Mount Pleasant nonprofits fight to aid county through pandemic
Before the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the United States, the motto of the Care Store in Mount Pleasant was: Life is too short to run out of toilet paper.
With pandemic conditions constraining their efforts, nonprofit organizations like the Care Store and Community Compassion Network (CCN) are fighting to make sure that Isabella County residents don't have to go hungry or without household basics as waves of panic-buying have placed them in high demand and social distancing has many avoiding shopping altogether.
The Care Store, which distributes household supplies not covered by state food assistance, and CCN, which runs food and infant supply pantries, are partnering for joint distribution efforts beginning Wednesday, April 1. The William and Janet Strickler Nonprofit Center, where both are located, closed on March 16, but the two will reopen four times in the next two weeks for drive-thru services.
From 2-6 p.m. April 1, the Care Store will offer free emergency hygiene kits with travel-sized shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste and other supplies, including two rolls of toilet paper. Care Store volunteers recently put together between 600 and 700 kits, Executive Director Kim McBryde said, and donated about 200 to Mount Pleasant Public Schools on Friday, March 20.
At the same time, CCN’s food pantry will offer free boxes of food proportional to the size of each family. CCN’s infant pantry at First Presbyterian Church will remain closed until April 15.
For those who frequent CCN, staff requests on CCN's website that you come April 1 if you usually come on Wednesday or Thursday and that you come April 4 if you normally come on Friday or Saturday.
CCN will repeat the process from 2-6 p.m. April 8 and 9 a.m. to noon April 11, as will the Care Store, “dependent on having enough supplies, which are running low,” McBryde said.
Compounding the inventory strain, McBryde said the Care Store was forced to cancel a donation day scheduled for Wednesday, March 25, and reschedule an April fundraiser to the end of October. The Care Store supplements its stock with trips to the grocery store but lately has been restricted by buying limit policies.
McBryde said she expects to see an “uptick” in Isabella County residents making use of the Care Store when it can return to normal hours.
“Many of the guests who normally come to the Care Store are maybe one paycheck away from being in a really difficult position,” she said. “Take away that one paycheck, the domino effect really starts to take hold in someone’s life.”
CCN President Andrew Miller expects an increase in demand as well, though he is confident in their partnership with Greater Lansing Food Bank and community donations to refill their inventory.
Both the Care Store and CCN’s inventories are boosted each year by residence hall donation drives where students can drop off unwanted items from their dorms while moving out. Due to coronavirus concerns, the donation drives are canceled this year, said Luanne Goffnett, organizer of the donation drives and director of Robinson and Calkins hall.
“We will adhere closely to (Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s) ‘Stay Home, Stay Safe’ order, and have canceled any programs that do not meet her guidelines for essential activity,” Goffnett said. “While our community’s safety and well-being are our paramount concerns, we also share our students’ disappointment that we are not able to host the drive this year.”
McBryde said the lack of donation drives would result in a “noticeable decrease” in the Care Store’s inventory for the rest of the year. CCN received about 5,000 pounds of food through the donation drives last May, according to board member Peggy Burke.
“Clearly, we will miss the donation,” Burke said.