New Staff Spotlight – McKenzie

(McKenzie, our Volunteer Coordinator, shares why she is excited to be at FROM. She loves soup – cooking, consuming and experimenting with it. So if you have a good recipe, please send it along!)

Hello! My name is McKenzie, the Volunteer Coordinator, and I am old as FROM (Flat River Outreach Ministries)!

I love to read and spend time in the sun, either with my dog, family, or friends. I became involved with FROM when my grandmother brought my sister and I in to volunteer with her in the food pantry when I was around 8-9 years old! I have volunteered on and off since.

I love that FROM serves a wide needs demographic, from the food pantry to Main Street Housing on to medical loan. FROM is truly a community resource that touches many lives.

In college, I worked with FROM on a grant writing project while I was studying Public and Nonprofit Administration at Central Michigan University. Arianne, our Development Director, was a great help and resource to me!

There are a lot of reasons I’m excited to be the new Volunteer Coordinator, but the main one is to be a great resource to all our amazing and dedicated volunteers. In doing so, that excitement spreads, furthering FROMs mission.

On a personal level, I am ecstatic to be involved in the administrative workings of an organization that I have grown up with and around and seen flourish within the Lowell community.

Volunteering means giving all that I can to those people, programs, or things that might need a little extra help or support. No matter how big or small the action might seem, the effects are boundless. There is ALWAYS something to do, wheelhouses to broaden, and lives to touch, which is a never-ending cycle of awesome!

I think one of the most eye-opening services that FROM provides is Medical Equipment Loan Closet. There are so many things that are not easily accessible in our world, but having a resource that is free and has no time constraints means that the world is a little more accessible. Injuries, illnesses, and disabilities are not fun to deal with financially either, and having access to medical loans means that the financial constraints are a little less which leads to more inclusivity in our world.

Beyond FROM, I have participated in Lowell Rotary events (if you super sleuth enough you will find some awesomely embarrassing photos of myself on their Facebook page) and I love to support small local businesses! I love to chit chat and get to know people. If you see me around, please feel free to say Hi, give me a high five, or a big bright smile…even better if you want to have a dance party. And I am always around to help, we are all in this together to build and grow a stronger community! If you or someone you know are interested in getting involved with FROM as a volunteer, feel free to email me (, give me a call (616-897-8260 ext. 133), or stop by my office to chat over a cup of coffee.


A Safe and Affordable Home to Call Her Own

Faced with an unsafe living situation and the threat of rising rent, Mary knew she had to do something.

“I was like ‘I’ve got to do something,’” she said. “I’m not getting [anywhere]. I’m not paying any bills. I’m not helping my credit. I’m just losing money and making myself depressed.”

She was paying $700 a month to rent a small room where she couldn’t open the windows or leave the room without fear of a dog attacking her or her cat.

Mary had applied to live at FROM’s Main Street Housing in the past, but the available unit wasn’t a good fit for her. She decided to apply again, and this time, she was able to move in.

The year she’s been in her new home wasn’t easy. Shortly after moving in, with limited work hours significantly impacting her income, Mary made the decision to transition jobs. She was encouraged to change jobs by her supportive friends, and a few FROM staff members. While it was a positive change for her, the delay in paycheck meant she needed an extension to pay her rent for the next month.

Wendie, FROM Executive Director, agreed to work with her, and Mary was thankful, saying it’s not a chance you really get anywhere else.

“I just wanted to cry when I wanted to ask [Wendie] about it…” Mary said. “I don’t like asking like that.”

She’s now settled into her new job, where she enjoys running a Hi-Lo, something she’s done for more than a decade.

Moving to Main Street Housing has had a positive impact on her financially, as well as helping improve her mental health, and stay more positive.

“I’m actually watching my credit go up, I’m getting everything paid off, I’m able to help my dad,” Mary said. “If I was still in that spot, I would not be able to help my dad…I wouldn’t be able to do everything an adult should be able to help their parents’ do.”

She’s thankful for the positive impact that stable and affordable housing has had on her life, and the foundation she is building, living in the community where she has support.

“I’m doing it on my own. I’m here in Lowell, that’s all I wanted,” she said.

When asked about why affordable housing is so important to the Greater Lowell community, Mary was quick to share.

“People deserve [affordable housing]. They deserve the opportunity, that’s what they deserve.”

A Place to Thrive

(Rex pictured here with one of the raised garden beds he tends to at Main Street Housing over the summer)

After living south of Lowell for almost five years, Rex needed to find a place to live. He had 30 days to find a new place, and his options were limited.

