WYOMING, Mich. (WOOD) — Half an hour before the doors to the Family Network of Wyoming opens, the line of cars has wrapped around the parking lot of the food pantry off of 44th Street. Inside, a group of longtime, dedicated volunteers are working to fill the boxes of food they know these families depend on.
“I think they feel like this is kind of part of their home,” said Kayli Kendall, the group’s community and development coordinator. “This is a safe place that they can come to.”
Family Network has been around since 2004. Its website says that the need in the community can be sudden and the group “burst(s) into existence to relieve the stress of empty cupboards and stomachs.”
When the network first began, it was helping 10 families. This past month, it served 600 households with 30% of them having five or more members in their families.
“The reality is, it’s people that are working two, three jobs that just cannot make ends meet. Or it’s someone who has a great job but their car broke down and all of a sudden, they don’t have enough money to pay their normal bills,” Kendall said. “So I think there’s a misconception of ‘this is what hunger looks like,’ when really, it could look like me. It could look like anyone else.”
The nonprofit distributes food twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays from 2 p.m. until 5 p.m. for those living in Wyoming, Grandville and Jenison. The volunteers say they are typically packing more than 100 boxes each day. Families of four or less receive one box, five to seven receive two and any family of eight or more will get three boxes of food.
“We think we provide a lot of love that goes out in these boxes,” said Jane Neumeg, who has been volunteering since 2009. “We really care about our community.”
Like last year, the group said it has seen a major rise in the number of families relying on its assistance while the amount of donations coming in to help has decreased. Neumeg said add in the fact that grocery stores have put limits on the quantity of certain items a shopper can buy and the group has had a hard time keeping up with demand.
“That has been just a lifesaver for us,” Neumeg said about Family Network’s partnership with Feeding America West Michigan. “Because of COVID, we can’t go to the stores anymore and buy cases of food. There’s limits on how much you can get. So without the companies donating to Feeding America and then us being able to purchase that from them, I don’t know what we’d do for some of that.”
It’s a weight of responsibility worn on the hearts of the volunteers and staff and one they lift from those in need in their community through their dedicated work of providing for the hungry — with love, dignity and a bouquet of flowers.
“Every household, they will get a bouquet of flowers,” Kendall said. “You know what? Flowers are beautiful. Let’s show people that it’s okay to ask for help and we’re here to show them love.”
Kelloggsville High School on Thursday collected 322 pounds of food for Family Network as part of the Football Frenzy Food Drive. That works out to some 4,800 meals.