Crawford County Community Christian Help Center volunteer DeAnne Swiercz (left), and director Nancy Goodyear, prepare food packages for the center’s food pantry clients in July.

People Fund helps feed a Crawford County need

Crawford County Community Christian Help Center volunteer DeAnne Swiercz (left), and director Nancy Goodyear, prepare food packages for the center’s food pantry clients in July.

Christian Help Center helps fill students' summer food gap

As students head back to the classroom for the start of a new school year, some may wish they could go back and enjoy just a few more of those carefree days of summer vacation.

But for some children whose families are dealing with food insecurity, summertime and other breaks from school can mean less access to regular good-quality meals.

Much like many other school districts, the Crawford-Ausable School District’s breakfast and lunch program provides two meals per day on days when school is in session and is an important source of nutrition, especially for children facing food insecurity. However, those opportunities aren’t as readily available during summer vacation. Although the school district did offer a program serving breakfast and lunch for students most weekdays over the summer, those meals are only available on site. Not all students have a way to regularly get to the school for those meals in the summer.

That’s where the Crawford County Community Christian Help Center stepped in.

Earlier this year the center received a $2,500 grant from the Great Lakes Energy People Fund to support a summer food program for children.

Center director Nancy Goodyear said the summer food program is a natural outgrowth of the food pantry the organization runs year-round. Thanks to the summer food program, during the summer months, volunteers were able to add additional “kid-friendly” food items to the weekly food distribution for clients with school-age children.

Nancy said the center was established in 1992 when several churches in the Crawford County area who were all doing their own individual food pantries, teamed up to start a collaborative effort.

She said  donations from many area churches, from the community at-large and grants such as the People Fund Grant are the primary sources of the center’s funding.

Nancy said the pantry typically serves about 300-350 people per month, and the summer program specifically served 36 families in June and was approaching that same number for July.

“Getting the People Fund grand was huge,” Nancy said. “It basically covered all the costs of this summer’s program. Without it we would have had to find some other means to pay for it.”

She added: “When the people see the extra food we’re providing. They are just so grateful.”

The food pantry is located at 300 Huron St. in Grayling. Its distribution hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday. The center does not have a website but does have a Facebook page that staff updates regularly. If you’d like to support the center’s work, donations may be dropped off or mailed to PO Box 1115, Grayling, MI 59738. Donations or non-perishable food items or personal care items may be dropped off during the pantry’s normal distribution hours.

Great Lakes Energy’s People Fund is funded by participating members who agree to have their electric bill rounded up to the next whole dollar each month. Last year the People Fund surpassed the $4 million mark in grants awarded since the program’s inception in 1999. Grants are awarded twice each year. The deadline for applications to be submitted for the next round of grants is Oct. 15, 2022. For more information on the people fund, including recent grant awards, how to sign up and the grant application process, visit gtlakes.com/people-fund/.

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