It’s in the name: How Project Hope helps Allegan County


DORR, Mich. (WOOD) — Before the doors have even opened, a small group of volunteers says a prayer to start their day in a back warehouse room at Project Hope.

The work they do each day provides exactly what’s promised — hope — to nearly 400 families this month.

“We have fun and we know when we’re having fun and we’re helping people, we’re blessing people,” volunteer Susan Wykoski said. “Our hands and feet are doing what other people can’t do for people that are in need.”

Wykoski has given her time for nearly a decade to Project Hope. She’s one of a number of volunteers that help the operation sustain itself.

“It’s just a wonderful place. The people are wonderful, the opportunity’s wonderful and the mission is wonderful,” Wykoski said.

Project Hope is a food pantry and thrift store that serves Allegan County and the Wayland and Dorr communities, specifically. The thrift store relies on donations from the community that are inspected and sorted by volunteers like Wykoski and then priced and put on the store shelves. All the money made from the thrift store is used to buy food for the pantry. Operations Manager Melissa Bronkema said it serves 375 families about 100 pounds of food a month.

But the work doesn’t stop at the pantry.

“We have people that come into our thrift store once a day. We have donations from all the churches around the area. We also have a compassionate care department and that helps people that are having trouble paying their rent, their utilities, car repairs, prescriptions, gas,” Bronkema said. “We can hook them up with the church or the pantry or our thrift store.”

Bronkema wants the community to know the pantry is available to anyone in Allegan County and the thrift store is open to all.

“There’s so many smiles and thank you’s and people are like, I didn’t know about this place and now I can stretch my dollars,” Bronkema said.

While the community supports the thrift store, which supports the food pantry, which supports the community, Bronkema knows the organization’s reach would not be possible without the support of Feeding America West Michigan.

“They allow us to buy food at 18 cents a pound, which is really remarkable,” Bronkema said. “It’s fresh food. It’s the best of the best. And I don’t think we could do it without them.”

WOOD TV8 and our parent company Nexstar have partnered with Feeding America for a three-year, $2 million campaign to fight hunger across America. Find out more about that initiative here or donate directly to your community and join us in the fight against hunger.

During WOOD TV8’s Football Frenzy Tailgate Thursday at Wayland Union High School, students collected 3,111 pounds of food — the equivalent of 2,593 meals.

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