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Tag Archive | "North Kent Connect"

North Kent Connect provides drive-up pantry

We value your safety during these tough times.

In an effort to reduce the spread of COVID-19 (coronavirus) we will be offering food distribution to our clients via a drive-up service starting Wednesday, March 18. Clients may pick up their monthly Pantry items from 9 a.m.—11 a.m. and 1 p.m. –3 p.m. on any of the following days:

  • Wednesday, March 18
  • Thursday, March 19
  • Monday, March 23
  • Tuesday, March 24
  • Wednesday, March 25

(April dates are pending.)

During this time, the NKC Thrift Store will be closed, and we will not be accepting donations of food or household goods. We apologize for any inconvenience and pray for everyone’s health and safety.

Purchase food boxes for families, or make a one-time donation

As we limit personal contact by closing our donation area and distributing pre-packaged boxes of food to our clients, we are asking our community to purchase a food box for $13.75 through our website. Each box will provide a family of four with five meals, and includes items such as canned and boxed foods, fresh fruits and vegetables, and dairy items.

Or, you can make a one-time donation in any amount to fund our need as we help families especially hit hard during the pandemic. (Please be sure to add “boxed food” or “as needed” in the description field.)


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North Kent Connect hosts third annual Farm to Pantry program

2017 North Kent Connect’s Farm to Pantry participants visit Plainsong Farm to pick up their CSA share.

One local nonprofit organization takes healthy food initiatives to a deeper level. North Kent Connect, a Rockford based nonprofit committed to improving the lives of all people in northern Kent County, offers its clients a hands-on opportunity to learn about eating and shopping for healthy foods through its Farm to Pantry Program.

“Through our Farm to Pantry Program, clients learn various skills including how to pick fresh fruits and vegetables, properly store and cook them, and so much more,” said Claire Guisfredi, Executive Director of North Kent Connect. “Clients also visit Plainsong Farm where they receive Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares to take home and apply their learnings to fresh produce of their own.”

“Since attending Farm to Pantry, I now know how to can my own vegetables as well as use unique spices that I wasn’t aware of before,” said Amy, frequent Farm to Pantry attendee. “I look forward to receiving fresh broccoli, cauliflower, and spinach from Plainsong Farm. The farm also introduced me to lemon thyme and oregano which I now cook with and use to add flavor to meals.”

North Kent Connect is using certified health experts to teach health-related topics focused on canning, container gardening, cooking with unfamiliar spices, preparing meals using the CSA shares, food justice, agriculture, and local food systems.

“Farm to Pantry has transformed my life,” said Addie, NKC client and program participant. “I have gained so much knowledge about healthy eating over the years of attending, and the confidence to experiment with different foods in the kitchen to share with my family. It’s

neat going to Plainsong Farm, meeting the farmers, and having access to locally-sourced produce.”

Partners of Farm to Pantry include Plainsong Farm, Access of West Michigan, Kent County Health Department and Heart of West Michigan United Way.


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From food to friendship


Betty, one of the seniors who participates in the senior pantry at North Kent Connect, looks forward to seeing friends there. Courtesy photo.

Senior pantry at North Kent Connect providing social fellowship

Food is often the center around many social gatherings or events that people attend for leisure or professional purposes. At North Kent Connect, a Rockford area nonprofit committed to improving the lives of all people in northern Kent County, individuals attend a similar event known as Senior Pantry, but for a different purpose.

 “Our Senior Pantry program provides food to local seniors who simply cannot afford to sustain their food needs throughout the month,” said Claire Guisfredi, Executive Director at North Kent Connect. “We see a lot of the same faces and it is an honor to serve our seniors, knowing they can rely on a dependable resource for food every month,” said Guisfredi.

For one program participant, Senior Pantry is more than just standing in line to claim a bag of food.

“I really enjoy coming to Senior Pantry,” said Betty, a client at North Kent Connect. “I have made some really great friends. We arrive about two hours early so we can see and talk with one another.”

