May 7, 2020 GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Grand Rapids Community College student leaders are donating $30,000 to the college’s food pantry to provide support throughout the summer to a growing number of struggling classmates.
It’s the second time the Student Alliance, a group representing students at GRCC, voted to donate money to help classmates affected by the coronavirus crisis. In March, the group donated $8,000 intended for activities and programs, giving $5,500 to the emergency fund and $2,500 to purchase items for the food pantry.
GRCC’s Office of Student Life is providing bags of food to students at weekly curbside deliveries, boosted by a $10,000 grant from Heart of West Michigan United Way and partners including Feeding America West Michigan.
Student Alliance President Emma Johnson said student leaders receive updates about the distributions and the growing need as the coronavirus crisis continues.
“I want to see each and every person in our community succeed, not only in school, but also in life,” she said. “In these difficult times, sticking together and being there for one another is the only way we're going to get through this.
“As no one can predict the future, we do not know how long we, as a community, will be struggling with COVID-19, along with the side effects of it afterward. Due to this, Student Alliance wanted to make an effort to help students continue to utilize the food pantry and fulfill their basic needs.”
Between 45 and 75 students receive food bags each week: one with nonperishable items and another with either fresh produce or frozen meat.
Other items have been available, including apples, eggs, laundry detergent, dish soap, toilet paper and personal hygiene bag. Diapers, baby wipes and baby food were available for students who needed those items. The Grand Rapids Pitbull Alliance donated pet food as well.
Johnson said students hope the $30,000 donation would allow the food distribution to continue through June, July and August. The money would typically be used for student events, activities and a program that covers admission to area museums.
“This allocation seemed like the best way to provide for students, and something we were all happy to make happen,” she said. “I am so thankful that Student Alliance was fortunate enough to be able to help out through this decision, and hopeful that it can bring peace to those who need it.”
More than 70 percent of GRCC students attend part time, scheduling classes around work and home responsibilities. With many area employers limiting hours or closing their doors in response to the crisis, more students face food and housing insecurity.
The Student Emergency Assistance Fund was created by GRCC President Emeritus Steven C. Ender in 2009, largely using donations from employees. It helps students who face emergencies such as losing their job, a place to live or having their utilities shut off. The fund has provided more than $100,000 in grants and loans since 2014.
The number of students needing assistance has increased since the start of the Winter 2020 semester, spiking dramatically since the start of the coronavirus crisis. GRCC has provided more than $16,300 in grants this semester – compared to about $2,000 during the prior winter semester.
“Our student leaders know the struggles their classmates and their families are facing, especially as the crisis continues,” said Lina Blair, director of GRCC’s Office of Student Life and Conduct.
“They truly care and want to help. They understand the challenges of trying to keep up with classes while worried about food and taking care of a family. It’s inspiring to see them stepping up.”
The next distribution is planned for 2 -4 p.m. Wednesday, May 13, outside GRCC’s Student Community Center at 122 Lyon St. NE. The college also frequently updates a website – grcc.edu/gethelp – with campus and community resources for housing, food and other challenges.
Community members can donate through the Grand Rapids Community College Foundation’s online donation page: grcc.edu/donate. Select "Student Food Pantry" or "Student Emergency Fund" from the drop-down menu under "Designation.
Grand Rapids Community College offers learners of all ages opportunities to gain credits for degrees or transfer and in-demand career skills leading to rewarding careers. GRCC was established in 1914 – Michigan’s first community college -- and offers affordable classes on weekdays, evenings, Saturdays and online at locations throughout Kent and Ottawa counties.