March 2021
This is your source for volunteer news, program updates, opportunities, and events. Best of all, it's where we can highlight YOU, and the amazing work Manna volunteers accomplish!
What a Year! 2020 in Review
This past year brought our nation more challenges and heartbreak than any in recent memory. Hundreds of thousands have lost their lives to COVID-19, while millions more have suffered from the economic and social effects of a global pandemic.

Despite these tragedies, our healthcare, essential, and frontline workers have held their ground, keeping our community alive and functioning. Perhaps what’s most touching is people of all backgrounds and lifestyles opening their arms to others in need.

With help from every sector—community foundations, health organizations, farms, partner nonprofits, businesses large and small, and individual donors—Manna Food Project rose to the challenges of COVID-19, launching new initiatives and programs to meet the increased need for food assistance.

In 2020, Manna:

  • Distributed over 1.5 million pounds of food throughout our tri-county area, utilizing new, local food producers when our normal suppliers faced shortages

  • Provided nutritious food to those seeking food assistance through our drive-thru, curbside pantry once the pandemic reached Northern Michigan

  • Launched mobile food pantries at Boyne Highlands and Odawa Casino, reaching hundreds of hospitality, restaurant, and essential service workers over the course of several weeks

  • Acquired and distributed over 117,000 pounds of locally sourced produce from area farmers, helping to provide financial relief to producers hit hard by lost markets and sales outlets

  • Partnered with Coveyou Farms to distribute nearly 18,000 USDA produce boxes, bringing straight-from-the-vine fruits and veggies to family tables

  • Worked with school coordinators to ensure that each child in need received a “Food 4 Kids” backpack each weekend, even when districts closed and students switched to online learning

Looking back, these milestones bring us immense pride. All of this would not have been possible without you: our dedicated, loyal, and hard-working volunteers! Together, we have turned hunger into hope.
Volunteer Program Statistics
Here are some relevant statistics specific to last year's volunteer program. As you can gather, the number of volunteers in our facility once COVID-19 hit our region was dramatically reduced. To put things into perspective, in 2019 we had over 800 individual volunteers spend at least 1 hour with us, compared to just 350 in 2020. It's amazing how much we continued to achieve in spite of such rapid change!
Manna's Update at the State of the Community

Manna was recently featured in the Petoskey Chamber's State of the Community virtual program. It was a fantastic conversation, with nine community leaders discussing key issues, from food security to housing and healthcare. Watch the video here (clicking the thumbnail will make the video start at 32:17, when Jessyca starts speaking).
Volunteer "Need to Knows"
COVID-19 Vaccine Updates
As you may know, Manna pre-registered with the Health Department of Northwest Michigan (HDNWM) as a 1b-qualitying organization providing essential services. Under this category, our staff and active volunteers are eligible to receive the vaccine.
While we have received confirmation that we are on the HDNWM list, we have not heard anything more about the timeline.
However, we are now encouraging any of our volunteers aged 65 or older to also sign up individually, as this age group has been prioritized for vaccine scheduling.
Here’s what NDNWM recently recommended in a Harbor Light article:
"[In addition to HDNWM], we encourage you to register with other area providers. Munson Healthcare and McLaren Northern Michigan are vaccinating residents in our jurisdiction against COVID-19 through their provider network. People who are currently eligible for the vaccine but waiting for an appointment are also encouraged to register with Rite Aid and Meijer, which are likely to begin offering the vaccine more broadly in the area soon."
Inclement Weather Policy
With cold weather in full swing, we'd like to remind our volunteers of our Inclement Weather Policy. Manna closes when both Petoskey and Harbor Springs Public Schools close.

School closings might look different due to COVID-19 class formats, but if ice, snow, or storms make conditions unsafe we will be communicating with you promptly.

If you have any questions about this, please call our office at 231.347.8852 or my cell phone at 269.908.8563.
Poetry from the Backpack Assembly Line
Thoughts from the cereal-box perspective
by volunteer Jerry Brusher
I’m lying here waiting at the bottom of the bin
Will no one ever choose me when they reach in?
I slid down from the peak of what-might-have-been
And found myself lost in the valley of maybe-try-again
Layer after layer above me filters the light
And the day looks for shelter but only finds night
Sometimes my fellow boxes are lifted rhythmically
And I struggle to be noticed, straining optimistically

“Don’t worry! You’re next!” they call down to me
But I am left to languish and ruminate in missed opportunity
And when the clutter is lifted and I am certain to be seen
I eagerly anticipate a firm grasp to pluck me crisp and clean
But just as I see a hand ready to finally draw me in
A deluge of fresh boxes suddenly floods the bin
I am tumbling, spinning, twisting
Fighting desperately to hold my place
But the torrent is overwhelming
Driving me down to my all-too-familiar space
But still I am hopeful that someone will reach down deep
To jostle me from my slumber, wake me from my sleep
Rescue me from my almost-but-never-seems
Lift me from my weariness and guide me toward my dreams
For I know there is still a need
I know there is a mouth to feed
I know there is pain and hunger to meet
I know there is a child asking, “Mommy, may I have something to eat?”
So I will be patient and I will humbly pray
That soon I will be chosen, maybe even today
Volunteer Spotlight
Elizabeth & Jerry
Maybe you need to find a new dream
Someone said to me before
But now we walk hand-in-hand
Along the beautiful Lake Michigan shore
As newlyweds, as young parents, and now as empty-nesters, new Manna volunteers Elizabeth Wolfe-Brusher and Jerry Brusher had always dreamed of living Up North. Happily, they were able to retire and make the move from Southeast Michigan (Novi) to Petoskey in December of 2020. Having vacationed with their family on Grand Traverse Bay and Little Traverse Bay for many years, they are familiar with the area and are excited to explore it further.
Maybe you just need to be present
To be where you are and fully there
Because someone else with their own dream
Just needs you to be willing to share

While the pandemic has limited their ability to get to know their new neighbors and fully enjoy all that the area has to offer, they are very pleased to have begun volunteering with Manna and to meet the incredible, tireless staff. Elizabeth and Jerry are amazed at how the staff was/is able to establish, expand, and navigate such an intricate network of food banks, pantries, suppliers, etc. in support of the local communities. They are all so welcoming and friendly, and Elizabeth and Jerry are looking forward to working with them and to supporting their efforts.

Maybe you need to find a new what’s next
A new why, how, and by when
Or maybe you just need to get vaccinated
So you can hold your children again

In addition to volunteering at Manna, Elizabeth and Jerry enjoy skiing, running, reading, and walking their miniature Schnauzer, Charlotte. They are also eager to get their COVID-19 vaccines so they can freely visit (and hug!) their adult twins in California: Elyse, a doctoral candidate in French & Francophone Studies at UCLA; and Alex, a software engineer at Google in San Francisco. It’s been too long!

Maybe you need a new mystery
A new puzzle, a new challenge, a new frontier
Or maybe you just need to be grateful
For all that you have right here

Nominate someone for our monthly Volunteer Spotlight by emailing Jessyca at!