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Yuma food bank campaign has $1.5 million goal
It's fitting that the Yuma Community Food Bank kicked off its new capital campaign Tuesday in a building that used to be a plate factory.
“Step up to the Plate” is the name of the campaign, a reference to the paper plates that symbolize the stories of those served by the organization. Customers often write thank-you notes or explain why they go to the food bank on simple white paper plates.
The food bank launched the $1.5 million campaign at a “working press conference,” with attendees invited to roll up their sleeves and volunteer immediately afterwards.
Also announced was that an anonymous donor has pledged a matching contribution of $500,000.
“To maximize the effect, we as a community need to come together,” said Chris Harmon, chairman of the YCFB board of directors.
The campaign funds will be used to purchase needed equipment and as matching funds for food grants. The funds will also allow the food bank to better serve existing customers as well more people. The organization currently serves more than 24,000 each month. Last year, it distributed 12 million pounds of food, six million in fresh produce.
“Most of us are so fortunate to have jobs and to have our basic minimum needs met, but there are thousands of families that need your help,” Mike Ivers, executive director, said.
With Yuma's high unemployment and depressed economy, the food bank feels the community's pain every day through an increase in demand.â€¨
"Even the smallest effort on your part could make an immense difference in the lives of others in our community,” Ivers noted.
This is not an ordinary capital campaign, which typically focus on matching donations, said Kristan Sheppeard of Limelight Creative Group, the firm that is managing the campaign.
This is a “Yuma style” campaign, Sheppeard explained, in which the community will climb the “mountain” one step at a time until reaching the top through matching donations, volunteer opportunities and corporate and individuals donations.
The food bank unveiled several ways community members and businesses can help. Local companies can display campaign signs and paper plates in their place of business and ask customers to donate $10. Donors will be invited to sign plates and write messages of hope for food bank customers. Materials, including signs and paper plates, will be provided.
Businesses and organizations can also join the effort with matching donations. As an example, Ivers pointed to the Foundation of Yuma Regional Medical Center, which has committed to $2,500 quarterly donations.
Wayne Steffey, the foundation's executive director, said the board was shocked to learn the extent of hunger in Yuma County.
Ivers noted that 43 percent of children in Yuma County are considered “food insecure” and do not know where their next meal is coming from. This is especially true during the weekends, when children can't eat at school.
To fill this need, the food bank is distributing backpacks with food to children on Fridays to ensure they don't go hungry over the weekend. The organization now serves 750 children weekly, doubling the number of children served in one year's time.
Upon learning of the campaign, Pat Walz, YRMC CEO, challenged the hospital's executive team to consider making individual personal contributions and pledged to match the donations.
Walz challenged all local CEOs and company leaders to lead by example in supporting the community food bank. Recognizing the role of food in a healthy community, Walz said, “A healthy Yuma is not out of reach. We have the opportunity to make Yuma healthier.”
Through the Fill Your Plate Club, employees of local businesses may volunteer during their lunch hours at the food bank. The Hampton Inn staff was the first crew to go to work as part of the club Tuesday.
The food bank also urged individuals to rally their friends and families to help distribute 500 plates and raise $10 per plate.
Lizeth Servin, recreation coordinator in San Luis, Ariz., made a personal donation and pledged to ask her family for continued support of the food bank. Realizing that food is essential to life, her family agreed to make a monthly contribution, she said.
Ivers noted that people tend to judge others until they know the complete story. “We don't have any idea what's going in other people's lives.”
Ivers has gotten a glimpse of the struggles people face through messages left on plates. One message that sticks out in his mind: “The reason we come to the food bank is because my parents lost their jobs and we don't have money. We spend most of our money on my little sister's cancer medicine, so we don't have food to eat. People who don't appreciate the food bank, it's like not appreciating their life because the food bank helps us stay alive. I thank God for the food bank. I'm 16 and hoping to work soon to help my parents and my little sister.”
Ivers invited the community to support the campaign. “We are waging a war on hunger in Yuma. ‘Step up to the Plate' in this capital campaign. Join us on the front lines so we can win this war on hunger.”
For more information, call the food bank at 343-1243.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The Step up to the Plate campaign consists of a variety of ways individuals and groups can help. They include:
• Match Donor Program – Match donors are pledging to match the Yuma community donations.
• Business donations – Businesses have the opportunity to join the match donors. Each $10,000 donation will earn the donor a place in a piece of art commissioned at the end of the campaign.
• Community donations – Local businesses will display campaign signs and paper plates in their place of business. They will ask their customers to donate $10 and sign plates that will be provided as a message of support to food bank customers.
• Step up to the Plate partners – Individuals are needed to rally their friends and families to join their goal of distributing 500 plates and raising $10 per plate.
• Fill Your Plate Club – Businesses are needed to “fill their plate” for one hour during lunch. The “working lunch” will include stuffing boxes, helping with administrative tasks, etc.