By Sue Sprang

GLADWIN – Once it became clear that the current COVID-19 epidemic was going to be a situation with critical ramifications, the Gladwin-Beaverton County Food Distribution group took immediate action to ensure that one of those ramifications – an increase in the need for food – was met head on. The group was spearheaded in 1912 by Christ the King Lutheran Church, Gladwin. 

Thanks to dedicated leadership, a core of volunteers, and generous gifts of money and manpower, and the Food Bank of Eastern Michigan, the group has been able to extend its monthly food distribution to a weekly format. The group hopes this will be a normal occurrence. 

man standing next to the open trunk of a car
Mike Mack of Mack’s on Main restaurant, Gladwin, donated lunch for the thirty-one volunteers at the April 4th food distribution.

“We’ve applied for a federal assistance grant, but haven’t received it or know the status of our request,” said Dawn Wiseman, one of the group’s coordinators. “Right now we’re depending on the generous monetary gifts of others to keep going on a weekly basis.”

Those working at the distribution have noticed a soaring increase in the number of people in need of food.  On April 4, 266 households – a total of 771 family members and a significant number in a county with just over 25,300 people – were served. It is assumed that the number will grow before it stabilizes.

Volunteer manpower has always been an important part of the distribution, with individuals and groups providing the time and muscle to make the system work. With the increase in distributions, folks are stepping up to the plate. 

Some groups that have recently volunteered are Team Rubicon; Gladwin Cert Team; National Guard; Trinity Lutheran Church, Midland; Gladwin Free Methodist Church; Knights of Columbus, Gladwin; and a veterans group from Midland. Several others have signed up for future dates.

There is also a core of individual volunteers, many of whom have been involved with the distribution since its beginning. Rick Stone, a member of Christ the King Lutheran Church, Gladwin, is one of those volunteers.

“I work at the food distribution because I have seen the need for this in our community,” Stone said. “Being retired, I have the time and the need is truly there.”

Wiseman shared her sentiments as well.

“It has been and continues to be a privilege to work with all the wonderful people that come together each week,” she said. “In this current time of so many unknowns, it is reassuring that as a community we can still come together and support our vulnerable and those in need.”

Another significant partner had been the local Knights of Columbus Hall, which is a stone’s throw from Christ the King. The two have had a strong relationship over the years. During the increase in food distribution, the Knights of Columbus have offered their large parking lot as the “staging” place for cars to go, where they are then directed to the church. This keeps traffic on the busy road from being hindered and keeps things orderly and safe.

Wiseman said that she and Christ the King Lutheran Church, have received messages of thanks.

“One day I received an e-mail that said ‘Please feel free to forward this to any of the volunteers that are helping out at the distribution,’” she shared. “’You are truly serving your neighbors as God instructs us. Thank you for working safely and keeping not only our neighbors but yourself safe during this time of health crisis.’”

                                                                                                                                                         Lee Ann Clayton, who works in the office at Christ the King, shared another thank you. 

“There was a message on the voicemail from a lady who couldn’t say enough about how appreciative she was of the workers, especially the ones in the rain,” Clayton said. “She went on
and on about how organized it was – the best one she has ever been to – and how nice it was that the group coordinated with the Knight of Columbus Hall. ‘Thank you for all you are doing.  You are making a difference.’”

During this time of crisis, no pre-registration is required and all safety and health procedures required by the state of Michigan are being followed.