Fixture at Crawford County Community Help Center retires
Wed, 12/28/2016 - 8:05am caleb
Dan Sanderson | Staff Writer
Now a slow day is seven and a busy day is anywhere between 18 and 30 families coming in. In an ideal world, we would be able to close. I don’t ever see that happening – not in my lifetime anyway.” – Marianne Gosnell, Executive Director, Crawford County Community Christian Help Center
After two decades of providing a labor of love assisting families with putting food on the table, Marianne Gosnell is stepping away from her duties at the Crawford County Community Christian Help Center.
Gosnell served her last day as the executive director of the Crawford County Christian Help Center on Friday, Dec. 23. She held the position for eight years.
“I’m ready to step down,” she said. “It’s time. Let somebody else do it.”
Born and raised in Port Huron, Gosnell served as an early education teacher in Port Huron for six years, and then an additional 24 years teaching in St. Clair Shores.
“I like to work with children and I just wanted to help teach people and educate them, so that’s what I did,” Gosnell said.
Her husband, Jerry, worked as a computer programmer in the Detroit-area, and held his last position working for Compuware as a program analyst in Toronto.
Despite their respective careers, the Gosnells had no children.
“God had other plans for us,” she said.
The couple had been eyeing Grayling as a retirement destination and moved to the community in 1993 after purchasing a home.
“We had a seven-year plan to move up here,” she said.
The Crawford County Community Christian Help Center was founded in 1993. Children in a Sunday school class at the Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church started gathering items that were made available to the needy.
A group of church leaders and community service agency officials then spearheaded plans to found a food pantry to serve the community. A grant was obtained and the original food pantry was housed at the Michelson Memorial United Methodist Church.
The late Gerry Schroeder, who served as executive director, and former Grayling resident Barbara Clark Greene guided the first years of the Help Center since both women had experience operating grocery stores.
After outgrowing its space at the church, the Help Center moved to the building where Kim’s Magic Nails is now located across from Spike’s Keg O’ Nails.
Gosnell met Schroeder while attending the Michelson Memorial Church United Methodist and was encouraged to volunteer at the Help Center.
Gosnell had plans for volunteering at the schools, but was recruited to serve as a substitute teacher after school officials learned she was a retired teacher. She helped fill in for teachers and maintained her volunteer efforts.
“They kind of crossed over and intermingled,” Gosnell said of volunteering at the Help Center.
Gosnell also served as an office volunteer at the Grayling Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Gosnell stepped up her involvement at the Help Center in 1998, when the Marine Corps Reserves based out of Saginaw approached the agency regarding being a local base for the Toys for Tots program.
Schroeder asked her to oversee the program.
“She knew she couldn’t be the director of the Help Center and do Toys for Tots, so she asked me to do that,” said Gosnell, who ran the Toys for Tots program for Crawford County for 11 years.
The services and demand for assistance sought by area families through the Crawford County Community Help Center has increased over the last 20 years.
“It just went up and it is still going up,” Gosnell said.
The Help Center has seen a steady spike in clients since the Great Recession hit the nation in 2008, with the lasting effects still impacting local families.
Gosnell recalled that volunteers in the early days at the agency would experience slow days when no one came in for assistance, and would be busy if seven people came through the door seeking food assistance.
“Now a slow day is seven and a busy day is anywhere between 18 and 30 families coming in,” Gosnell said.
Gosnell said there is a constant turnover of new families who seek assistance, replacing those that no longer need help because their circumstances have improved.
“In an ideal world, we would be able to close,” Gosnell said. “I don’t ever see that happening – not in my lifetime anyway.”
Dora Mead, who has served as the assistant director at the Help Center since 2011, has moved up to take the role as executive director. Cindy Hummel has been hired to serve as the assistant director.
Gosnell said it would be bittersweet to no longer interact with the volunteers and people seeking assistance at the Help Center.
“I will miss the people – not the office work,” she said.
Gosnell plans to spend more time reading, quilting and sewing.
“Some of the stuff I’ll probably do for charity,” she said.