SJC Bridges Partners With Mishawaka Food Pantry

SJC Bridges is always looking for agencies or organizations who would like to facilitate our Getting Ahead class, which provides necessary tools and lessons to citizens striving to come out of poverty.

The Mishawaka Food Pantry is the perfect place for a class like this. Offering meals, food, and clothing to those in need, the Pantry is a valuable community resource in the Mishawaka area, which draws local residents through its doors every day.

Mike Hayes, former Mishawaka Township Trustee, is the Executive Director of the Pantry. He told me he had wanted to host something like the Getting Ahead class for a long time but had never had the opportunity to do so. When one of our staff first presented him with the idea, he thought it was an interesting program, but was skeptical of our ability to keep people coming back for 16-sessions, the amount of classes needed before the graduation.

Getting Ahead  facilitators, graduates, and Food Pantry Executive Director Mike Hayes

Getting Ahead facilitators, graduates, and Food Pantry Executive Director Mike Hayes

"However, I was pleasantly surprised that Bridges was able to keep and hold interest," Mike Hayes told me a couple weeks ago when I was in the Pantry to talk to some of the recent graduates. "I am very much in favor of the class and being involved with Bridges in the future," he said.

While 16 sessions may seem like a lot, many people come to appreciate the knowledge gained in the class once it starts. A common sentiment is that there are more community resources available than they previously knew existed, and the tools learned in the class are effective in helping them move forward in life, pushing toward self-sufficiency.

Hayes expressed he was happy to personally be able to see the benefits of the people who took the class. "I know that some will really excel and move forward in life," he said to me, nodding. As anyone working in the non-profit world or public sector knows, seeing the positive progress in the people we serve, and in the community as a whole, is one of the most fulfilling aspects of the job, and arguably what keeps us coming back each day for more.

The Mishawaka Food Pantry provides other classes during the week, offering lessons in managing stress, conflict resolution, or cleaning tips for managing clutter. Incentives for these classes include paper products and other things not accessible with food stamps.

Many of the Getting Ahead graduates from the Food Pantry went on and attended the Bridges Financial Management Class offered shortly after their graduation. SJC Bridges was excited to see familiar faces and hopes to work together with Hayes and the Mishawaka Food Pantry again in the future.