- Associated Press - Monday, March 9, 2015

KIMBALL TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Harbor Impact Ministries has what Bridge Cards sometimes can’t offer.

The ministry that began as a typical food and clothing pantry five years ago has expanded into an operation that houses several different rooms filled with donated material.

The most recent additions in the past few months have been the pet food station and a birthday table.

“We are the only group that really provides pet food for our families that are struggling,” Barbara Hanneke, director of Harbor Impact Ministries, told the Times Herald (https://bwne.ws/1DVHkos ). “We have an area where people who have birthdays can celebrate their birthdays that month by choosing a gift. People who are struggling forget to celebrate sometimes.”

The ministry, which shares a building with Blue Water Free Methodist Church, operates out of what used to be Sparlingville Elementary School, 1963 Allen Road. Rooms that were once classrooms hold donated items.



The ministry helps an average of 500 people a month.

Pastor Randy Bennett said about 10 percent of those families they serve are new. Some get help and find a way to get over the hump, while others are repeat customers, he said.

“We think of ourselves as a clearing house,” Bennett said. “We receive it, organize it and give it away.”

The ministry opens its doors once a month from 9-11 a.m. for what’s called Impact Day, where pre-registered county residents go from room to room shopping for various items.

In one room, residents can access the food pantry which holds both nonperishable and frozen foods. A room called “Bear Necessities” offers laundry detergent, cleaning supplies and personal hygiene products.

Hanneke said a new resource center provides adult tutoring, citizenship preparation, resume writing, financial and budget counseling and computer classes.

With a library of more than 3,000 books, some sit and read while their friends and loved ones find needed items.

The ministry also expanded its clothing department into three different rooms.

“We separated them and enlarged the clothing rooms tremendously,” Hanneke said. “We realize that we were not doing well by having everything in one spot. As we identify the needs, we add them.”

When families come for help, volunteers collect the names of all people in the household and their birth dates. Hanneke said no additional information is required.

“The only thing that we ask is that a person can look at us and tell us they are struggling,” Hanneke said. “We do not use income guidelines. We do not have a requirement of how much they make. We just ask they can make a statement that they are struggling.”

More than 60 volunteers worked during February’s Impact Day. Bennett said volunteers come from at least 10 area churches.

Kimball Township resident Iliene Balhoff has been volunteering with the ministry since it first opened in 2010.

Balhoff said the ministry has given her the solace no other place has been able to.

“It’s been a great help to me, because five years ago my husband passed away,” she said. “I could throw myself right into here and work with the church. They have benefited me more than I have for them.”

Amy Bolam, a Burtchville Township resident and volunteer, originally came to the ministry for assistance when she and her husband were out of work.

“I was stuck at one point going off and on with jobs, and was helped a lot with food here,” Bolam said. “Six months ago I began volunteering, just trying to give back.”

Port Huron resident Carolyn Parker is homeless and has been seeking help from the ministry for years now.

“Right now I am basically in need of help and it’s difficult being out in the cold right now,” she said. “The service and the gratitude I get from everybody here keeps me coming back.”

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Information from: Times Herald, https://www.thetimesherald.com

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