Our Newest Grads: Michael and Amy Jo

Written by: Chloe Woggon

This past spring Bridges Out of Poverty joined forces with the Mishawaka Food Pantry to conduct a Getting Ahead class. Two of the recent graduates, Amy Jo Kersey and Michael Wilfret, are actually a couple and they are no newcomers to the pantry. Each have been volunteering there for some years, and it is, in fact, where they first met before becoming engaged.

Michael began coming to the Pantry in 2010. He recalled first referring a man there to provide him with something to do to help the community. After that, he just kept coming back every day to help with anything that needed done. Amy Jo is originally from Plymouth. She relocated to Mishawaka and came to the Pantry a couple times for help. Soon, she began volunteering as well, and eventually she and Michael became engaged.

Michael and Amy Jo are two open and generous hearts who love helping anyone and everyone. I could hear it in their voices as they told me stories of their experiences. “What hurts me the most though, is seeing people come in who don’t have things like shoes or coats,” said Michael, before telling me personal stories of how he has given away his own new clothes to those who have less than he does.

“Yeah, and we have also helped with fundraisers at the Pantry and have packed lunches for kids during the holidays…we just do whatever Mike (the director) needs us to do,” said Amy Jo. “We just love helping however we can.”

heir joy in helping others rolled over to the Getting Ahead classes as well. After hearing Dorrine talk to the director about the classes, they were both really eager to enroll, and they each finished the 16-session course with perfect attendance. They reflected on helping others in the class with their homework and catching up on tasks. “If someone missed a class, we would meet with them to help them catch up on the work they missed,” Amy Jo told me, Michael agreeing.

Both of them agreed that the most valuable lesson from the classes was learning how much help was already out there. Michael said, “I really liked learning about all the different agencies the city has to help people—neither of us knew there were that many places out there.” He talked about how these resources would help people get off of the assistance they are on that is not helping them become self-sufficient.

Even the Pantry does not see as many faces as it could. Michael and Amy told me that sometimes people do not know the Pantry exists because the building has housed a few other businesses in the past. Sometimes, though, people do not come for help because they do not want to bother anyone.

In the future, Michael and Amy intend to stick around the Pantry to volunteer and continue to help others. “We just love to see people’s spirits become lifted by coming here,” Amy expressed. Michael will soon close on a house, and the couple are looking forward to having a new place of their own. 

“We still go over our books,” Amy said, excited. Michael agreed, nodding, saying that any chapters they didn’t cover in class, they take time to teach themselves now. Michael and Amy are two self-motivated individuals, full of life and compassion for others, and because of that, and many other positive qualities, their futures will be bright and prosperous.