Harper Woods Mayor Valerie Kindle, pictured, led the charge to establish Harper Woods Helping Hands, a nonprofit that gives free food to local residents.

Harper Woods Mayor Valerie Kindle, pictured, led the charge to establish Harper Woods Helping Hands, a nonprofit that gives free food to local residents.

Photo by Brendan Losinski


Nonprofit providing food for Harper Woods-area families

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published April 16, 2021

 Dozens of families are helped each week with free food from local nonprofit Harper Woods Helping Hands and partner Eden Gives.

Dozens of families are helped each week with free food from local nonprofit Harper Woods Helping Hands and partner Eden Gives.

Photo by Brendan Losinski

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HARPER WOODS — People in Harper Woods who need a helping hand have a new resource available that is already providing dozens of local families with fresh food for free.

Called Harper Woods Helping Hands, this nonprofit was organized by Mayor Valerie Kindle to help fill a gap in assistance for local families in need.

“It’s a project I started when I found out about some of the food inequities in this community,” Kindle explained. “We started by delivering food every Friday with Redeemer (United Methodist) Church from their food pantry. We did that from April to July last year. Through them, I was introduced to Shonda Davis. She is the CEO of another nonprofit. Councilwoman Veronica Paiz’s husband was walking the dog when he met up with her and started talking about what she was doing. Shonda was introduced to Veronica that way, and Veronica introduced her to me. We started talking about coming together. We couldn’t really do it at Redeemer, so we decided to do it at the (Neighborhood Economic Development Coalition) building.”

By making a connection with Davis, Harper Woods Helping Hands was able to establish a pipeline of food that could be made available to Harper Woods residents.

“I’m the CEO of the nonprofit Eden Gives,” said Davis. “About 10 years ago, our previous CEO got a contract from one local Trader Joe’s — the one in (Northville) — and from that relationship we were able to get contracts from all of their stores in the area except for one. They arranged to give some of their food to us to make sure it gets into the hands of people who need it.”

Harper Woods Helping Hands became one of several smaller organizations to partner with Eden Gives to help ensure people in need had access to nutritious food.

“The amount of food we had to give away, thankfully, became too much for us to handle all on our own, so we partnered with several other nonprofits, such as Harper Woods Helping Hands,” Davis continued. “We have more than $300,000 worth of food donated to us every week, and we can give all of this free fresh food to the communities.”

Both women stressed that it’s not only free food, but high quality, organic, healthy food. They have set up a system to ensure none of it goes to waste as well.

“We have vegetables, beets, fresh fruits like apples and oranges. We’ve actually had an abundance of strawberries the last two weeks. We also have flowers that we give to seniors at Park Place (Senior Apartments),” Kindle said. “We pick food up from (Trader Joe’s) stores every Thursday, and we deliver it to approximately 45-50 families. We have extra we can give out if we have more people call. Whatever is left over, we donate it to a local church who gives it to their parishioners, so that way we don’t have any extra going to waste.”

Kindle said there was a significant need for such an organization in the Harper Woods community, as there were few local resources available to residents.

“We have passed out food for the past year to address food inequity in our community. There was no set food bank in Harper Woods. The school has one once a month, and Redeemer gives out food once a month, but now we have this sort of pop-up pantry here at the NEDC building,” Kindle said. “Anyone who contacts us can get a package. If you get burnt out from your house, for instance, you have to pretty much start over with nothing, and having an organization like this that is local is important.”

Davis said having healthy food available for people who are living through a difficult time can have an enormous impact.

“It has been well received. We get a lot of positive feedback,” she remarked. “I had a young lady, 23 years old, with cancer, and she lives in Detroit, but she is doing a lot better because she is able to get fresh, healthy food each week. A lot of people don’t have access to a store like Trader Joe’s in their community or can’t afford its type of food. By giving them that access, it can be life changing.”

Both Eden Gives and Harper Woods Helping Hands work to ensure there aren’t any hoops that people have to jump through.

“I found a few families who are immigrants, and because they weren’t entitled to food stamps or other benefits, we make sure they get food every week,” Kindle said. “When you’re a family of six and you have four little kids who don’t understand what’s happening, you need to make sure there are resources available for them. We don’t ask for identification or proof, you just need to be in need. … Our Public Safety Department can come in here and grab some food if they encounter anyone who is in need in the course of their work.”

Davis encouraged anyone who is in need of assistance to reach out. She added that anyone else who wishes to help or donate to either organization is always welcome.

“Both organizations — both Eden Gives and Harper Woods Helping Hands — are kept up through grants and donations,” she remarked. “Even a penny is welcome. They can contact us at www.edengives.org or by calling (313) 465-3439.”

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