“I couldn’t afford, what, over $1,000 in rent,” he said about the available houses and apartments in Lowell.

The avid science fiction reader and gardener saw that FROM’s Main Street Housing had a unit for rent and quickly applied.

“I applied and within 2 weeks I’d been ok’d,” he said. “…It’s fitting my needs for right now.”

Previously, he rented a room in a house and shared the rest of the house and kitchen. He appreciates that he now has a place to truly call his own. Plus his shorter commute to and from his job at Meijer saves him gas money

In the summer you’ll find him working in the raised garden beds outside of the house or reading about gardening in one of the more than 1,000 books he owns.

“It’s a nice environment, the rent is reasonable, it’s fair,” Rex said about living at Main Street Housing.

Though the house historically had a negative reputation in the community prior to FROM taking ownership, Rex said that the reputation has changed for the better.

“I’ve had a couple people ask me when I moved in if it was like it was before,” he said. The folks living there are more friendly and take ownership of where they live. FROM has brought structure and safety through policies and security cameras.

“It’s equal housing, anybody can come here and apply,” he said about why he appreciates where he lives. “…the community does need it.”

Helping Wherever is Needed

“I didn’t know how much need there was in the community,” Diane said. “It’s nice to see we can help a lot of people.”

Diane has been involved at FROM (Flat River Outreach Ministries) for more than 20 years. Since she got involved in 2003, she has served in nearly every area of FROM. Starting as a cashier in Treasures Thrift Store, she came on staff as the Administrative Assistant in 2014, serving in that position until her retirement in 2021.

The grandma of 6 currently volunteers in the Farm Market, Medical Equipment Loan Closet and with VITA Tax. “I don’t like housework and can only read so many books,” she said with a laugh.

She especially appreciates the Medical Equipment Loan Closet program because it helps save on the expense of equipment when it’s only needed for a short time.

“FROM does some really good things in our community and helps people who need help,” Diane said. “I’ve seen people who have been able to be helped who now give back by volunteering.”

Giving Back First as Staff, Now As Volunteer

Diane K., former FROM Volunteer Coordinator, shares her experience coming to FROM and why she continues to stay involved.

My husband and I have lived in Lowell for almost 30 years.  We have one son who is married and they also live in Lowell with their 3.5 year-old twin daughters.  My first priority is my family.  My husband and I are blessed to babysit our twin granddaughters during the work week and we are so happy to be such a big part of their lives.

I originally heard about FROM through the church my family and I attended.  In 2000, joined the FROM Board and was our church representative.  I remained on the FROM Board until I was hired as the Volunteer Coordinator in 2013.  While I was on the Board, I also began volunteering in the thrift shop, now called Treasures Thrift Store. I wanted to learn more about FROM and to be part of the day-to-day business.

I was hired as the first Volunteer Coordinator in 2013 and performed that job for 7 years.  During that time, I also became the FROM maintenance coordinator and had many other miscellaneous duties.  Each year, I helped organize and make gifts for the annual Volunteer Appreciation events.

When I retired in 2020, I just assumed I would continue by volunteering again.  But then COVID-19 hit.  I decided to stay at home and only be around my family for health purposes.  COVID-19 turned out to be a very long time of seclusion.  I really had to push myself to come back.  I knew that staff had changed, there were many new volunteers, and many other changes.  Change is not easy, but FROM’s mission and purpose has not changed. FROM continues to assist our greater Lowell community. FROM is still helping our neighbors in need and still has compassion for those in the community that are struggling.

As of today, I volunteer in Treasures Thrift Store sorting and pricing coats, winter wear, activewear and men’s suits.  I also help where needed if I have extra time.

I would encourage anyone who would like to know more about FROM and their programs or volunteer opportunities to visit their website: .



Volunteer or Staff, Still Giving Back

When former FROM staff members Dawn, Diane B., Diane K. and Kathy transitioned out of their positions, they knew they wanted to stay involved.

“I love everything about FROM,” Dawn, former FROM Executive Director, said. “When I left as a staff member, I never thought that would mean I left as a volunteer.”

Diane, former Volunteer Coordinator, agreed saying when she retired, she assumed she would continue by volunteering.

Each of them has found a way to stay involved and continue serving the community. You will find them stocking the Farm Market, working in Treasures Thrift Store, sitting on our board, or filling in whereever they’re needed.

“I didn’t know how much need there was in the community when I started,” Diane Barnes, former Administrative Assistant, said. “It’s nice to see we can help a lot of people.”

