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 An emergency food bank has been established in Madison Heights for the coronavirus outbreak, and among the volunteers are Amanda Stein and her daughter Samantha, 10, as well as Vita Palazzolo, Eve Sandoval, Cheryl Murray and Madison Heights City Councilwoman Kymm Clark, seen here March 18 at the Huffman Park shelter building, where the pantry is located.

An emergency food bank has been established in Madison Heights for the coronavirus outbreak, and among the volunteers are Amanda Stein and her daughter Samantha, 10, as well as Vita Palazzolo, Eve Sandoval, Cheryl Murray and Madison Heights City Councilwoman Kymm Clark, seen here March 18 at the Huffman Park shelter building, where the pantry is located.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Local food pantry continues to collect donations, help those in need

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison - Park News | Published July 1, 2020

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MADISON HEIGHTS — As COVID-19 continues to ravage the nation, a group of volunteers in Madison Heights have united to provide a service collecting and distributing goods for those in need.

The effort is run by two Facebook groups: The Madison Heights Emergency Food Pantry, and the #oneatatime Community Response Team — the latter a group committed to helping the homeless population in Madison Heights and addressing the systemic conditions that lead to homelessness.

The pantry they have created was originally a response to the pandemic-induced shutdown that forced people to shelter in place for months. Volunteers have been collecting donations of food and supplies for those in need and safely distributing them.

Their short-term goal with the pantry is to help people get through the health crisis, but their long-term goal is to continue providing this service afterward as a permanent resource for residents.

Among the items they have been collecting are nonperishable food items (boxed, bagged, canned); cleaning supplies and paper products, including bleach, paper towels and toilet paper; and hygiene items and toiletries including cleansers, soaps, shampoos and sanitary items.

The two groups have also been coordinating volunteer efforts to safely distribute the supplies. The city of Madison Heights has officially supported the effort, lending the shelter at Huffman Park to store items for processing, pickup and delivery.

Kymm Clark, a member of the Madison Heights City Council and one of the driving forces behind the effort, said there is real need in the city, but also a real willingness to help.

“The pandemic shined a big old spotlight on where those disparities lie. Now we must get our neighbors onboard for working together to fix them,” Clark said. “Real change starts locally, and spreads like wildfire once it catches on. I really think this year our city has led so many of these efforts by being a shining example.”
    

How it works
Huffman Park is located at 400 W. Cowan Ave., north of East Lincoln Avenue on the west side of John R Road. Drop-off hours for donations there are every Tuesday from 9 to 10 a.m., and every Saturday from noon to 1 p.m.

Donations are also being collected elsewhere in the city. Central Church, located at 1529 E. 12 Mile Road, has installed a drop-off box outside its west entrance for donations. Clark’s own business, Clark’s Fabrication and Design, located at 1444 E. 11 Mile Road, has a drop-off box outside its east entrance that is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day of the week.

Home deliveries can be arranged, the deliveries being made on Tuesdays. Email the pantry’s executive director, Amanda Stein, at mhemergencypantry@gmail.com.

Open pantry hours at the Huffman Park shelter are from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays.

One can also contact pantry organizers through social media. The Facebook group is found by searching “Madison Heights Food Pantry.” There are moderators who monitor the Facebook group from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 4 to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday, checking for pickup and delivery requests, and encouraging group members to arrange porch pickups and drop-offs during off-hours.

One can also call (248) 733-3963 or email oneatatimemh@gmail.com for more information.

    
Progress so far

The pantry recently filed for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, and continues to maintain a database of donors and recipients. This includes a list of neighbors who they check on periodically, just in case.

Clark said the pantry serves nearly 1,000 people each month.

“The community has been amazing at donating their time and resources to help us be successful in our efforts,” Clark said. “We grew quickly. That is 100% because of community support.”

The items the pantry needs most are those used to create family meals, such as bread, meat and dairy. The group could also use more donations of nonperishable food items — rice, pasta, canned goods and more — as well as breakfast foods including cereal. There is also a constant need for baby food and diapers, as well as hygiene products and household supplies including toilet paper. Books, toys, games and art supplies are also appreciated as a way to keep children engaged.

The pantry has been receiving donations not only from individual residents, but local business as well, the latter providing monetary donations and excess food.

“On days we receive bulk items, we hold ‘Special Pantry Days’ and invite the community to take it off our hands,” Clark explained. “Businesses from Costco to the Girl Scouts have donated on days like these. It becomes a special treat for our residents in need.”


Getting involved
The fastest way to get involved with the pantry as a volunteer is to email organizers at mhemergencypantry@gmail.com. Volunteer positions include moderators that monitor the Facebook group for donation offers and delivery requests, and that help to organize dispatchers; volunteers at the Huffman Park shelter building who help to organize, clean and distribute donations; and also administrators and assistants who help organize pantry data.

There is also a need for volunteer delivery drivers who can work Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., bringing items to residents who are homebound. Drivers are also sometimes needed to pick up donations from local businesses, as well.

While the pantry has permission to operate out of the Huffman Park shelter for up to two years, the group hopes to find a more spacious facility that can accommodate it like a grocery store.

“This will improve the longevity of our food supplies when we receive large donations, and enable us to allow the community one day to come in and pick up their own items,” Clark said.

Stein said the pantry showcases the community at its best.

“The pantry started because we knew people were going to be struggling during the stay-at-home order. We knew people were already struggling financially. Food is a basic need,” Stein said. “Neighbors came together to support the pantry and us in creating it. Food access is more than just about feeding people — it’s about family, community, mental health, basic security, health and dignity. We have neighbors who get all of their food from us, and others who have told us that we kept them above water.”

She said that meeting this need is rewarding in its own right.

“I know I’m not alone in saying that while we’re grateful to be serving our community and being an integral part of the social safety net, we have been equally blessed by what we’ve received in return,” Stein said.

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