Stories of Change

CWS Kits at Hidden Harvest.

When a pandemic and flooding both struck, you were there in Michigan

“CWS has been so great. As a walker in a CROP Hunger Walk, I had some idea of what CWS does. In general, I always tend to think of it has happening in remote areas of the globe…to that impact happening locally, I am so thankful to have walked in multiple CROP Walks and that CWS comes through wherever the need is,” said Samantha McKenzie.

Sam is the CEO of Hidden Harvest, a hunger relief and food rescue mission organization that serves in the Bay, Midland and Saginaw regions of Michigan. She and her team have distributed 38 million pounds of healthy and nutritious food to 170 hunger relief agencies in the area. Hidden Harvest is one of the agencies that receives a grant from the Saginaw CROP Hunger Walk, so they are actively involved in planning their Walk each year.

This year, however, multiple disasters have struck the area where Hidden Harvest works, and they turned to CWS for further support.

First, the COVID-19 pandemic created a huge challenge for so many families who were trying to meet their basic needs and put food on the table. Sam saw a need for hygiene and school supplies among many of their clients, so she reached out to CWS about getting CWS Hygiene Kits and School Kits. We shipped 300 hygiene kits and 800 school kits to Hidden Harvest. “I know so many people that really needed that stuff, and it’s hard to find in stores. All agencies have seen need for cleaning supplies for hygiene. To have the opportunity to share that is a huge blessing,” she says.

The team at Hidden Harvest was able to share the kits with several of their partner organizations. From there, they were put in the hands of students in neighborhoods that struggle with poverty, people facing homelessness and more. One of these partners was Heart of Saginaw, run by a husband and wife named Tom and Mona. Sam told us, “These [CWS school kits] are so well needed. Heart of Saginaw sees about 200 kids during every give away and try to encourage these kids to reach a little higher and they really form connections with the kids. People are very thankful. To have these school kits for these kids that have been struggling to do distance learning, in houses that are struggling to provide food for their kids and doesn’t have internet and parents that may not be able to go pick up the school packets. To have some very basic school supplies in the cutest bag ever, those bags were so nice, you can tell someone put a lot of love into those- so that was a wonderful thing that Tom and Mona were so thankful for. They know that they’re blessed because they get to pass those blessings on to those 200 kids.”

Not even two weeks after Hidden Harvest received the kits, disaster struck again. The Edenville Dam failed and caused the Samford Dam to breach. Massive flooding hit Midland County as billions of gallons of water from the Tittabawassee River and Wixom Lake poured into thousands of homes, several businesses, most of the local schools and the town’s University. Between 10,000 and 40,000 people had to evacuate from their homes.

Sam thought of CWS. “Unfortunately, one crisis really helps you prepare for another,” she says. She reached out, and soon 900 CWS Emergency Cleanup Buckets were on the way to two of Hidden Harvest’s partners. Three days after the dams broke, the buckets were there. More than 1,000 volunteers from all over the country came to town to help clean up. “They’re trying to prevent mold from setting in, so acting fast is so important,” Sam remarked. The CWS buckets come prepacked with several clean up items and Sam mentioned that because of this, “the CWS buckets are saving volunteer hours.”

Recovery will take months or years for these families and businesses. Insurance challenges are causing extra stress and financial burdens for many of the people who were affected. To be able to be part of that initial clean up and alleviate some of their financial burden through all of this has been pretty great. It has been very meaningful to be part of this response,” Sam expressed.

Whether it’s Myanmar or Michigan, CWS is committed to helping people worldwide be more resilient. We’re proud to stand with Hidden Harvest and partners around the corner and around the globe as we overcome hunger and poverty—and move forward in the wake of disasters—together. Thank you to everyone from the CROP Hunger Walk family who is helping to change the world, one step at a time.