— With families finding it harder and harder to make ends meet, a group in Swartz Creek is helping to ease the burden for local families.
Founded by resident Hope Moreland in March 2009, the Swartz Creek Community Food Basket offers a way for families in the Swartz Creek Community Schools district to supplement their monthly food supply and toiletries.
Moreland, who retired after 15 years as the Education Director for Swartz Creek United Methodist Church, felt led to help make a difference in the lives of community members. “I had a calling to open a food pantry because as the economy worsened, it seemed like we needed this in the community,” she said.
Moreland retired in December 2009 and in January of this year, she began calling local churches for help in the endeavor. One church she reached out to was St. Mary Queen of Angles Catholic Church in the city.
“I called Father Steve, and told him my plan,” she said. “He said he had a lady sitting right there, Sue Drummond, who had the same vision.” With the help of Drummond and local churches, especially St. Mary’s, the Swartz Creek Community Food Basket was off and running, housed inside Swartz Creek United Methodist Church, 7400 Miller Rd.
The Community Food Basket purchases its food from the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan at reduced prices. Sometimes, the organization is able to purchase food from FEMA and the USDA for approximately $1.29 a case, which “is very inexpensive,” Moreland said.
The organization also receives donations from individuals who bring in food to the pantry. “We are blessed,” Moreland said.
So far, the Community Food Basket serves approximately 120 families each month, equaling around 350 people. Moreland said one stipulation of the Community Food Basket is that “we ask people to come once every four weeks because we’re supplementing.”
When a family comes to the Swartz Creek Community Food Basket, there is a basic information sheet to fill out where individuals are asked to write down their name, address and source of income. “They just have to say they have a need,” said Moreland. Another eligibility requirement include providing a Michigan driver’s license or state ID.
The Community Food Basket only serves those living in the Swartz Creek school district, but Moreland said families who come and are living outside of the district will not be turned away. “They’ll receive food, but we’ll also direct them to other agencies for help,” she said.
Households will receive one box a month, and each box is filled with two grocery bags, along with any available fresh produce, meat, bread from Panera in Brighton and a $5 gift card to Fortino’s for items like milk. When available, eggs are given to households, along with some frozen food items.
Moreland is part of a leadership team that operates the Swartz Creek Community Food Basket, and the team meets monthly. “We use a captain system,” said Moreland. “We have four to five volunteers who work each shift during open hours and the captain makes the on-the-spot decisions. The captains are part of the leadership team.”
Along with Moreland and Drummond, the Community Food Basket benefits with the help of Sharon Beauchamp, who does the buying for the group from the Food Bank; Priscilla Scharer, who picks up the food from the Food Bank; and Monte Morgan, who does all the volunteer scheduling.
Individuals interested in utilizing the Swartz Creek Community Food Basket, which is accessed through Door 6 at the church, can stop by from 3-6 p.m. Mondays and 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Fridays. In addition to food and toiletries, the Community Food Basket also has free, gently-used clothing for individuals and families. With winter coming, donations of coats, sweaters, sweatshirts and other winter clothing is appreciated.
The group regularly holds special events to raise money for the Community Food Basket. Recently, the group held a spaghetti dinner fundraiser at the church, serving 300 people and making approximately $2,300 for the group.
“It was nice to see the whole community come together, and there was a lot of community members who came that were not affiliated with the church,” Moreland said.
The spaghetti dinner was spearheaded by Don and Yukie Wyatt. “It was Don’s individual, homemade spaghetti sauce that made it so good,” Moreland said.
The next event benefiting the Community Food Basket will be a benefit concert at 3 p.m. Dec. 5 at the church. The concert will feature performances by the choirs of Swartz Creek United Methodist Church and St. Mary’s. The concert is free, but an offering for the Community Food Basket will be taken. For details on the upcoming benefit concert, call the church.
For more information on the Swartz Creek Community Food Basket, or to drop off donations when it is not open, call Swartz Creek United Methodist Church at 810-635-8102.