The Rapidian

Harbor Life Church works to provide food for low income families in new way

One year after opening, a local church provides food for families in need through the unique Hand2Hand program.
Hand2Hand volunteers find healthy, nonperishable foods to pack in East Elementary students' backpacks.

Hand2Hand volunteers find healthy, nonperishable foods to pack in East Elementary students' backpacks. /Becky Dykhuis

Underwriting support from:

When Harbor Life Church, the newest campus of Fair Haven Ministries, first opened its doors in February 2012, Pastor Robb Kornoelje wasted no time searching for ways the Church could give back to the Grandville community. He had heard of a 2008 story about a boy who was found trying to break into his school during the weekend to find something to eat, and started looking into the area schools to see if there was a similar need today.

“We did our homework,” Kornoelje said, “and we learned that 60% of the students at East Elementary School take part in a free or reduced cost lunch program. That’s the highest percentage of any school in the district.”

Kornoelje felt that the church community had a responsibility to make sure none of these students went hungry on the weekends. In order to aid parents who were facing financial strain, he enlisted the help of Hand2Hand Ministries, a local organization that had been working on a similar program since 2008.

Each week, volunteers from area churches shop for nonperishable foods and pack backpacks full for students from 47 different schools to take home over the weekend.

“Hand2Hand had already established a process that works,” Kornoelje said. “All we had to do was bring it to Principal Reehl’s attention.”

Kornoelje said that East Elementary’s Principal, Troy Reehl, was enthusiastic about the program, but raised concerns about the students’ confidentiality. That was when Kornoelje outlined the process for him.

“The Hand2Hand volunteers pack the food into unmarked backpacks at the church,” Kornoelje said. “Then they deliver the backpacks to the school’s office on Friday afternoons so the administration can put them in students’ lockers while everyone is in class. Those students take the backpacks home at the end of the day and return them on Monday.”

With confidentiality issues out of the way, Reehl sent a letter to all East Elementary parents and explained the program. After a slow start, Harbor Life’s Hand2Hand volunteers now pack around 29 backpacks for students to take home each week.

One family recently contacted Harbor Life’s volunteer coordinators to say that they no longer need assistance. Today, Kornoelje is proud of the ministry his volunteers provide for the community.

“Our Hand2Hand volunteers work hard to make sure we never hear that story on our local news again,” Kornoelje said. “We hope to continue to provide support and encouragement to the students and teachers at East Elementary.”

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

We need your help.

If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

Please support The Rapidian and make a contribution today.

Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.