MOUNT VERNON — Words such as charitable, magnanimous and munificent barely begin to describe the extraordinary generosity of Knox County as citizens opened their hearts and purse strings to support the 2017 Food for the Hungry Drive, donating a record $313,691 in cash donations and 21 truckloads of food items.
“I am totally astounded,” an emotional Lisa Mazarri, drive coordinator, told the News at the end of Saturday’s drive. “We see so many terrible things that are happening in the world and are so inundated with the negative messages. Today it’s real. Today it is positive. This is who we are. This is what our community is all about — unconditional caring and support for our hungry neighbors.”
A major portion of the total came from last weekend’s Snowflake Gala sponsored by Kenyon College. Kenyon President Sean Decatur was pleased to announce more than 200 guests attended the gala and contributed $147,000 to Food For the Hungry, breaking all previous records.
Decatur believes the Gala is a great sign of how generous and dedicated this community is to the Food For the Hungry effort.
“The honorees, Jim and Maureen Buchwald, were particularly fitting because of the generosity they have had for the community,” he said. “That added to the special sense of the event. And it was just a wonderful demonstration of Knox County’s generosity. … It’s amazing how Food For the Hungry is a true community project.”
Kenyon students, staff and employees also completed a number of activities and events in support of Food For the Hungry. Decatur told the News the food drive is an annual cause that the Kenyon community gets behind every year.
“It’s amazing to see the way the students get involved,” he said. “I am so proud of the way the Kenyon community has stepped up.”
Knox County Career Center’s efforts on behalf of the hungry were also “over the top,” reported principal John Feltman. The basket auction brought in $2,825 and students and staff gave $4,800 in cash and 718 food items, with the auto tech lab leading the pack with more than $2,000 in monetary donations and 37 cans of food.
“I’m very proud,” Feltman admitted.
Villagers in the greater Knox County area also jumped in to help their neighbors in need. Centerburg collected $1,125 and 219 cans of food. Danville residents donated $3,673 and 480 pounds of food, with the schools’ contributions still to be counted. Fredericktown chipped in with 3,445 food items and $7,750.90 in cash. Katie Frazier of the Fredericktown Interchurch office said another $5,000 was pledged from the village Christmas Walk.
In addition to Interchurch Social Services, The Salvation Army, other programs received funding Saturday as part of the FFH grant program including Covenant Church Food Pantry. Pam Vanderpool, who accepted the grant Saturday, was overwhelmed with this year’s response.
“Just today (Saturday) we served 201 families,” she told the News. “Times that by four because we provide enough food to feed a family of four for two weeks. Food For the Hungry money also helps us provide things that federal food assistance programs do not, things such as toilet paper, diapers, paper towels, shampoo and personal care items, things that we tend to take for granted. … God is good.”
The Food For the Hungry board voted in the fall how it would distribute funds received up to the $200,000 goal. Of those monies, $21,500 was awarded Saturday through the drive’s grant program to assist groups and agencies that provide food and/or meals to Knox County residents. The Salvation Army and Interchurch Social Services will receive 42 percent each and 6 percent is held in reserve to cover FFH operational costs. The board will meet to discuss how to allocate the money raised over and above the goal, nearly $114,000.
“I can’t express enough gratitude for the continued generous giving of this community,” said Joe Rinehart, FFH board president. “Our board was confident that we could meet and surpass the 2017 goal, but breaking $300,000 was beyond any of our wildest dreams. We’re excited now to reconvene as a board to discuss how to make the most impact with these additional funds.”
Video from Saturday’s drive is available at www.mvnu.tv and select “on demand.”