County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

St. Athanasius Lay Minister Heads Up Good Samaritan Program

Broadening Bandwidth for Clare County Food Group



Cleaver Guest Writer

HARRISON – While the COVID-19 lockdowns brought forth challenging times for all, many staunch-hearted individuals took on roles of light within its darkness, bringing forth unity and compassion as we all navigated the uncharted waters.

What began as concern for their parishioners who were homebound, leaders at St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church worked together to reach out and check in on their needs. Volunteers quickly came together to run errands such as picking up food or medications, offering IT assistance, and so forth.

Simultaneously, the mobile food distributions sites in Clare County were facing challenges of their own in getting food to all those in need. At the time, county bus companies partnered with local groups to transport food out to people who needed it. Those that did not have transport to come to the mobile food distribution would put their name on a list with the Clare County Transit Corp. (CCTC). Jerri Harm, a lead volunteer from the Clare County Food Group, worked closely with Clare County Transit dispatch, receiving the list of people who signed up each month, getting them registered with the food drive, and ultimately loading up food on the bus to be delivered to those families.

Once pandemic restrictions began to decrease, the bus companies received restrictions rescinding their ability to offer the food distribution services they had previously been allowed.

“I had tears in my eyes because I had been working with these people for several years during the pandemic and talking to them every month – and now we were stuck with a group of people we couldn’t support,” Harm recounted learning the news.

With this shattering turn of events, Terri Koehler, lay minister at St. Athanasius stepped up founding the Good Samaritan Program. With restrictions lifted, the needs of their parishioners slowly waned. Volunteers took over assisting these neighbors in need of food, yet lacking transport to get to the mobile food distribution sites.

Each month she works with Harm to coordinate volunteer pick-ups for families in need here in Harrison. The volunteer drivers go to the mobile distribution, pick-up food for multiple families, and deliver the food.

“Right now we have roughly 31 people we deliver to each month,” Koehler said. “And right now we have about 11 drivers who are in and out of availability. And so, a lot of praying to make sure that all of this is able to get done each month. And it’s worked so far. Some of our drivers, bless their hearts, they’re taking food to five, sometimes six families at a time. Without all the help of all the drivers, it couldn’t be done.

“They are so much appreciated by all that receive food from them,” Koehler spoke warmly of all the incredible volunteers making the Good Samaritan Program possible.

With the gracious team of volunteer drivers, Koehler hopes their generosity and actionable kindness can spread and osmose into the community even further. Koehler also shared her vision for growing unity amongst neighbors.

“So, what I am hoping is that this could be a sort of buddy system eventually,” she said. “That people would buddy up with those that need food, and one person could go get food for two or three people one time, and then someone else the next. You know, some people in line probably live within a mile of each other, and if they could buddy up, they wouldn’t both have to wait in line every month. They could take turns, and that would decrease the line, and things would go faster. That’s kind of my hope, that neighbors could help neighbors.”

Koehler shares a heartfelt message grounded in the importance of community and connection that unfortunately tends to fall by the wayside in our hectic and digitally-focused society.

“Check on your neighbors, you know, know your neighbors,” Koehler wisely advised. “Get to know your neighbors. I know we all try to stay in our own little worlds now, but it’s not a good thing.”

What began as a few hopeful beams of light amidst the darkness of the pandemic has grown into a truly valuable resource of kinship and neighborly compassion/connection within the Harrison community.

Anyone with questions regarding the Good Samaritan Program or who is interested in volunteering is urged to reach out to St. Athanasius Roman Catholic Church at 989-539-6232.


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here