Montcalm Challenge Food Drive distributes 28,000 items to pantries

By Cory Smith • Last Updated 12:43 pm on Wednesday, December 11, 2013

More than 28,000 food items were distributed to 18 food pantries throughout Montcalm County during the annual Montcalm Challenge Food Drive. — Daily News/Cory Smith

GREENVILLE — Years ago, the back-stock facilities at the former Meijer grocery store on North Lafayette Street housed thousands of commercial items and various goods that consumers could purchase on a day-to-day basis.

Today, those back rooms sit mostly vacant and unused, with the exception of events such as the food drop-off day for the Montcalm Challenge Food Drive.

On Tuesday, those dark, dank storage rooms came to life, once again filled with thousands of food items, but this time those items were not to be sold, but rather to feed hundreds of needy families throughout Montcalm County.

Central Montcalm High School sophomore Paiton Bartz, 15, right, sorts various goods Tuesday with Lakeview High School senior Judd Girskis, 17, during the Montcalm Challenge Food Drive at the old Meijer building on Lafayette Street in Greenville. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Volunteers worked to distribute more than 28,000 items to 18 food pantries throughout Montcalm County with a goal to provide each pantry will enough food to last throughout the upcoming year.

“This is a godsend,” said Mike Wills of Hope Rescue Mission, as he worked with other volunteers to organize food and other items. “Our pantry was empty, we’ve been going through a lot of food every week.”

Operating since 1991, the annual autumn event is held to collect primarily nonperishable food items for the food pantries of Montcalm County. The challenge operates as a friendly competition between Montcalm County area businesses to raise the most food items and/or money per employee.

Before receiving food from a pantry, a family must first be denied food stamps by the Department of Social Services. Upon further screening by EightCAP Inc., a family approved for food distribution may receive food a maximum of one time per month.

Montcalm Challenge Food Drive Chairman Steve Foster said the demand for food and other goods in Montcalm County from families has risen in recent years, with no exception this year.

“Every year I say that food is more important than ever, and golly, this year it’s truer than ever,” Foster said. “We certainly hope the 28,000 items that are here and still in the process of being sorted for our 18 food pantries in Montcalm County are at least going to hold (the pantries) over for a little while.”

Ron Porter of Barry’s House Food Pantry said without the annual challenge, the pantry would likely face lengthy periods without any food.

“It’s tremendous, we need all of this food,” Porter said. “The need is greater this year than it has been in the past several years.”

Mike Wills of Hope Rescue Mission, left, and Ron Porter of Barry’s House Food Pantry work together to sort boxes of food Tuesday during the Montcalm Challenge Food Drive. — Daily News/Cory Smith

Numerous volunteers and members of the food pantries worked for several hours to organize this year’s haul, including 40 students from the Montcalm Area Career Center, who participated while earning credit for a service learning project.

“It feels awesome to be able to help,” said Central Montcalm High School sophomore Paiton Bartz, 15. “It was really, really busy and a lot of work went into it.”

Once the items had been sorted, Foster announced the winners of this year’s challenge.

Taking first place in the small company division (under 70 employees) was Commercial Bank. In the large company division, McDonald’s restaurant placed first.

“This is amazing,” Commercial Bank Assistant Vice President Vicki Nelson said. “I work with one of the food pantries and I see first-hand what the need is. These businesses collecting all this food, it’s an incredible effort.”

Each food pantry was also the recipient of a $500 gift card from Meijer to be used to purchase additional items.

Foster said Michigan Sportsmen against Hunger has also helped to raise 1,400 pounds of venison so far this year to be distributed to the food pantries. He said he believes last year’s total of 2,300 pounds will be be matched, if not exceeded, this year.

Though the challenge was once again considered a success, Foster said the number of items continues to shrink each year as businesses find it increasingly difficult to donate toward the food drive.

Foster said this has created an ongoing problem that “needs to be addressed soon” as the needs from families in Montcalm County increases.

Central Montcalm High School sophomore Nels Anderson, 16, sorts out various goods Tuesday during the Montcalm Challenge Food Drive. — Daily News/Cory Smith

“Things are not all rosy and peachy,” he said. “We are facing some challenges that are affecting our drive and we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with these changes as we go forward.”

According to Foster, issues for local businesses have been created due to “current day business policies, tax implications and tax regulations” regarding fundraising, raffles, lotteries, etc.

“We’ve seen some of our largest participant players being reduced to almost nothing,” he said. “That’s making a major impact on our drive as we go forward.”

Foster said over the past few years three of the largest local employers who participated have withdrawn from the challenge.

“We need to start a planning process to figure out how we are going to preserve this drive and keep it going in the future at levels that are of really big help for people in need,” he said. “We have to figure out how to adapt.”

A meeting has been scheduled for Jan. 24 at Greenville Chamber of Commerce Office.

