The History of Manna’s Market, Inc. By Jayne M. Flanigan
My husband, Dan Hankins, and I moved to the South Woodland District in 2003 from Okemos, Michigan. In 2006, Dan became President of the Woodland Lions Club. A social worker from the Woodland Elementary School was invited to make a presentation to the members of the Lions Club. During her presentation, the social worker remarked that upwards of 60% of the children received either free or reduced cost breakfast and lunch. She also indicated that the children cried when they had to leave school during Christmas break, spring break, and the end of the school year. At the end of her presentation, Dan asked what free and reduced cost breakfasts and lunch were. She reported that all children receiving a free or reduced cost breakfast and lunch were living in poverty, as certified by the federal government. The children were distressed to leave school during the mandatory breaks because they would not receive the free food. In her closing presentation, the social worker reported that the entire Lakewood School District was similar in need as the Woodland Elementary School.
Dan reported the presentation of the social worker to me and to say Dan was troubled would be an understatement. As each day, week, and month passed, the children were on his mind day and night. Something had to be done to help feed and cloth the children and their parents who undoubtedly were struggling to survive.
For about six months Dan could think of nothing else. He would wake up at night wondering how he could feed the children. He talked and talked and talked about the children. My Mom would ask, “how are you going to pay for this?” Our answer was always: “God will provide.”
Dan was talking about it one day in the garage when I finally said “are you going to do something about it or not?” I was really tired of just hearing about it. Dan said, “are you with me?” I said “yes.” That’s when Manna’s Market was born.
I think we knew then, but we definitely know now that the holy spirit was the one that
was directing Dan’s thoughts and deeds.
A free food and free clothing bank was the answer and it was during this time that the former Classic’s Drug Store, at 115 North Main in Woodland, Michigan, became vacant.
Dan and I called our friends and we worked to make the store front into a food and clothing bank. We worked with the Ingham County Food Bank to determine what food we should give away, looking for sales at local grocery stores to stock our shelves.
Dan visited Meijer in Grand Ledge and asked them if we could buy their food at their cost. Dan explained that he was opening a food and clothing bank in Woodland, Michigan. The store director reported that she would look into it. Dan wondered if he would ever hear back.
At about this same time, Meijer opened a new store in DeWitt. Mr. Fred Meijer went to the DeWitt store opening and asked his driver to stop at the Grand Ledge store so he could say hello to all his friends there. The store director told Mr. Meijer about Dan’s request and he approved it. For the first year or so, Meijer sold us everything we needed at their cost.
Meijer has been a supporter of The Market ever since.
Then State Representative Brian Calley came to congratulate us on the opening of The Market and presented us with a Special Tribute by the State of Michigan signed by Governor Jennifer M. Granholm, Brian Calley, and State Senator Patricia L. Birkholz.
Did we know what we were doing when we opened? Of course not. We only knew we had to feed the children.
I had to learn how to food bank. We had already opened and were feeding people, but what next? How were we going to sustain this mission?
During that first year, people would tell me that we needed to hire someone to write grants. But it was one of our top priorities to have no paid staff. And, by the way, what was a grant?
In the summer of 2007, I met with Lani Forbes, the Executive Director of the Barry County United Way. She explained to me the grants that we were eligible for, where to purchase our food, and some insight about working with those in need. She continues to mentor me almost ten years later.
Talking about ten years later, Dan and I thought we would have the food bank opened for about a year to see how things went. God had other ideas. He took off with it and no one has looked back.
Back to the grants. After meeting with Lani, I looked at some grants, started to understand the process, and said, I can do this. At this point in the river, I have written for so many grants I can’t count them. I praise the Lord knowing that he gave me the talent to be able to put a grant together and receive positive responses.
Barry County United Way
Barry County Community Foundation
Ionia County Community Foundation
Capital Area United Way
Arkansas Community Foundation
The list goes on.
After receiving grants, I learned that it was probably not a good idea to serve people in more than one county. When we opened in 2007 we had decided to serve the residents of the Lakewood School District. This included residents in Barry, Eaton and Ionia Counties. After learning additional information our geographic service area would become all of Barry County, Ionia County north to I-96 and Eaton County east to the Vermontville/Mulliken line.
All Community Foundations and United Ways want their money to go to those in need in their county. So I had to figure out a way to keep track of who we serve, where they live, and how we spend the money received from each county.
We get our food from three main sources: The Food Bank of South Central Michigan which is part of Feeding America, Meijer through their Business 2 Business program, and Sav-a-Lot in Hastings.
When we started using the Food Bank of South Central Michigan I learned that we now had to keep additional statistics of who we were serving; their ages, sex, and how many people lived in the family, to name a few.
Again, I learned that the Lord had given me the talent to figure it all out.
The Market inherited a baby pantry from the Zion Lutheran Church in about 2009. We had to figure out how many diapers to give to each child. Of course, that would depend on the child’s age. How could we help these struggling young mothers?
I worked hard on the baby pantry but it was not to be. I have never had children of my own and one day a mother came in asked if we had “pull ups”. What are pull ups? Julie Dingerson of Woodland, a retired registered nurse, who worked with babies during her career, now has charge of the baby pantry.
Local hunters have asked to donate venison. As long as it is processed through a USDA processing plant, we can accept it. We then learned of a group called Sportsman Against Hunger. They pay for half of the processing of the deer. Hanna-Davis in Sunfield donates their remaining fee so The Market gets free venison.
Other community groups and churches became involved with The Market. Our volunteer numbers started to rise. The State Police began to do an annual food drive and donated a portion of the food to The Market.