Throughout the hours of the program, conversation and laughter fill the building, hugs are exchanged, and smiles paint the faces of people who battle food insecurity.

“It’s really quite special that this program has cultivated a way for our seniors to build a sense of community, bond, and form long-term friendships,” said Guisfredi.

Senior Pantry, an outreach program of Meals on Wheels Western Michigan, takes place on the third Thursday of each month. To learn more about the program and qualifications, visit nkconnect.org/seniorservices.php


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Feeding the hungry this summer

By Judy Reed

Summer is finally here, and it means lots of carefree days for kids all over the area. But with kids no longer in school, it also means a good number of kids won’t have access to a nutritious meal. But there are some ways to combat that hunger.

Meet Up and Eat Up

Cedar Springs Public Schools hopes to help the hunger problem by hosting the Meet Up and Eat Up program, a free breakfast and lunch program from the Summer Food Service Program that they have hosted for several years now. The program runs Monday through Thursday, June 11-August 16 (except July 2-6) and is hosted at Red Hawk Elementary. Breakfast is served from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m., and lunch from 11 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. Children 18 years or younger can participate, as can those who are disabled, regardless of age, who participate in a public or non-profit private school program established for the mentally or physically disabled.

The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) was created to ensure that children in lower-income areas could continue to receive nutritious meals during long school vacations, when they do not have access to the National School Lunch or School Breakfast Programs. Please call Holly Haywood, Director of Food Services, at 696-0372 with any questions. 

Mobile Food Pantry

Another way for families to get food this summer is through a mobile food pantry coming to the Hilltop Administration building’s south (lower) parking lot on the second Monday of each month. The first one will be this next Monday, June 11, at 12:30 p.m. The other two dates are July 9 and August 13.

According to Jodi West, of the Kent School News Network (KSSN), Feeding America offers fresh produce (usually local and seasonal), dairy products. and other food and grocery products. She visited one recently that foods such as asparagus, cabbage, potatoes, onions, apples, breads, pastries, milk and craisins.  

West said there are no requirements to receive the food, other than the person must deem they are in need. No proof of income is required. “They do need to register with us before they get the food. We can start registering folks at noon at the site,” she explained.

She also said it’s best if people come prepared with their own boxes and/or bags.

Lean on Me

Lean On Me, a ministry of Resurrection Life Church, is another agency that will give food and other items to those in need. It is located at 11555 Edgerton Ave NE, Rockford, MI, just south of 14 Mile Rd. Office hours are 9 a.m.–Noon, Monday-Saturday. Food distributions are 5 p.m.–8 p.m., Monday; and 9 a.m. to Noon, Wednesday and Friday. If you need help or would like to help, please give them a call: (616) 866-3999. Or you can email them at info@leanonmeoutreach.org.

North Kent Connect

Another agency that is instrumental in helping the needy in northern Kent County is North Kent Connect, near the corner of Northland Drive and 12 Mile Rd. According to Katie Hop, of NKC, clients can visit The Market (their food pantry) once a month. But they do need to be clients of North Kent Connect and check in with a Case Manager before visiting. Potential clients need to fall within 200 percent of the poverty guidelines to qualify for our services. Individuals who are interested in learning more about becoming a NKC client can reach out to a Case Manager at (616) 866-3478.

Clients can be sure they will be getting healthy food at NKC. “We have a Healthy Food Policy that influences what we put in The Market,” explained Hop. “We’ve eliminated highly-processed, high sodium, high fat, and high sugar foods from our food programs, and we focus on providing whole food options. Some of the items available in The Market are fresh fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and lean meats; we are working with donors to provide wholesome foods to our community. We also are working toward offering more gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan items.”

For more information on all of the food programs they offer, including Senior Pantry, Senior Commodities, Federal Commodities, Meals on Wheels, and referrals to their five support pantries, visit their website at www.nkconnect.org.

