It’s the first of the month and if you have been hanging around It’s Just Life for the past 3 years you know that I get pretty doggone excited when the first day of the month rolls around. Time to tally up the comments from the month and let you guys know how well you did at commenting! This past month all of your comments went to help Mitchell County Bridges Mentoring Program (click on their name to take you to their website). They do all kinds of fabulous things connecting kids with mentors and you can read about it more by clicking here to read what Lacy Waller, Program Coordinator,shared with us earlier. I am thrilled to announce that Chris and I will be making a donation of $285 to Bridges Mentoring to help them in their endeavors. Thank you from the bottom of my heart to all who have taken the time to comment this month. I know that they appreciate it as much as I do. Don’t forget to check out their fundraiser–Bricks for Bridges.
In October we will be featuring the Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank as our Comments for a Cause recipient. I am really excited to highlight this great place because I have donated to it through my local church for years. Everyone “gets” that we need food to live. What everyone does not always “get” is that sometimes even in our own great state with farms galore there are people who are going hungry. How can that be? Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank makes a huge difference to many individuals and families in our area that would otherwise be going without. Sometimes it is a decision between buying food or paying the rent. It could be a choice of buying medicines that are vital or buying food. Sometimes there is just not enough money to go around. That is when Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank comes in to lend a helping hand and offers some much needed groceries.
I recently asked Ozzie Ohl to share a few highlights about the Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank and he did a great job of answering my questions so that we can all understand a bit more about what this great place offers.
1. What is your job with the Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank and how long have you been associated with it? I am one of eighty volunteers. None of us really have a job— it is more a way for many people to share their time,talents or treasures. Currently my main focus is to help tell our story to the general public,help out with special events in the community and try to raise money to help with our current “Step up to the Plate” capital campaign and our holiday “Christmas is in the Cans” community drive for food and financial donations. In the three short years that I have been a volunteer I have worked in the order filling room, gone on food pickups, assisted people at the counter, made boxes of one in the mornings for the afternoon crew. Presently due to health issues my purpose has changed from helping with those physical tasks to being a big advocate and supporter for those we help and to let people know all the good that Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank does in north Iowa.
2. What does the food bank do–who do you serve and how does it all work? Do people come in and pick out food or do you deliver it to sites –how does it all work?
We are the largest all volunteer food bank served by the Food Bank of Iowa. We collect food through donations and purchase food and non essentials.
With our new location (which actually opens doors to clients today for the first time) clients will actually be able to come in and go with a client helper and pick out the food they want and will use. In our old location volunteers made up the boxes for the clients to pick up. Everything was predetermined and packed up according to the size of the family and what we had on hand. Now with client choice, everyone will get a shopping cart to go around the room and actually pick out their own preferences from a certain amount of meat, canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned soup, tomato products, pasta, peanut butter, mac and cheese along with extras, non essential products such as toilet paper, bar soap and other items. They will also be able to choose items from the produce case, bread and baked goods. The quantities they receive is still predetermined by the size of their family. We provide enough emergency food to make meals for four days. Last year our food bank provided enough food to make over 200,000 meals to help feed almost 17,000 people. Those we serve come from 42 different communities within the twelve county area surrounding Mason City.
3. If someone wanted to get involved in helping out –what are some ways that they could get plugged in? What is your biggest need? There are many ways that people can become involved. They can call us and become a stand by volunteer. Our stand by volunteers are people who want to help but just don’t want to be tied down every week. Naturally they could donate food or make a financial contribution. Someone could also host a food drive in their neighborhood, through their church, at their place of work or with a club or organization they belong too. Our biggest need is always going to be financial support.Even though we are an all volunteer organization it does take lots of money to operate. Last year close to 90% of our operating costs went for the purchase and acquisition of food and non perishables.
4. I see that you have a new facility. What is this new facility going to be able to do that your old facility did not allow you to do?
