Our mission at the Matchan Nutrition Center is to serve hot, well balanced meals to our neighbors in need and to provide other life changing assistance that leads to self-sufficiency locally in Oakland County. Our ability to carry out this mission depends greatly on our donors and volunteers. Let’s take a look at the people who work at and for Matchan.
The meals we serve have always been made from scratch and are known to be the best soup kitchen meals in the Pontiac area. Just ask the people who eat at Matchan and they will tell you the same. Bill McCray was our first cook in 1984. After several years, his work schedule changed and Pete Aldo became the next in line. Pete passed away in 1998 and Leona Paterson stepped in and is still providing the best meals in town. Leona knows the people we serve, many by their first names. She also is a social worker and takes on the responsibility of scheduling many of the social and government agencies that come to Matchan to help our people. Leona manages the kitchen and the standard joke when one starts to volunteer is, “Don’t think, Leona will tell you what to do”.
The Board of Directors establishes policies and governs the operation but the volunteers are the backbone of Matchan. We have approximately 84 regular volunteers who come to prepare and serve the meals on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Others come to work in the stockroom where they put new donations on the shelves, rotate the old stock and remove outdated food. We serve from 11:30 am to 1:00 pm. The other days of the week, one can get a hot meal at the Baldwin Center in Pontiac. Between these two major soup kitchens in the center of town, the people of Pontiac can get a hot meal any day of the week. The Salvation Army also has a kitchen on the southeast side of town.
A few volunteers work every day we are open, others come once a week or once a month. These people recorded over 5,000 hours in the kitchen this year. 8 to 10 volunteers come in starting at 8:00 am to prepare the meal. They not only are serving the needy but they are having fun. A volunteer soon becomes part of the Matchan Family and it becomes a social event as well as helping the needy. For some, this is a major event in their lives.
If on schedule, by 11:30 we are ready to serve. First in line, are working people who have low paying jobs and come to Matchan for a take-out meal and then return to their places of employment.
Volunteers pick up food almost every day of the week. Our van covered over 6,000 miles this year. Other volunteers use their own vehicles. A value of $555,000 of in-kind goods was picked up and used or distributed. Panera Bread, Costco, GFS, Gleaners Community Food Bank, Ellen’s Café, and Farm Boy Produce contribute. Another group of 5 to 6 volunteers, headed by Betty Esnault, separates this food. The food that can be used in the kitchen is stored in coolers. The bread is put on a table for the people to take home. They can also come through the produce line after they have eaten and select from vegetables that came in that day. Excess food is given to other organizations.
Volunteers pick up food 5, 6 or 7 days a week because of the commitments that Matchan has made to partner with our suppliers. On days the food cannot be used at the kitchen it has to be distributed elsewhere. 2 to 5 volunteers take on this responsibility, depending on the season.
There are over 100 other volunteers who come from companies, schools, fraternities and other organizations throughout the year for special events, such as Thanksgiving or the Papa Romano Dinner.
Many clients who come for a meal help set up tables and clean up afterwards. Three people come every Tuesday to offer legal aid from the Christian Legal Aid Program. Approximately 200 cases were discussed during the year. Sixteen government and social agencies send
volunteers to Matchan to help solve some of the problems the people bring with them.
Preparing and serving the meals is not the only task at Matchan to which one can donate his or her time and efforts. We don’t always get food when we need it and we don’t always need the food when we get it. Hence, the stockroom.
How many volunteers does Matchan have? It is hard to say. There are those we can count and there are those that we can’t count, like the people who collect food or clothing and drop it off at the kitchen. Or those in St. Vincent de Paul Conferences that help indirectly.
We thank them all, for without their help, there would be no Matchan.