For those that would like to help, North Kent Connect currently has several needs. Please pick up one or more of these items the next time you’re at the grocery store:

  • mandarin oranges
  • pineapples
  • spinach
  • mushrooms
  • beets
  • collard greens
  • peas and carrot mix

They are also in need of flour, shampoo and conditioner, and feminine hygiene products.

Donation hours are Monday-Thursday from 8:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. and Friday-Saturday from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m.

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Helping People And Changing Lives

Third grade students show their Compliment Collage’s they made to instill confidence through compliments.

Staff and students with one of the fleece tie blankets they made during the day of service projects.

This year CTA students have been able to work with an AmeriCorp Vista representative through the Heart of West Michigan United Way. Our high school students crafted tie blankets for Degage Ministries plus tie hats that they gifted to others. Some of the organizations that received the hats were Degage Ministries, North Kent Connect, and The Bridge. Elementary students read books with our high school students, and talked about the power of compliments.

Elementary students also decorated lunch bags for Kids Food Basket. We all enjoyed being able to give back to our community to honor Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

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North Kent Connect provides extra food for holidays

Algoma Township’s Community Deputy Mike Allen on hand at North Kent Connect.

Nearly 400 seniors and other community members braved snowy roads and single digit temperatures to pick up healthy, nutritious food from North Kent Connect (NKC) on Thursday, December 14. It was a team effort with many volunteers and supplies from area businesses and Algoma Township’s Community Deputy Mike Allen on hand to direct traffic if needed. 

During the week leading up to Thursday’s distribution, 35 volunteers assembled the food bags. On the day of distribution, over 20 volunteers and NKC staff worked together to quickly and efficiently dispense the food to clients. The seniors gathered in the conference room at NKC to stay warm and chat with their neighbors while waiting their turn.

 NKC is the “hub” in northern Kent County for many programs and services, including food for low-income individuals. On December 14, NKC distributed food from the federal government’s TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) and Senior Pantry, a monthly service of Meals on Wheels Western Michigan to seniors age 60-plus. People received such food as whole chickens, apples, canned fruits and vegetables, peanut butter, milk, ground turkey, cheese, bananas, and potatoes.

 “Partnerships like these allow us to offer additional free food to families in need in northern Kent County,” said Claire Guisfredi, NKC Executive Director. “We’re especially thankful for the volunteers who took time out of their day and worked in freezing temperatures outside to make this one of the smoothest running distribution days we’ve ever had!”

For more information on North Kent Connect, please visit www.nkconnect.org and follow them on Facebook @North Kent Connect.

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New, unwrapped gifts needed for Tree of Hope


Donations requested by Dec. 11 to fill thrift store for neighbors in need in northern Kent County


Everybody should be able to spread holiday cheer, regardless of income. North Kent Connect (NKC) wants to make the process of gift giving and receiving more affordable and empowering than ever before.

Through its “Tree of Hope” program, NKC is calling on individuals, organizations and businesses in the area to drop off new and unwrapped items at its Northland Drive store in Rockford. Items such as pajamas, socks, underwear, sheets, blankets, towels, winter outerwear, and boots can then be purchased by NKC’s in-need clients at an extremely reduced cost. Parents will be able to shop for their children and maintain a sense of dignity while doing so.

 “We need many items, particularly basic necessities, to place in our Christmas Store so our families have variety and options,” said Claire Guisfredi, executive director of North Kent Connect. “Please help us Give the Gift of Dignity this holiday season.” All items should be dropped off to NKC by Monday, December 11.

 The Tree of Hope concept is an extension of NKC’s unique “V.I.P.” model where qualified clients can volunteer (V) or invest (I) their time taking special classes to earn store credits in order to purchase (P) store items. Leftover items from the Christmas Store will be later sold to the public at regular prices, with proceeds benefiting NKC’s food and empowerment programs. (Toys will still be available at no cost through the “Toys for Tots” program to qualified NKC clients.)

 “Programs like Tree of Hope give people a truly unique opportunity to purchase needed items with pride,” said Guisfredi. “Our V.I.P. model has fast become a strongpoint for our clients, and continues to be a success not just for us, but for our entire community—throughout the holidays and all year long.”

