By Victoria Bowles
Old Town Lansing staff writer
Community outreach programs expand to feed the hungry
OLD TOWN LANSING — After 14 years of providing families with Thanksgiving meals, Old Town’s Compassionate Feast is looking for new ways to satisfy the growing need.
The goal of the Compassionate Feast is for the families to have the experience of making Thanksgiving dinner in their home, and not have to go to a soup kitchen, said Louise Gradwohl, executive director of the Old Town Commercial Association.
“Our initial goal was not to feed the needy but to expand our community outreach,” Gradwohl said. “Now it is one of the key ways that we give back to the community, and it is a rewarding experience for everyone involved.”
Last year the OTCA helped nearly 174 families, which is roughly 700 people, by collecting both food and monetary donations, Gradwohl said.
The Compassionate Feast takes two months to prepare for, and this year the OTCA has chosen to pair up with the Epicenter of Worship Church to share some of the responsibilities that come along with organizing the event, Gradwohl said.
An issue felt throughout the community
Jacqueline Humphrey, a community outreach volunteer at Epicenter of Worship Church, said they have given families food at Thanksgiving time before and their church has lots of ongoing programs to help feed people in the area.
“Our goal is to serve and to be a help because there are a lot of people with the heart to help other people,” Humphrey said. “The partnership with the OTCA is one we embrace and want to continue with.”
Humphrey continued to explain the role of Epicenter of Worship Church in the community, and why they chose to get involved in the Compassionate Feast in the audio clip.
According to information complied by the Feeding America Matheatica Policy Research Inc. for the Mid Michigan area food bank in 2010, 74 percent of food pantries in the mid- Michigan are run by faith- based agencies affiliated with churches, mosques, synagogues or other religious organizations.
Although the Epicenter of Worship and the Compassionate Feast have been committed to providing food assistance to local families during the holiday time, they are not the only organizations that feel the pressure.
“We see an increased demand for food assistance and food increased contributions around during the holidays,” said, Adam Butler, the outreach and advocacy manager for the Mid Michigan Food Bank Council.
Butler also said they have an increase in different food and fund drives during that time and it can be a stressful.
Embracing a growing need
In regards to financing the program, Gradwohl said that collecting donations for the event the Epicenter of Worship will help them when they are organizing the list of families they receive from local non-profits, such as Christian Family Services, Big Brothers Big Sisters and Head Start.
“They are the largest group who provides help during that time,” said Sharon Rogers, the community partnership manager for the Lansing area Head Start.
Along with giving families the opportunity to benefit from programs like the Compassionate Feast, Head Start also provides families with the opportunity to improve their current situation.
“There are people who have lost jobs unexpectedly,” Rogers said. “Although most people are go-getters that try to get another job, many cannot find jobs that can provide enough income to allow them to properly provide for their family.”
Twenty- six percent of families that visit Lansing areas food banks are supported by at least one employed adult, according to information complied by the Feeding America Matheatica Policy Research Inc. for the Mid Michigan area food bank in 2010.
Steven Haider, an economics professor at Michigan State said, the best way to decrease poverty is to increase education and develop skills that will pay off in the labor market.
Every year people who are limited to a high school diploma fall further behind, Haider said. Some skills that can be useful in the labor market can be earned through apprenticeships and having skills in a trade like plumbing or welding can help you earn more.
Although education is the way to decease poverty that has long-term effects, hunger for many families is a priority today, Haider said.
“Children in schools can receive subsidized meals and families can receive aid from the government,” Haider said. “But charities with different goals help to make sure there are no cracks in the system.”
For more information contact Victoria Bowles, firstname.lastname@example.org,
(810) 429- 1079