While most Americans are not aware of how serious hunger issues are in our great country, others have jumped, feet first, into the fight. These dedicated souls spend hours every week working to insure that no American goes hungry, ever.
Tyson Foods initiated the KNOW Hunger campaign, and as part of the company’s efforts to bring attention to the problem, it identifies folks considered to be Hunger All-Stars. Here are seven who truly are making a difference.
Marilyn Bader: A few years ago Marilyn, a retired senior living in sunny Florida, became increasingly concerned about the growing numbers of children, families, and seniors going hungry. To combat the problem in New Smyrna and Edgewater, Florida, she founded the all-volunteer Gifts of Love food bank in Edgewater. Marilyn is tireless in her fight. The food bank is manned completely by volunteers and 100 percent of any donations she collects goes to the cause. Gifts of Love also provides shoes for children when they start school in the fall, and donates gifts and food during the holidays. Currently, Marilyn is seeking to establish a program to feed kids over the weekends when they are not in school.
Walter Garcia: Walter Garcia came early to the plight of the hungry in South Florida. Today, he is general manager of Feeding South Florida, a food bank based in Miami. When he began nearly 20 years ago, he worked in the food bank’s warehouse and soon was promoted to director of the reclamation center, and from there to his current position. Over the years that he has been employed by the food bank, Walter has trained numerous volunteers and staff and made it possible for countless Floridians to eat healthfully and regularly. He also volunteers for the cause when he is off duty, most often as a D.J. for fundraising functions such as an annual community breakfast and the March for Hunger 5k Walk / Run.
Clair Halverson: From Pierre, South Dakota, Clair works with Feeding South Dakota and its Childrens Back Pack Program. He trains volunteers like himself in ways they can help fill the aching tummies of more than 2,700 children across the state. The program has grown in recent years in concert with the growth of families who need help stocking their kitchen shelves. Clair has adapted his training programs to meet these challenges — particularly the need to expand the program so that school children are fed over the weekends.
Toan Lam and Phoebe Russell: Toan Lam has worked for a number of network broadcasting and print news outlets around the country and is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post, but his true love is inspiring social change through social media networking. To this end, he founded GoInspireGo.com. The mission of the site is as a global platform for others to share their stories of how they have affected social change. For example, Toan’s group produced a video featuring Phoebe Russell, a five-year-old who was worried about homeless people. The youngster decided to raise money by collecting and recycling cans and bottles. Toan’s video went viral, and Phoebe’s story was picked up by various media. This led directly to $3,736.50 in donations to the San Francisco Food Bank.
Kimberly Porter: As the founder of Asset Development in Arkansas, Kimberly Porter’s mission is to empower low-income families so that they can become self sufficient. Kimberly and volunteers feed about 700 families in three Arkansas counties. Additionally, they go door-to-door to bring food to the elderly and shut-ins. During an ice storm in 2009, Kimberly herself took in 10 families and made sure they were fed and housed using her own resources. Without question, she believes that “everyone has something to give and share.”
Jay Quaile: Early in 2004, Jay Quaile gathered a number of folks from churches, temples and community groups in Putnam Valley, New York, to discuss the growing needs of local families who did not have enough food to eat. The result was the Putnam Valley Community Food Bank, which served 12 families in its first week. Today, the pantry helps more than 160 families every week in Putnam and northern Westchester counties. Based in Waccubuc, New York, the pantry gets its food from the local food bank — and just about all of it is ordered by Jay, who also cleans the pantry, stocks its shelves, and recruits volunteers.
Surely, these stories can be multiplied many times over in communities across the country. The six American adults and one child profiled here represent the care and concern we have for our neighbors as well as the ingenuity we display when we set out to solve a problem. It's the American way! For more stories, go to tysonhungerallstars.