They each shared it doesn’t matter where you get involved at FROM, it all makes a difference.

“No matter where you volunteer, it’s good.” Kathy, former Thrift Store Coordinator, said. “In your community is even better.”

Hear more of their individual stories, as well as current volunteer opportunities by visiting our website at:

The People Helped Us Too

I first came to FROM in the early 2010’s as a struggling divorced mom of two. I was working a part-time job that wasn’t meeting my financial needs, and my girls and I shopped in the Thrift Store for clothes.

In 2015, my husband Scott and I married, after meeting through our kids, and had to provide for our five kids.

FROM helped fill the gaps. Mobile Food Pantry and other food programs helped provide food. The Backpack Distribution and Christmas Toy Store and Food Basket helped fill other gaps.

We were sad that we couldn’t buy enough food and get new clothes for the kids. FROM helped us, and not just the tangible items like food and school supplies.

The people helped us too. We felt kindness here, not pity. We were not seen as broken people, hopeless or useless. We found friends and neighbors who were volunteers and program participants just like us. We received a warm greeting with smiling faces. There was hope that life would get better. It meant a lot to not feel alone or defeated for a while. We kept working and learning and, eventually, life did get better.

Even when we had nothing, we volunteered and donated what we could. Today, we continue to volunteer, as do our kids, and I joined FROM staff in 2021. Giving to others has always been a big part of who we are, as individuals and as a family. We do it to be kind, and to share a mission of hope.

A giving spirit stokes the fire of hope in others. We wish to inspire people to keep trying and moving forward. Because there is always hope for you too.

Today, I’m glad to work at FROM because I can relate to families facing struggles. I understand that sometimes it’s still not enough even when you’re doing the best you can. While FROM can’t fix everything, we can help with basic needs, fill a gap or make someone’s day a little brighter simply by listening.

Spring Clean Up with Repair & Restore


Last weekend FROM held their second annual Repair & Restore Spring Clean up Event. About a dozen volunteers helped out on outdoor projects throughout the greater Lowell community.

Volunteers worked on 6 projects throughout the day that included cleaning gutters and picking up yards to prepare for summer. The biggest project of the day involved moving a large wooden shed 50 feet up a hill in preparation for a future ramp installation project.

“It was great weather and everyone showed up fully prepared to get dirty and serve our community,” Bob Rogers, the volunteer who leads the FROM Repair & Restore project, said.

The Repair & Restore program provides small home repairs throughout the year, with the Spring-Clean up event being a service area wide outdoor project that happens one Saturday a year in the spring.

If you are a homeowner in the Lowell Area School District and are in need of some small home repairs, please reach out to our Connections Office (616-897-8260 ext 125) to talk to Monica about options available to you. If you love working outdoors and are looking for ways to give back to the community, be sure to sign up to volunteer for the next Repair & Restore event by visiting our website (

A big thank you to every volunteer who came out to serve your community on May 20! We are so thankful for your heart to serve your neighbors in need.

Meet Amanda!

A FROM Donor story –

Meet Amanda.

Amanda Rogers is a wife, mother, friend, volunteer, leader, and business owner. Her business, Rogers Neighborhood Realty, is FROM’s newest Food Fight Match Base sponsor for 2023.

Volunteering and serving at more than nine local organizations, including FROM, you may wonder how one person could be involved in so many heartfelt organizations.

For Amanda, the answer is simple: Dedication, heart, and persistence.

“I am convinced that if everyone tried to make the world a better place right where they are at, in their little sphere, that we would all be a lot better off,” Amanda said. “[I’m] just trying to do my share and make opportunities for others to make a difference as well.”

Amanda started Rogers Neighborhood Realty in December of 2020. When asked to capture Rogers Neighborhood Realty, Amanda shared, “We enjoy being able to serve the community we live in with intentional care and extensive knowledge of all things real estate.”

The business now has four agents and a permanent location in historic downtown Lowell.

Amanda’s time at FROM hasn’t always been as a volunteer or donor. Her first experience was as a thrift store shopper. Living just a couple blocks away from FROM’s previous location on Jackson and Main, Amanda enjoyed having a thrift store within walking distance.

“The more I see of how the organization works, and how they process through decisions, the more I want to help them continue in their endeavors. It’s a natural fit for me!” she said about why she partners with FROM.

Thank you, Amanda, and all our Food Fight Match Base sponsors. We’re thankful that they have generously helped provide a more than $40,000 match challenge! The match is available between now and June 1, or until the match base has been completed. Make a donation online today at:



Meet Forest Hills Presbyterian Church!

