GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — There was a moment when Waverly Knight sat at the dinner table with her kids after her first husband had left when they were eating soup and sandwiches. It was all they had.
That moment led her to seek help from the Northwest Food Pantry off of Leonard Street on Davis Avenue in Grand Rapids. Now, Knight is the director of the pantry and on a mission to provide food for everyone in the community that sits at the table without enough.
“I don’t understand everything the clients are going through but I understand a lot of stuff that they’re going through,” Knight said. “We don’t want people to sit home and go hungry.”
For the last 30 years, the pantry has been working that mission out of the basement of Trinity Reformed Church. It has provided clients like Robert Breen a sense of dignity, comfort and community.
“I’m on disability, I get a disability check once a month and you got to, you know, make sure your bills are paid but then you gotta live off of what’s left. And by having the food pantry here, it takes some pressure off my wallet,” Breen said. “Very humbling to drive home and know that you’ve just been helped.”
Each month, the pantry helps around 800 people. It relies entirely on donations: monetary, nonperishable and personal care items. Everyone it serves may come once every 14 days as long as they are not receiving aid from another pantry.
Knight says the heartbeat of the pantry is its volunteers. They take call-ahead orders for those unable to come inside and select items in person. They also fill the orders for those that come inside, delivering the help with gratitude and service.
“They all go above and beyond because sometimes I need extra help with something and I just ask and they’re right on it,” Knight said.
The pantry’s service area is large, running from the Kent-Ottawa county line to the west, 6 Mile Road to the north, the Grand River to the east and 4th Street to the south. Knight knows there are people in that community her team is not reaching.
The first Football Frenzy Food Drive of the 2022 season falls within that coverage area and Feeding America West Michigan helped select the Northwest Food Pantry as the beneficiary for all the donations collected by Kenowa Hills Knights — 5,565 pounds of food, enough for 4,637.5 meals.
“It’s nice to be able to go through Feeding America and purchase food products cheaper than the grocery store,” Knight said “Everyone is always helpful when I have questions, especially Sue.”
It is the volunteers, the community and the partnering organizations that are the heartbeat for pantries like the NW Food Pantry, which allows those impacted able to take a beat of appreciation.
“When I get home, I always look up at my register on the wall where my heat comes out and I say, you know, thank you Lord for providing me with extra food items and amen,” Breen said with a smile.