Friday, December 18, 2009

To begin with, let me express my thanks to everyone who responded to our calls for donations during the holiday season and found the compassion to provide gifts of food or monetary contributions to make this time of year a little less distressing for those in need. As I said last time, the lines of hungry and despairing people wanting just to provide for their families during a time when so many of us take food for granted reached record lengths. I am happy to say that we did not turn anyone away empty-handed.

Just the other week we wrapped up the 11th annual Share Your Holiday Food Drive, and I wanted to express my thanks to everyone who helped us transform a cold, damp parking garage in downtown Columbia into a bustling donation nerve center and television studio. This is the 11th year we have partnered with WACH Fox to put on this day-long, drive-through food drive at First Baptist Church. Despite the rain and gloomy weather, I am happy to say that we took in 1.78 million pounds of food during the food drive, and a large amount of monetary donations. This exceeds last year’s donation level, and will go a long way toward helping us feed the hungry through the holiday season. Thank you to our great sponsors: SCE&G, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Palmetto GBA, SCANA, First Baptist Church, Citadel Broadcasting and Food Lion. Thank you to companies like the Mungo Company and Wachovia Wells Fargo for showing up with generous cash donations. Thank you to First Baptist Church for giving us such a wonderful central location to work from. And of course thank you to everyone at WACH Fox who worked with us from 5:00 am to 7:30 pm.

I wish I could say the need for your concern and donations was over. But the necessity for hunger relief is still ever-present in our community. We anticipate the demand for food next week to reach all time highs, and so there are still those unfortunates who struggle to make their modest incomes sufficient for all their needs, and are forced to make the difficult decision to turn to us for help.

If you have given to us recently, then I urge you to make your friends and family aware of  the warmth and comfort you derived from knowing that you helped others in their time of need and despair. Let them know how much giving has meant to you as well as those who are suffering. And let them know that this week we are pleased to participate in several events meant to make giving not just rewarding, but convenient and perhaps even fun.

At this time, I think it is important to talk about need in our community. Need that comes from so many of our neighbors who seek assistance in putting food on the table. This is something that many of us take absolutely for granted. Let me give you an example: the other morning I went to make a quick breakfast before coming to work, and I was little put out when I discovered that I was out of milk for my coffee and bread to make toast. The first thing I thought was: I don’t have anything to make for breakfast.  And then I realized I had eggs, I had cheese, and easily a half dozen other things to make for my breakfast.  But for so many of our suffering and hungry neighbors, when they say they don’t have anything to make for breakfast, they really mean they don’t have ANYTHING. Not for themselves, not for their children and not for the others in their family. Not for breakfast…not for lunch…and not for dinner. The next time you walk into your kitchen, I want you to look around and see how much food you really have, and try to imagine not having anything in the refrigerator or pantry. Then try to imagine not having any idea where your next meal will come from. That’s the reality for so many of our neighbors spread over the 20 counties that Harvest Hope serves. That’s what I mean by need.

To finish up, I would like to encourage everyone this holiday season to give a gift to the hungry children, seniors and needy families in our community through our Holiday Gift Catalog. We are offering opportunities to people who want to make a financial donation to the food bank in honor of someone for the holidays.  It’s easy – just call with your credit card or send a check along with the names and addresses of the honorees and we’ll take care of the rest. Take a look at the Holiday Gift page on our website to find out how easy and affordable it is.

Before I wrap things up this time I would like to leave you with two thoughts on the joy and power of giving:

This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of God's people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Corinthians 9:12

 We should give as we would receive, cheerfully, quickly, and without hesitation; for there is no grace in a benefit that sticks to the fingers. Seneca

We hope to see hear from you soon, and bless you for your generous gifts,

Denise Holland

Monday, November 23, 2009

I’ve been thinking a lot about Thanksgiving over the last few days. Sometimes I think we’ve all become so used to the word as a description of a specific day, a specific holiday, that we have lost sight of what a term like thanks-giving truly means. As families rush around preparing for Thanksgiving dinners and get-togethers this week, I wanted to slow things down if possible and reflect on some things worth giving thanks for. And maybe correct some misconceptions about those who come to us for help.

Here at Harvest Hope Food Bank, we all count our blessings daily and sometimes hourly. We feel the need for thanks-giving to our many, many donors and contributors. To all of the churches and civic organizations that take time out of their days to work with us and organize food drives and encourage everyone coming through their doors to drop off food items. To all of the area businesses who provide generous financial gifts to help us pay for food and the means to provide for the needy. To all of the volunteers who chose to spend time working at our emergency food pantries, who not only find the time in their busy lives to help out, but allow themselves to see the faces of the hungry and experience first-hand a measure of sorrow that many others do not wish to see. And to those private citizens who drop off gifts of food in our food barrels around town, or come to our facilities with carloads of food to give to their desperate neighbors.

Let me take the time to talk a little about those neighbors, the people who line up each morning and ask for our help. From time-to-time I hear others, others who obviously are blissfully unaware of how fortunate they are, make disparaging comments about the hungry and unfortunate who line up to see us. They want to categorize these people as lazy or unwilling to work to provide for themselves. For some reason I cannot understand, they think that it is easy to line up at food pantries like ours and ask for things so many of us take for granted.

Well friends, it is not easy, and I can assure you that these people do not want to be here. Many of them have jobs; in fact 93% of the people who come to us for emergency food are working but still exist below the poverty line and struggle to provide the most basic of necessities for themselves and their families. As I look out my window today, I see a long line of people waiting in the cold and the rain to tell us of their circumstances and leave with one less thing to worry about for a little while: food for their families. A basic human need. Think about. People who go to work everyday, people who have two or three jobs, people who struggle to earn a living and still do not make enough to pay all the bills and feed their families.

Many we see have lost jobs, and want nothing more than to return to work and return to the security and dignity that comes from providing for themselves. Many have college degrees and formerly held high-paying jobs, but have been laid off, let go, downsized, phased down, phased out, or any of a number of terms that have come to be polite ways of saying…forced toward poverty. Terms like “jobless recovery” or “economic recovery” have no meaning for them. These terms do not pay for groceries. For the past 26 months I have seen an increasing demand for our services. We currently serve over a 100% more people than we did last year. Throughout the year we have seen 400 to 500 people a day line up when we open our doors in the morning. This week, the week of Thanksgiving, we expect to see upwards of 800 people a day. Believe me friends, they would rather be warm and dry at work than wet and shivering in line for food.

The State newspaper just ran a story listing Columbia as one of the top ten most charitable cities in the country. I see proof of this everyday as I see the donors, the contributors, the businesses bringing food and writing checks to us, and the volunteers in our emergency food pantry. And not just in Columbia. We see the efforts and concerns of good people helping out in the Pee Dee region and the Greater Greenville area. Our good citizens know what blessings are, and know what they have to give thanks for. Many may know that given the wrong circumstances, they themselves could go from giving to the needy to in just a few months becoming the needy. We at Harvest Hope give thanks to these angels in our community. We are blessed to live and work with them.

The Lord can say to every one of these caring and generous members of the community: “Job well done good and faithful servants.”

Let’s remember what thanks-giving truly means. It is a wonderful time of year and a wonderful holiday. But more than that, it is a wonderful term we should keep in our hearts, cherish and remember throughout the year.

Thank You and God Bless You and Your Family,

Denise Holland