Giving Back Sparks Connection and Friendship


It’s Tuesday morning, the clock just hit 10 a.m. and Margaret is already at her station inside Feeding America West Michigan eager to begin the day’s tasks. She grabs a clear bag and begins to fill it with pre-packaged food. Once the bag is full, she places it in a bin and reaches for the next bag, chatting with fellow volunteers from the MOKA Community Supports Life Skills program as she works.

This is a time Margaret looks forward to each week. It is a chance to not only give back to her community but to spend time engaging with others and building essential skills.

“I have watched Margaret blossom from when she first started. The way she assists her fellow volunteers is incredible to watch. She is very proud of the work she does here,” says Francesca Almonte, Reclamations Coordinator at Feeding America West Michigan.

Feeding America West Michigan distributes food to relieve hunger and increase food security in 40 counties throughout West Michigan and the Upper Peninsula. Having volunteers from MOKA support their mission is both essential and a highlight for them. The volunteers from MOKA’s Community Supports Life Skills program were named one of their top five volunteer groups in 2020 and assist in the processing of more than 200,000 pounds of products a month.

The partnership MOKA has with Feeding America West Michigan is significant because it enables volunteers to build connections with others, develop critical-thinking skills, and boost their self-confidence.

“The people we serve love volunteering and being a part of their community,” says Supervisor of Community Supports Jenny Shumard. Natalie Visser, Specialized Assistant Supervisor, adds “They’re developing their leadership and teambuilding skills. They work as a group the entire time they are here.”

Francesca says, “The consistent hours they spend here, their dedication, and their stage presence make the volunteers from MOKA stand out. They give off an energy that makes people want to be here. Their impact is huge.”

Story by Hannah Kater. Photos by Lara Parent.