'Stronger together' | Restaurants and shelters lean on each other

It's not uncommon for restaurants to donate food to homeless shelters. But, now more than ever the two industries are working together to get through COVID-19.

Author: Matt Gard
Published: 11:51 PM EDT March 24, 2020
Updated: 11:55 PM EDT March 24, 2020

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.-

Earlier this month, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order to close bars and restaurants, except for takeout and delivery services. It was a move aimed at stopping the spread of coronavirus.

But restaurateurs and their workers knew they were in for a tough time ahead. Since then, some restaurants and bars have closed while others have laid off staff members.

Some of those workers are now earning their paycheck at Mel Trotter Ministries.

"We have actually hired people who have been laid off," said Beth Fisher, the Vice President of Advancement for the shelter. "We have restaurant workers coming to us who are staffing our kitchen."

Many of them previously worked near Mel Trotter, in the downtown area.

"From Peppino's and Long Road Distillers, Jolly Pumpkin and the Gilmore Collection. They are all stepping into our kitchen to help out," Fisher said.

Less than two blocks away, Dégagé Ministries recently received large food donations that would have otherwise gone unused after Gun Lake Casino closed and Starbucks was forced to downscale their operations.

"That got us through days and days of feeding people," said Marge Palmerlee, the executive director of Dégagé. "We can spread that out and serve a lot of people."

"I'm just praying that we're able to continue to do that as we move forward. I know we're working closely with Mel Trotter and other agencies in the neighborhood," Palmerlee said. 

On the lakeshore, leaders from the Muskegon Rescue Mission say they have seen more of a need as people continue to lose their jobs during this pandemic.

"On average we serve about 3,000 meals a week, so we go through food very, very quickly," said executive director Dan Skoglund. "We expect that number is going to continue to grow over the next several weeks."

As we go through this pandemic, leaders from all three organizations are hoping people will keep West Michigan's homeless population in mind as well.

"They are still out there. They still need to be sheltered. They need to be fed and they are just as scared as everyone else about how are they going to survive," Skoglund said.

Despite the challenges, the organizations are focused on their mission and they have faith in their communities.

"We don't turn anybody away and we never have and we never will," said Fisher.

"We're going to get through this together because we are stronger together," said Palmerlee.

If you'd like to help any of the organizations in this story, here are the links to their donation pages:

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