In about 2011 we knew that we had outgrown our Woodland location. We started investigating other properties but all of our investigations were for naught because we were running ahead of God. Three locations that we would try to move forward with were futile. One location that we were very interested in was the Lakewood Baptist Church. We knew their attendance was low and there was very seldom any activity there. No luck. No one would call us back. We even called the district but received no information.
In 2012 the Lakewood Baptist Church dissolved its corporation. We heard about it and immediately contacted the same person we had attempted to contact for two years. He called us back and wanted to meet. We told him about what The Market did but he said that they had already promised the 8,000 square foot building and its 8 acres to another non-profit. We were as gracious as we could be. Apparently their bylaws dictated that they donate the church property to another non-profit upon dissolution.
But we continued to pray. Two weeks later the gentleman from the Lakewood Baptist Church called us back and told us that the non-profit they had wanted to give the property to had declined it. Would we take it. Would we take it?!?! Of course! Our prayers had been answered–in God’s timing.
About this same time Dan had read an article in the Detroit Free Press about the Demmer Center for Business Transformation at Michigan State University Broad College of Business. The article was about the Demmer Center working with the Lear Corporation in Detroit to help make them a better business, a better employer, a better customer and vender. We did an e-mail to Jim Manley, the Executive Director, telling him a little bit about Manna’s Market, where we were now in the moving process, hoping that he would at least answer. Answer, he did and he was interested in working with our Christian based non-profit. Over the next two years, Jim Manley and the MBA students that he was educating would meet with us monthly and help us attack each piece of repurposing the Lakewood Baptist Church into a food bank, baby pantry and clothing bank. Jim worked with us for about 3 years in total. He was another messenger from God, helping us focus, helping us work through, and helping us open our new building. The MBA students helped us set up five-year goals and create a revenue stream. Our main goal is to make sure that the Market outlives Dan and I.
It took two years and hundreds of volunteer hours to repurpose the upper floor of the church into a food, clothing bank and baby pantry.
By working with the Demmer Center we created a mission statement: Offering provisions and pathways with love and respect to those in need.
In working with the Demmer Center we now have a vision statement: Let us take this path together by encouraging one another daily and sharing all of our gifts.
We opened in our new location on August 14, 2014 and had our grand opening on August 27.
Since opening in 2007, Manna’s Market has served more than one million meals, fed and diapered babies too many times to count and distributed thousands of pieces of donated clothing. Just a few years ago we were serving an average of 500 people per month. Today we are serving an average of 700 people per month, with a high of 900.
Here’s what Manna’s Market does. We serve six days of food once a month to each household who qualifies for assistance. The amount of food provided depends on the size of the family. All food is in-date. The food that we provide includes all the food in the food pyramid. We also provide toiletries such as toilet paper, facial tissue, paper towels, dishwashing liquid, shampoo and cream rinse, bar soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, and laundry detergent because food stamps do not cover these necessities.
As I have mentioned, we also have a baby pantry. The baby pantry includes formula, baby food, baby cereal, diapers, wipes, sippy cups. Babies are also served once a month.
We have gently used, clean clothing for all ages and sizes.
After we opened we started getting requests for laundry detergent. We bought some, but soon learned that it was an expensive item we could not sustain. The Missions Committee of the Lakewood United Methodist Church heard about our problem and solved it. They got a recipe off the internet and the rest is history. They are now making over 1,000 gallons of detergent a year. The group started out making 25 gallons, but are now making about 155 gallons every two to three weeks. When they started making the detergent, we all tried some before we started to give it away. It works great. Soon after we started giving away the home made detergent, we got some real detergent. The recipients requested the home made instead of the real stuff!
Servants Hands and Quilters with a Cause have both donated their talents to The Market. Both groups have made countless quilts and blankets for the recipients of The Market. We give away one blanket per family each December.
We are starting our second year of working with the Lakewood School District student body in creating community holiday cards. The students create the artwork. A local business prints the cards. The students fold and package the cards. The cards then go out into the community for sale.
Manna’s Market is a member of the Lakewood Area Chamber of Commerce, the Barry County Chamber of Commerce and the Ionia Area Chamber of Commerce. We have learned that many people in the area are homeless. We had a volunteer who created homeless packs that include a dishpan, kitchen towels, body towels, body soap, comb and brush, cups, plates, silverware, can opener, salt and pepper, a homemade sternal range top and cooking heat, foil pans, matches, flash light, blanket.
When we opened The Market we committed to using all volunteer help and I am proud to announce that we still have no paid staff. Our volunteers are the heart and soul of The Market. We now have more than 150 volunteers. We save more than $100,000 per year by using volunteer help.
It has been a blessing to watch the volunteers grow. We have all learned that but for the grace of God any one of us could be on the other side of the counter. When I leave The Market, I never know who is more blessed: the recipients, the volunteers, or me. We have a local business who sends their employees to unload food bank deliveries.
A local Live Scout is in the process of earning his Eagle Scout. He designed and installed gardens at The Market. We know the gardens will grow, both with fruits and vegetables, and in size through the years.
We serve the widow who has worked all her life, lost her husband and has fallen on hard times.
We serve the recipient who is careful to bring back to The Market all of the clothing she took for her children after they grow out of it.
We serve the recipient who shows us their kindness and compassion by telling us, as they walk out the door–I will give back one day.
The military men and women who have given us freedom and now come to The Market for services. The disabled. The single mothers trying to improve the outcomes of their children’s lives. We are honored to share our story with you today.
We are honored that the Lord chose us to be His instruments. There have been many a miracle we have observed in the last 10 years working with The Market. Thank you for your giving, your prayers, believing in us and believing in our mission.