January 28th, 2012
George Helmstead, Executive Vice President of Experience Grand Rapids, is an avid outdoorsman. So he was thrilled to find a charity that allows him to lend a helping hand while soaking up the area’s natural beauty.
George and his wife Jane volunteer for Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank. This agency provides food to 100,000 struggling West Michigan families through roughly 1,300 local pantries, shelters and other anti-hunger organizations. The food is surplus from area farmers, manufacturers, distributors, retailers and restaurants. “It would be sent to landfills if Feeding America didn’t intervene,” George explains. “Last year, almost 25 million pounds of food was saved from going to waste.”
The Helmsteads spent a number of Saturday mornings this past year in a farmer’s field, picking apples, peaches, sweet corn and other West Michigan crops. “I was amazed to learn that many local farmers have entire sections of their farms allocated for charity,” George says. “They let us go in and pick bushel after bushel.”
In fact, volunteers picked 42,000 pounds of fresh produce in 2011. “We really like the work and people we’ve met doing it. There’s always a contingent of Grand Valley State University students pitching in. We’ve even invited people visiting us from out of town to come out help.”
George and Jane have volunteered for many other charities throughout the years, including Gilda’s Club of Grand Rapids, where “we did everything from hand out literature to weed gardens.” But George says Feeding America has a special place in their hearts. “We are so fortunate to enjoy a wonderful lifestyle in this amazing city and we feel a responsibility to give back to those who are going through tough times. It’s the right thing to do!”