Season of Caring
Corey Smith | The Daily News | December 16, 2022
BELDING — With nearly 7,000 pounds of food transported out of the United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties office building Wednesday morning, Deb Wagner could hardly believe her eyes.
With hundreds of bags of food loaded into an I/M Kids Third Meal truck, in addition to a few dozen loaded into her own SUV, the director of grants and special projects could take solace in the knowledge that hundreds of area children wouldn’t be going hungry over the upcoming winter break.
“We can’t meet the needs of everyone, and the need is more now in both counties than we’ve ever seen before,” she said. “To see what United Way and these volunteers have done here today, to see the community come together and work together with meals and warm clothing, it’s awesome.”
Volunteers came together for United Way’s annual “Season of Caring” event, in which 700 bags of food and emergency preparedness kits prepared by students and staff at Montcalm Community College were given to I/M Third Meal to distribute to students in need throughout Montcalm and Ionia counties.
According to United Way Montcalm-Ionia Counties Executive Director Terri Legg, numerous organizations came together to donate items in the past two years, in addition to United Way spending more than $10,000 of its own funds and accepting a donation of $1,500 from the Greenville High School Interact Club to provide items to those in need.
“We have had about 30 organizations that over the course of November and December have been collecting food, personal hygiene products, senior care items, coats, winter wear, and in addition to that, we’re giving out coats, hats, mittens and lots of shoes that are new and gently used,” she said.
In addition to the food bags being distributed, Legg said a variety of local nonprofits and other organizations were able to collect items and distribute:
• 250 senior bags
• 250 personal hygiene bags
• 700 food bags
• winter coats and other winter wear
• more than 700 shoes
• food for pantries
• emergency preparedness kits
• additional personal protection equipment (PPE)
• feminine hygiene items
“We have been collecting, over the course of this last year, items that will go to our funded partners, agencies and nonprofits that are vetted by United Way. We know they are going to do great things with these items.”
Among the volunteers working outside in cold temperatures were employees from Jordan Manufacturing in Belding, who contributed more than 300 hours of total time in assisting United Way.
“We’ve spent a lot of time this year trying to align our company with a new set of core values, to build on the next 70 years of business,” Jordan Manufacturing President Justin Johnson said. “One of those is working more in the community. We’ve tried to reach out and work with other organizations, such as United Way. They are great planners and execute these great programs, but sometimes they need help with the muscle. We were a little slower this year, so it allowed us to have some of our employees come and help. That helps build camaraderie for our employees, too. That’s much better than having to lay somebody off or send them home for the day.”
Legg added that an additional focus was placed on adding PPE equipment, such as face masks, to this year’s distribution event due to a rise in coronavirus cases.
“With so much sickness going around, we have been giving away a lot of PPE to nonprofits and the local churches,” she said.
While Wagner said the bags of food for students in need was a blessing, she added that the overall need is still not being met.
“This is our eighth year bringing meals to children. We usually start at around 500 kids in need ending with around 650 or 700, but this year we started with 700,” she said. It’s a real possibility that we’ll be at 800 or 900 at the end of the school year, as far as kids needing meals. This is a need for our communities.”