Howard City food pantry unveils new facility on Saturday

By Elisabeth Waldon • Last Updated 1:57 pm on Thursday, January 30, 2014

Helping Hands of Howard City

HOWARD CITY — The volunteers of Helping Hands food pantry and ministry outreach in Howard City have had their sights set on moving to a more capable facility for years.

After years of saving and searching, the group purchased a piece of property just south of Howard City. Last summer, construction work began on a new building.

Community members are now invited to attend an open house from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday at the new Helping Hands facility, located at 1105 S. Ensley St. Coffee, punch and snacks will be served.

The new building is a major improvement from the small facility the organization was previously operating out of since 1990. That building has since been sold to the Howard City Downtown Development Authority.

According to Helping Hands Board President Joyce Ebenstein, the food pantry serves between 140 and 200 families per month and served a total of 5,197 individuals last year.

The food pantry is kept operational with the help of 17 local churches, as well as Feeding America, from which Helping Hands can purchase food for as little as 17 cents per pound.

“We couldn’t do what Feeding America wanted us to do,” said Ebenstein, referring to operating out of the smaller building. “We couldn’t let our clients to go in with a shopping cart and get their items. I don’t know how many times we’ve gotten back items because they couldn’t use them. Now they can go in with a shopping cart and select a certain number of items for themselves.This way they’re getting items that they know their families will use.

The new building features a large warehouse for storage, a conference room for volunteer meetings and an office where a coordinator will hopefully work one day.

According to Helping Hands Board Treasurer Fred Plath, construction of the new building was coordinated by Wolverine Building Group of Grand Rapids, which donated design, architectural serves and hours of time. Plath said Firstbank also provided “very favorable” loan terms to Helping Hands as a non-profit organization.

“We had wonderful people who just did so many things for us,” Ebenstein said.

Ebeinstein said the estimated worth of the new building is $350,000, but most of the labor was donated. However, $42,000 is still needed to pay off the debt.

The Helping Hands food pantry is open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Food and monetary donations are welcome.

For more information, call (231) 937-5177, email, visit online, search “Helping Hands of Howard City” on Facebook or write to PO Box 532, Howard City, MI 49329.

“We’d like a lot of people coming to our open house Saturday,” Ebenstein said. “This is exciting for the community. We’ve accomplished a lot for a poor community. We’re trying to expand and offer a few more services to the area.”

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