Retired Lansing police officer Michelle Bryant delivers groceries to cancer patients

LANSING – When Cops Cafe & Bakery closed for good last June, co-owner Michelle Bryant mourned the small business and pondered her future.

The Delta Township Restaurant had been her second act. Bryant, a Lansing Police Department detective, retired in 2017 after 25 years. She and her partner Heidi Williams opened the café in 2018.

None of them could have seen COVID-19 coming.

“What do I do next?” Bryant thought. “I’m too young to sit around. You have to have a reason to get up and do things.”

She found the answer last November. She was the first volunteer in Greater Lansing for the New Day Foundation for Families, helping with food delivery for cancer patients.

Bryant has been shopping and delivering groceries for the past four months that the nonprofits pay for the homes of residents who are undergoing cancer treatment.

Time was well spent for Bryant, who survived a two-year battle with cancer before retiring as a detective. She hopes more community members will consider volunteering for it too.

“It’s a win-win situation,” said Bryant.

Meet a need

Lemuel Booth, 48, does his best to stay away from other people.

He was diagnosed with liver cancer six months ago and has four hours of chemotherapy every two weeks.

When Booth has to leave his house in Lansing, he is particularly sensitive to the cold weather. Inhaling outside air often feels like breathing shards of glass into your lungs.

Michelle Bryant, right, with Lemuel Booth at his Lansing home during a grocery delivery.  Booth was diagnosed with liver cancer last year.  He is undergoing regular chemotherapy treatments and is restricting his shopping trips due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Add to this the weakened immune system of this booth and the real fear of how it would fare if he were to become infected with COVID-19.

“Because of my system, I don’t like being around a lot of people,” said Booth. “I really have nowhere to go or do anything other than sit in the house and go to my doctors’ appointments.”

Bryant’s food deliveries through the New Day Foundation, a Rochester Hills organization that serves cancer sufferers across the state, made a huge difference, Booth said.

“You really helped me,” he said.

Bryant can relate to Booth’s situation. During her cancer treatment, she had two surgeries and chemotherapy.

“I basically slept for two years,” said Bryant. “I couldn’t work, I could hardly take care of myself. I know what people experience. You just do what you can.”

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A rewarding experience

When cancer patients don’t have support, everyday tasks like grocery shopping can become physical and financial hurdles, said Cheryl Warstler, program manager for the New Day Foundation.

The nonprofit offered to pay for and shop for cancer patients’ groceries after COVID-19 arrived in Michigan.

New Day has served nearly 20 families in the Lansing area. They expanded into the area late last year and accepted Bryant as their first volunteer. She has been shopping and delivering groceries for cancer patients in Lansing, Mason and Owosso.

It’s been worth it in several ways, she said, and it’s helping her recover from her own pandemic loss.

Bryant took a job with the state this month, but she plans to continue volunteering for the food program.

“It gets me out of the house and helps other people when they can’t get out of the house. It makes me happy to give or do things for other people.”

Would you like to volunteer with the New Day Foundation?

The New Day Foundation for Families needs more volunteers from the Lansing area willing to shop for cancer patients and deliver groceries to them, Warstler said.

Interested parties should email Heather Blasko at [email protected]

Learn more about the non-profit organization at https://www.foundationforfamilies.org/.

Contact Rachel Greco at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @GrecoatLSJ.

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