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Flint, MI— It’s the season of giving and Michigan is in the midst of a three-week pause due to the pandemic.
With Thanksgiving only days away, the heightened restrictions have taken a toll on family plans, vacations and turkey dinners.
While some can stay safely at home and feast with their immediate family, others rely on food banks, shelters and soup kitchens for hot meals every day. And at a time of year that usually sparks fierce support for those in need and the organizations that serve them, lockdown has affected everyone’s ability to give back.
In Flint, a city where 40% of its residents live in poverty and food insecurity runs rampant, local hunger relief organizations have had to get creative and find new ways to bring Thanksgiving to families who need it the most.
Chia Morgan, program coordinator and treasurer for Well of Hope, a ministry-based non-profit, said COVID-19 restrictions have presented stressful challenges.
Every November, Well of Hope puts on a city-wide Thanksgiving dinner called “Blessed to be a Blessing” that feeds over 600 people. At the celebration, food baskets, school supplies, gift cards and other essential items are also donated. This year would have been its 12th year, but it had to be canceled.
“It was a very hard decision to cancel the dinner. But ultimately, I’m a Christian and my Christian values tend to reign over everything when I’m faced with difficult decisions. And so, as I was sitting there, in tears, listening to Governor Whitmer, realizing that I was going to have to cancel the dinner, the Bible tells us not to let our ‘good be evil spoken of,’ and those words rang out in my spirit,” Morgan said.
Well of Hope switched gears and took a new approach that addressed another need in the community that was specific to the COVID-19 pandemic.
They partnered with AC Brown, CPA & Associates, PLLC to offer a year of accounting services to a small business in Flint.
“We took submissions for small businesses to tell us how they could benefit from CPA services. And we granted them, at no cost to them, Well of Hope foot the bill, one year of CPA services with AC Brown, CPA & Associates,” Morgan said.
Desired Hair Company, a line of oils and natural hair care products, won the bid.
“We were able to help two small businesses because we didn’t ask [AC Brown & Associates] to sponsor them, we actually asked them ‘what is your fee?’ and we put that cost into them,” Morgan said.
Well of Hope also provided $150 worth of groceries to six Holmes STEM Academy families and delivered $250 worth of supplies to Voices for Children, a childcare agency.
“They have seen a 20% increase in child abuse cases at their center… So, we donated the supplies that they need to help them keep going during these trying times. We donated a pack and play, we sent toys, we sent journals and learning games, dish detergent and washing powder,” Morgan said.
Well of Hope was still able to carry on the tradition of their yearly sock drive. In partnership with ELGA Credit Union, Well of Hope has donated over 4,000 pairs of socks at past Thanksgiving Dinners, which take place at Catholic Charities of Shiawassee and Genesee Counties. This year, the donation was sent directly to Catholic Charities to be given away.
However, some organizations have had to make due.
Carriage Town Ministries, a shelter and learning services center, typically serves 80-90 people on Thanksgiving Day.
“Under the circumstances due to the COVID, we are under quarantine, which means we’re not open to the public right now,” Wendell Rogers said, a resident coach who has worked at the non-profit for the past 10 years.
This year, Thanksgiving dinner is reserved for residents only, around 15-16 individuals, Rogers said.
Soup kitchens around Flint have had to adjust the way they serve their meals, but Thanksgiving dinner remains largely unaffected, John Manse said, community service director for Catholic Charities who oversees three soup kitchens in the area.
“The difference is we won’t have the folks coming in, we’ll have to-go boxes with traditional stuffing and dressing, mashed potatoes, turkey and pie,” Manse said.
The soup kitchens have struggled to get enough volunteers to make the food, he said.
“We’re getting a fraction of the volunteers. But our cook and the few that show up are still doing a phenomenal job.”
Those who want to give back in other ways can donate goods to food pantries or sponsor a family through organizations like the Shelter of Flint.
“Each year we do Adopt a Family for holiday gifts for our shelter residents. And usually people bring wrapped gifts for the families that they adopt,” said Shelly Hoffman, grants and fund developer for the Shelter of Flint.
Due to space constraints and social distancing requirements, the Shelter of Flint has implemented a gift card program instead.
“It takes over a really large part of the shelter storing all of those gifts…and we wanted to cut contact also with the outside to keep our residents safe,” she said.
Regular meal programs continue to take place as well as pop-up turkey giveaways.
Where to Find Thanksgiving Meals/Giveaways
North End Soup Kitchen (NESK)
735 E. Stewart Ave., Flint
Monday – Saturday
Lunch 11:30 am-12:30 pm
Dinner 4:00 pm-5:00 pm
Sun. 1:00 pm-2:00 pm
Center for Hope Soup Kitchen
812 Root St., Flint
12:00 pm -1:00 pm
Sunday, 1:30 pm-2:30 pm
South Flint Soup Kitchen
3410 Fenton Rd., Flint
Monday – Friday
11:00 am – 12:00 pm
How to Get Involved
- To volunteer to help cook meals at any of the three soup kitchens mentioned above call (810) 785-6911 to schedule a time.
- To participate in the Shelter of Flint’s gift card program email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Donate dry goods to Well of Hope’s two standing food pantry’s located on Monteith and Dougherty and Alma and Martin Luther King Avenue.