When it comes to helping local residents in need, the Mackinaw Community Center Food Pantry is stepping in to help in a big way. Located in the Mackinaw Community Center at 101 S. Orchard St, the organization is currently ramping up their efforts as need in the community grows. This week, pantry board members invited The Mail to come down and check out their operation in the hopes of getting the word out about the big plans that are in the works.
Starting in 2016, the pantry was going strong - serving about 20 vehicles a week - until Covid hit. “Covid just really messed things up”, board member Norm Stone tells me. “We went from serving around 20-30 families a week to practically nothing. In fact, I’ve had people tell me that before seeing our posts on Facebook, they thought we were closed.” Luckily, after a recent campaign of posting on Facebook, word is getting out and the number of families reaching out for help is steadily increasing.
“We don’t care who you are or why you are here” board members Sherri Stone and Tammy Bishop explain. “We don’t care about your politics or your religion. None of that matters here. The only issue that is important to us is getting people the help they need.” The three organizers take me on a quick tour of their storage areas. I’m impressed by the organization and the sheer amount of food available, not to mention other necessities of day to day life. In one giant box there are bags and bags of hygiene products that are ready to go out. Additionally, the group is working on making sure that children are fed throughout the summer. I’m shown the provisions for that endeavor and the group explains that they hope to provide breakfast and lunch for kids three times a week.
The group takes me to the back of the building to show me the big plans that are in the works: a space meant to eventually be an after school gathering area of sorts. While plans are still being hammered out, the intention is to have a safe area for students to gather and receive help with their school work, receive a snack or even a meal, along with an area to learn basic life skills. However, the space isn’t meant just for students: adults will also be able to gather there. Eventually, the group hopes to have a washer and dryer available so families can do their laundry, along with a community closet for anyone who is in need of new clothing.
As for upcoming events, the Mackinaw Community Center Food Pantry is planning to “Stuff a Bus” during Mack-A-Fest on July 14th, 15th, and 16th. The current plan is to have a bus in the IGA parking lot, where donations will be accepted and placed into a bus. Festival goers are encouraged to bring non-perishable items to help stock the pantries storerooms. The board members tell me that they plan on doing similar events throughout the year as a way to boost awareness of their mission to feed those in need.
If you would like to volunteer to help the organization or you or someone you know are in need, you can reach out to Tammy Bishop at 309-267-3751.[Picture taken by Norman Stone]