‘Trying to fix Cassopolis’Published 9:17pm Wednesday, September 12, 2012
The Helping Hands of Cass County Inc. food pantry will be restocked with perishables and food items thanks to a $2,700 grant from the Youth Advisory Committee of the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation.
It was Noah Woods, a 15-year-old student at Ross Beatty Junior/Senior High School, who researched the idea to apply for the grant and letting the Helping Hand’s director, Mary Tompi, know it was available.
“He was inspired enough and told Mary how she could apply for the grant,” Jayne Lamb, program associate with the foundation, said. “It’s a proactive grant for us to give.”
The foundation began in 1978 as Buchanan Area Foundation, focused on helping the community. With the spread of service to southern Berrien and Cass counties, the name was changed, though the foundation is still based in Buchanan. In 1995, the division of the Youth Advisory Committee (YAC) began and has since given community service opportunities to high school students in southwest Michigan.
Tompi said the grant was a blessing.
“Our pantry is getting low on meat, and this funding will certainly help in a big way,” Tompi said. “I’m thrilled.”
Woods, 15, who joined YAC last year, is a dual athlete at Ross Beatty, playing soccer and football. He said a talk with his father inspired him to find some way to help the Cassopolis community.
“He told me to do some good, and I started looking around and thought this (Helping Hands) was the perfect place,” Woods said. “I just walked in, asked and told Mary what she could do to receive the grant.”
Cassopolis senior Celia Ash, a dual-enrollment student at Southwestern Michigan College, joined Woods Wednesday to represent Cassopolis and YAC. Assistant Principal Hiawatha Francisco said seeing young residents work to help the community makes him proud as a school administrator.
“They’re the type of students you want to represent the school and the community,” Francisco said. “You know they’re going to go on and do great things.”
Ash said finding a way to help a local organization that serves needy families felt rewarding.
“It makes me feel special, to be able to contribute to my own community,” Ash said. “It’s a good thing that we can represent our high school and give back.”
Woods agreed, saying he hopes more community involvement from the younger generation takes place.
“As long as that initiative is taken, that’s the first step,” Woods said. “I’m trying to fix Cassopolis, and this helps do that.”
To learn more about the Michigan Gateway Community Foundation or how to become involved, visit www.mgcf.org.