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Wakefield Post Feeds Nearly 1,000 Families, Calls on Colleagues to Join Cause

When F/Lt. Donald Horn assumed command of the Wakefield Post in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula in 2013, he inherited a Michigan Harvest Gathering program that distributed about 6,000 pounds of food to local families. It was a quaint operation: Community members dropped off canned goods at the post and MSP personnel gave those goods to shelters.

“I decided to do more,” Horn said recently. He started knocking on doors and calling on local leaders, urging them to donate goods and money that would more than double the haul to 16,000 pounds in 2014. “I figured boots on the ground would get more results than standing around.” 

Photo of F/Lt. Don Horn and two children

A decade later, the program at the Wakefield Post is a model for Michigan’s Harvest Gathering, which has worked for the past 30 years to raise awareness and funds to end food insecurity in Michigan. Horn and his colleagues now collect more than 30,000 pounds of food every year, enough to feed more than 1,000 families in Gogebic and Ontonagon counties in the western Upper Peninsula.

Horn’s ambitious fundraising strategy operates through two revenue streams: monetary donations and non-perishable food bags gathered in partnership with local grocery store, Super One Foods in Ironwood. Customers buy those food bags knowing that sizable profit on each purchase goes toward the food drive. MSP personnel work at the grocery stores over the holidays bagging groceries and encouraging shoppers to donate. 

Photo of troopers bagging groceries at Super One

“We get a lot of support when we set-up shop at the local grocery stores,” Horn said. “People come in and ask us what we’re doing, then end up buying a $5 bag of groceries, and those proceeds go toward buying more food for the food banks.” 

Since shifting gears in 2014, they have collected 221,653 pounds of food distributed to local food pantries.

Photo of food collected

Non-perishable food products donated or purchased for the drive are stored at the MSP Wakefield Post garage before getting picked-up by local food pantries at Lac Vieux Desert Band of Lake Superior Chippewa Indians and St. Vincent de Paul in Bessemer and Ironwood. And every year, MSP troopers, Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) and Wakefield honor roll students load the tens of thousands of pounds of food on trucks. 

The Post also receives generous donations of up to $10,000, and some community members even vouch to match donations to encourage their friends and family to participate.

The tally for 2022 amounts to 28,085 pounds. Super One will continue its bag purchase part of the program through the remainder of the year to help support local food pantries.

The Wakefield Post hopes to continue expanding their fundraising goals to collect more donations and feed even more families year to year.

“It isn’t about me or the MSP, we’re just facilitators,” Horn said. “It’s about the community. We have a very compassionate community up here, and we’re very fortunate for their support because that’s what’s allowed us to be so impactful.”

Horn will be retiring this year after over 32 years of serving his community but has a message for Michigan state departments before departing: “I challenge all other police posts and state departments to match our efforts. If we do that, we can really invest in our communities and help ease the burden for families going through tough times.” 

“I’m kind of competitive,” Horn said, as he encouraged his colleagues in other MSP posts and departments to match Wakefield’s output. “And a competitive spirit in giving can really help people show up for those in need.”