DORR TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — Back in the 1950s, Annetta Jansen saw a need in her community. The Dorr resident was raising six kids on her own and decided to open her home to neighbors in need. Nearly 70 years later, that ministry has grown into Project Hope.
“We’re just like stuffed to the brim,” operations director Melissa Bronkema said. “God just keeps giving us more and more and more and so that’s why we never raise our prices and that was her dream and it’s her legacy living on. Her children volunteer here. Her oldest son is the president of the board.”
Project Hope operates on a unique model. Its thrift store is packed with donated clothes, houseware, sporting goods, books, and more. All of the sales from the store help purchase the food for their pantry. Right now, they’re serving over 300 families a month, 100 pounds each.
“Our food pantry is probably our biggest priority. Because that is the biggest need. And we thought of a way, or the Lord has given us a way, to provide for that,” Bronkema said. “Our thrift store is a gold mine. If you’ve never been to our thrift store, it’s amazing.”
Bronkema says that most of the new calls they receive are for help with utilities or rent. The Project Hope team will meet with these families or individuals and figure out a way to make their budgets work for them. Sometimes, it’s as simple as supplementing their regular grocery bill with food from the pantry and using the saved money for the bills due. Other times, they help with rent, utilities, medicines, or whatever unique needs their community has.
“We want them to be self-sufficient. That is our goal. And if we have to keep helping them month after month, we’re not serving them, we’re enabling them,” Bronkema said. “So we sit down with their budget and say, ‘Hey, where can we cut back? Or what can we do different?’ Because otherwise, you’ll be here next month.”
She says that a supportive community and partnerships with organizations like Feeding America West Michigan allow them to serve their community in an efficient way.
“We can’t do it without Feeding America,” Bronkema said. “The businesses support us, the churches and then the people coming through. They’ll shop at the thrift store and throw a $20 in our donation.”
Between the thrift store, the pantry and the community, their ministry has created a cycle to help those in need get out of the one they may have fallen into, with hope.
“I just saw a lady today and she said, ‘I used to come to the food pantry.’ That was a success story. She doesn’t come anymore,” Bronkema said. “She tells her friends and she’s donating and now she’s on the other side of it. And we helped her get through that. And where would she be if she didn’t have this?”
The Vikings donated a total of 6,663 pounds of food.