Through the eyes of: Candi Tomlinson-CCN food pantry

According to the 2010 census, Isabella County has 29.7% of its residents living at or below the poverty line, which is nearly 21,000 people. In an effort to alleviate this burden, Mt. Pleasant’s Community Compassion Network (CCN) provides 50-70 pounds of food to 800-900 families per month.

To aid those suffering from poverty, the CCN held its semimonthly Mobile Food Pantry at Finch Fieldhouse on March 24. An anonymous sponsor helped to bring in more than 14,000 pounds of food for the impoverished families within the community to the event, hosted by Program Board. The guests were treated to coffee and games of bingo while they waited.

Central Michigan University alumni Candi Tomlinson has been coming to the CCN food pantries regularly for about two years.

“[The pantry] is wonderful,” Tomlinson said. “I’d be lost without them.”

Tomlinson admits that she lived an affluent life, but after her former husband passed away, it left her to now live on social security and work every day as a substitute teacher.

With almost 17 years of experience in the field of broadcasting and public relations, Tomlinson chose to stay at home and raise her son.

“Now, I can’t get back into my field,” Tomlinson said. “I’m living below the poverty line with almost a master’s [degree].”

While not regretting taking the time to raise her son, she urges younger students and mothers to “keep your hands in the pot” so when you want to get back into your career, after having a child, you can.

Tomlinson recalls her undergraduate time here at CMU, with working three jobs and constantly falling asleep in Dr. Peter Orlik’s 8 a.m. among many fond memories.

“The experiences I had at Central prepared me for my life and for that I’m very grateful,” Tomlinson said.

CCN Intern Bethany Juen, who’s been with the organization since January, mentioned that the volunteer turnout fluctuates depending on the location. With the event being at Finch Fieldhouse, more Central students from fraternities and sororities showed up to volunteer.

“I like the way it connects everybody from fraternities, sororities, local businesses, churches, and community members,” Juen said. “Seeing everyone come together; that’s really what Community Compassion Network is, it’s connecting people.”

Westland freshman Becca Lawrukovich and member of Zeta Theta Pi, a service sorority, was volunteering for a second time with the Mobile Food Pantry.

“I just like seeing all the people who are here and see them get food when they normally might not,” Lawrukovich said.

CCN is a nonprofit organization formed in 2005, which is entirely privately funded and ran by volunteers. The group has about 20 steady people who volunteer regularly and at any given event over 50 other volunteers show up.

In 2011, CCN provided 650,000 pounds of food for families in Isabella County.

According to CCN’s website they state: “It could be you.  It could be me.  So many of us are one or two or three paychecks away from needing help. We want to provide that help.”

Community Compassion Network’s vision is that “all will be adequately fed, clothed, housed and know the love of Christ.”