“It’s volunteering made easy and in your home,” says Mike Goorhouse, president and CEO at the Community Foundation of the Holland/Zeeland Area
. “Families are stuck at home anyway. They’re looking for something fun to do with their kids, and they have boxes lying around.”
Coronavirus has forced many families to stay home, increased food insecurity for those who cannot go to work and created a shortage as many volunteers are retirees and more susceptible to the sometimes deadly virus behind the pandemic.
Community Action House’s #StayHomeFightHunger campaign addresses all of that and is as easy as following a list of instructions and packing a box with high-need items such as cans of meat, vegetables and fruit, dried pasta, macaroni and cheese, pasta sauce, paper towels, and soap.
“We will be modifying the way we deliver services at all of our sites,” CAH Community Engagement Officer Meagan Maas, “keeping in mind the safety of the people who we serve who are vulnerable and of our employees and volunteers.”
CAH will supplement family food boxes with fresh fruit, veggies, dairy, bread, and meat and share them with families who schedule a pickup five days a week. The filled boxes can then be dropped off at Community Action House, 345 W 14th St., 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. and 4 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. Each box needs 34 nonperishable items — costing about $30. Each box will feed two people for seven days.
The nonprofit hopes to provide 5,000 meals in more than 150 family food boxes in a single busy day of service.
For a complete list of foods and complete directions for packing, visit careottawacounty.com.
The Community Foundation, Ottawa County, and other nonprofits have been widely promoting careottawacounty.com, Goorhouse says. In its first five days, the new website that directs people where to volunteer, donate items, and money – as well as receive help – has received 10,000 unique visits.
The website now has a new section: "volunteer from home
There, potential #StayHomeFightHunger volunteers can find directions on exactly how to pack their food boxes and with what. Careful hygiene is encouraged. The boxes can be decorated and notes of encouragement included if volunteers like, CAH’s Maas says.
The program will save staff time, increase food donations at a critical time, and engage the community in what Community Action House does every day, Goorhouse says.
As an added bonus, the Goorhouse family will donate $10 for every family who posts a video of their box and a message of their commitment to helping CAH and tags either Community Action House or Mike Goorhouse.
Three companies have stepped up to match the donation. Lakewood Construction and Holland Doctors of Audiology are each donating $10 per family who packs a box, and The Insurance Group — Stacy Kamphuis is contributing $5 per family who packs a food box.
Shoreline Container is donating 3,000 boxes for anyone who needs a box to pack. They can be picked up at CAH.
The Community Foundation is a nonprofit support organization that typically helps people give financially to local nonprofits. That mission continues. In less than a week, the brand new Emergency Human Needs Fund has raised more than $200,000 between CFHZA and its partners, the United Way and Grand Haven Area Community Foundation. Started on March 13, $40,000 of the fund was on its way to area nonprofits within three days.
“As we get the money, we’re funneling it to nonprofits,” Goorhouse says.
The first grants went area nonprofits: Community Action House, Good Samaritan Ministries, Harvest Stand Ministries, Kids Food Basket, and Barnabas Ministries. Grants are being made in “real-time” as people donate through the careottawacounty.com website to agencies working to keep vulnerable populations fed, housed, and healthy.
Goorhouse considers promoting #StayHomeFightHunger as a side project, a way to leverage his considerable network for good.
“Certainly in my lifetime and maybe in history," Goorhouse says, "I don’t think things have ever changed this quickly.”
This article is part of The Lakeshore, a new featured section of Rapid Growth focused on West Michigan's Lakeshore region. Over the coming months, Rapid Growth will be expanding to cover the complex challenges in this community by focusing on the organizations, projects, programs and individuals working to improve conditions and solve problems for their region. As the coverage continues, look for The Lakeshore publication, coming in 2020.