Sheri Harris still remembers her first Holland Helper delivery in March of last year. A woman she had never met in person dropped off a large box of diapers and a large box of wipes at Harris’ home intended for another woman neither had met. Harris delivered the much needed supplies to the young mother.
“Seeing her deep gratitude for the help of a stranger to her, well, it felt incredible and was life giving,” Harris says.
Holland Helpers’ three organizers have been in the role of single mothers, so they know the struggle providing for their children can sometimes be. The group started out as a Facebook group as the COVID-19 pandemic came to the area last year.
The goal at the beginning was to run Holland Helpers
like the yardsale pages already all over Facebook, co-founder Danielle Peterson says. Someone posts an offer or a need. Others respond in the comments section. It’s a private group, and all posts must be approved by moderators.
“Even if you can’t help, you get to see there is still good happening in our community,” Peterson says. “It just blows my mind how much it has blown up.”
When the lockdown began, Harris — who is also a pastor — had a network of people bringing her family groceries, toilet paper, and just sure they felt safe and secure.
“The ache began when I felt comfortable and safe. It was an ache for the people who are not connected like I am, for those who were quickly losing their jobs, for those who didn’t have additional income to even buy their day to day supplies they needed let alone stock up,” Harris says. “To soothe that ache I started giving away bags of the food I had stored up.”
Everything from chicken breasts to chocolate went out the door quickly. She gave away extra toilet paper and laundry soap to neighbors and friends.
Peterson has the same heart for giving as her friend. Soon, the two had founded the Holland Helpers Facebook group.
They aren’t monetarily rich, but they know many hands make light work. If they were feeling the ache to help, they were sure there were others who felt the same.
Michelle Humphrey soon agreed to help as the group’s “community strategist.” She knows who, how and where things get done in West Michigan.
Next Cassie Kregger came on as a board member.
Now the group is working toward its 501c3 nonprofit status. That will allow Holland Helpers a little more ability to help people and make donations tax deductible.
A recent GoFundMe campaign exceeded the $1,000 goal to pay for filing with the state of Michigan for 501c3 status.
Harris is inspired to watch Holland Helpers grow into a well structured and intentional movement of kind and generous neighbors, she says.
The group avoids duplicating services provided by other area nonprofits. Rather, they hope to fill in the gap for those going through the assistance application process or who don’t quite meet requirements for help elsewhere.
“It ranges from a pack of diapers up to I can’t pay my rent and everything in between,” Peterson says.
It isn’t a long term solution, but it does fill in the gaps.
Holland Helpers works with these partner organizations to connect people who could receive help there.
“Christmas was my favorite,” Harris says.
People who have been experiencing poverty for years and those who had been doing well until COVID hit were in need come Christmas.
“Wild as it was, we met every need,” Harris says.
And there were hundreds.
Children received just what they asked Santa for, adults received clothing, housewares, food, gas cards, rent help, phone bills paid and rides or money for prescriptions.
One helper offered a struggling family a mattress and another offered to deliver it, she says. And that’s the core of Holland Helpers.