“It’s a lot of help helping people”

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Pastor Russ McCoy and his wife Adele put away winter clothing.

By Madeline Sewell
Clinton County Chatter staff reporter

ST. JOHNS — When people are in need, it’s not unusual for a community to rise up to meet the challenge.

This is exactly what the city of St. Johns has done.

Organizations such as the Basic Needs Center are doing what they can to help out those in need.

Pastor Russ McCoy, head of the center, said, “[the center’s] main mission is to feed and clothe those who are in need, all free of charge.”

“They can come in twice a month,” said Russ McCoy. “Once for the major food, which is bread, milk, produce, and meat. Everything that you can get at the grocery store.”

“Then they come in one other time for just produce and they can come in for clothing at anytime,” said Russ McCoy.

And the community is behind him.

“We go through about 12,000 pounds of food a month and it all comes from donations from the community, the churches, and a couple of corporate sponsors help us out, like Panera Bread, Kroger, Liquid Fertilizer … and Michigan State University,” said Russ McCoy.

On top of the food donations the center is also receiving a check every month or every quarter from 15 churches all from Clinton County, said Russ McCoy.

The Tree of Life Community Church, is one of those churches.

Kay McKone, an employee at the community church, said, “we’ve been working together to encourage the community.”

“It’s a lot of people helping people,” said Adele McCoy, Russ’s wife and another faithful volunteer at the center.

According to Michigan’s Campaign to End Homelessness, Michigan’s South Central area, which includes Clinton County, has a homeless population of 14,267 individuals.

Nationally, Michigan is ranked first in the Midwest for number of homelessness and poverty, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Annual Homeless Assessment.

With so many people needing assistance, it’s no wonder that so many people are willing to help.

“I didn’t think it was going to work at first,” said Adele McCoy.

But since opening their doors in 2009 the amount of families they serve has steadily increased.

“We serve about 1,500 families,” said Russ McCoy.

“Some of the people that come in, come in three times a year. Some come every single chance they can get, and there are some that just come in when they don’t have enough paycheck to make it through the month,” said Russ McCoy.

With such a great environment for individuals who are struggling, one can wonder if this increase of people in need has had any impact on the surrounding business and community.

Alyssa Rubie, a waiter at Main Street Cafe, has never volunteered at the Basic Needs Center, but she doesn’t believe it brings in the wrong crowd.

Her only complaint lies in the location of the center.

“I don’t know about [having it located in] downtown,” said Rubie.

Instead, she suggested that the center should move to the Southpoint Mall, located on Old U.S. Highway 27.

“Down by Jade Garden would be a better location, I think, for the center to be located,” said Rubie.

This would move those who come into town for the center away from the busier area of town.

According to Russ McCoy, “[St. Johns has] a lot of people that come and move to the community because of our compassion ministry.”

“There is an age group, probably 17 to 25, that will go where they can get the best deal for handouts,” Russ McCoy said.

“So we get people that will leave Lansing and then move to St. Johns and get a cheep apartment downtown here because our food pantry,” said Russ McCoy.

Unfortunately if this bothers you the center doesn’t seem to be moving.

“It’s physically demanding,” said Russ McCoy, “we’re reading a point where since we’ve been open here, it’s like, people… become so used to been there done that so it’s hard to keep the finances coming in.”

But no mater how many people they help, there will always be a percentage of a population that is going to be needing services.

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