by Carol Shoults
During the pandemic The Salvation Army has had to discover new ways of conducting ministry and providing services to our communities. In Marquette County, Mich., the corps’ food pantry had to be temporarily closed and the weekday inhouse meal program transitioned to “meals to go.” Many individuals had lost their jobs and simply could not afford the cost of operating their vehicles. However, with the shutdown of the public transportation system, there were still many more individuals who needed assistance but could not get to the corps, even with the offer of free gas cards, to pick up food.
Realizing this immediate need, Marquette Corps Officers A/Captains Doug and Kim Winters and their staff came up with a solution. They offered on local TV and other media to deliver 100 percent of the food pantry baskets directly to clients’ homes. This was quite an offer since they average more than 300 baskets each month and their service area spans over 3,400 square miles!
“This bold step allowed The Salvation Army to be a little more personal in what had become a very impersonal environment,” noted Captain Doug. “Since our family store had to close temporarily, our staff there was able to help with food delivery, as well as cooking meals and packing food pantry boxes.”
Also during this time a group of people was discovered, mostly elderly and generally living in outlying areas, who did not have access to the corps’ food pantry. Even with public transportation, they simply were too frail or incapacitated to carry the food home. These individuals now have food delivered each month. The pantry has reopened as a non-contact pantry, but the corps still serves about 40 clients each month with free delivery.
With food from donations and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), the corps is serving on average 85 meals per day. “The community has even started a grassroots effort to deliver lunches to neighbors and shut-ins, almost doubling the number of daily meals we now serve,” said Captain Doug.
To-go meals also are delivered each day to the local homeless shelter. Demonstrating further community support and endorsement, the corps has received three local grants to help defer the cost of disposable foam containers and plasticware. Seeing the face of hunger has spurred the officers and staff to respond in effective ways of sharing the love of Christ.