St. Johns helps low-income residents during the holiday season

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By Meghan Callan
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter

ST. JOHNS — The town’s 15 local ministries and churches are working together to create a safety net for those in need, especially during the holiday season.

Among those non-profit groups is The Basic Needs Center, a Christ-centered ministry located on 213 N. Clinton Ave. that provides food, clothing, and transportation for low-income Clinton and Gratiot County residents.

Clinton County Pastor Russ MacCoy has been volunteering his time at this ministry for the past 6 years that it has been opened.

“We serve about 1,500 families and we go through about 12,000 pounds of food a month and it all comes from donations from the community and churches,” said MacCoy.

In addition to donations from the community, MacCoy said the ministry has a couple of corporate sponsors that help out such as Panera Bread, Kroger, and Liquid Fertilizer.

MacCoy said Michigan State University also donates by providing the ministry with produce.

According to MacCoy, in addition to food and clothing the center also provides pre-paid bus passes to medical appointments for those who cannot afford transportation. However, the amount of times people are allowed to use the services the ministry provides is limited.

MacCoy said people are allowed to come in for food twice a month, however for clothing anytime with limitations on the amount of outfits they can receive.

“To receive assistance one must be a Clinton or Gratiot County resident, and provide an updated form of a Michigan ID,” said MacCoy.

People do not have to be religious to receive assistance at the center.

“We encourage people to get involved in the local churches, most people who come through are Christian but you don’t have to be to receive our help,” said MacCoy.

Everyone who works at this The Basic Needs Center volunteers their time free of charge.

“Most volunteers come from the community, some from the churches, we also help the county and the state with those who have to serve community service,” said MacCoy.

MacCoy’s wife Adele MacCoy, who is also a minister, volunteers at the Basic Needs Center almost every day.

Adele MacCoy was hesitant at first about commenting on how well the center would be able to provide for Clinton.

“We are helping the community, but unfortunately there is always going to be someone to replace those who were struggling,” said Adele MacCoy.

The center is also having difficulties raising finances to keep it up and running.

“I have to raise several thousands of dollars a month in cash just to buy the food, pay the rent and the utilities of the center,” said Russ MacCoy.

Russ MacCoy said he tries to write articles for the paper when he can to get the word out and always encourages people to donate at all his church services.

“Even though we have been facing challenges, I can tell you we have been blessed with all the help we receive,” said Russ acCoy.

During the winter season Russ MacCoy said donations to the center tend to steadily increase, and the whole community helps provide to low income through other programs as well.

According to Russ MacCoy, First Congregational Church located in downtown St. Johns holds an annual free community Thanksgiving Day dinner.

According to The First Congregational Church Administrator Sandy Kemp, other local churches such as the First United Methodist Church and St. Joseph Catholic Church also help organize the feast.

In addition, according to Kemp, local businesses also provide donations, food and assistance for the feast. Supporters include: Gordon Foods, DeWitt Meijers, Sparrow Hospital, Butterbee Cakes and several others listed on the event’s main flyer.

“This is our sixth year putting on this community Thanksgiving dinner. We have two separate seatings during the day for the feast because over the years it has grown in the amount of people that attend. Last year we served a total of 135 plates,” said Kemp.

According the menu, the meal includes servings of roast turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, relishes, squash and apple or pumpkin pie for dessert.

According to Kemp there is a short registration form for those who are planning on attending the feast, however it is not required to be a member of any of the churches to attend or volunteer for the event.

Resident of St. Johns Jackie Nyugen has been volunteering for the dinner the past two years and encourages everyone in the community to get involved.

Nyugen said her experience volunteering has been nothing but positive and a great way to give back to the community of St. Johns.

“We try an encourage everyone to bring their friends and families and co-workers, all our welcome. No one should eat alone on Thanksgiving Day and I believe over the past years we have truly made an impact in making it special for many,” said Nyugen.

Nina Eliasoph, an expert in volunteering and voluntary work at University of Southern California, agrees that volunteering through local events is a positive experience that will strengthen a community.

“Volunteering helps to encourage civic responsibility, it is an investment to a community and the people who live in it. Events such as this help unite people from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal and strengthen the community,” said Eliasoph.

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