GREENFIELD — This could be the year – the year the 40,000 Pounds of Giving food drive finally reaches the goal for which the event was named.
“I think we actually have a chance of reaching our 40,000 pound goal this year,” said event founder Carl Denny.
The one-day collection of canned goods and other nonperishable food items is in its seventh year. During a four-hour stretch one Saturday each year, donations are stuffed into a 53-foot-long semi tractor trailer. Denny came up with the name for the campaign based on the amount of food that can legally be transported by such a trailer. Denny said he knew the goal was a lofty one when he started the event in 2006, but he set a high goal “because there is high demand.”
“The trailer and the name really is just symbolic for what a community can do when they join together for one cause,” Denny said. “One person can do four pounds, maybe 14 pounds. But if you bring the community together, 40,000 pounds is achievable.”
What started as a small, grassroots campaign to put extra supplies on the shelves of local food pantries during the holidays has grown by leaps and bounds each year, Denny said.
In the first few years, donation totals, while significant, were far off from the 20-ton goal. Even just two years ago, the drive brought in only 12,000 pounds of food donations. But last year’s drive was the largest yet, collecting 21,000 pounds of food in just four hours and marking what Denny hopes is a turning point for the event.
“I think this year is going to be a little different,” Denny said.
He explained that while donations will continue to come in one can at a time, he also expects some large contributions from corporate donors. He said that after six years in the community, 40,000 Pounds has garnered more recognition and a good reputation, which will lead to greater participation.
That’s good news for the seven Hancock County agencies that stand to benefit. Hancock County Food Pantry, Kenneth Butler Memorial Soup Kitchen, Hancock Hope House, Main Street Food Pantry (Fortville), Angel Connection Food Pantry, Brandywine Community Church Food Pantry and McCordsville United Methodist Church Food Pantry will split this year’s donations. All of the donations are divided and distributed on the day of the event; Hancock County Food Pantry will receive the lion’s share, since it is the largest organization and reaches the most people.
“It gives us diversity in our products and foodstuffs that we’re able to offer to our clients,” said Tom Ferguson, executive director. “Any donation we receive helps us stretch our financial resources, stretch our budget. What a blessing that is.”
But it isn’t just large organizations that benefit. Though Angel Connection receives a smaller share of the donated goods, founder Donna Foster said it’s still one of the largest food drives of the year for her small, independent pantry.
“I have to go out and raise money for myself and I depend upon food drives like this one to keep my pantry going,” said Foster, who sees anywhere from 25 to 50 families each month at the McCordsville pantry. “It’s a very important food drive for us; it’s a big day.”
Not only does the drive help keep pantry shelves full, it also helps connect agencies doing similar work that may not otherwise interact. Foster said building those relationships through 40,000 Pounds has been a huge benefit for her organization. When places like Hope House or the soup kitchen have food items they can’t use, Foster said they often give them to her.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to meet the other people involved,” she said.
Ferguson, too, said the atmosphere is one of camaraderie. After all, all of the participating organizations are there for the same reason – helping those in need.
“There is a lot of goodwill and fellowship that happens on the day of the event,” he said.
Representatives from the partner organizations and volunteers will be on hand from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Dec. 8 at Greenfield Kroger, 1527 N. State St., accepting the donations of nonperishable food items.
“I want to challenge all the businesses in Hancock County, all the civic organizations; I want to challenge them to be a part of this, to show up and help us load the truck,” he said. “That’s my challenge to the county: be a part of 40,000 Pounds of Giving.
“We’re going to do it.”