“Right down to the smallest donation, each of those items is offering that family hope because they need that hope every day.”
– Cathy Ring, Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry Coordinator and Director of Operations End Hunger Food Pantries
At the beginning of October 2010, End Hunger in Calvert County set a goal to collect 100,000 pounds of food throughout the month. What it ended up with was 30,000 pounds more than that.
The Rev. Robert P. Hahn of Chesapeake Church, chairman of the nonprofit, said Calvert County citizens continue to amaze him. In the group’s first year, the community donated 23,000 pounds of food; in the second year, End Hunger collected 86,000 pounds from the community. This year’s total surpasses that by more than 50 percent.
End Hunger’s mission is to join the community together in donating food items for families in need, to either the organization’s warehouse or numerous food pantries in the county. It is a collaborative effort of various county churches, spanning different Christian denominations, businesses and schools. Hahn attributed this year’s success to even greater participation from organized bodies who decided to donate to the cause.
“We had more churches, more businesses, the schools continue to raise more — Calvert [has] very generous people,” Hahn said. A total of 27 churches and 55 businesses participated.
This year also marked an End Hunger first, with a donation of 800 pounds of meat — enough to serve 3,200 meals, Hahn said — from the Patuxent Young Farmers 4-H Club and the Calvert County 4-H Livestock Auction Committee.
“What those kids did is exactly what End Hunger in Calvert County is all about,” Hahn said. “It’s about grassroots, people feeding their neighbors.”
Most of the 130,000 pounds raised, however, have been all but used already, Hahn said. At Chesapeake Church alone, the number of people in need of its church pantry has nearly doubled this year.
“We used to see 50 to 60 people. It’s over 100 now in one day,” he said, and the second half of the recession is just beginning to hit Calvert. “So we’re predicting it to get a little bit worse.”
To combat this, End Hunger plans to bring on a part-time volunteer coordinator to help rally more people for the October 2011 cause; that will bring the organization’s staff to a total of two, the pastor said.
“Calvert County is one of the wealthiest counties in the U.S., yet the poverty rate has gone up. One of the things that tend to get lost is the responsibility of the community. We’re responsible for each other,” Hahn said. “I think it’s a good way to teach responsibility to our children.”
Cathy Ring, the coordinator of the Chesapeake Cares Food Pantry and also the director of operations for all End Hunger food pantries, said she hopes the community learns, if nothing else, not to fall into the misconception that all people who use food pantries are lazy or struggling with drug addiction. She has witnessed firsthand the way End Hunger’s efforts have boosted self-esteem of people who visit the pantries.
“We’ve coordinated food drops at some of the different pantries, and families have come,” Ring said. “They are just so grateful for the assistance. It’s really that they become less invisible. … Right down to the smallest donation, each of those items is offering that family hope because they need that hope every day.”
For this coming October’s End Hunger mission, Ring said she would like to have a breakdown of how much food each pantry collected versus the warehouse. She fears some people only donate to the warehouse and don’t realize that direct pantry donations count toward the overall total.
“People still should support pantries because in the end it’s all a partnership,” she said.
<strong><em>If you go</em></strong>
<em>This year’s End Hunger in Calvert County bike ride will be April 30 and will feature five different routes for beginners to more advanced riders. The event’s organizers anticipate about 500 riders. For more information and to register, go to<a href=”https://old.endhungercalvert.org/bike/” target=”_new”>www.endhungercalvert.org/bike/</a>.</em>