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Grocery shopping volunteer

Retired Lansing detective lost her eatery to the pandemic. Now she delivers groceries to cancer patients

This story originally appeared in the Lansing State Journal

By Rachel Greco

LANSING – When Cops Cafe & Bakery closed permanently last June, co-owner Michelle Bryant mourned the loss of the small business and thought about her future.

The Delta Township eatery had been her second act. Bryant, a detective with the Lansing Police Department, retired after 25 years in 2017. She and partner Heidi Williams opened the cafe in 2018. Neither of them could have seen COVID-19 coming.

“What am I going to do next?” Bryant thought. “I’m too young to sit around. You’ve got to have a reason to get up and do stuff.”

Last November, she found the answer. She became the first Greater Lansing volunteer for New Day Foundation For Families, helping with its grocery delivery program for cancer patients. Bryant has spent the past four months shopping for and delivering groceries the nonprofit pays for to the homes of local residents undergoing cancer treatment.
For Bryant, who weathered a two-year battle with cancer before retiring as a detective, it’s been time well spent. She’s hoping more community members will consider volunteering to do it, too.

“It’s a win-win,” Bryant said.

Lemuel Booth, 48, does his best to stay away from other people. He was diagnosed with liver cancer six months ago and has four-hour chemotherapy treatments every two weeks. When Booth does have to leave his Lansing home, he’s especially sensitive to the cold weather. Breathing in outdoor air often feels like enhaling glass shards into his lungs. Add to that Booth’s compromised immune system and a real fear of how he would fare if he contracted COVID-19.

“I don’t like to be around a lot of people because of my system,” Booth said. “I really can’t go anywhere or do anything besides sit in the house and go to my doctors’ appointments.”

Bryant’s grocery deliveries through New Day Foundation, a Rochester Hills organization serving people impacted by cancer all over the state, have made a world of difference, Booth said. “They really have helped me out,” he said.

Bryant can relate to Booth’s situation. During her cancer treatment, she went through two surgeries and chemotherapy.
“I basically slept for two years,” Bryant said. “I couldn’t work, I could barely take care of myself. I know what people are experiencing. You just do what you can.”

If cancer patients don’t have support, everyday tasks like grocery shopping can become physical and financial hurdles, New Day Foundation Program Manager Cheryl Warstler said. The nonprofit began offering to pay and shop for cancer patients’ groceries after COVID-19 arrived in Michigan.

New Day has served just under 20 families in the Lansing area. They expanded to the area late last year, taking on Bryant as their first volunteer. She’s shopped for and delivered groceries to cancer patients in Lansing, Mason and Owosso.

It’s been rewarding in more ways than one, she said, and it’s helping her recover from her own pandemic loss.
Bryant took a job with the state this month but she plans to continue volunteering with the grocery program.
“It’s getting me out of the house and helping other people when they can’t get out of the house. It makes me happy to give or do things for other people.”


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