The past few years have been a time of monumental growth for Lighthouse. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we served about 10,000 people a year at our two food pantry locations. That number nearly tripled last year alone. Along with the increased demand for emergency food, came an overwhelming need for emergency shelter, rental assistance, affordable housing, and other basic needs support. Today, Lighthouse is assisting more people than ever before.
To highlight our growth and the partners who support our lifechanging work, Lighthouse held our 2022 Annual Meeting on September 13th under a big tent at Kirk in the Hills in Bloomfield Hills. In addition to providing updates to the community, we also presented awards to some of the people and organizations who help make Lighthouse’s mission possible.
“The degree of the challenges that the people we serve face, whether it be hunger or other manifestations of acute poverty, are so immense… that it sometimes feels like, despite all the support, it’s an impossible task,” says Lighthouse President and CEO Ryan Hertz. “This organization is the result of not just today’s efforts by our dedicated team and all of those who serve on our board, volunteer, and contribute, but a combined 85-plus years of work and passion and people looking out for one another in our community.”
2022 award winners who were recognized include:
• Mission Possible Award: Genisys Credit Union
• Corporate Partner Award: Borg Warner
• Foundation Partner Award: The Carls Foundation
• Congregation Partner Award: Christ Church Cranbook
• Community Partner Award: Pontiac Housing Commission
• Municipality Partner Award: City of Oak Park
• Outstanding Service Award: Melanie Grund
• Volunteer of the Year: Amazon
In addition to increasing food distribution, during the pandemic Lighthouse completed Coolidge Place, a 64-unit affordable and supportive housing development in Oak Park, and began renovating Carriage Circle, a project that will redevelop 234 public housing units in partnership with the Pontiac Housing Commission. There is now a new family shelter where the Lighthouse PATH program was previously housed and a new emergency food warehouse in Pontiac at the site of a former Gleaner’s warehouse facility.
Among the event’s speakers was Jessica Helton, a former Lighthouse client who shared her story about coming to Michigan 8 months pregnant and discovering South Oakland Shelter back in 2004. Jessica read a poem she wrote about the challenges she faced while experiencing homelessness.
“Walking, but with nowhere to go.
Hungry, but with no food to show.
Pain in my feet, an ache in my heart,
I want to find a home, but I don’t know where to start.
But, worst of all, is the feeling no one cares.
I keep getting sent away, I roam everywhere…
The cycle continues day after day.
You need to someone to help you to not be a stray.
You then hear of a homeless shelter.
You get food and a shower and feel much better.
You have a social worker who understands he or she helps you get on your feet again. God bless our shelters and all the people who show love,
Your deeds will be rewarded from Our Father above.”
During the meeting, Lighthouse also honored two members of our Board of Directors who recently served their final terms. John Townsend served on the board from 2013-2022 and Paddy Lynch served from 2017-2022.
Looking ahead, Lighthouse will continue its work serving as a beacon of hope, providing food, shelter, and support to people across Oakland County.
“As we head into yet another holiday season, we at Lighthouse are very aware our neighbors are in great need. We field hundreds of new calls each week, many from people who have never asked for help before. Increased costs due to inflation such as rent, fuel, food and utilities are overwhelming our lower income families, leaving many with nowhere to turn,” said Ryan. “Your help is critical to our ability to help these families get through the holiday and winter months. Please join us in making sure our neighbors’ requests for help have the answer they need so no one is turned away.”
To join our mission and support our ongoing efforts, visit: lighthousemi.org.