Congregational Kitchen CWC Awards Finalist

ALLEGAN, Mich. (WOOD) — Connecting with Community is excited to introduce you to our third finalist: Congregational Kitchen!

The Congregational Kitchen was started in 2006 by a group of individuals at the First Congregational Church of Allegan who saw others in their community going hungry. They began to gather everything from produce and canned goods, but saw the need grow rapidly during the winter months.

Since then, the Congregational Kitchen has grown to house its own warehouse of food supplies and now often helps other local food pantries, started a weekend backpack meal program for Allegan Public Schools, and even holds weekly Thursday night meals.

When you start to look at the larger area, especially the rural community of food insecurity, it becomes a significant issue,” says Theresa Bray, CEO of the Allegan Community Foundation, “And without the Congregational Kitchen and the Congregational Church, we would have a lot of people going hungry day after day after day.”

They have twenty five pantries that they supply with various items to make meals. Their warehouse receives shipments of goods from partners and donors alike, from which they create an inventory, and then provide that inventory list to the pantries that can come and gather the supplies that they need.

The weekend backpack program was started to help end the increased problem of children from low income or needy households going hungry on the weekends. The Congregational Kitchen food warehouse puts together bags of food for the children each week, which are delivered to the area schools on a by-need basis.

The need doesn’t end on Friday evening, so with their support they are now providing meal packs for nearly 400 of our students every weekend,” explained Kevin Harness, Superintendent at Allegan Public Schools, “Students now come down to the office looking for their backpacks. It’s something they look forward to and makes a real impact for them.”

The Thursday night dinners run every week at the church. Volunteers work to create hot meals for the local community that they serve to anyone, regardless of background, age, race, gender, or social standing. They want to create an environment where people can come not only for a hot meal, but also where they can feel safe and welcome.

This opportunity on Thursday night dinners really gives people much more than just food. Some of the seniors that come down here, they might not speak to another person until next week’s dinner.” -Theresa Bray

Congregational Kitchen is made up entirely by a volunteer staff. To find out more about their volunteer opportunities, ways to donate, or to learn more about any of their programs, you can visit their site.

We will continue next Friday evening with our next finalist: Operation Heading Home. You can find all of our past stories on the Community page, and keep checking back every week for more impactful community stories.