On the fourth Tuesday of every month Sandi and Bill DeBruyn serve the residents of Leonard Terrace Apartments as coordinators of NECM’s satellite food pantry.
“We do the grocery shopping, the stocking of all the produce and all of the supplies and when we open we help people in the pantry,” Sandi said.
They help 45-55 residents select four vegetables, two fruits and three grains as well as fresh and frozen options. For the first time the food pantry at Leonard Terrace now distributes eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter as well as personal hygiene products, thanks to an anonymous donor.
“That’s been going on since October. It’s been a real blessing,” said Bill. The DeBruyns have been leading the Leonard Terrace pantry for three years.
The DeBruyns buy fresh fruits and vegetables at Ken’s Fruit Market and purchase food with gift cards at Meijer. The amount of food and commodities that needs to be handled and dealt with in one day is one of the biggest challenges, according to Sandi. Before COVID they had 6-7 volunteers but now do most of the work with the help of residents Martha Dove and Mike Brenner.
The Leonard Terrace residents are mostly single people, many with physical or mental disabilities. Many are senior citizen or veterans. The couple find their work at Leonard Terrace very rewarding.
“As Christ followers we like to serve,” Bill said. “We just consider it a real blessing and a privilege to be allowed to work with these people. We just love them as a family,” Sandi said.
Many of the residents have no family. “We become family for them and offer fellowship – we’re there to help however we can,” Sandi said. She noted that it’s difficult when dealing with the death of a resident.
The DeBruyns got involved with NECM after meeting Executive Director Laura Castle at a fundraising dinner for another organization. They first volunteered in NECM’s food pantry over eight years ago before Laura asked them to take charge at Leonard Terrace.
The DeBruyns are active members of Berkly Hills Church in Grand Rapids.
“We were Sunday school teachers for a long time. Now we have a small group that we sponsor,” Sandi said. They’re also on the church’s First Impressions team as greeters and ushers. Bill served on the finance team, and they also host a monthly luncheon for college students. Bill also serves as president of his condo association.
Bill hails from Grand Rapids and Sandi from Fremont. They met in college at Western Michigan University. They have four children and 14 grandchildren, most of them in the area. One of the couple’s daughters also donated baked goods to the pantry when she owned a bakery.