2017-12-21 / Front Page

Helping out at Christmas

Former Marine helps at pantry
By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff


KASSON TOWNSHIP’S park in Maple City is slated to receive some updated equipment in the spring thanks in part to the volunteer efforts of Josh Humphrey. KASSON TOWNSHIP’S park in Maple City is slated to receive some updated equipment in the spring thanks in part to the volunteer efforts of Josh Humphrey. Editor’s note: This week we conclude our series on members of the Leelanau community who impact the lives of others year-long. Their work is especially appreciated at Christmas.

Although epilepsy and a spinal deformation sometimes force Josh Humphrey of Maple City to rely on the kindness of others, organizers of the Empire Area Food Pantry have learned to rely on the 43-year-old Maple City resident as one of their most reliable volunteers.

On Monday this week, Humphrey was busy unloading and stacking boxes and cans of food at Glen Lake Community Reformed Church in Burdickville where needy Leelanau County residents were invited to pick up everything they’ll need to prepare a Christmas dinner at their own homes next week.


JOSH HUMPHREY of Maple City volunteers at the Empire Area Food Pantry nearly every week despite the fact that he is on full disability. JOSH HUMPHREY of Maple City volunteers at the Empire Area Food Pantry nearly every week despite the fact that he is on full disability. Then on Tuesday evening this week, Humphrey was back at the church helping to distribute the food and clean up after a community dinner.

“Josh (Humphrey) is really a great help to us,” said Bill Meserve, an organizer of the Empire Area Food Pantry. “We’ve been blessed with a lot of food, but also blessed with dedicated volunteers willing to do the hard work to make this all happen.”

A fellow volunteer, Lucina Stachnik, gave Humphrey rides to and from the church and his home this week. Humphrey’s medical conditions prevent him from driving or keeping a regular job. He is considered fully disabled.

“That doesn’t mean I can’t do some work and help others,” said Humphrey, a former U.S. Marine.

Although his disabilities are not service-connected, Humphrey receives disability payments and other services through the Veterans Affairs department. He served in the Marines 1993-1997 and is considered a Gulf War-era veteran although he was not stationed in the Middle East.

“I did serve overseas, on Okinawa, but I wasn’t exactly a model Marine,” he said. He did receive an honorable discharge, however.

“Honestly, I joined the Marines to serve myself more than serve my country,” said a candid Humphrey. “But that was 20 years ago, and I’m a different guy now.

“Since my disability payments have put me in a position where I don’t have to worry about earning an income, I find for some reason that I’m more eager to help other people whenever I can,” Humphrey said.

“I am very definitely on a spiritual journey.”

On his kitchen table at home is a copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead, a well-known text for those who practice Buddhism.

“I can’t say I’m a Buddhist any more than I can say I’m a Christian,” Humphrey said, “But I have been practicing Buddhist meditation recently; and I’m finding it’s very good for me.”

Both Buddhists and Christians recognize the value in helping others, and that’s something Humphrey says he enjoys doing year-round.

Earlier this year, he noticed how the Kasson Township Park near his home in Maple City needed some updating. The divorced father of two had occasionally taken his five-year-old son to the park.

Humphrey learned from friends at Glen Lake Community Reformed Church that neighboring Glen Arbor Township was replacing equipment at its own playground and might be able to provide some of the old equipment to Kasson.

Humphrey was instrumental in working with township officials to make the project happen. Glen Arbor’s old playground equipment is currently being stored at the church and is slated to be installed at the Kasson Township Park in the spring.

“It took some convincing, but it looks like that effort is going to pay off,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey has many relatives in the area, having grown up in Leelanau County and attended Glen Lake Community Schools until his sophomore year when he and his dad moved to Iowa. He returned to Leelanau County after his stint in the Marines, and currently lives alone.

“Just the other day, I was helping a neighbor of mine decorate his Christmas tree and thought about how much attention I’m devoting to Christmas this year,” Humphrey said.

“For a guy who practices Buddhism, I’ve been spending more time hanging around Christian churches and getting ready for Christmas than a lot of people I know.”

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