Shawn Keener, program director for United Church Outreach Ministry, does everything from working with volunteers to overseeing gardening projects to the occasional dive into the agency’s dumpster (don’t ask). In other words, she keeps the gears turning.
“I love it,” she says. “It’s the best job.”
Founded in 1985, UCOM’s goal is to provide material and educational support for the people of southwest Grand Rapids. Their programs include financial coaching, homework help, health screenings and a food pantry.
One of UCOM’s specialties is helping clients manage chronic illnesses by eating healthy. They’ve also started a pair of garden projects at the agency and in a nearby park. UCOM feeds 700 to 800 people each month.
Southwest Grand Rapids has a large population of recent immigrants, meaning many of UCOM’s clients are cut off from friends, family, and professional connections. For those clients, UCOM becomes a surrogate family.
“We get invited to quiñceaneras and birthday parties,” Shawn says. “We provide that support for some of our immigrants.”
UCOM is just one of the Food Bank’s 1,200 partner agencies making a difference in West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula.
See more stories from the Fall 2014 Newsletter and 2013 Annual Report.