Bread of Life director receives Governor's Service Award

LAKE COUNTY — Sometimes, good deeds don't go unnoticed, and for those who notice the dedication and enthusiasm of Lynne Mills, director of Bread of Life Food Pantry in Baldwin, they may not be surprised she was selected to represent Lake County as a MiHero for this year's Governor's Service Awards.

The Governor's Service Awards recognize an individual or group from each of Michigan's 83 counties each year for going above and beyond.

Mills was nominated by Kendra Gibson, of Michigan State University Extension, (who has worked with Mills on the Lake County Community Food Council), for keeping the pantry open and the community fed during the COVID pandemic.

"I am so proud of this mighty team at Bread of Life Food Pantry. They work endlessly to provide healthy food access in Lake County. Many hands have had an impact on this effort by the giving of their time and talents. Thank you to Lynne Mills for being willing to lead through the pandemic and take on the Lake County Food Council," Gibson said, adding how grateful she is to learn from Mills.

Mills, however, is quick to credit her faith in God, along with the many volunteers in the community, who put in 100 volunteer hours a week, for the pantry continuing to be a safe haven for local families.

"This is humbling, because it takes everyone to do what we're doing, not just me. I can not do what we do without all the fiercely dedicated volunteers that work tirelessly to keep our town fed and loved," Mills said. "I am shocked to be nominated, but it is pretty cool, and to represent our area is a great honor."

When Mills went to the award ceremony Nov. 17, at Fox Theatre in Detroit, to receive the award, she noticed other individuals and groups also recognized for feeding their communities, but they also represent bigger population areas.

"They have resources in the cities, but our Lake County, we are small but we are mighty. People are so generous. We couldn't do it without them. How special is it someone in our little town, our community, our church was nominated. It is the Holy Spirit and His leadership. It all starts with prayer for our team. The more we give, the more we get to give."

In Mills' Hero Story, it is related how she is passionate about providing healthy food to those who face food insecurity in Lake County, and how she helped the pantry move toward a My Choice food pantry, to expand the pantry and create a "shopping experience," also educating shoppers on choices to create a healthy plate using food at the pantry.

She also was instrumental in stretching the limited budget by building relationships with food partners locally and outside of the county, to offer fresh produce, local venison and other healthy food choices.

During the pandemic, her leadership skills not only kept the pantry open, but helped the pantry take on a building project to expand storage capacity to meet the growing needs to combat hunger in the community, which raised 33% since the beginning of the pandemic.

With COVID restrictions to limit in-person prep teams and create safe social distancing standards, she moved the team of 37 volunteers forward, without interrupting the weekly food distribution.  

Mills is excited the pantry keeps moving forward.

"We keep being encouraged to have enough for families week after week, mountains of food comes in, and now we are expanding to personal care items and a baby pantry. I am proud to be a part of this whole ministry. It has changed my life and perspective on what's important. I think no matter how crazy things seem, God is still in control. When we follow His lead, great things happen," she said.