Local Volunteers Reach Out to Ministry with Community

Ministry with community
Bill Oswalt, Maureen Dobbie, Mike Hardy, Kaye Bennett and Jean Philport help serve lunch at Ministry with Community honoring Chuck Corella.

When Vicksburg resident Kathy Corella wanted to honor the memory of her husband, Chuck, who had died in 2009, she decided to sponsor a lunch at Ministry with Community (MwC), a daytime shelter and resource center in Kalamazoo.

Since the date she chose to sponsor that lunch was a Thursday, much of the volunteer crew serving it was also made up of Vicksburg residents, including Bill Oswalt, Jean Philport, Maureen Dobbie, Mike Hardy and Kaye Bennett, a large part of MwC’s lunch volunteers known as the Thursday Group. (Other Vicksburg people, like Dee Dee Hoy and Jim and Madonna Nimmo, volunteer on other days.) On Thursday, April 11, Corella’s donation and the Thursday Group’s toil served a three-course fried chicken dinner to 245 members.

Members is the term MwC uses to refer to the people they serve, upwards of 2,500 individuals a year, who are struggling with challenges such as homelessness, poverty and mental illness. The organization provides breakfast and lunch every day of the year, and offers daytime shelter and services such as laundry, showers and phone access. Staff social workers help members with issues ranging from domestic violence to obtaining birth certificates and ID.

The staff of Ministry with Community could not do all it does without volunteers and community support. That’s where South County people like Corella and the lunch volunteers come in.

“Chuck used to talk to homeless people to find out their pressing needs,” Kathy Corella says. Then he’d go shopping and deliver the purchases to people living on the streets. Supporting Ministry with Community in his name was a natural step. Like Corella, many people sponsor a meal at MwC to remember a loved one; others do it to thank someone or to celebrate a milestone. A $300 gift provides a full lunch that day; the daily lunch count is usually between 200 and 250 people. For more details on meal sponsorship, call Janet Karpus at 269-343-6073, ext. 138, or email jkarpus@ministrywithcommunity.org.

Once you’ve got the meal ready to serve, you need people to plate it and deliver it, family style, to diners. That’s where volunteers like Bill Oswalt come in. Not long after Oswalt’s wife, Pat, died, in 2015, he agreed to ride along with other Vicksburg friends for their weekly trip to MwC. He found that he really enjoyed the work. “There’s obviously a need,” Oswalt says, “and it’s good to be a part of meeting that need.” Like others from Vicksburg who volunteer at MwC, Oswalt has a long history of community involvement in South County. Among his many activities, Oswalt is a trustee of the Vicksburg Foundation, where he’s been on the Board for 40 years and was president for 29.

Dobbie, too, is a long-time Vicksburg volunteer, with involvement in Generous Hands, South County Community Services, the community gardens and more. She’s been a Ministry with Community volunteer for more than a dozen years, providing services to members including chair massages and foot and nail care. She says she keeps coming back to MwC “because of the wonderful people there – staff and members.” Then she adds, “But I receive so much in return.”

Serving lunch is not the only way volunteers contribute to Ministry with Community. A wide variety of volunteer opportunities is available, ranging from stocking and sorting donated items or wrapping silverware, to leading art and activities groups, providing music during the lunch hour, gleaning (picking up food donations from local restaurants and grocery stores), and working the front desk. For information on how you might help, either as an individual or as part of a group, call Megan Stull at 269-343-6073, ext. 134, or email mstull@ministrywithcommunity.org.

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