 For more information, contact Cassie LaMacchia, NKC Community Engagement Coordinator, at cassie.lamacchia@nkconnect.org or 616-866-3478, ext. 355.



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Pastors square off again for neighbors in need

The popular game show fundraiser, Celebrity Squares, raised more than $55,000 for North Kent Connect.

Local pastors delighted an audience of 500 community members at Frederik Meijer Gardens & Sculpture Park last week to raise funds for North Kent Connect, a 43-year-old nonprofit organization that connects people to resources they need to thrive.

 The fourth annual fundraiser event featured 11 hilarious pastors from Rockford, Sparta, and Cedar Springs for an encore round of “Celebrity Squares.” The raucous competition netted more than $55,000 to benefit the food and empowerment programs of North Kent Connect (NKC, formerly North Kent Community Services).

“Outstanding local pastors give their time and talent each year to raise money for northern Kent County,” said Claire Guisfredi, executive director at NKC. “Because of our generous community and business sponsors, North Kent Connect is able to improve the lives of many people and help them reach economic independence. We are truly blessed to have such support.”

The performing pastors were: Jeff Amlotte, Mamrelund Lutheran; Jeff DeRyke, Bridgeway Community; Fr. Stephen Durkee, Our Lady of Consolation; Karen Fitz LaBarge, North Kent Presbyterian Ben Taylor, Sparta Baptist; Fr. Tony Pelak, Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary; Laurie TenHave-Chapman, First Congregational; Jason Peterson, St. Peter’s Lutheran; Justin Rowland, Rockford Baptist Church; Fr. Mark Peacock, St. Patrick Parnell; Inge Whittemore, East Nelson United Methodist.

Founded in 1973, North Kent Connect is committed to improving the lives of all people in northern Kent County by providing access to basic needs and promoting economic independence through its educational classes. NKC hosts several partner agencies including West Michigan Works!, Arbor Circle, and Mel Trotter Ministries. Visit www.nkconnect.org for more information.

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North Kent Community Services takes new name


It began in 1973 as Rockford Community Services. Sometime in the 1980s it became North Kent Service Center. Then, in 2010, it changed its name to North Kent Community Services, to better reflect the fact it was serving the northern Kent community—from 6 Mile Rd north to the county line at 22 Mile Rd—with food, shelter, utilities support, clothing and more.

Now, in 2017, a bigger change is happening. Not only is it changing its name to North Kent Connect, it is also opening a store to the general public.

“People had difficulty remembering the name North Kent Community Services since it was so long,” explained Claire Guisfredi, Executive Director at North Kent Connect. “We needed something shorter that describes what we do. North Kent Connect does that.”

North Kent Connect connects people to the resources they need–anything from food to job training to fellowship–to help residents in northern Kent County meet basic needs and work towards economic independence.

In order to help even more people in the community, they are opening North Kent Connect Store on Friday, August 4. Anyone can shop there for high-quality, gently-used clothing and household goods at affordable prices. It will be located at 10075 Northland Drive NE. Every purchase will help local families better their lives through North Kent’s empowerment programs.

However, the store has a unique buying proposition. Not only can items be purchased at affordable prices, North Kent Connect clients can also receive store credit by volunteering in the community or taking classes. The organizations’ V.I.P. plan for clients supports the initiative of three-ways-to-pay: Volunteer, Invest or Purchase.

Guisfredi said, “Financial struggles can be a very humbling experience. Shopping at North Kent Connect Store serves as a reminder that everyone has something to offer. It gives our clients dignity knowing that they can give back in some way–through volunteering, investing in themselves (by taking a class), or purchasing items. The North Kent Connect Store is an exciting opportunity for us. It will help the community become aware of all that we offer here. Also, the store will offer job skills training for special needs young adults.”

North Kent Connect Store will be open to the public (beginning August 4) on Tuesday and Friday from 10:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. and Saturday from 10:00 a.m.—4:00 p.m. Clients only can shop Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m.


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