ACTION Ministries continues to serve the community
DOWAGIAC — Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ACTION Ministries food pantry has continued to serve the community with food donations as the situation trails on.
However, the nonprofit ministry’s fixed food pantry hours from 10 a.m. to noon every Saturday has continued to evolve to meet the needs of the friends it serves.
“The big deal now is unpredictability of the patrons coming into the food pantry,” said Jeff Neumann, the media liaison.
Neumann said the food pantry had two successful weeks serving more than 80 people. Once stimulus checks hit and extra food stamps were allotted, the pantry dwindled down to serving 25 families. The pantry typically serves 40 to 55 families a week. In the past, the pantry’s high has been 75 families served.
“Part of that we are thinking is because May has five Saturdays, and people may be saving up for later on,” he said.
When families sign up for the ACTION Ministries Food pantry, they receive a food box twice per every calendar month.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Neumann said ACTION Ministries has signed up a large number of people for the first time and has started offering preregistration.
Families interested in preregistration can go on ACTION Ministries’ Facebook and fill out the form for the number of people in their family and what kind of items they would like.
ACTION Ministries volunteers prefill the families’ boxes and then families can pick up their food donations from 11 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
“We’ve been serving 20 to 30 people a week that way,” Neumann said. “We instituted the drive-up service and then we let in two people in the building at a time to stand in line. Then we allow two to three more people in as the others are filling out paperwork at a table. Therefore, there are never more than five clients in the building at a time.”
In addition, Neumann said staff are disinfecting tables and other objects often.
“We have even instituted clean pens and dirty pens. We are taking a lot of precautions,” he said.
Volunteers with the ministry are also wearing face masks and gloves. As the families come in to pick up their food donations, they also receive a dash of hand sanitizer.
Since April 1, Neumann said ACTION Ministries has had an outpouring of financial donations from people who believe in the mission.
“One person drove up in the car — I thought they were going to sign up for food. He stuck a $50 bill out the window, and I said, ‘can we give you a thank you note,’” Neumann said. “He said, ‘no we’re good.’ It’s just a great story.”
Neumann said with more cash donations, ACTION Ministries has the option to buy goods at the grocery store in addition to the routine shopping done through Feeding America.
At this time, Neumann said a lot of families also need toilet paper.
“The people we have talked to have said that it has been a real blessing,” Neumann said.
Neumann said a big part of ACTION Ministries’ operation is being able to sit down and chat with people who come in. Neumann said the ministry is eager to be able to interact with people after the COVID-19 pandemic slows down.
“We try to provide a time to chat, a time to get a hug and time to shake hands and mull over life,” he said of Saturday’s pantries prior to social distancing. “I think people have appreciated it.”