KAIRing for Others: Local agency seeks volunteers for busy resale store, food pantry

Ted Wendling, Contributing Writer

Photo by Ted Wendling

Kalkaska Area Interfaith Resources Director Cathy Somes said the agency can always use more volunteers. “They are the heart and soul of KAIR and make our store twinkle and shine,” she stated.


KALKASKA – Living in a county in which nearly one of every four children under 18 lives below the poverty level, Suzanne Adler knows that the up to 18 hours a week that she devotes to volunteering at Kalkaska Area Interfaith Resources (KAIR) helps put food in the tummies of hungry children.

In turn, that feeds Adler’s own hunger to help others who are less fortunate than she is.

“I lived downstate for 30 years and came back to Kalkaska to take care of my father,” she said. “I grew up in this community, and I know it’s a poor community. I don’t want to see any child go hungry.”

According to the Poverty Solutions Project at the University of Michigan, Kalkaska County’s 17,358 residents have a median income of just $43,357. Poverty Solutions data show that about 17 percent of county residents live below the poverty level and that 24 percent of all children in the county live below the poverty level.

The need in Kalkaska County is acute. And that’s why volunteers like Adler are “the heart and soul of KAIR,” said agency Director Cathy Somes. “They make our store twinkle and shine.”

Somes has a volunteer staff of 21. That’s slightly below the 25 to 30 volunteers that she said KAIR needs to keep its resale store, utility assistance program and food pantry running five days a week. Volunteers stock shelves, pack food boxes, work in the resale store and perform sundry other duties.

KAIR is the largest food pantry in Kalkaska County, distributing about 16,000 pounds of food a month to approximately 400 families, Somes noted. About one-third of the recipients are senior citizens, she said, some of whom receive as little as $16 a month in federal food assistance.

Consequently, the 10 pounds of perishable foods (meat, bread, eggs, etc.) and 10 pounds of dry and canned goods that seniors can receive up to four times a month are critical to their survival and well-being, Somes said. Qualifying non-seniors are eligible to receive 20 pounds of food up to twice a month.

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