GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Bridget Clark Whitney, President and Founding CEO of Kids’ Food Basket, was recently appointed to the Michigan Community Service Commission by Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
The commission strives to create a culture of service by providing vision and resources to strengthen communities through volunteerism. It is made up of 25 members, each with specific expertise, for three-year terms.
Whitney, a 22-year resident of Grand Rapids, was appointed on November 20 to represent an individual with expertise in the educational, training and development needs of young people until October 1, 2023. She succeeds Judith Watson-Olson .
âI am so honored and honored to serve in this capacity and to be able to support our nonprofit sector and our service movement in our great state of Michigan, in particularâ¦ at a time when it seems more important than ever.â Whitney said.
Kids’ Food Basket, located at 1300 Plymouth Ave. NE in Grand Rapids, distributes well-balanced evening meals known as Supper Bagged to over 8,000 children attending schools in Kent, Ottawa, Muskegon and Allegan counties.
The association, founded by Mary K Hoodhood in 2001, began by delivering 125 bags to Straight Elementary School in Grand Rapids.
Related: New $ 7.5 Million Child Food Basket Facility Enables It To Serve More Students
Whitney, who has expanded the organization, said she admires the work of the commission and is grateful that she can now contribute to those efforts.
Growing up in Detroit with parents who were âchampions of social justice,â Whitney said she felt a passion for community service and activism from a young age. She said that Kids’ Food Basket was started in 2002 to meet the needs of the community with little monetary resources.
âI decided at a young age that this was the job I wanted to do with my life,â said Whitney. âI wanted to commit my skills and resources and, frankly, have the privilege of being able to work on the most pressing issues in society. “
Whitney started working for the association at the age of 22 with “a lot of optimism and idealism” which allowed her to be “unreasonable” to get the organization off the ground. Since then, she has seen the association grow and become a needed resource for the West Michigan community.
âOver the past 18.5 years, we’ve really learned what massively systemic food insecurity is and how hunger is both a cause of poverty and a symptom of poverty,â Whitney said.
âWe must be able to ensure that all our children have constant access to healthy and nutritious food so that they can break down the barriers of generational poverty. “
In addition to leading the association, Whitney has been a member of the Michigan Nonprofit Association board of directors for six years.
As commissioner, Whitney said she plans to continue supporting vulnerable populations in the state through organized efforts and services.
âMy goal is to build on what we’ve learned about community engagement, intersectional service in community, deep diversity and how we empower each other to make the world a better placeâ¦ and to share ( these lessons) with our all-over-state nonprofitsâ¦ who are using the service as a way to really solve some of our systemic problems, âWhitney said.
âOur collective health as a state of Michigan depends on our ability to care for our most vulnerable citizens. “
While the commission does not provide funding, it does have the ability to help leaders scale up and strategize community service initiatives to address pressing issues in the state.
As nonprofits continue to struggle to meet increased needs for services with reduced funding, Whitney said she hopes to help create programs and systems to support them throughout the pandemic and beyond. of the.
âI am very, very passionate about our entire state and reducing poverty issues and creating opportunity for every Michigander,â Whitney said.
Whitney, who received her BSc in Community Leadership from Aquinas College and MSc in Social Justice from Margrove College, will begin actively participating in the bi-monthly meetings starting in January.
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