ROSEVILLE — The free breakfast and lunch program hosted by the Erin Presbyterian Church in Roseville shut its doors Aug. 23 due to financial problems, though organizers hope to find a new home for the program soon.
Cheryl Becigneul, founder and executive director of the Macomb Feeding the Need program, said its electrical, heating and paper product costs were simply too great at the Erin church for the program or the church to cover. A message was left seeking comment from a church representative.
She said the big problem was the size of the Erin Presbyterian Church, which is large enough that the cost of heating and electricity is higher than a smaller church’s. She estimated that the meal program cost around $700-$1,000 a month there in utilities and paper products.
All of the food was donated by local businesses, Becigneul said, so that was not a factor in the program’s closure at Erin Presbyterian Church.
“Right now, we’re meeting with pastors and different churches to set up a program to go from one church one week to another church,” Becigneul said. “It should defray the cost on the churches.”
She said the Feeding the Need program still has much of its equipment necessary to cook and serve continental breakfasts and hot lunches, but she would not know exactly what they will need to purchase to bring back the program until they have finalized from which churches the program will operate.
Feeding the Need’s remaining food supplies were given out to other organizations for their own programs, such as the Hope Center, the New Life Assembly of God Church, and St. Margaret Church, which runs its own meal program Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from the fall through the spring. In contrast, Becigneul said Feeding the Need ran year- round on Tuesdays and Thursdays to provide maximum coverage for the area.
Becigneul said the homeless population suffered disproportionately during the summer months in the area, but the Feeding the Need programs helped their situation in most cases. The homeless are not the only group who get assistance through the program, however.
“It’s families, men who could be my next door neighbor, that got their jobs scaled down or companies closed, and they needed assistance because they didn’t have an income coming in,” Feeding the Need Director of Operations Pamela Spinella said.
Spinella said she had gotten started shortly after the Feeding the Need program began in 2011, and she was shocked at how many people needed help in her own county, city and neighborhood. She said the attendees became her “weekday family” due to all the time she spent with them.
“I don’t think people realize just how needed a program like this is,” she said. “It really brought more awareness to the problem, and more awareness to me that Macomb County had a problem. Before that, I had heard about Wayne County and Oakland County, but you never think about your county or your city that you live in, or in your neighborhood, that this is going on.”
Given that the program grew from about 32 people when it started in February 2011 to anywhere between 60 and 173 when it closed in August, its future homes will need to have the space for the number of people who come to it, Becigneul said.
Even those churches that are not equipped to host the meal programs can still support it in other ways, Becigneul said, by donating clothes for its clothing programs, diapers for its baby program or simply by donating money.
While the food pantry part of the program may be closed, the broader program for helping those in need is ongoing.
“We’re still doing diapers, and we’ve got an office for that,” she said. “And we are looking at a new location for the feeding (program).”
The diapers and formula program, called “Cuddle Cub,” is found from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday and Wednesdays at the Feed the Need office at 18600 Florence St., suite B4.
In the future, Becigneul said she wants to see Macomb Feeding the Need open its own location where it can hold its multiple programs, and host a community garden and classes about cooking and budgeting.
“The ultimate goal is to get people to be self-sufficient and up and running,” she said. “If you can care about people and help them get on their feet, they end up giving back to the community.”