GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Step inside the Calvary Church food pantry in Grand Rapids and notice its intentionality. There is purpose in the places of everything inside. From the food, to the shelves, to the lights, to the people — especially the people.
Sara Blue and Lynnell Bok work closely through the pantry. They build relationships with those in need over food. Both Blue and Bok are doing this as a way to give back to the same pantry that gave to them.
“I am a single mom who used this actual food pantry,” said Blue, who is now the director of benevolence at the church. “I was dependent on it for many months. When COVID first hit I had lost my job and had no way to feed my children and my church family just stepped up and really helped me. And this is how we ate for quite a long time.”
Bok’s journey happened nearly 25 years ago, about the same time as when the pantry first opened. She too found herself as a single mom trying to feed her children.
“When the opportunity came to be able to take on this pantry, I could be able to relate because being a single parent, I used our community pantry,” said Bok, now the associate director for Widows Ministry and Singles Connect. “I had that experience and saw the need.”
It’s a need that they are both working to increase. They know they can reach more people in need and they’re hoping that the intentionality and emphasis on relationships will be the message that finds those who need them.
“We have a real emphasis on giving people dignity and respect in a time of need,” Blue said. “There’s so much stigma out there that having a food insecurity means that you’re less than.”
“Nobody wants to come to a food pantry. But when they walk through our doors, we want to show them God’s love and have them really see an experience that this isn’t just your average food pantry,” Bok added. “We want them to walk out with dignity and with a sense of pride.”
It is dignity and pride for 14 refugee families from 11 different countries, part of the 75 households they feed.
“I just see how it changes people’s lives and the people I got to meet by being here,” Blue said. “Coming in for food but getting prayer and support and love was life changing for me. And so I just really am excited about giving and showing that to other people.”
It’s something they say they couldn’t do without the support of Feeding America West Michigan.
“Feeding America has been a huge blessing to us because the amount of food that we were able to purchase is on a small scale, only pennies to the dollar versus what we would normally have to buy to keep the food on our shelves,” Bok said. “That has saved our church and our givers a lot of money. So all the donations and anything that we can get through Feeding America has been a huge blessing.”
And with this week’s Frenzy Food Drive making a stop at Northview High School, the pantry says no matter how much the Wildcats donate, they’re thrilled to see young people supporting community.
“I feel like God is just so good and that he’s the one that’s putting all of this and laying it into people’s hearts and to know that’s happening with a younger generation that might be kind of secure with the food that they have,” Blue said. “I just think it’s beautiful and amazing, the work that’s done in our community.”
The Northview community ultimately donated 2,055 pounds of food, bringing the total for the Frenzy Food Drive to 16,200 pounds for the season.