December 12, 2013
BENTON HARBOR, MI – For the 30th year in a row, Lake Michigan College is spreading holiday warmth by filling and delivering baskets of food to at-risk families and elderly community members. Families and seniors are identified with the help of The Area Agency on Aging and United Way, and this year 99 baskets were delivered to households in St. Joseph, Benton Harbor, Coloma, Watervliet, Niles, and South Haven. (Photo caption: Payton Burwell helps prepare baskets for delivery. Payton is the daughter of a former LMC employee. The packing day was her birthday and helping out was one of the things she wanted to do on her special day.)
“This is a terrific demonstration each year of what the ‘community’ in community college really means,” stated LMC’s Vice President of Administrative Services, Anne Erdman. “This program is a part of the culture here – giving back to families in the community is a gratifying way to help build the family of Lake Michigan College,” she added.
Erdman helped organize the first Holiday Food Baskets at LMC with retired Director of Grants and Foundations, Charmaine Kibler. She remembers they both encouraged their own families to volunteer their time to help pack the baskets, a tradition that has continued. (Photo caption: LMC Vice President of Administrative Services Anne Erdman’s son, Nicholas, helps to pack Holiday Food Baskets for needy community members, circa 1986.)
Kathy Burnett, chair of the Holiday Food Basket Committee for the past three years, estimates that since 1983, The Holiday Food Basket has provided food to approximately 4,000 families. The committee raises money to buy food for the baskets from Roger’s Foodland, which was able to provide the food at a discount. The committee also recruits volunteers to fill the baskets, and coordinates 10 staff members who deliver the baskets.
“With the rising costs of food, we need to raise between $4,000 and $5,000 every year to fill the baskets. According to our partners at The Area Agency on Aging and United Way, the need is particularly great this year,” Burnett stated.
Some of the fundraising activities held throughout the year include a Holiday Food Bowl at Kelley’s Bowl, Papa’s Partners fundraiser at Papa Vino’s, two Yankee Candle Fundraisers, lunch specials from LMC’s Conference and Event Services, Chili’s Give Back Night at Chili’s Restaurant, and a raffle for a Duet washer and dryer donated by Whirlpool Corporation. Laundry baskets used to deliver the food are donated by WFF Facility Services.
The food baskets include a variety of ready-made foods that can easily create meals for the holiday or at other times. This year’s shopping list includes: peanut butter and jelly, bread, oatmeal mix, pancake mix, soup, crackers, cereal, canned soup and chili, pasta and sauce, canned vegetables and fruit, apple sauce, rice, and more. Each household also receives a pre-cooked ham and treats such as cookies and candy canes. (Photo caption: Kaitlyn Burnett (left) and her mother Kathy Burnett (right) deliver a Holiday Food Basket to Inez Brock of Benton Harbor (center).)
LMC students participate in the food drive, as well. Each year, the nursing students collect mashed potatoes and stuffing and the Hospitality Club donates canned corn and green beans. Student Support Services coordinates a collection of games from students and staff, and the students wrap the presents to include with the food baskets delivered to families with children.
This year, the Holiday Food Basket Committee sought donations of dog and cat food, treats or pet toys to include in the food baskets that will be delivered to the seniors with pets.
“For some of the seniors, their pet is the only family they have and we’re happy to include a little something special for their furry friends this holiday season. We have approximately 20 dogs and 20 cats that are in the homes of our elderly recipients,” Burnett added.
To donate food or money for next year’s LMC Holiday Food Basket program, contact Kathy Burnett at (269) 927-6105 or Burnett@lakemichigancollege.edu.