Project Starburst to offer later hours once a week

Bob King puts frozen bread into a box for a family of eight on Tuesday morning in the storeroom of Project Starburst. The agency has announced extended hours on Wednesdays to better serve clients. (Pioneer photo/Candy Allan)

BIG RAPIDS — Having a food pantry in town doesn’t help if it closes before clients can arrive. In response to client survey results, Project Starburst will begin offering later hours once a week to help make its services more available.

The food pantry currently is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, but starting next week, those hours will change. On Wednesdays, beginning Aug. 1, Project Starburst will be open from noon to 6 p.m. On Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, the service will still be available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Project Starburst is located in the basement of the United Church, 120 S. State St., Big Rapids.

“We do satisfaction surveys, and the surveys led us to believe people can’t always get here during the normal hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.,” said Diane Long, executive director. “We’re not changing the number of hours Starburst is open, we’re just lengthening one day a week.”

Long said the new hours will be re-evaluated for effectiveness after six months.

From survey results, Project Starburst administrators determined 90 percent of the clients the agency serves indicated later hours would be helpful to them. Food pantry officials have noticed an increase in the number of clients who are working but still not quite able to make ends meet yet and believe the later hours will allow for greater flexibility for patrons.

Additionally, Long noted while the number of families served has decreased slightly, she’s seeing more multi-generational households, which makes each family larger. In the end, the number of individuals benefiting from Project Starburst’s services is holding steady.

To meet that demand, Project Starburst depends on the community, for both donations and for volunteers. Long said the agency is having trouble stocking enough meat and vegetables.

“We don’t get a lot of donations anymore from area farmers,” she said. “Next year, I’m going to try to collaborate with Michigan State University Extension and Mecosta County 4-H programs to see if they’ll ‘plant a row’ for Project Starburst. We’d then get the produce of that row.”

In addition to donations of money or food, Project Starburst would benefit from donations of time. Bob King is one of the community volunteers for the pantry.

King has volunteered once a week at Project Starburst since February of this year. Seeking a way to give back to others during his retirement, he helps assemble food orders for clients and complete other needed tasks. He would encourage more people to help out at the pantry, too.

“It’s something good to do,” he said. “You’re helping people and in the long run, it makes you feel good yourself.”

Volunteers are generally asked to serve for a three-hour stretch, either from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. or 1 to 4 p.m.; on Wednesdays, those shifts would be noon to 3 p.m. or 3 to 6 p.m. Anyone wishing to volunteer can call the pantry at (231) 796-5342 and speak to either Long or her assistant, Renesha Eng.

SUBHEAD/DECKFood pantry in need of donations, volunteers

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Posted by Candy Allan

Candy is the Pioneer's associate editor. She also coordinates the Family & Friends, Religion and Parenting pages. She can be reached by phone at (231) 592-8386 or by e-mail at callan@pioneergroup.com.

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