raised himself, and people took notice. The week before, MLive ran a story on him, and the Mayor of Hudsonville personally showed up to volunteer.
Last summer, Owen’s father was injured and couldn’t work. His mother Tara sought help and brought Owen along to a couple Mobile Pantries. He didn’t say much about it at the time, but this February, while he was sitting at home during a snowstorm, it came out.
“He said, ‘I want to help people,’” Tara recalled, “and I said, ‘Let’s find out what we can do.’” It didn’t take long for them to gravitate back to the program that had helped them when they were in need.
Owen went door to door and held a coin drive in his class. Pretty soon, he’d collected $495, enough to sponsor a 5,000 pound truckload. Word spread through local churches and the school district, and on June 17, more than 115 families showed up to receive food.
Owen said he was motivated by the thought that some people in his neighborhood didn’t have enough to eat. “I wanted to make it so they had enough,” he said.
One of those people was a woman named Nancy, who attended the Mobile with her adult daughter Linda, who has Down syndrome. “I had my social security cut to $250 a month, and it’s pretty hard to live on $250 a month,” Nancy said.
She called the Mobile Pantry a blessing from God.
“Could you tell that boy thank you?”
Tara believes her son’s effort should stand as a testament to the West Michigan community. “If an eight-year-old with the help of his mom and dad can do it, there’s no reason [others] can’t.”