CARES of Farmington Hills is a nonprofit that provides support to community members in a variety of ways, including food assistance.

CARES of Farmington Hills is a nonprofit that provides support to community members in a variety of ways, including food assistance.

Photo provided by CARES of Farmington Hills


Local nonprofit offers a food pantry and other sources of support

By: Mark Vest | Farmington Press | Published December 7, 2021

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FARMINGTON HILLS — For approximately the last four years, CARES of Farmington Hills has been a source of support for local residents.

Aside from helping to provide food via drive-thru pantries, CARES, along with assistance from partners, provides support to community members in a variety of ways. The acronym stands for Community Action Resources Empowerment Services.

“We have one partner now that is working to feed homeless folks right on the streets,” said CARES Executive Director Todd Lipa. “Rebuilding Together (Southeast Michigan) is on our campus, and they will fix a person’s home that’s qualified under their guidelines, everything from a leaky faucet to remodeling the entire house. Then we have four AA programs on our property in one of our former buildings. … And then we also have a couple social services programs for families.”

CARES also has a Busch’s CARES Market on its campus, which according to its website, “offers a safe and comfortable shopping experience for everyone, whether you use a Bridge card, debit or credit card, or cash.”

The site further states that every purchase made supports the CARES food pantry and helps feed hundreds of families.

According to Lipa, CARES supports nine communities — Farmington, Farmington Hills, Southfield, Novi, West Bloomfield, Livonia, Redford, Redford Township and Northville.

For all that CARES is already involved with, Lipa has even further aspirations.

The campus is approximately 10-and-a-half acres and is located on the site of a former Catholic church.

Lipa has a “one campus of hope idea” for CARES.

“Right now, we’re trying to raise additional capital to build what we’re calling our navigation center,” he said. “What we hope to open right after the first of the year is our navigation center, which means if a family comes up short, one of our two to three social workers would be able to guide them to opportunities to help them with the needs that they may have as a family or individual, and that would be customized right to that person as our social workers would guide them through that. It’s called the navigation center because the folks who would work at that are MI Bridges navigators, so anything from a Bridge Card to Medicaid and Medicare, to utilities support, to child questions and answers … all of that could be done through the navigation center.”

Lipa said about $30,000 has been raised for the center thus far, with the anticipation that another $50,000-$60,000 will be needed.

He said dollars would go toward including a handicap-accessible ramp. Lipa would also like to have a handicap-accessible bathroom.

“That’s where the cost is coming in more than anywhere, but we just need open doorways and a little bit of hallways to make it easier for folks to get around,” he said. “The project won’t take that long to do.”

Due to grants received from Lowe’s and Gannett Co., Lipa said, CARES was in the midst of remodeling its entire free pantry, with the hope of opening it up sometime in December or January so that families can come in and shop for themselves, “just like any grocery store.”

However, he added that, “The only difference is there’s no money exchanged at the end of the transaction.”

“Right now, whatever we put in their car, they have to take, and this way, when they shop for themselves they’ll be able to take what they want and what they can have for their family, without having to take something that might not fit their diet or maybe their kids don’t like at all,” Lipa said. “It’s a much more dignified way to shop when you can shop for yourself, and it’s a lot less costly for CARES, because we don’t have to bag up 175 pounds of food and drop it in your car.”

Despite the multiple ways that CARES can help support community members, Lipa said, “Our primary responsibility at CARES right now is the food pantry itself.”

“We service about 450-500 families, with that number growing as the winter months start to set in,” he said. “I’ve never figured it out in the four years that I’ve been doing this. Summertime numbers go down a little bit. Maybe that’s because people are gone out of town and stuff, but our winter months always increase in (the) number of families that we service.”

One of CARES’ partners is Another Day Resource Center, which has a bus on the campus. People meet on the campus and then take a bus to Detroit, where they help deliver lunches and hand out things such as clothes, blankets, pillows and Bibles, including for “folks who are actually living right on the street,” according to Lipa.

Cynthia Lietz is the founder of Another Day Resource Center.

“There’s so many different needs that people are dealing with,” she said. “One of the huge things that we do is we have a street outreach called ‘Born to be a Blessing,’ and we go out into the community, mainly Detroit, on our bus, and every time that we’re out, we hand out at a minimum a hundred lunches, a hundred hygiene kits, (and) clothing. Now that it’s getting colder out we’ll have blankets and boots. We offer Bibles and prayer to those that ask for it.”

Another Day primarily conducts its street outreach on Tuesdays, and sometimes on Saturdays, typically leaving around 11 a.m. and returning to the CARES campus at approximately 3 p.m.

Lietz said that nobody who receives assistance is allowed on the bus, and what is distributed is handed out from the bus. She said that no one goes off alone, but some do choose to get off the bus.

“Some of us stay on the bus, and some of us are outside of the bus,” Lietz said. “Like me, for instance. I like to be off the bus and talking with the people and praying with the people that want it. It’s amazing with this day and time, with the pandemic that has occurred over the last couple years — there’s hurting people, and when you say, ‘Can I pray for you?’ they will just sometimes break down — just stand there and cry. I’m a complete stranger, and just being able to show love and offer hope, that’s what we do on the bus.”

Aside from going out on the bus, people can help by donating items to be distributed, making lunches or hygiene kits, and collecting clothes.

Another way of assisting is via financial donations, which can include helping to pay for gas for the bus.

“We’re always welcoming someone in the community that just wants to contribute or experience something a little different (and) step out of their comfort zone,” Lietz said. “It’s amazing to see people get involved and work together for the greater good.”

People can contribute to CARES’ work by donating non-expired and non-perishable food.

Lipa discussed what he would most like for people to know about CARES.

“We’re here to support the nine communities that we support,” he said. “We are here for those families that need us when they may find themselves in need of food or guidance in other areas, like receiving a Bridge Card because their family qualified for that, or Medicaid, Medicare, or programs that are out there that they may not know about through DTE or Consumers Energy. There’s programs through our water department that some people just don’t realize are out there.”

Lipa shared his perspective on providing assistance to community members.

“The greatest gift that we have, in what I see, is to give people dignity, not make them feel bad, and not make them feel like they’re asking for something, but truly trying to understand that it could be any of us that (come) on hard times,” he said. “I’ve seen it and witnessed it where folks who never thought they would be in (an) area of need have come upon that, and it’s easy to judge, but it’s greater to give and let someone else judge.”

To learn more about CARES visit caresfh.org. Those who would like to register for food assistance can call (248) 474-8231.

CARES’ administrative office number is (248) 882-7800.

To learn more about Another Day Resource Center visit another dayresource.org or call (248) 469-6607.

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