Emergency grants, community donations provide thousands of meals

In the past month, Community Action House has provided more than 59,000 meals’ worth of groceries to over 2,700 Holland area people in need. 

That volume is the result of a nearly four-fold increase in requests for food from a month earlier, before the coronavirus crisis resulted in mass closures and skyrocketing unemployment. 

Community Action House (CAH) couldn’t have met that need without $50,000 in emergency grants and the ongoing #StayHomeFightHunger campaign that has inspired families to pack boxes of food at home to donate. 

“We're working to sustain our increased spending on direct services, and we're extremely grateful for the emergency funding recently provided through the community coalition,” says Scott Rumpsa, CAH executive director. “Thanks to them and all who are stepping up and standing with us as we provide expanded service with increased safety provisions during these unprecedented times.”

‘Radically different’

The 50-year-old Holland nonprofit has played a key role in distributing food to Ottawa County families in need. Rumpsa remembers the second week of March, when demand first spiked as schools began to close and events were canceled. Cars lined up around the block as nearly 400 people were served on that first day.

Chara Bouma-Prediger, a CAH staff member in the Food Pantry and Resource Connection team, gathers donated food.

“We knew that this was going to be a radically different time,” Rumpsa says. 

There has been a learning curve with the COVID-19 crisis. CAH wasn’t just providing an increased amount of food, it was creating a method for delivering that food that was safe for staff, volunteers, and recipients. CAH shifted from letting families shop for their food to receiving pre-ordered food curbside. Nearly 550 of those boxes were prepared by the community as part of the #StayHomeFightHunger campaign.

“We have had hundreds of families step up,” says Rumpsa. “They have now provided about 38% of the nonperishable food boxes that we've given out, and 25% of the entire quantity of food that we've given out, which has meant the world to us as we continue to lean into increased service.”

He encourages those who want to support CAH's efforts to help those in need to visit the organization's website.

Response to crisis

The emergency funding has come from a community coalition created to respond to the COVID-19 crisis. Much of the grant money has been used to buy food in bulk to supplement the pantry.

A CAH employees organizes donations that are being distributed to families in need.

The fourth round of grants, totaling $156,750 from the Emergency Human Needs Fund to 16 area nonprofit organizations, is focused on programs that are feeding the community in this time of crisis.

“Our hope is that by funding for several weeks, our partners can better plan for the upcoming need,” says Hadley Streng, president of the Grand Haven Area Community Foundation.

$355K allocated

In four weeks, the coalition has allocated $355,360 in emergency grants to Ottawa County nonprofits. Funding is provided on behalf of the GHACF, the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area (CFHZ), and the Greater Ottawa County United Way. 

Working together, nonprofit agencies in Ottawa County have committed to keeping people fed, housed, and healthy as best they can. But these organizations face challenges as they balance their missions with the additional workload of managing the threat of COVID-19, Streng says.

In northern Ottawa County, Love in Action of the Tri-Cities is mobilizing food distributions.

“Already, the resources provided have helped us to quickly provide food to thousands of local residents who are facing unexpected challenges at this time,” says Josh Bytwerk, the organization’s executive director.

Distribution

Here is how the fourth round of grants is being distributed:
  • $750 to Barnabas Ministries
  • $2,500 to Benjamin’s Hope
  • $35,000 to Community Action House
  • $7,500 to Coopersville Cares
  • $1,000 to Family LIFE Center
  • $10,000 to Hand2Hand
  • $7,500 to Harvest Stand Ministries
  • $10,000 to Holland Rescue Mission
  • $15,000 to Kids Food Basket (Holland)
  • $20,000 to Love In Action
  • $12,500 to Love Inc. Allendale
  • $5,000 to Love Inc. Hudsonville
  • $2,500 to Muskegon YMCA (Veggie Van: brought to Ottawa County in collaboration between the Grand Rapids YMCA, the Muskegon YMCA, and the Tri-Cities YMCA)
  • $7,500 to The People Center
  • $12,500 to The Salvation Army (Grand Haven)
  • $7,500 to The Salvation Army (Holland)
The community coalition has created a website to help with the rising need for volunteers, and donations of both goods and funds, and to provide ongoing updates: careottawacounty.com. 

We want the community to know that these donations are going directly to organizations that serve those who need help the most,” says Streng. “We are so grateful to everyone who has given during this intense time of need.”

This article is part of The Lakeshore, a new featured section of Rapid Growth focused on West Michigan's Lakeshore region. Over the coming months, Rapid Growth will be expanding to cover the complex challenges in this community by focusing on the organizations, projects, programs and individuals working to improve conditions and solve problems for their region. As the coverage continues, look for The Lakeshore publication, coming in 2020.
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