Cheryl Becigneul cobbled together a community kitchen in Roseville about six years ago. But why she did may surprise you.
In 2011, she worked with a church in Roseville serving soup and sub sandwiches. Within a year, the effort became a 501(c )(3) non-profit organization. And every year since, it’s continued to grow and serve more people.
The organization is called Feeding the Need Ministry. Three days a week, volunteers prep for a feast. Dozens show up for a hearty meal.
“We'll probably get about 100 today,” Cheryl said when our crew dropped in to watch the lunch being prepared.
Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, they serve the hot lunch at the Roseville Masonic Temple.
What’s on the typical menu is much more than just soup.
“We're having ham and au gratin potatoes and bruschetta, salad, and Chef Bobby's bringing the vegetable,” said Cheryl confidently while she stood over a prep table slicing bread for the bruschetta.
She always aims to serve gourmet food.
That was a big challenge when state law would not allow food establishments to donate extras to non-profits without fear of being held liable if somebody got sick. Many community kitchens rely on that kind of support to stay open.
So, Cheryl took action. She went to Lansing and lobbied successfully to change the law.
“I started with the House of Representatives and just letting them know exactly what the problem was. They really didn't realize there was a problem,” she explained.
That opened the door for food donations from people like Chef Bobby Nahra -- owner and operator of Lakeland Banquets and Events Center in St. Clair Shores. He’s now also on the board of Feeding the Need.
“Cheryl gets stuff done. I would use another word,” he laughed. “She gets it done."
And helping this population get services beyond just food is a big part of Cheryl’s vision -- from making mats for the homeless to providing MyCare dental appointments to partnering with Michigan Works to help shelter visitors find jobs.
"She's made me feel pretty good about myself,” said Mark Naggi – a Michigan Works team member who is learning to be a sous chef. “She's trained me. She's taught me a lot that I would have never learned without her.”
Those who show up at Feeding the Need Ministry may be there because of many different reasons.
“We weren't one of the homeless, but we were in fear of losing our home. And [Cheryl] made sure that that didn't happen. And I'm deeply appreciative for the rest of my life,” said Debbie Marshall -- a recent frequent visitor to Feeding The Need.
Why does Cheryl care so much?
“I was homeless at one time,” she revealed.
Cheryl said it happened well into her first marriage.
"He was abusive, and one time it wasn't me. It was one of the kids. That was my breaking point after 18 years of marriage,” she explained. “So I took my kids and [left] in my station wagon…and I headed to Detroit where I was born.”
Cheryl quickly got 2 jobs and got back on her feet.
She remarried about a year later, and she’s been happily married ever since.
Years later she’d become friends with Don Rutty -- a homeless man she started having lunch with once a week.
But one day she got a call that he’d been beaten up over stealing a sandwich because he was hungry. He told her many community kitchens are closed during the warmer months, and he always had to scrounge for food.
"I said to my husband, 'I got to do something about this.' And he said, 'What are you going to do?' And I said, 'I'm going to start feeding people.'”
She now heads up a team of dozens of volunteers who help feed and lend support to thousands every year.
That’s why Cheryl Becingneul is this week’s Detroit 2020 Person of the Week.
If you’d like to help Feeding the Need Ministry, there’s a fundraiser next month.
Proceeds support feeding the need ministry in Macomb County.
Battle of the Wings for Charity
Thursday, August 10, 2017
Roy O’Brien Ford
22201 E. 9 Mile Rd.
St. Clair Shores
If you have someone you’d like to nominate for our Detroit 2020 Person of the Week, please email Alicia Smith at Alicia.Smith@wxyz.com .