It was only a few weeks ago when we dropped into Access Health in Muskegon to talk about the new mini pantry they were placing for those in need just outside their office in Downtown Muskegon. The staples can be found in it through the good donations of others in the community who might have a little more, or who might understand what it is to have nothing and be willing to give. Well, it must have caught on because in only a matter of weeks another one is popping up in another neighborhood and the placement couldn't be better, it's where the action is right now in Muskegon Heights, The US Café at the Barney Maffet Place.
We were first invited to the Barney Maffett Place before it even became what it is today. It was an old grocery store that someone saw through a very different lens and said "this has a new chapter in it", and so it began. Kaja Thornton-Hunter and crew got to working on renovations, innovations, imaginations and plenty or perspirations to open a place that is rapidly becoming a new heartbeat in a neighborhood who's days of having a finger pointed at it are rapidly coming to a close. The US Café was born inside the Barney Maffett Place which is also the home office of Kaja's Flavor Packs and Overcoming Barriers which is a residential care organization for special needs adults. As the focus and attention grows on this corner, so does the opportunity to reach people who might otherwise not get a chance to interact, and that includes those in need of the basics.
Access Health saw the chance to not only duplicate the pantry they put in at their office Downtown, but to get to some folks that might not otherwise know about the service they offer. Helping people find a path to healthcare that's effective and affordable and delivers quality results. Access Health is so good at what they do, in fact, just recently new legislation was announced that puts the Access Health working model. From the June 2nd press release - " For over two decades, the Access Health plan has locally provided an affordable and robust coverage option for small businesses and their workers unable to access commercial coverage due to cost barriers. Through partnership with Trinity Health Muskegon, the model’s success has enjoyed national recognition as a proven solution to ensure as many people as possible in Muskegon County have access to affordable healthcare. Today, communities need solutions such as Access Health ‐ a unique and well‐tested model of coverage in Muskegon that the nation can embrace. There is growing interest in its replication, particularly as emergency federal coverage supports implemented during COVID‐19 expire. This legislation will help fund a critical needed expansion and continue to put Muskegon County on the map as a community committed to local innovation and the wellbeing of all residents." Innovation happening right here in Muskegon while still managing to take care of the most basic human needs....food.
Meeting up with Becky Burr from Access Health and Kaja at The US Cafe, where you can hear behind us....just how alive an old forgotten grocery store has become, we talk about pantry number 2. Take a listen!
Don't look now, but it's happening. It's not always the biggest and flashiest of things that build greatness. Yes, grandeur is amazing and long overdue in Muskegon but the fiber that holds it all together is us. It's in the reaching out to those in need with a hand. It's in not forgetting that all of our neighborhoods are unique to their own, but they are all our neighborhoods. We have areas of concern from the farms to the most closely packed residential neighborhoods and when we collectively come together to work on them, we grow in strength as people and as a community. Our hats are off to Access Health for the expansion and to Kaja and her team for picking the spot to bring such a focus into her neighborhood.