Our new facility will have about nine times as much storage as our former location. Everything will be on one level versus being scattered over several rooms on different levels in the other building. This will enable us to take advantage of orders we place with the Food Bank of Iowa. Many times items are only available for a very short period of time. In the past we didn’t have the space so we had to either pass or an item or order a much smaller quantity than we really could have used.
We now can have commercial a three door grade freezer and a three door commercial grade refrigerator. Those units allow us to offer a clients choice a very dignified shopping experience. This also allows us to accept more produce that needs refrigeration than we could in the past with our two household refrigerators and the one chest freezer and two uprights
We now will be handicap accessible for the first time in 32 years and instead of 4 parking spots in an alley we will have 14 on street parking spots.
We will now have the physical space for a commercial grade walk in cooler instead of two thirty year old household chest freezers. Our capacity will be increased by more than six times. Now our vehicle can be parked inside for the first time. All food bank deliveries can now be done inside and we don’t have to get everything unloaded, weighed and taken to all those storage rooms before 4 p.m like we did in our former location at Mohawk Square.
5. When you think about the Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank what excites you the most? I get excited about the food bank when I think of just how much so many volunteers give to help those who are disadvantaged and are in poverty or the working poor. Truly but there for the Grace of God go I.
6. Where does the food come from that you are able to distribute? The majority of the food we purchase from the Food Bank of Iowa since we are able to buy that for 14 cents a pound. We also buy food and non perishable items from our local grocery stores. Hy Vee East donates their day old bread and baked goods to us. As a partner with Community Kitchen we share twice weekly collections from Target and WalMart through their partnership agreement with Feeding America. Our volunteers pick this up every day Monday through Saturday. The remaining food comes to us from local individual and family donations plus community wide food drives held by schools, businesses, churches and other organizations.
7. If you had one wish for the Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank what would it be?
My wish would be that we could finish up our “Step up to the Plate” capital campaign. Right now we have raised around $204,000. Originally we thought we would need $300,000 but due to unexpected cost overruns we need $310,000. That leaves us about $96,000 short of where we need to be to finish off the project.
8. Anything you want my readers to know about the food bank that we haven’t already covered?
Yes. right now WalMart is doing a nation wide contest to give $60,000 cash grants to the top 50 state or regional Food Banks in America. Your readers would be doing us a huge favor if they would vote for the Food Bank of Iowa and share their vote. The contest ends Oct 5. everyone age 13 and over can vote. You can vote once every 24 hours. The way to do it is to go to this site: Walmart Fight Against Hunger. Once they visit this page they scroll down to see the Vote Today icon. Just below that is a search area. Type in IA and click The Food Bank of IA It is the first box they will see. Vote and share. Thank you!
Another great thing that they are doing is selling a fabulous cook book by a local author- Debbie Lestina. This book is more than a cookbook—it is a party planner with a myriad of party themes, recipes, and invitations. I saw that our church had a little table set up on my way out on Sunday and was pleasantly surprised that the $10 cost was going to help benefit the Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank. I think it might be time for another North Iowa Blogger party so I can use some of the great ideas. Copies are available locally at HyVee East, HyVee West, Fareway, Jitters, Coffee Cat, Head Quarters Hair Salon, Reflections and Salon, Ltd in Southbridge Mall. Did I say they were only $10??? What a bargain.
So to sum up this very long post—-comment and comment often! Every comment made on any blog post during the month of October will go to benefit Hawkeye Harvest Food Bank. A 50 cent donation will be made after the month is over for each and every legitimate comment (that means you actually read the post and made a comment that made sense!) that is made during on October on ANY blog post. Hit random post and you may find one from 5 years ago that makes you smile. Let’s make a difference. Please feel free to share however you wish to share–through Facebook, Twitter, email, word of mouth–it will all help to help us make a great contribution and help Step Up to the Plate! Thank you!
ONE FINAL PLUG–last week was My Favorite Things Week on It’s Just Life. Winners for the item being given away each day will be chosen by random at 9 pm tonight. That means if you have stuck with reading this long post this long you need to hop over here and start working through last week’s posts, comment on each one, and you will be entered to win the prize of the day!!! Come on! What are you waiting for?