Student athletes do their part for Beacon House

MARQUETTE – Northern Michigan University athletes are doing their part to give back to the community, volunteering their time every Tuesday through the rest of the academic year at the Beacon House in Marquette.

“This is the coolest thing that happened to us,” said Beacon House CEO Mary Dowling. “We’ve been next to the university for 11 years and now we are joining forces. It’s just so spectacular.”

The athletes help serve food every Tuesday to the hungry residents of the non-profit organization.

Without a kitchen of its own, the Beacon House is not able to offer meals to its patrons.

“It’s just an amazing partnership that’s happening, but it’s also been the catalyst to get the kitchen certified,” Dowling said. “A lot of hospitality houses in the United States have a certified kitchen where somebody prepares a meal every night. That would be our goal. We’re a little was away.”

Heidi Voigt, head coach of NMU swimming and diving, said she started the program because she wanted her own team to volunteer in the community, and since getting to know Dowling, Voigt said she felt the Beacon House would be a great place to start.

Once she went around to other coaches, asking if they’d like to get on board, Voigt said the response was always positive.

“I’ve wanted to do something in support of the Beacon House for a couple years now and finally came up with this idea,” Voigt said. “I started by signing up my team and other coaches were interested and it blossomed into a full schedule for the year. My team is very excited about it.”

NMU intercollegiate athletic teams, cheerleaders, United States Olympic Education Center teams, club sports teams, recreational sports staff and administrators are providing meals to the visitors at the Beacon House Tuesday evenings.

“This event is going to be great for everyone involved,” Voigt said. “It will get our student-athletes, students, coaches and administrators out into the community with an opportunity to give back to individuals and families who will appreciate our help. We sometimes get so caught up in the hoopla of college life that it will be a good chance to step back for an hour or so and provide needed help to others enduring stressful times in their lives.”

The NMU cheerleaders were the first team to participate with the first dinner served on Aug. 27. Every Tuesday is full until the end of April with most teams serving at least two meals during the year.

The Beacon House is a non-profit organization located on North Third Street that provides rooms to patients undergoing extended medical care, caregivers and family members.

The privately-run non-profit has a total of 33 private guest rooms that have offered more than 150,000 people shelter since the opening of the Beacon House in June, 2002.

Dowling said it was great to have the consistency of being able to offer meals at least once a week for an extended period of time.

“By having all of the athletic teams pick two Tuesdays out of the school year, now we know every Tuesday night something is happening,” Dowling said. “We’re able to work one-on-on with the coaches and adapt to the special needs of how many guests we have that night.”

Those looking to volunteer for meal services at the Beacon House can contact Voigt at 227-2827 or Dowling at 225-7100. Signs are available in show of support for donations.

Jackie Stark can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 242.