Helping Hands of Cass County to expand service
By Submitted Published 1:06 pm Friday, February 3, 2017

Helping Hands of Cass County will soon expand the services it provides to local families in need, offering monthly food baskets to selected households.

“With the high cost of groceries, the need for food continues to be great in our community,” said Helping Hands Coordinator Mary Tompi. “In 2016, we provided 634 food baskets to families. Beginning in 2017, Helping Hands will provide monthly food baskets to families that qualify.”

The agency’s board is also working on offering boxes that meet particular needs, such as personal care products, cleaning products and baby products.

The nonprofit organization, which has been located in downtown Cassopolis since 1984, provides food, clothing, medicine, transportation funds, household items and, on occasion, support for utilities to residents of Cass County.

“This year has been extraordinary for us,” said President Diane Seifert. “We have received generous donations from many local groups, including the Edward Lowe Foundation, Community Foundation of St. Joseph County, Michigan Gateway Foundation-Youth Advisory Group and the Ladies of the Moose.”

Many other organizations conducted food drives that have provided a substantial amount of food for distribution, including Cassopolis Dental, Sam Adams Elementary School, the Diamond Lake Yacht Club, Cassopolis Family Clinic, K & M Welding and students from the Ross Beatty “Rangers to the Rescue” campaign.

Helping Hands also regularly receives funds or food from area churches, including St. Ann Catholic Church, Pleasant View Church of Christ, Cass United Methodist Church, and the United Presbyterian Church of Cassopolis. There are also many anonymous donors.

Two large food donations made an impact on Helping Hand’s food resources.

In 2016, United Way of Southwest Michigan provided grants for three Feeding America trucks and seven are planned for 2017. On Jan. 28, board members and volunteers were busy stacking 130 boxes of food donated through the 14th annual Food Drop, organized by Granger Community Church.

Helping Hands pantry and shop is located in downtown Cassopolis, and is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday.


Thank you to Notre Dame – Celebration Choir


The concert held April 27th at Our Lady of the Lakes was to support the food pantry at Helping Hands of Cass County, Inc.

The choir performed beautiful hymns of praise. The speech presented by Mary Tompi of Helping Hands was a group of real-life stories about situations that arise within the community, and the necessity of having an organization where people can receive help.

The event raised $948.oo for the pantry.


Here is a recap of some of the stories that we would like to share:

You look down the street and see state trooper cars, the county police car, and the village police car, all in front of one house with their lights flashing. There are people talking on the sidewalk. You realize which house is involved and know it is a drug bust and there is a 10 year old downs syndrome girl inside who needs both her parents, even though they aren’t married. The father was born with a brain injury and has a disability. He needs his wife, the strong partner, but she has made a bad decision that has affected their whole life. CPS comes and takes the little girl to foster care, the wife goes to jail, and he is left empty.  Every Christmas he has brought his daughter to Helping Hands for pictures with Santa, but today, he is here for help. I ask him how he is doing, and he breaks into tears and tells me the whole story of what happened. Through all the tears, he is able to find hope because the next day he will attend a hearing with CPS because his daughter is now being moved from foster care to grandma’s house.  Now he will be able to see her more.  He needs appropriate clothes for this meeting.

You receive a call from a mother whose daughter has committed suicide from a heroin overdose. She doesn’t need anything, but just wanted a prayer to help her through this day.

A client comes in asking for food, but is homeless and living in a tent at the campground. She has no cooking facilities other than a small grill that will fit into a backpack. A standard food box isn’t the answer, she needs products that need no refrigeration, yet provide enough protein and nutrition to sustain her daily needs. She uses the camp shower and facilities, so needs some personal care items, but no too large, because they have to fit into a small pack.

The parole officer calls and says she is referring someone over who just got released and needs clothes and a food box, maybe some personal care items because he is being sent to transitional housing.

A woman calls telling you her husband has passed away and needs to be taken off the commodities list so other people can have the food box he had been receiving.

A woman calls and says she was just diagnosed with cancer and after surgery will have to have chemo and radiation. She is preparing for losing her hair and is requesting a wig.

A husband comes in and says his wife won’t be returning for a while to volunteer because something horrible is happening to her, she is experiencing signs of dementia and needs a wheel chair because her leg muscles won’t hold her up any longer. This is the third trip to the emergency room in 2 weeks, and there is no logical reason why this medical condition has progressed so rapidly.

Someone has fallen on hard times and just needed help with some food today so their family could have some nutrition.

A pastor goes to visit an elderly couple who haven’t been to church in a couple of weeks and finds they have nothing to eat but cat food.  The pastor comes to us requesting some food for this couple, and digs into his own pocket to buy them more.

A homeless man shows up at the door of your parish and just needs a place to warm up. He stays and prays with the congregation, he is penniless but offers his gift of time to help put up the Christmas tree. He asks for nothing, but receives friendship, coffee, doughnuts, compassion, a bagful of granola bars, a bottle of water, a pair of gloves, and a warm coat (priceless to him).

These stories are real and not out the ordinary business day for us at Helping Hands, and are only but a few of what we experience.

 In the first quarter of 2016, we have served 236 people with food needs. Personal care items are included with these boxes of food.

Imagine just for a moment going to a food pantry and having to ask for help with food, the most basic of needs. Would you have the courage to ask for toilet paper, toothpaste or a toothbrush? Would you ask for shampoo or a bar of soap? Would you be too embarrassed? Would your pride overshadow your need? Our caring volunteer staff is trained not to judge, but to treat each person with dignity and respect.

This is Helping Hands of Cass County and this is what we do.

In closing, I would just ask you to reflect on Matthew 25:40 “I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”