GREENFIELD — Area food pantries are expecting a pinch to their pocketbooks after learning a longstanding food drive won’t continue this year.
40,000 Pounds of Giving, which collected food for a dozen area food pantries and soup kitchens, owed its nearly 12-year history to Carl Denny, the former executive director of the Hancock Hope House.
Denny led the event last year, despite having moved away and taken another job, but he is unable to continue with the event this year, said Denny, who now lives in Hendricks County. The food drive typically takes place the second weekend in December in Greenfield, but schedule restraints prevented it from happening this year, he said.
Without its top cheerleader coordinating the event, 40,000 Pounds of Giving — which last year went well above its goal and collected some 72,000 pounds — is on hiatus at least this year. Denny declined to comment on whether it would continue in Hancock County next year.
Denny created the food drive that benefited some eight county agencies and several in neighboring counties. Denny set the goal of 40,000 pounds of food for the drive he founded in 2006 based on the legal weight limit of a 53-foot-long semi-tractor trailer. That first year, he didn’t reach his goal, but in 2014, the event shattered its previous records, bringing in some 125,000 pounds of food.
In the past 11 years, the event collected more than 500,000 pounds of nonperishable food items, Denny said. Area food pantries said the pasta, cereal — and in recent years, thousands of pounds of donated Gatorade — provided a huge boost during the busy holiday months.
One of the main recipients of the food collected during the drive has been the Kenneth Butler Memorial Food Pantry. Executive director Jill Ebbert said the Greenfield pantry owes its survival in its first years of existence to 40,000 Pounds of Giving and to Denny.
“We got in on it the very first year we were open,” Ebbert recalled. “At that time, our shelves were pretty sparse.”
The soup kitchen has grown in donors to the point where it doesn’t rely on the Christmastime food drive as much, she said. While the loss of the drive won’t be a hardship for the soup kitchen, it will affect smaller organizations much more deeply, she said.
“We’re so enormously blessed that we will be OK,” she said. “Some of the other pantries, they’re really going to miss it.”
The loss of the food items will take a chunk out of pantries’ savings, said Lora Kay Wedgeworth, director of the Fortville Main Street Food Pantry, a ministry of Fortville United Methodist Church.
In the last 11 years, Wedgeworth and volunteers drove four or five carloads from 40,000 Pounds of Giving back to the pantry every year, she said.
The Fortville pantry sees 25 to 35 people a week come through its doors in the winter months, she said.
“We’re going to have to dig into our funds,” she said. “We’ll have to do more shopping, and that means our funds won’t last as long.”
Ebbert hopes someone will take over 40,000 Pounds of Giving, even if it’s a smaller food drive than the event had grown to in recent years.
Denny encouraged the community to support area nonprofits despite the drive not continuing this year.
“I know the community, as generous as they are, will step up,” he said. “I want to thank everybody in Hancock County who was a part of 40,000 Pounds of Giving. I want to make sure they know I’m very thankful for that.”
Editor’s note: this story has been updated to reflect corrections to an earlier version of the story.