By Emily Elconin
Clinton County Chatter Staff Reporter
For the families in Clinton County who have nowhere else to turn, The Basic Needs Center is there to provide food, clothes, and other vital necessities for a basic household. Married couple Adele MacCoy and Pastor Russ MacCoy started this non-profit organization six years ago out of their compassion for helping people in their community.
“When we first just started out, we only thought we would be helping about 100 families. Now, we’re up to 1,666 families over the course of six years,” Adele MacCoy said.
The Basic Needs Center is located at 105 N. Clinton Ave. in St. Johns.
What makes the Basic Needs Center so unique is that their volunteers are people in need who want to help others in similar situations.
Clinton County resident Charlotte Workman, a new volunteer at The Basic Needs Center, decided to be a part of the center immediately after her first visit.
“I needed some help so I just wanted to help other people too,” Workman said.
Before retiring, Workman worked at Mahle Engine Components in St. Johns. Unfortunately, her pension was taken away and she is not covered for health insurance, making it difficult to provide for herself.
Workman is a volunteer at The Basic Needs Center but even she is stretched too thin and needs some necessities from the center to help her get by.
Tina Boettger, a long-time volunteer at the center, says it is tough to make a living in Clinton County due to recent layoffs and what seems like minimal job opportunities. Since Boettger doesn’t have a job, she is not receiving any health benefits. Health benefits are extremely important for low-income families.
“More businesses need to be opened. There are stores on the main strip that are empty. Opening new stores could be a way to create more jobs for people in the community,” said Boettger.
Boettger describes the families and individuals who come to The Basic Needs Center as people who are poor and genuinely need help being able to support themselves and their families.
Clinton County residents and disabled couple Beth and Larry Pearce are first-timers at The Basic Needs Center. Beth Pearce, a kind-hearted and gentle woman battles with neuropathy making it difficult for her to stand for long periods of time.
Due to Beth and Larry’s disabilities, they are not permitted to work.
“I went to Bath one year for a food drive. I had to wait in line for hours. It was hard for me to stand on my feet for that long,” said Beth Pearce.
There is a tremendous amount disabled couples and older folks that come into The Basic Needs Center.
According to The United States Census Bureau, people 65 years of age and older made up 15 percent of the population of Clinton County and the entire state of Michigan. There are a lot of older people unable to be compensated for their disabilities.
According to The United States Census Bureau the amount of persons below poverty level, from 2009 to 2013 in Clinton County was about 12 percent. This compares to amount of people in Lansing below poverty level from 2009 to 2013 which was about 28 percent. This compares to the state average which is about 17 percent. The Lansing area is being hit hard by poverty levels but there is hope for the people of Clinton County.
Every individual who comes into The Basic Needs Center is someone who needs outside support to provide for themselves and their families.
The Basic Needs Center lends a helping hand to anyone in need. It is the ultimate mission of The Basic Needs Center to create a safe atmosphere for anyone who enters through the door.
The city of St. Johns is coming together as a community to help support one another. However, the number of families coming to The Basic Needs Center is growing.
Adele MacCoy holds records of all of the families that have come into The Basic Needs Center. She inputs their information into the center’s computer located right when they walk in.
Without The Basic Needs Center, families of Clinton County center would be left with no support. All of the food, clothes, and other necessities that the center has are all donated.
“Sometimes if there’s a shipment that wasn’t delivered properly, they’ll send it over to us. We constantly have people wanting to help,” Adele MacCoy said.
Clinton County resident Marie Geller, librarian at the Briggs Public Library located a few blocks away from The Basic Needs Center at 108 East Railroad St. in St. Johns, shares how the library donates a portion of what they collect from different food, book, and mitten drives to The Basic Needs Center on a regular basis.
“I think The Basic Needs Center is a wonderful asset to St. Johns. They’re friendly and open to taking all different items. It’s been a huge help to the people in the area,” said Geller.
Among the friendly volunteers at The Basic Needs Center is 90-year-old Meridell Nelson who calls herself the “bag lady.” Nelson looks forward to every Thursday where she spends her entire day at The Basic Needs Center.
“It’s a positive environment. Everyone I meet here is my friend no matter who they are,” Nelson said.