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MFB Non-Profit Partners: December 2023 Spotlights


These Volunteers are Here-To-Serve

Midwest Food Bank Arizona serves 280 non-profit partner agencies, providing them with food free of charge. Here-To-Serve Ministry of Eagles Wings Faith Center International is a valuable ally in our mission to combat food insecurity and bring hope to underserved communities.

Here-To-Serve is a beacon of compassion, offering vital assistance through their food pantry at the church and engaging in impactful outreach programs to support local tribes, including the Navajo, Apache, Hopi, and Pima tribes. Jerry and Laurel Ecker lead this extraordinary agency.

"We could not perform these outreaches without Midwest Food Bank," says Laurel. "MFB provides thousands of pounds of critically needed food, supplies, and water for tribes, often in areas without electricity or running water."

Beyond their role as leaders of Here-To-Serve, the Eckers also regularly volunteer at the MFB Arizona warehouse. As CDL drivers and owners of a transportation company, they also volunteer to transport donated food loads for MFB.

"Jerry and Laurel's dedication to serving these communities is an inspiration to MFB," says Merilee Baptiste, Executive Director of MFB Arizona.


Humbling and Eye-Opening Volunteer Experience

Donna Haas, Volunteer Coordintor for MFB Bloomington-Normal, IL, spent a day volunteering at one of MFB's non-profit partners. This is her account of the experience.

I had the privilege of volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul Food Pantry. Knowing how many hard-working Midwest Food Bank volunteers it takes to get our products out the door (at least 70 per distribution shift, not counting the volunteers who package the bulk food before distribution), it was incredibly eye-opening to see how many more volunteers it takes at the food pantry to get the products to the families facing food insecurity. (another 50 volunteers were serving the morning I was there)

When we pulled up to SVDP early on a Monday morning, the drive-through distribution line was already out onto the street. There was another humbling line of about 20 clients who did not have transportation, some with suitcases to put their food in. We served over 400 families that day.

The SVDP volunteers were busy bagging up products and gathering a shopping cart full of meat, canned goods, bread, snacks, drinks, etc., for each client. It was neat to walk the line and see so many products that I recognized from our warehouse. Many of the volunteers I met mentioned how they wouldn't be able to do what they do without Midwest Food Bank.

The weather was cool and windy, but the hearts of these volunteers were warm, friendly, and welcoming. Some volunteers were busy setting up an outdoor clothing boutique, and a veteran volunteer donated free bicycles that he had passionately repaired for those who needed bicycle transportation.

Every client was treated with dignity and respect. We gave large families a color-coded tag that let the crew loading the carts know to give them a little extra. One of my roles was to bless the large families with a large dessert. Seeing the smiles on their face when they got a beautiful cake was heartwarming. One mom said, " Oh, I will take whatever you can give me. I have nine kids at home that will love it!"

One client noticed I was not a regular volunteer. She asked me, "Are you thinking about volunteering here? Because you should. This is the best place." She went on to tell me that she had to spend some time in a nursing home and lost everything that she owned. Since her recovery and not needing special care, she has had to wear her twenty-year-old son's sweatpants and hoodie. I noticed she was wearing a nice sweater. She gave me a big smile and said, "I got this sweater here. And they even gave me an extra pair of shoes. Can you believe that? I now have FOUR shoes."

You know, I thought I would spend the morning helping SVDP. Instead, I returned from that day with a heart that grew two sizes. It gave me a glimpse of why volunteers are so committed and love to serve. God truly blesses those who serve Him.


Compassion in Abundance

In the heart of Peoria is the Catholic Charities Fulton Sheen Food Pantry, a vital partner of Midwest Food Bank. Every month, they diligently served 450 households with bags of groceries, ensuring that families in need had enough to put on their tables. However, that shifted dramatically in August 2023, when the pantry found itself providing food to a staggering 611 people, with over 2,100 individuals dependent on them for daily meals.

Catholic Charities' commitment to providing quality sustenance to those in need was unwavering. To meet this surging demand, they supplemented their food donations with carefully chosen purchased items, including MFB's nourishing Tender Mercies  meals. Associate Director John Gibson says, "We are always striving to find substantial and nutritious foods. We believe Tender Mercies meet both of these criteria."

Catholic Charities has plans to relocate its headquarters to a higher-need area of Peoria adjacent to St. Mary's Cathedral. Anticipating a potential doubling of families seeking assistance, Associate Director John Gibson shared, "We are excited to do our part to help our local community meet the needs of those who are hungry."

Through their partnership with Midwest Food Bank and the inclusion of Tender Mercies, Catholic Charities makes a profound impact on the lives of countless individuals, offering not just food, but also hope and compassion in abundance.

"We're thrilled to partner with Catholic Charities to get warm, nutritious meals into the hands of those in need," says Lisa Martin, Executive Director of MFB Morton, home of the Tender Mercies program.


Sharing Hope and Community

In Eastern Indianapolis, hope comes through the efforts of Midwest Food Bank Indiana and its partnership with Mt. Carmel Baptist Church. Since 2016, E.J. Hodge, a dedicated church member, travels to MFB every week to collect a variety of nourishments: frozen foods, proteins, fresh produce, dairy, and dry goods.

His mission is simple yet profound – to bring hope to a community grappling with economic challenges and gun violence. The area surrounding Mt. Carmel Baptist Church has faced its share of trials, especially during the pandemic and its aftermath.

"It is so nice to provide care, comfort, and a place of peace to those in our neighborhood," says E.J. "We are neighbors serving our neighbors like the Bible says."

As E.J. loads his vehicle with the collected food, he knows that in a little over 24 hours, these provisions will transform into shared meals. In this small corner of Indianapolis, sharing food becomes an act of sharing life, hope, and community.

"E.J. is such a positive ray of sunshine in our distributions here. He is enthusiastic about the products available, and helpful, and cheerful," says Marcie Luhigo, Executive Director of Midwest Food Bank Indiana. "It is a joy to partner with Mt. Carmel Baptist Church."


Supporting Our Veterans

The Danielson Veterans Coffeehouse, established in 2015, is a vital hub for Northeastern Connecticut's veteran community. It's not just a place to gather; it's a lifeline for those who've served our country. Every Tuesday, they roll out a warm breakfast spread and bring in guest speakers who are experts in veteran affairs, including important health resources.

Today, the Coffeehouse boasts a robust membership of over 400 veterans representing all branches of the military. Their commitment to the community mirrors the dedication with which they served their nation. But that's not all – they're gearing up to introduce an exciting college scholarship program.

Bruce Hay, a U.S. Navy veteran and the Coffeehouse's Vice President, has teamed up with the Midwest Food Bank New England. In a recent interview, he revealed that they prepared 200 boxes of food in November alone, serving 180 veterans and their families. What's so special about Midwest Food Bank? They provide a unique selection of food that's hard to find anywhere else.

But the support doesn't stop there. Each month, this dedicated group and their dedicated volunteers set up shop at the Farmer's Market Pavilion in Putnam, Connecticut. Their mission? To ensure that veterans with proof of status can access free fresh and nutritious food. This is a story of community, service, and a commitment to giving back – one plate at a time.

"We are blessed to partner with Bruce and his team," says Jan Young, Executive Director of MFB New England. "It enables us to give back to those who have served our country." 

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Leading the Fight Against Food Insecurity
MFB Volunteers: December 2023 Spotlights
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