What did the Whitingham-Halifax Lions Club and the Deerfield Valley Rotary Club do with over 6,000 pounds of nonperishable food, 150 loaves of bread from the Vermont Bread Company, about 900 pounds of turkey, nearly 500 pounds of chicken breast, $500 worth of fresh produce, and 40 poinsettias? Well the Saturday before Christmas, teams of volunteers braved the cold temperature, some wearing Santa outfits, and delivered groceries and poinsettias to nearly 125 families; serving just about 425 people this year.
Based on a three-year US census study completed in 2011, Vermont is ranked 11th as the hungriest state. The statistics are alarming and I can confidently say that if you or your family is not struggling with food insecurity, I bet you know of a neighbor who is. Our program cannot possibly end the statistics, but we can certainly help, especially when more people are home during the holidays. The goal of our project is to deliver flowers as a “cheer up” or appreciation-type gesture and to deliver holiday groceries to folks who may be struggling, have had a recent illness or an injury. We work closely with schools, bus drivers, town clerks, town leaders and other local organizations to develop our recipient list, hoping not to leave anyone off who could use a little extra help over the holidays.
The program takes a lot of time and money, along with an “all hands on deck” type approach during the days leading up to the delivery date to guarantee success. Fundraising is step one. The Lions have “The Hungry Lion Bike Tour” fundraiser which helped significantly, along with our main supporter, TransCanada. The Rotary raises money within their club and we both have many local business and private donors, who make the program a success. Step two is to gather recipients and to find large, dry locations to pack and deliver the groceries. Thirdly, we contact the Vermont Food Bank. They are amazing to work with and their prices enable us to order higher quantities. Any item not available through the Food Bank is ordered from local grocery stores. Next, volunteers arrive the evening before delivery to pack the cases of food items. Packing has really come down to a science, ensuring that families of seven receive more food than a family of two. Last comes delivery day! Coordinators give drivers addresses, poems, and general instructions. The drivers load up the bags of groceries for each recipient, grab some frozen meats, and head out the door.
The Whitingham-Halifax Lions Club has been fighting food insecurity now for over 20 years and it has become our largest project. The Deerfield Valley Rotary club has partnered the last two years and with our joint efforts, we get a little bit better each year. However, as our efforts get stronger, the need continues to rise. If you would like to know more about this project or become involved, please let us know.
Special thanks to Briggs Automotive in Jacksonville and Frank Sprague’s Stone Puddles shop in Wilmington for generously offering a place to pack and deliver the groceries. Thanks to Home Depot in Greenfield for discounts toward our flowers, to BJ’s Warehouse for donating overstock items, the Brattleboro Co-op, People’s United Bank, Wal-Mart, Dawson-MacDonald, Jacksonville General Store, Shaws, Subaru of Brattleboro, the Vermont Bread company, the Hogback Gift Shop, and to Bartleby’s for their continued support. Many continued thanks to TransCanada, along with our many private supporters. Without help from the community and our strong partnership with the Deerfield Valley Rotary, our project could not and would not serve as many families. It’s nice living in a community where people care about the well-being of others. It’s equally nice being affiliated with the organizations that figure out how to help. I’m a proud Lion and a proud member of my community.
Jennifer Betit-Engel, President of the Lions