As we celebrate Leelanau Christian Neighbors' 25 years of service, I am drawn to the meaning in our "Loaves and Fishes" logo.
In 1987 a food pantry was visualized by members of the Suttons Bay Congregational Church. Jack and Mary Reynolds Shannahan, together with Bob and Mary Chamberlain, fostered this idea. A bag of staple foodstuffs would feed a small family for a few days. The qualification would be that the recipients be hungry. The Congregational Church was immediately joined by Trinity Church in Northport and Immanuel Lutheran and Keswick Methodist Churches in Suttons Bay. Church participation grew quickly to 13 churches. The ecumenical efforts and the simple mission attracted enormous secular support as well. Other events followed:
- The Neighborhood Assistance Ministry was established in 1998, as LCN became more financially able.
- The Northport Pantry began in 1999.
- The years 2005/2006 marked LCN's first fund raising and grant writing efforts.
The ways we serve the needs of our neighbors must also match up with ways to better serve our volunteers, and communicate more to the many donors that support our mission.
- 2009 saw the establishment of a formal structure, including volunteer committees for Finance, Fund Development, Marketing, and Technology .
- LCN's first strategic plan was begun in 2010, touching all LCN volunteers.
- The Neighborhood Assistance Ministry was restructured to add volunteers and training in 2012.
- We published LCN's first volunteer handbook, to support the increased expectations of 100-plus volunteers.
In addition to the natural beauty of our surroundings, quality of life comes from the diversity of our population and the economy that supports us — whether it be tourism, agriculture, or related endeavors that we and our neighbors participate in. Even volunteerism contributes to quality of life, and is a growing trend, just at the time it is needed. LCN remains dedicated to its simple mission of "providing food for the hungry and aiding those who have inadequate resources to respond to emergencies". Our volunteers will continue to find creative ways to respond to our neighbors' needs.
- Strategic Planning continues, with updates to achieve many "best practices" goals.
- New means to communicate to our stakeholders continue to be explored & adopted.
- Our mission is expanding to include youth. We teach volunteerism to Leelanau County youth.
- Now we are reaching out to youth in need through our newest food program, "Blessings in a Backpack." Each Friday, starting this fall, we will be sending home a backpack of food with elementary school children in critical need. (www.leelanauchristianneighbors.org/blessings-in-a-backpack)
LCN is not standing still. While we envision a strengthening economy that would raise the economic well being of all Leelanau County residents, LCN will be needed many years into the future. Our support comes not only from the "time, talents, and treasures" of our many supporters, but also from the hardworking attitude of the neighbors that are such an important part of our experience in this special place.
About the author: Charles T. Cady is the current President of Leelanau Christian Neighbors. Dedicated to the simple mission of feeding hungry residents of Leelanau County and aiding those with emergency needs, "LCN" delivers it services through over 100 volunteers. Chuck Cady is a past president of the Traverse Area Economic Development Corporation.