Labor and Economic Opportunity
Brittany Krenzke’s plate has been very full over the past few years. In addition to working as a server at a popular Grand Rapids restaurant, Brittany has been her father’s caregiver and advocate since he suffered a stroke. Hardly a day goes by without her visiting him. Yet somehow she managed to dedicate a full-time year of service with the Cherry Health AmeriCorps program, not once but twice!
Cherry Health AmeriCorps focuses on improving health care access and promoting wellness among underserved populations in the West Michigan community. Brittany serves as the Outreach Programs Coordinator at the Spectrum Health Community Medicine Clinic located in Grand Rapids’ Heartside District, a neighborhood that has a very large homeless population. The office also serves as primary care for many refugees resettling in the Grand Rapids area. Patients that come to the clinic face a host of other challenges including homelessness, hunger, and limited access to healthcare.
Brittany’s service position is not an easy one, but it’s incredibly important. Her main responsibility is coordinating her clinic’s food and clothing pantries. Brittany seeks out pantry donations, organizes volunteers to sort and display them, and facilitates patient pantry visits for those in need. She has distributed over 20,000 pounds of food to more than 1,500 people. When patients visit the Clothing Pantry, they can get everything from fresh underwear to a business suit and even pick out books and toys for kids.
Brittany strives to humanize the experience of using the pantries by creating an atmosphere of a department store rather than an impersonal donation bin so patients can come in and feel welcome while finding just the thing they needed at that moment. For example, recently a patient came in off the street for an appointment with no shoes on their feet. It was wet and cold outside that day. Because of Brittany’s service, the patient was able to find a warm pair of boots at the clothing pantry and left that day more prepared to face the elements outside.
Brittany’s AmeriCorps Site Supervisor, Paul Hazen said, “We are so thankful to house members for Cherry Health’s AmeriCorps team, and members like Brittany are the reason why. She is truly a wonderful example of what it means to serve. It’s obvious to anyone who has seen her serve that she is doing so with an incredible depth of compassion. Brittany works tirelessly to help those in need and demonstrates a sincere empathy in all her interactions. Her service is obviously a calling.”