Heartland Giving Brings Hope and Help

Heartland Giving Brings Hope and Help

Uncertain times can cause people to look around for things they can count on. Having a decent meal, a few necessities wasn’t in doubt so much three months ago. Having plenty, in fact, was expected, until now.

The heartland community resources for assistance became urgent necessities as area businesses were closed by KDHE, joining the nationalwide effort to “flatten the curve” and stave off a viral spread of COVID-19 – as seen in other parts of the world and the United States. 

Families of all income levels, whose jobs have been suspended or whose businesses are not bringing in an income, were suddenly caught with no money coming in and not enough savings to meet an extended layoff. While news stories showed lines of people stocking up and hoarding in long lines at Costco-style stores, for many Americans, stocking up wasn’t an option. 

Enter the giving spirit of the Heartland.

Former Easton, KS resident, Michael Green, said he saw the plight early on in as news of the pandemic hit in January. He said he talked to his business partner to return to the Leavenworth County area to help by setting up a temporary food pantry in Leavenworth, KS. The pantry has served about 2000 food give aways since it began March 5th. 

“I knew the trends ahead of when people lost their jobs,” Green said. Green runs a CBD business and a second business where he coaches people who are starting in businesses of their own. 

“If you’re in the business world,” Green said, you have to pay attention. You can’t just expect everything to go right forever. You have to be on your toes and watch what is happening in the economy. We watched in January. As soon as we heard rumors that there was a first phase (of the pandemic) coming to the United State, I pulled my partners together and said ‘It’s gonna happen. We need to get ready.’”

Green said that the people his pantry is helping are mostly people who have never had to go to the Salvation Army before. “These are people that they don’t know where to go.” The line for the 1 p.m. food give away had started lining up at 11 a.m. No names are written down, no driver’s license. “Just get your food and leave. We don’t have to keep tabs. A lot of people are grateful for that. For the people who come and get what they need, we don’t feel any negativity. We just feel a lot of gratefulness. They just appreciate what we are doing.” 

He said that some people asked him “What if people take advantage of you?”

“I don’t think that’s my place. If they need it, they’ll come. this all my money from my business. Sometimes we may get donations from other people for food,” Green said. Growing up on a farm in Easton, KS., Greene said he remembers the effects of the 2008 financial crisis on his parents and family back then. To spread the word about his pantry, he used what he has learned promoting his business via social media and applied that to getting the word out quickly to those in need, creating a Facebook group called Coronavirus Relief Leavenworth/Atchison/Kansas City.

“I submit to Christ to His teachings but I think everyone is called to help their neighbor,” Green said. “Even as a Christian, I hear people say ‘Pray about it.’ but I say faith without works is dead. We gotta being praying and moving at the same time.”

Just in Leavenworth, KS alone, food pantries are operating at capacity throughout the city, serving hundreds of families every week by providing healthy fresh foods and home staples, such as toilet paper. The Leavenworth Mission, Catholic Charities, Leavenworth Church of Christ, the Salvation Army and Leavenworth Baptist Church are some of the ones listed prominently but hundreds of pantries in the Heartland of Kansas and Missouri are alive with donations and volunteers reaching out and giving. One pantry had to skip the third week in April in order to restock but vowed to be back April 28th.

Volunteers deliver food to residents at a food give away Friday, April 24, 2020 at Bob Dougherty Park in Leavenworth, KS
Photos by Peggy Bair ©2020 for Heart KC
Volunteers help a food recipient with a stalled car in the line to pick up donations Friday at Bob Dougherty Park in Leavenworth, KS ©2020 Peggy Bair/Heart KC

Even among those in need, though, people found ways to shore up their neighbors. One man came to the pantry give away Friday at Bob Dougherty Park in Leavenworth, KS on a bicycle to get his items. But the items were going to be too bulky for him to balance on the bicycle. Another man who had walked over to the give away with a wheel cart, turned around with his cart and came to the aid of the man with the bicycle.

Another demonstration of the giving spirit was extended this week from a farmer and his wife, simply named Dennis and Sharon “from Northeast Kansas” to the governor of New York. The letter said that the retired farmer was sending along an N95 mask personally to Governor Andrew Cuomo, offering the mask to be worn by a New York medical person in need. The letter drew national attention as Cuomo shared the news with the rest of the country. 

“You wanna talk about a snapshot of humanity,” Cuomo said as he read the letter in a news conference on Friday. “You have five masks,” Cuomo storied. “You send one mask to New York to help a nurse or a doctor. How beautiful is that?”

A Lawrence Journal World story identified the couple as Dennis and Sharon Ruhnke from NE Kansas.