A new cargo van and other infrastructure improvements will mean more opportunities for families in the Greater Lansing area to receive the fresh food and personal care items they need.

Cristo Rey Community Center received a $250,000 People Award grant from the Consumers Energy Foundation to support its on-site basic needs assistance programs.

Joe Garcia, Chief Executive Officer of Cristo Rey Community Center, which serves those in need by offering health, counseling and food access programs, said he was emotional when he was told that the center received the award, for which more than 100 organizations applied.

“I am at a loss for words right now,” said Garcia during a recent announcement held at the center with dignitaries from the city of Lansing and Consumers Energy in attendance. “I am always amazed at the Consumers Energy Foundation finding ways to help us continue providing basic needs to the people in our community. We are humbled by this significant investment in the work we do.”

Carolyn Bloodworth, Secretary/Treasurer of the Consumers Energy Foundation, said the grant will allow the center to expand their capacity and continue strengthening the Greater Lansing area.

“The impact Cristo Rey has made on this community goes back decades and the organization continues to provide vital services to area residents and families,” she said. “We strive to continue assisting those in our communities who need it the most.”  

The center gave out 22,000 meals and 240,000 pounds of food last year. The grant will allow it to not only increase distribution, but also enhance partnerships to better meet the needs of the Greater Lansing community.

The spacious van will be able to move more than double the food compared to the previous vehicle. It also can fit a forklift in the back.

“We know that based on anticipated shortages, we had to find ways to properly maintain quality food such as fruits and vegetables,” Garcia said, adding that the pantry’s expansion will allow the center to store three to four times as much food.

Local grocery chains frequently contact Garcia to donate pallets full of perishable foods.

“But sometimes the expiration date would be within a few days,” he said. “Now we can capitalize more on those opportunities to help families throughout the Greater Lansing area.”

Last year, the food pantry served 9,388 community members. Overall, across all the center’s programs, they had 78,000 contacts with individuals and families in the Greater Lansing community.

The People Awards are one of three signature grant allocations – totaling $1.5 million each year. The Consumers Energy Foundation also awards the Planet Awards and Prosperity Awards to support nonprofit efforts that protect Michigan’s environment and support economic development.

“We look forward to this partnership with the Consumers Energy Foundation and to the tremendous changes that will come as a result of their generosity and concern for people in a community we are both deeply invested in,” said Garcia.