September 27, 2012Virginia Hill Rice, Ph.D., R.N., was honored recently for her volunteer work with Crossroads of Michigan, a private, non-profit social service agency. As recipient of the organization's James A. McLaren award, Rice was feted at a reception and dinner at the Detroit Athletic Club.
But that award was just one the dedicated volunteer received this year; the other coming on a day this past summer as she assisted at the daily lunch program offered by Crossroads to children at its soup kitchen in Detroit.
"Ginnie volunteers for our summer lunch program," said Crossroads Executive Director Mary McLaren Honsel. "When the children came in, several remembered Ginnie from last summer and went up to her and gave her a big hug. That's the kind of impact she has on just about everyone she works with."
Rice has volunteered with Crossroads since 1997. She was a member of the Outreach Council at Grosse Pointe Memorial Church and Crossroads had requested assistance from the church for its many outreach programs in Detroit.
Ginnie Rice, center, was recently honored for her volunteer work with Crossroads. Fellow volunteer JoMeca Thomas (left) and Crossroads Executive Director Mary Honsel are pictured with Rice in the Crossroads food pantry while Rice fills a client’s food needs. photo by Kathy Ryan.
"I wanted to see what it was all about," Rice said. "I started volunteering then and I have never looked back."
Rice brings her professional training as a nurse to her volunteer work at Crossroads where she counsels clients on medical problems and concerns over medications. She also serves on its advisory board.
Rice is just one of a cadre of volunteers who bring many diverse skills to Crossroads. Founded in 1971, Crossroads defines its mission as existing "to support the community at large by providing emergency assistance, advocacy and counseling to any family or person in need."
In addition to individual volunteers, Crossroads is assisted by several organizations providing both hands-on support, as well as financial assistance. One example of that group assistance is the Sunday lunch program offered at the Crossroads location on West Grand Boulevard in Detroit. Fifty two organizations, one for each Sunday, come in to serve a nutritious meal to nearly 1,000 people each week.
The same soup kitchen provided lunch to Detroit children during the summer, serving about 50 children a day.
"With 57 percent of Detroit children living in poverty, we weren't surprised," said Rice. "During the school year, they can count on the lunch program at school. We started the summer lunch program to make up for them possibly missing that meal. We serve children between two and 18, no questions asked."
Crossroads works with Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeast-ern Michigan and Forgot-ten Harvest to not only supply their soup kitchen, but its food pantry as well.
"We can provide the staples, the canned goods and the basics that people need," Honsel explained. "But occasionally we get donations like cakes or pies, and that allows us to provide something special that our clients might not normally get, nor can they afford it. Everyone can use a treat on occasion."
In addition to the food pantry, Crossroads provides clothing and toiletry items for clients.
"What we found was that oftentimes people didn't have anything nice to wear to a job interview," Honsel explained. "We especially look for men's dress pants and shoes. We also look for things like chef jackets, so our clients who have found work in a restaurant have the right uniform to wear."
Crossroads recently opened an eastside location at Salem Memorial Church on Moross, just off the I-94 freeway, which replaces its East Jefferson offices.
"This is a far better location, as it is on a major bus line, which allows easier access for our clients," Honsel explained.
While that facility does not have a soup kitchen, it does have a food pantry and can serve clients in many of the same ways as the Grand Boulevard location, especially with its career counseling and job referral services.
Rice noted that Crossroads is active in the Michigan Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative, which works with prison par-olees to help them transition back into society following their release.
"One of the most basic things we do is to assist them in getting a state I.D.," Rice explained. "Without some form of identification, they can't even apply for a job. That's the first step they must take as a way of making it on their own."
Crossroads provides employment counseling and services to the unemployed. They will assist clients in their job search by teaching them how to write a resume and a cover letter, as well as how to conduct themselves during a job interview. They can even assist a client with the proper clothes to wear to an interview.
Crossroads was founded in 1971 by the Rev. James McClaren, an Episcopal priest who was a pastor of a church located at Woodward and Warren in Detroit. He was also Mary Honsel's father.
"It was shortly after the riots in Detroit, and he was seeing so many people in need," she said. "He did what he could, by providing a meal voucher or a bus ticket, but he realized that he wasn't really helping them overcome the huge barriers they faced. He started Crossroads with a small amount of money, but it quickly grew and is now supported by every denomination as well as several foundations and corporations."
It is that financial support and the way it is used that first attracted Rice to Crossroads.
"A major part of every dollar goes directly to assist the client," she said. "Much of that credit goes to our volunteers and the skills they bring to Crossroads."
A Grosse Pointe Shores resident, Rice and her husband, Dr. William Rice, have two grown sons and two grandchildren. She is a professor of nursing at the Wayne State University College of Nursing and professor of oncology at the Wayne State University College of Medicine and the Karmanos Cancer Institute.
And a devoted volunteer at Crossroads.
"Our volunteers allow us to give our clients many things," Honsel said, "but what they need the most is hope. That is what they give them."