ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Anyone in the local Buy No Things group on Facebook has seen Christy’s posts about free bread, but the Ann Arborite’s good deeds go beyond reducing food waste.
Christy, who requested we only use her first name for privacy reasons, regularly volunteers her time to make sure that those in need of help, or food, are able to get it.
Her venture into volunteering started in early 2020 with a post on Nextdoor, she said. The hyperlocal social networking site allows community members to post questions, requests and recommendations about area ongoings.
One day, someone posted asking for help with laundry. Christy and her mother felt compelled to help.
Soon, laundry help turned into assisting others with food and transportation.
“I ended up seeing somebody else in need of food and I told them that I could help them,” she said. “The thing with me was that I didn’t just say ‘I’ll help you’ and help you once and never help you again.”
When Christy offered her help to those who needed it, she meant it.
She continued helping an area resident with picking up food from local food banks. Eventually, she started helping several more community members in need.
“I asked these people a few weeks later if they needed help and they were like, ‘Wait? What? Huh?’”
Even after helping them for a time, Christy said the residents she was helping were surprised that she would still offer up her time (and space in her car).
“I’m not just going to help you and leave you hanging. You’re telling me that you don’t have a way to get to the food banks or get to food, I’m here to help you and I’m not just going to do it once,” she said.
During the height of the pandemic, helping the occasional person in need turned into a regular routine of picking up food for several people from food pantries and organizations giving away food.
She would reach out to individuals using the Buy No Things Facebook group who didn’t have several offers of assistance from other Ann Arborites.
“I’d find those who were somehow left hanging, and who had nobody offering anything and I’d help them.”
Now that the world has slowly started going back to the new normal, she helps several people on a more as-needs basis.
While she could volunteer through an organization, Christy would rather volunteer her time independently in order to help match the needs of those who ask for help.
But back to bread (and the thing that got my attention). Almost every week, Christy picks up free bread that has been donated to a local organization. The organization takes what it needs and offers Christy the excess so she can redistribute the wheaty wealth at sites around Tree Town.
The amount and types of bread change but Christy tries to make sure it is given to anyone wanting some.
There’s no catch, no stipulations and no questions asked. Those who want bread can show up at the sites during a window of time and take what they need. Occasionally, Christy will take bread to those who can never make it to her drop-off sites.
The number of people taking up Christy on her offer ranges. Some weeks, she sees 10 people, and some weeks it’s up to 50. If the organization doesn’t have much bread to give away, Christy reaches out to community members who regularly show up at her distribution sites.
The idea is to make sure that the food isn’t wasted, and goes to those who want it.
Christy doesn’t remember when the bread runs started, but at first, no one was sure about her offer. She now gets messages from community members excited to see what’s available.
She usually has two to four distribution sites, depending on who responds to her posts, and funds her volunteering with money donated by family members and money from returning empty cans and bottles.