Including this year’s totals, over the past 23 years, more than 764,737 food items have been donated through the Montcalm Challenge Food Drive. An additional $318,508 in funds have been collected as well.



A look at local food pantries

Angel Food Ministries (Blanchard)

Location: 200 S. 4th St. in Blanchard

Contact: (989) 561-5021

Info: Orders taken and delivered monthly. Call for more information.


Angel Food Ministries (Greenville)

Location: Greenville Church of Nazerene, 10087 S. Greenville Road in Greenville

Contact: Tim Deshaw, host site director, (616) 754-7605.

Info: Order at


Barrie’s House

Location: Settlement Lutheran Church, 1031 S. Johnson Road, Gowen

Contact: (616) 984-5442.

Info: Food pantry and clothing center operated by Settlement Lutheran and St. Thomas Lutheran of Trufant.  Open on Thursday.


Belding Ecumenical Food Pantry

Location: 301 W. Washinton in Belding

Contact: Rev. Byron K. Davey at (616) 794-2610

Info: Open hours are 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday.


Belvidere Community Church Pantry

Location: 6490 N. Miles Road in Six Lakes

Contact: Shirley Pool (989) 365-3264

Info: Hours are by appointment


Carson City Food Pantry

Location: St. Mary’s Parish, 404 N. Division St. in Carson City

Contact: Grazina and Al Giroux and Nancy Woodcock at (989) 584-6044 or email

Info: Hours are from 10 a.m. to noon every Tuesday.Those receiving food must be residents of the Carson City-Crystal Area Schools district and may come once a month for food.


Dolores Halvorsen Memorial Food Pantry

Location: 209 W. Washington in Sheridan

Contact: VFW Post 5065 Ladies Auxiliary (989) 291-9680

Info: Hours are from 8:30 a.m. to noon, second Thursday of each month.


Frost Seventh-day Adventist Church Food Pantry

Location: 977 Neff Road in Stanton

Contact: (989) 831-4518

Info: Hours are 10 a.m. to noon on the second Monday of each month.


Greenville Area Ecumenical Food Mission

Location: St. Paul Lutheran Church, M-91 south of Greenville

Contact: Candace Larkin at (616) 754-8532 or go online to

Info: Hours are 10 a.m. to noon, Tuesday and Thursday; 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Wednesdays. Food is available on an emergency basis. Must be resident of the Greenville school district and provide  two forms of identification.


Greenville Church of Nazarene Food Pantry

Location: 10087 S. Greenville Road in Greenville

Contact: Dorothy Wells at (616) 754-7605


Greenville Community Church Helping Hands Food Ministry

Location: 6596 Vining Road in Greenville.

Contact: Shirley Bullis or Mark Henry at (616) 225-2105 or

Info: Hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesdays and Thursdays. Pick up pre-packaged food box once a month. Valid ID required.


Greenville Food Kitchen

Location: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 305 S. Clay St. in Greenville

Contact: Hilda Sovari at (616) 754-3163

Info: Tuesdays only. Lunch served from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and supper from 5 to 6 p.m. Enter through east door.


Hands of Jesus Food Pantry

Location: 1220 N. Lafayette St. in Greenville

(Mailing address is P.O. Box 244, Gowen, MI.  49326)

Contact: Karen Morales at (616) 225-9999 or email

Info: Open every Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (closed from noon to 1 p.m.) Must bring own boxes and baskets. Name, address, phone number and driver’s license required.


Helping Hands Inc. Food Pantry

Location: 210 Edgerton in Howard City

Contact: Fred Plath at (231) 937-6758 or email


Hope’s Pantry at Hope Lutheran Church

Location: 4741 W. Stanton Road in Stanton

Contact: Gayle Stull at (989) 831-5594 or (989) 831-4462.

Info: There are no set hours. Call to set up appointment.


Lakeview Ministerial
Association Food Pantry

Location: P.O. Box 350, Lakeview, MI  48850

Contact: Ted Johnson at (989) 352-6836 or email

Info: Set appointment Monday through Friday, between 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Must show identification for proof of person and residence. Serving only those within the Lakeview Community Schools district boundaries.


Montabella Ministerial Association Food Pantry

Location: 504 E. Main St. in Edmore, behind Potter’s House Ministries

Contact: Edmore Faith United Methodist Church (989) 427-5575 or email

Info: Hours are Wednesdays by appointment


Sheridan Assembly of God Food Pantry

Location: 4010 S. Sheridan Road in Sheridan

Contact: Bill Wright at (989) 831-7721 or (989) 291-3996.

Info: By appointment only


Shiloh Community Church

Location: 8197 Heth St. in Orleans

Contact: Sue Brownell at (616) 761-3584

Info: Distribution on Mondays

Earning first place in the small company division was Commercial Bank, with McDonalds placing first in the large company division. Dozens of volunteers from the 18 different food pantries in Montcalm County helped out in sorting more than 28,000 food items Tuesday. — Daily News/Cory Smith

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