A FROM Church Involvement Story

Meet Forest Hills Presbyterian Church.

Located at the corner of Cascade and 36th street, Forest Hills Presbyterian may be just outside the Lowell area but their impact here at FROM has been influential. It was the interruption of the church’s food program, A.C.C.E.S.S.6 that led them to FROM. Once the church had become involved with FROM and its programs, they were so impressed and intrigued that they added it to their Mission Committee. Now, 30 parishioners volunteer for FROM helping in our food programs and among other positions.

With its current 300+ members working to fulfill the church’s mission, ‘Christ-Centered, People Focused, Mission Driven’, the church has been involved in many FROM programs. From our Food programs to the Thrift store, From Christmas projects to Backpack distribution and all the in-betweens, Forest Hills Presbyterian has continued to show up and share their time, energy, and efforts with us.

When asked what motivates the church to stay involved with FROM, it was just one sentence from their pastor that keeps them going. “We need to be Christ in other peoples’ lives.” With that, the church hasn’t stopped seeking ways to show up and serve. Forest Hills Presbyterian shared their experiences with FROM. “We see the impact of FROM every time we go, every time we get the newsletter, every time we man a truck or pack a commodities box. We are so grateful to FROM for allowing us to be a part of this amazing organization.” We’re glad Forest Hills Presbyterian has partnered with us in such an impactful, empowered way. Gratitude certainly goes both ways!

Thank you, Forest Hills Presbyterian.


Meet Nick and Judy!

Meet Nick and Judy.

When COVID-19 halted resources, and communities, many of us made the move to work, and focus on staying home. When Nick and Judy found out their church’s food donation program was going to be interrupted, they followed their hearts to FROM. They hoped to help make sure those who were in need received help. Nick, a retired Independent Consultant and Judy, a retired Organizational Development Manager chose to show up for their community with helping hands and grateful hearts at a time of great unknowns.

The couple found themselves eager to serve FROM and its food programs.

“We found ourselves collecting and delivering items for the resale store, food for the pantry, working in the pantry as well as the various food distribution opportunities.” Judy shared.

Nick was excited to put his handy man skills to work, sharing his experience redesigning, building, and installing the new pantry.

“I would say that both, Judy and I are addicted to helping this organization.” Nick expressed.

For Judy, choosing to give back to the community was a very personal decision.

“I know how it is to not be sure if you will have enough money to feed your family and to keep the house heated,” she said. “I am blessed beyond measure that I am in a position now to be able to give time, money, resources and talents to this marvelous organization.”

We are so grateful that Nick and Judy chose FROM. Their laughter, life stories and very apparent love for those around them is truly contagious.

“We will continue to volunteer as long as FROM will have us!” Nick promises.

Together, they have volunteered many hours in FROM’s food programs, and in other administrative needs FROM has. With their church, Forest Hills Presbyterian Church, they’re involved in Mobile Food Pantries throughout the year.

Thank you, Nick and Judy!


2022 Food Fight Impact

Throughout the month of May 2022 we held our annual friendly but fierce competition – that’s right – our annual Food Fight!

This once-a-year fundraising campaign splits the Lowell Area School District by M/21 / Fulton Street into the North Team and South Team. The campaign helps stock the food pantry, and raises funds to support all of the programs at FROM (we have more than a dozen!). Teams collect 1 point for each dollar or food item donated to FROM.

The team with the most points at the end is crowned the winner.

Together the teams raised more than 154,205 points this year – the most ever!

Generous matching sponsors helped provide a $37,250 match base that matched every financial gift until the match was completed.

We were blown away by the kindness of our community; the match was fulfilled before we were halfway through the fundraiser!

We celebrate the South Team for winning the 2022 Food Fight, winning 7 of the last 13 Food Fight Campaigns (North Team has won 6).

We are so thankful for each and every one of you who participated in Food Fight 2022. Because of you, we were able to touch the lives of families right here in our community. We are thankful for everyone who made a financial donation, collected or dropped off food, and for sharing this opportunity with the community.

Thank you to all our donors, including our Matching Sponsors (listed below) and Head Coach business sponsors: Chimera Design, Lowell United Methodist Church, Metric
Manufacturing, Poultry Management Systems, Inc., Brian and Cheryl Doyle, Karen Corbett, Timpson Transport Inc, First Congregational Church of Lowell, Richard and Margaret DeVoest, Alec and Karen McPherson, Canfield Plumbing and Heating, McDonalds, Patrick and Kati Doyle, Ada Bible Church, Lowell Area Schools