Detroit Pistons, corporate partners help address food insecurity with Forgotten Harvest grant

Detroit Pistons, Wayne County and Corporate Partners Provide $375,000 Grant for Forgotten Harvest
Detroit Pistons, Wayne County and Corporate Partners Provide $375,000 Grant for Forgotten Harvest
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Vince Ellis
Special for Pistons.com

Restaurants and bars have become quiet places.

Salons and barbershops aren’t taking appointments.

Hotel occupancy rates have cratered.

Health is the top consideration for government leaders making decisions during the COVID-19 crisis that’s gripped the country for over a month.

But the tough decisions around the country to order the suspensions of non-essential business to stem the spread of the coronavirus has created economic uncertainty for many.

Out-of-work breadwinners are suddenly facing food insecurity.

“Losing your job for multiple weeks when you are a hairstylist or bartender is a major hit,” Forgotten Harvest director of corporate relations Rebecca Cade-Sawicki said Friday afternoon.

“This is all very foreign to them. It’s something they’ve never done before; they just know they need help.”

The Detroit Pistons, Wayne County and a coalition of businesses are encouraging others to remember the missions of Forgotten Harvest and other nonprofits struggling to help others during this international crisis.

A $375,000 grant for Forgotten Harvest was announced Thursday and will provide immediate support to the non-profit’s food recovery and distribution efforts in response to COVID-19.

The non-profit estimates that the number of families it services has increased 45 percent since the crisis began; food acquisition and disbursement needs have doubled.

Novi-based Lineage Logistics, the United Dairy Industry of Michigan, Flagstar Bank and AAA The Auto Club Group also support the grant.

“The community needs everyone to come together now more than ever,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said. “I’m proud to see our partners joining forces to help those who need it most.

“There is so much more that needs to be done.”

Relationships matter

The Pistons’ relationship with Forgotten Harvest dates back to 2008.

The partnership was strengthened when vice chairman Arn Tellem joined the Pistons in 2016. Tellem’s wife, Nancy, sits on the non-profit’s board of directors and the couple hosted a comedy night fundraiser at the Fox Theatre.

Tellem and Pistons officials have discussed ways to assist the region, which has seen high rates of COVID-19 transmission in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

Tellem, a former agent, received an e-mail from one of his previous clients, Mike Dunleavy, who put him in touch with a representative of Lineage Logistics, which is a top food storage company.

The company has partnered with NBA stars Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis and JJ Redick on similar initiatives during the crisis.

Lineage was eager to assist such an effort with the Pistons and Tellem quickly enlisted other corporate partners to help those who need Forgotten Harvest services.

“They are like winds beneath our wings to keep us going,” Cade-Sawicki said. “Without partners like that, it’d be truly difficult for Forgotten Harvest or for any non-profit to be able to make this pivot, to change our operation and continue to serve the community with an increased need.”

Unprecedented crisis

Since 2000, Forgotten Harvest has received over 400 million pounds of food donations. The non-profit’s mobile pantries serve over 250 sites in the three counties.

The food is loaded onto mobile pantries that serve over 250 partner sites, which includes food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, youth programs and community centers.

While the need has increased, non-profits face uncertain times.

Cade-Sawicki said 40 percent of Forgotten Harvest’s donations come from individuals.

Corporate partners are entering a time of belt-tightening, which could lessen donations in the coming months.

Cade-Sawicki says response has been positive, but she admitted concerns, calling the situation “completely unprecedented.”

“That’s made our jobs a little easier to know that we got some funds coming in, we can do this,” she said. “But we look six months ahead, it does become concerning of where could the stock market go, how could businesses that might have been shut for a while, how will they operate? What will they change?

“When they are looking to make cuts, charitable contributions tend to take a cut. So things in October could be tight and rather difficult.”

No one knows what will happen over the next few weeks. Hopefully the dire projections aired nightly on TV won’t come to pass.

Tellem says the assistance from the Pistons is only getting started.

“We’re not going to stop there,” Tellem said of the Forgotten Harvest donation. “There will be more to come.”

Donations of support can be placed by visiting https://www.forgottenharvest.org/corona/.

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