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Ever since he was a child, Rico Camerone has watched family members give back to the community, including when his grandmother and aunt opened Holy Temple Pentecostal Church in Detroit nearly 30 years ago.
“Watching my family created in me an attitude and foundation of putting others’ needs before my own,” said Camerone, the owner of Integrity Insurance Agency in nearby Southfield, Michigan.
And when his mother, Lena Teagarden, founded Haven of Hope in 2003, Camerone was right there to help—and still is today, 17 years later. The nonprofit, working in partnership with Holy Temple and other organizations, serves low-income individuals and families who are at risk of hunger, food insecurity, or malnutrition.
Weekly food, winter clothes
Utilizing food provided by Forgotten Harvest, Haven of Hope hosts a weekly distribution event that reaches about 200 people and provides upwards of 81,000 pounds of food each year. An annual clothing giveaway also outfits families with slightly used coats, gloves, sweaters, and other items to keep warm during the cold Michigan winter.
‘It’s some of the hardest work I have ever done, but it’s also the most rewarding.’
Rico Camerone, Integrity Insurance Agency owner
And these services haven’t slowed a bit since COVID-19 hit, Teagarden said. “We have had weekly food distribution nonstop. The only change is that participants and volunteers must wear masks and maintain distance.”
Camerone is one of those volunteers each week, unloading boxes of food, collecting clothing, and helping recipients find the items they need. He also serves on the Haven of Hope board, assists with event planning, and does whatever else is necessary to fulfil the mission. Others on the Integrity team help as well.
‘A humbling experience’
“It’s some of the hardest work I have ever done, but it’s also the most rewarding,” he said. “Giving back is a humbling experience that helps us appreciate what we have, but serving the community leads to our own success, too.”
And the work is more than just feeding a person for a day or a week—it can have lasting impact. Teagarden shared an example of one woman who couldn’t make ends meet on her unemployment benefits. The food provided by Haven of Hope allowed her to pay other expenses and devote more time to finding a better job, which she ultimately did.
“The support of Rico and Integrity allows us to create stories like that,” Teagarden said. “We can fulfill our mission to feed, clothe, comfort, encourage, and empower those in our community.”
A 2020 Make More Happen Award will help Haven of Hope reach more people as well: A donation of up to $10,000 is included with the honor, provided by Liberty Mutual and Safeco on behalf of Integrity Insurance Agency.
A growing need
And that’s vital, because more people are seeking support. “I have noticed the increase in need,” Teagarden said. “Some weeks are stable, but I sometimes get calls requesting food on days that we don’t distribute.”
With $10,000, Haven of Hope can purchase supplemental food for Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets, make much-needed repairs to the distribution site, purchase clothing for the winter distribution ahead, and much more.
“This money will do so much good,” Teagarden said.
Just like she and her family have been doing for decades.