United Way continues to assist residents in Ionia, Montcalm counties during COVID-19 pandemic

United Way continues to assist residents in Ionia, Montcalm counties during COVID-19 pandemic

Posted Dec 30, 2020 at 6:01 PM

By Evan Sasiela


IONIA — A local nonprofit organization has stepped up to address the need for food in Ionia and Montcalm counties during the COVID-19 pandemic.

United Way Montcalm - Ionia Counties hosted two food and hygiene box distributions to assist area residents during the holiday season.

A drive-up distribution took place Christmas Eve, Dec. 24, at Montcalm Community College’s Greenville Campus, while another occurred Dec. 29 at Ionia High School, 360 E. Tuttle Road, in Ionia. Those who received a food or hygiene box had to show proof of residency in Montcalm or Ionia counties.

More than 1,800 hygiene boxes and 4,000 food boxes were distributed in the two days, United Way reported. Food boxes contained 23 meals and included shelf stable food. United Way board members and staff and Montcalm County commissioners distributed more than 1,400 food boxes and 1,600 hygiene boxes on Christmas Eve. United Way board members and the Ionia County Youth Advisory Council handed out 1,200 food boxes and 200 hygiene kits in Ionia.

United Way Montcalm - Ionia Counties Executive Director Terri Legg appreciates the volunteers for assisting with the events — noting some of them had been on vacation.

“I just really want to thank them for giving up themselves to give to others,” Legg said.

United Way has used funding from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, as well as its COVID-19 Crisis Fund, to provide food to both counties, Legg said. Since the second week of March when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Ionia County, United Way has used 56 mobile food trucks to support families in both Ionia and Montcalm counties.

“We’ve put over $1 million worth of good, healthy food back into the community to help support our community,” Legg said, adding the food trucks will continue in the new year.

United Way’s biggest need in Ionia and Montcalm counties has been food, Legg said.

“Because the need for food is so high, that continues to be an area of focus for us,” she said.

United Way ran out of food at the 2 1/2 hour Ionia event Tuesday, Legg said. Residents lined up at the IHS parking lot about four hours before volunteers distributed boxes. Legg noted even before the pandemic, one in five Ionia County children are food insecure, and it’s one in four in Montcalm County.

“All of our schools are doing an amazing job supporting families with both breakfast and lunches, but that’s just not meeting the need with so many of our families being small business families,” Legg said. “The need for food is just continuing and we’re seeing it continue to be our No. 1 need in the community.”

United Way reopened its COVID-19 Crisis Fund on Nov. 17 after originally opening it eight months prior. It originally raised $80,000, Legg said.

Also this month, United Way provided $40,000 for winter wear — distributing clothing to schools, pantries and shelters in both counties.

Those wishing to donate to the COVID-19 Crisis Fund to help the community can visit United Way’s website: liveunitedm-i.org. United Way’s helpline can be reached by dialing 211.

The main priority for United Way is to continue providing food to the community, Legg said. Right now, there’s a confirmed 12 food trucks in both counties.

’We will continue to address the emerging needs of the community as we see them,” Legg said.

— Contact reporter Evan Sasiela at esasiela@sentinel-standard.com. Follow him on Twitter @SalsaEvan.