HANCOCK COUNTY — Carl Denny set the bar high when he founded the Hancock Hope House’s food drive in 2006.

The first year, he fell far short of his 40,000 pound goal – the legal weight limit of a 53-foot-long semi-tractor trailer – for which the event, 40,000 Pounds of Giving, is named. But last year, donors brought in more than 125,000 pounds of nonperishable food items for the one-day event, shattering all previous records.

And Denny, the director of the Hancock Hope House, a shelter for homeless people from Hancock, Shelby and Rush counties, said he hopes to do better at this year’s event, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Dec. 5 at Kroger in Greenfield, 1571 N. State St. At the event, volunteers will collect donations of nonperishable foods and home items, like paper towels and toothbrushes, Denny said.

What started as a small grassroots campaign to put extra supplies on the shelves of local food pantries during the holidays has expanded substantially from year to year, Denny said.

“It’s grown into something that’s truly spectacular,” he said. “The community has really gotten behind this effort, and we’ve gained a lot of traction.”

In all, 11 different charitable organizations across four Indiana counties will divvy up this year’s donations, he said.

In Hancock County, eight different agencies stand to benefit from the drive, Denny said.

The Hancock County Food Pantry will receive the majority of the donations, Denny said, because it’s the largest organization and reaches the most people.

Denny has expanded the reach of the drive, which was originally focused on benefiting local pantries, because the need is so high, he said.

“If a person living in poverty is struggling to provide enough food for themselves or their children, then we all can recognize that if we have the ability to help them, we should,” Denny said.

Tom Ferguson, president of the Hancock County Food Pantry, said he looks forward to the event each year, despite the prospect of snow and cold winds, he said.

“It doesn’t matter if the weather turns; we just put on our wool and hats and keep going,” he said.

The event brings out a sense of camaraderie among the volunteers, no matter which agency they show up to support. If one pantry is seeking low-sodium items for seniors, he said, they pass those goods along to whichever organization needs them most.

“Regardless of where each pantry is located, we’re all there to serve a common cause, to feed those in need within our respective communities,” he said. “There’s a lot of sharing.”

Individual donations from Hancock County residents and community organizations are combined with those from corporate donors, Denny said.

And as a result, some good-natured competitions have come out of it, he said.

Members of the Greenfield Rotary club have a standing rivalry against the Greenfield Kiwanis Club, but it’s all in good spirit, said Jim Cherry, president of the local Kiwanis.

“It’s just a way to have some fun with it,” Cherry said. “We’re all in it for the same reason. We just want to round up as much as we can.”

After the event ends, all donated goods are divided and loaded into trucks, then hauled to the receiving agencies, Denny said.

After surpassing the goal for the event years ago, Denny said he’s toyed with the idea of renaming it to better reflect the new goal — a statewide food drive.

“Eventually, my goal is to change the name of the event from 40,000 pounds of giving to 400,000 pounds of giving, with coordinated efforts in all corners of the state,” he said. “But that will come with time.”

Agencies that will benefit from the event

Eleven agencies from four counties will benefit from Hancock Hope House’s 40,000 Pounds of Giving on Dec. 5

Hancock County:

Angel Connection Food Pantry

Brandywine Community Church

Fortville Main Street Food Pantry

Hancock County Food Pantry

Hancock Hope House

Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen

McCordsville United Methodist Church

Meals on Wheels of Hancock County

Hamilton County:

Food 4 Souls

Henry County:

South Memorial Church of God

Rush County:

Carthage Community Church 

Daniel Morgan is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. He can be reached at (317) 477-3228 or dmorgan@greenfieldreporter.com.