‘Feed the hungry’ deliversPublished 8:15pm Wednesday, December 12, 2012
A police escort for a beer truck isn’t something usually seen in Dowagiac.
But this Leinenkugel’s vehicle, courtesy of O.K. Distributing in St. Joseph, contained a cargo to rival Santa’s sleigh, as it kept disgorging a seemingly endless procession of pallets packed with thousands of pounds of food.
Forklift after forklift, cartons came, including big banana boxes filled with packages of bacon. Volunteers formed a box brigade to pass packages, including the police escort from Lyons Industries, Deputy Chief Steve Grinnewald and Officer Stacey Ruth.
Even with dozens of volunteers who seemed to materialize out of nowhere, it took 90 minutes to empty the truck and parcel its contents into eight piles for waiting churches in Dowagiac, Cassopolis and Keeler to load for further distribution.
Food came from Feeding America West Michigan Food Bank in Benton Harbor.
Southwest Michigan’s regional nonprofit clearinghouse for donated food on its way from the food industry to churches and charity agencies that assist needy people costs 25 cents on the dollar, leveraging C. Wimberley’s third annual $10,000 feed the hungry goal to fill baskets with $40,000 worth of food.
In 2009, Feeding America distributed enough food for more than 1.7 million meals via partner agencies in Cass, Berrien and Van Buren counties.
“When the entire community goes together and donates, we get more for the money,” said Dale Dandurand, former Wimberley sales manager. “We got stuff we didn’t have last year, like fresh eggs. Because of all the other stuff we got, they donated some frozen meat products. Thirty-two cases of baby bottles, divided by eight, is four per church. If one does more with babies than another, they can swap it around.”
Jim Allen, who succeeded Dandurand in organizing this year’s event, covered two vehicles with NASCAR-style stickers for each $100 or more donation in time for the Dec. 7 Christmas parade. Creative Vinyl not only kept pace with 25 percent more decals, it continues to donate them.
Allen said, rather than undertake a second distribution, as originally planned, the remaining funds will be converted to gift cards at local grocery stores and distributed among the partner churches, which feed the needy year-’round.
Victory Tabernacle on Middle Crossing Road, for example, fed “about 105 families at Thanksgiving. They cleaned me out,” said Leroy Pond. “I had people call me Monday, and I said I have no food until I get this.”
Victory Tabernacle disburses food boxes the third Wednesday (Dec. 19) every month from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., though he opens early when it’s cold because a line starts forming by 7 a.m.
“You have to be from Cass County and show ID,” he said. “There are three of us in the room, which kids help carry it out. It’s a good-sized box, about 30 pounds. It’s hard for people right now, and we’ve got so many coming in. This ought to serve 100.”
Someone donated 30 turkeys at Thanksgiving. He augmented that with Harding’s Friendly Market selling him chickens at cost for the rest.
When Pond put word out he could use a freezer, hoping someone might have an old one in their garage they didn’t want, another benefactor generously came through with a new one.
“I’ve been doing this four or five years,” Pond said. “Giving food away is a permanent thing for our church. We used to do it twice a month. I’ve got a gambler who gives 10 percent of whatever he earns to the food bank. I’m not going to turn it down because it feeds hungry people.”
Tags: C. Wimberley Auto Group