Sunday, October 12, 2008

County Wide Food Drive

The County Wide Food Drive is finally over and it was a complete success!! We had tons of volunteers who worked hard to collect 116 tons of food! We beat our goal of 90 tons and far surpassed the amount we raised in 2007 (101 tons).

I was really nervous about how much food we would raise. I figured that it could go either way. Donations could have been very low this year due to the economic crisis that we are in. I was worried that we wouldn't hit our goal, but I knew that if that was the case it was a reflection of the difficulty families are having right now to keep their heads above water.

Thankfully, when our community is in need we answer by giving greatly. I feel that more people gave this year and gave more because they KNOW how bad the need is out there. I believe that even those families struggling gave because they know how much harder things are for them and they still want to help others.

All in all, it was an amazing day. I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and was amazed at this event we put on. At one collection site I saw an elderly man folding bags while a young girl (maybe 5 years old) was helping her dad sort cans of vegetables. At another site I saw Caucasians, Hispanics, African Americans, and Asians all working together sorting food.

This food drive is more than just collecting food. It is bringing people together from every walk of life, every age group, and every race towards one common issue. It is more than giving cans to the poor. It is teaching future generations that it is important to give to our neighbors and help those who are struggling. In my opinion I think that it is easier to write a check and send it off than to show up, roll up your sleeves, and rub elbows with your neighbor while working to help another.

This is a video at the NE collection site. They have a whole pulley like system. It was awesome. They pushed the boxes inside, people would grab them and start to sort through them on the table to the left. They did great!

BTW, here is the article written on WZZM's website about the drive:

Poor economy impacts Grand Rapids

Web Editor: Angela Cunningham

Grand Rapids (WZZM) - The poor economy continues to take a toll on families and people across Michigan who are finding it harder to make ends meet.

Saturday, two Grand Rapids events offered some hope to those in need.

"I have been working on this since it started and I bring my daughters out every year," said Barb Hikade a volunteer at the ACCESS County Wide Food Drive. "It's like in biblical times we were like apostles going door to door connecting with the needs of today. And with the economy the way it is right now there is even more of a need."

Dozens of volunteers like Hikdade hauled boxes of food in by the car load at six sorting sites Saturday. They spent hours sorting and packing 114 tons of food that will make its way to the network of 100 food pantries throughout Greater Grand Rapids.

"We need the food more than ever this year. I've been with Access for 23 years and I've never seen the level of need or the stress on the pantry system like we have this year," said Marsha DeHollander the program director for ACCESS.

DeHollander blames a bad economy that's also putting stress on families who don't have enough food to feed their families.

"There is a tremendous need in our community. I have never seen so many new people coming in to the pantries saying I used to be on the other end giving. I can't believe I'm needing food at this time."

She says without food pantries would have to make impossible choices.

"I mean people really struggling. We say if we can help with your food budget maybe that frees up a little money to put gas in your gas tank."

She says the 116 tons of food volunteers collected Saturday exceeded her expectations and broke a record.

Hikdade is proud of the way the community has come forward to help.

"We need to help each other, to watch out for each other and to get past the materialism. We need to get back to the basic needs we have food shelter and most of all love," she said.

But there is one basic need that is harder to come by these days. And that's a job. Michigan has the highest unemployment rate in the nation, hovering around eight percent.

"I've been out of work for six months. I've desperately been looking and it's terrible out there. The economy is horrible we're losing more and more jobs all the time," says Valerie Clewley who drove over an hour from Mulliken to look for a job.

Clewley was one of thousands of job seekers to attend Saturday's Employment Expo held at the DeltaPlex at 2500 Turner NW in Walker.

She says it's a great way for employers to find people willing to work hard.

"You get good people. You get excellent people. I'm one of those, I have 17 years experience in my field and I can't find a job."

Jeremy VanTatenhove of Zeeland has been looking for work for a few weeks. He's filled out several applications at the Employment Expo and says he's willing to take almost any job he's offered.

"Yeah anything. I filled out an application at a car recycling place. I filled one at a barstool place that makes furniture, just anything."

Clewley says she was disappointed that close to half of the 36 employers at the Expo were recruiting for jobs in other states like North Dakota. She left the job fair less than enthusiastic.

Clewley says she hopes she has better luck soon, especially since it appears it will take a while for the economy to improve.

"I'm afraid it will take five or six years to turn around and I cant be unemployed that long. As it is, I'm going from a professional atmosphere and I'm applying for jobs with Walmart, with Lowes anywhere I can get a job because that's what I have to do. I have to work."

Angela Cunningham

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