NILES, Mich. – The Salvation Army’s food pantry went from empty shelves to stocked thanks to the surrounding community. The pantry asked for help from the community in early November and on Thursday the piled high shelves gave proof that they stepped up.
“It’s hard to explain the joy in seeing the food come in,” said Major Tracey Walters.
Seeing it go from sparse to packed in a matter of weeks has the volunteers working overtime to unload and sort all of the goods, but there’s no question this is a good problem.
“I didn’t have a can of tuna, any hamburger helper before, this shelf was just a few boxes,” said volunteer Jim Mahler as added ravioli to the already stuffed shelf.
The overflow storage room at an off-site church is even more packed than the pantry.
“I don’t have words to describe how moved we are that people have responded to this depth,” said Jan Nowak who got to see the overstuffed overflow room for the first time on Thursday.
“This isn’t holiday food. This is survival food. This is just get through the week food, the communities have stepped up,” said Nowak.
Nowak said this wasn’t just the Niles community coming together, but the entire surrounding community, including Buchanan. She said businesses, schools, and even individuals all came together to give what they could.
Nowak said a total 36 “official” food drives gave to the pantry and a number of unofficial ones. She called it “36 plus”.
With the holidays around the corner, Waters said this helps to put them at ease that they have the food they need to help the people in their community.
“A relief on our hearts that we’re able to do it and we wouldn’t be able to do it without the support from the community,” said Walters.
The Salvation Army said while they are so fortunate, this doesn’t mean the need is gone. This recent group of donations should last the pantry three or four months, but then the next big food drive for it is the U.S. Postal Food Drive in May. The pantry said gaps in time between big donations draws attention to the fact that the need is always present.