Christmas in June Pits Locals in Head-to-Head Competition for Food Pantries

What do you get when you throw down the gauntlet to four hardcore supporters of the local United Way who all want to end hunger in Michigan’s Great Southwest? You get an exciting plan for a spirited new competition to directly benefit the United Way’s “Christmas in June” food drive.

All four local companies will go head-to-head to win the United Way “Christmas in June” challenge, and they’re inviting you and your company to join the fun.

Indiana Michigan Power, an AEP Company…Gast Manufacturing…Spectrum Health Lakeland…and Whirlpool Corporation have launched the effort to out-collect each other in the food drive for local pantries.

United Way of Southwest Michigan’s annual “Christmas in June” food drive for local pantries has officially kicked off, and  those four area companies have accepted a challenge to collect the most items by June 12.

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Every year, food pantries across Southwest Michigan are fully stocked in the winter months thanks to generous holiday donations—but when summer comes, donations drop dramatically and pantry shelves become sparse. That can leave low-income, hard-working families with limited options during this time of year. So, for the third year in a row, United Way of Southwest Michigan is asking local businesses and community members to participate in the Christmas in June event to stock local food pantries with items to get them through the warmer months.

Charlotte Becker is the Director of Annual Campaign at United Way of Southwest Michigan. She says, “Addressing food insecurity is year-round work,” and adds, “This event is a great opportunity for everyone to make a big difference in the everyday lives of people in need. We are thrilled that Whirlpool, AEP, Spectrum, and Gast are competing to take our impact on the community to new levels.”

Scott Kerns, President of Gast Manufacturing, says: “One of our core values at Gast is heritage. Over the past 100 years we have built this heritage in our local community and we have always strived to give back to it. Now we lay down a challenge to Whirlpool, AEP, and Spectrum to see who can match up to Gast for the Christmas in June food drive challenge. In the end, the real winner will be our community, so we all may continue to build a great heritage in our area. Let the games begin!”

Over at Indiana Michigan Power, Toby Thomas, who serves as President & Chief Operating Officer says, “Helping people in need is who we are at Indiana Michigan Power,” adding, “The United Way of Southwest Michigan’s Christmas in June event speaks to the need to help our neighbors each and every day because we know food donations historically decline in the summer months. We want to make sure local families across Southwest Michigan can still go to food pantries this summer and see shelves stocked. To help boost the amount of help and food goods available, our employees are challenging Whirlpool, Gast, and Spectrum this year to see who can raise more. We know they will put up a good fight, but we will power through to victory and in the end those in need will win.”

Spectrum Health Lakeland President Dr. Loren Hamel responds by saying, “We’re proud to support the Christmas in June program and United Way of Southwest Michigan,” and adds, “Taking great care of our community is what we do each and every day, and we believe that by donating to local pantries we can fight hunger and help promote health for families in need.”

Whirlpool Chairman & CEO Marc Bitzer concludes, “We are invested in our community and in the United Way,” adding, “If creating a friendly competition between AEP, Spectrum, Gast, and Whirlpool brings visibility to the needs of local food shelters, then it’s game time. When our community wins, we all win.”

Last June, 51 organizations collected more than 20,000 items for 33 food pantries in Berrien & Cass counties.

Christmas in June is part of a worldwide United Way “Day of Action” effort, held in June, during which tens of thousands of people across the globe volunteer with local United Ways to fight for the health, education, and financial stability of every person in every community.

Everyone is invited to join in bringing some cheer to local pantries again this June. To sign up your organization to collect items, donate to your local pantry, or volunteer to help sort and count items, visit the link below:

The main drop sites for participating companies on JUNE 12 ONLY are:

  • First Church of God, 2627 Niles Ave., St. Joseph
  • Berrien Co. Youth Fairgrounds Youth Memorial Building, 9122 US HWY 31, Berrien Springs

For community members looking to get involved, drop off items ANY TIME BEFORE JUNE 12 at:

  • United Federal Credit Union
    • 2819 S. State St., St. Joseph
    • 724 East Napier Ave., Benton Harbor
    • 5611 Cleveland Ave., Stevensville
    • 9097 US 31, Berrien Springs
    • 123 Sycamore St., Niles
    • 2100 S. 11th St., Niles
    • 808 E. Front St., Buchanan
  • Greater Niles Community Federal Credit Union
    • 507 E. Main St., Niles
    • 1050 E. State St., Cassopolis
    • 68925 M-62, Suite A, Edwardsburg

Local pantries receiving donations from Christmas in June:

  • Benton Harbor Street Ministry, Benton Harbor
  • Catholic Community Center, Benton Harbor
  • Emergency Shelter Services, Benton Harbor
  • Fairplain Presbyterian Church, Benton Harbor
  • First Church of God Food Co-op, Benton Harbor
  • First Presbyterian Church, Benton Harbor
  • The Avenue/Harbor House Day Services, Benton Harbor
  • Seventh Day Adventist, Benton Harbor
  • SMCAA, Benton Harbor
  • St. Augustine of Canterbury, Benton Harbor
  • The Salvation Army, Benton Harbor
  • Neighbor to Neighbor, Berrien Springs
  • United Methodist Church, Berrien Springs
  • Woodland Shores Baptist Church, Bridgman
  • Faith Victory Church, Buchanan
  • Red Bud Ministry, Buchanan
  • Helping Hands of Cass County, Cassopolis
  • Coloma United Methodist Church, Coloma
  • St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Dowagiac
  • Action Ministries, Dowagiac
  • First Christian Church, Dowagiac
  • Our Lady of the Lake, Edwardsburg
  • Marcellus United Methodist Church, Marcellus
  • Christian Service Center, Niles
  • First Presbyterian Church, Niles
  • Mt. Calvary Baptist Church, Niles
  • Salvation Army, Niles
  • First Apostolic Church, Sawyer
  • Blue Roof Church, St. Joseph
  • Road to Hope, St. Joseph
  • Seventh Day Adventist, St. Joseph
  • Harbor Country Emergency Food Pantry, Three Oaks
  • Watervliet Free Methodist Church, Watervliet
  • The Avenue/Cora Lamping Center, Benton Harbor

United Way of Southwest Michigan fights for the Health, Education and Financial Stability of every person in every community. They have the influence and relationships to make sustainable change a reality. By harnessing resources from corporate, nonprofit and public partners, they provide immediate assistance to the most vulnerable populations among us, while addressing the root causes of the community’s longstanding challenges and changing lives for the better. To join the fight—through giving, advocacy, and volunteering—visit