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Facilitators Of Gratitude

Sharea Rodgers shakes hands with Foodbank volunteer Ron Banister / Photo by Bethany Prange

When one hears the term “fundraising”, they may automatically think of dollars and cents.

But to me, fundraising and development at a nonprofit means much more than generating revenue to support hunger relief.

Part of our role as good stewards for our donors and supporters is to represent our organization in an open and engaging way. We share honest, compelling stories of the individuals we serve so that the public at large will understand our mission. We also work to maintain the trust of our donors by providing food assistance to those in need in the most efficient and prudent manner possible.

But above all, our task is to serve as “facilitators of gratitude.”

Last month, I attended the St. Louis Business Journal Women’s Conference. I was pleased to hear positive feedback and see the facial expressions on individuals who were familiar with the St. Louis Area Foodbank. Many of the attendees were very complimentary of the services we provide to the community.  Several individuals thanked me for the services the Foodbank provides for those struggling with hunger, while others said they had conducted food drives benefiting the Foodbank or volunteered their time to our programs.

Prior to the conference, I was already proud to be associated with the Foodbank.  As part of the development team and Foodbank staff, I have witnessed firsthand the impact of providing a meal to people in need.  Recipients of the food are very grateful for the assistance.  In fact, their comments include “thank you for the work you do!” and “I don’t know what I would do without your help.”
It is my job to pass that immense gratitude on to the donors, volunteers and supporters who make our work possible.

Like the clients receiving food assistance, we are grateful to our donors for financial support, volunteer service and overall generosity.  You continue to give through:
• Volunteer Service
• Annual Campaigns
• Special Events
• Planned Giving
• Direct Mail
• Matching Gifts
• Honor/Memorial/Tribute Gifts
• Community and Corporate Food Drives

I speak with donors on a daily basis who constantly thank us for the work we do.  Often, they express just as much gratitude for the Foodbank’s work as the clients themselves.

Hearing encouraging words, such as “thank you,” humbles and drives us to continue to work hard to earn the donors’ trust and to properly acknowledge their generosity by providing nutritional food to as many people in need as possible.

During FY11, your generosity enabled us to:

• Distribute 25 million pounds of food

• Provide 20.4 million meals

So, as donors express their gratitude to us for the services we provide, we in turn express our “thank you” to you, our volunteers, our supporters and clients. Without your help, many people would not be able to feed their families.

Thank you for your trust and support.

    Sharea Rodgers is a development coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank

Delivering The Veggies – Produce Row

Produce Row in St. Louis Photo by Shannon O’ Connor

As children, we learned about the importance of eating enough of each of the food groups – meat, grains, dairy, vegetables and fruit.

Now, in my role as the product sourcing coordinator for the St. Louis Area Foodbank, that basic lesson is even more valuable – particularly since it is my job to bring in food for families in need.

My department works daily to solicit food donations from several sources: federal (USDA) commodities; local retail stores such as Walmart or Target; national manufacturers such as Kraft Foods; and of course, individual food drives.

From these sources, we strive to bring in a balance of bread, meat, dairy products and fresh produce.

But while each food group is essential for well-rounded nutrition, veggies and fruits get the gold star!  Fresh fruits and vegetables are one of the most overlooked categories of food, yet the most beneficial to the human body for energy and good health.

Fortunately, St. Louis is blessed to have an outstanding produce market right in our backyard – Produce Row.

Produce Row was established in St. Louis nearly 60 years ago, alongside our mighty Mississippi River.

This massive market includes 20 different business-to-business food service companies that receive produce from local farmers, as well as farms across the country.   The fresh vegetables and fruit they receive are distributed to local restaurants, grocers and educational institutions.

 

The St. Louis Area Foodbank has had the honor over the last several years to partner with some of these businesses.  The donations may include any produce items that fall into these categories:

  • Bulk
  • Discontinued
  • Low weight
  • Close-to-code
  • Off spec
  • Make-ready

In this fast-paced, 24-7 operation, it is crucial that the businesses maintain strict guidelines. They must keep their product fresh and sellable according to warehouse space, availability and product shelf life.

If there are items that do not meet these guidelines – such as imperfectly-shaped fruit – the Foodbank can distribute this food immediately to our families in need so it can be eaten instead of thrown in the trash.

Over the last two years, I have had the good fortune to meet and work with the team at Sunfarm Foodservice #84 Produce Row, one of the largest businesses in the market.

Sunfarm landed their spot on Produce Row in 1991 and have been serving the area with their remarkable products ever since.   As one of our weekly local donors, they supply the Foodbank with any items that are obtainable for donation after their inventory check.

Last year, Sunfarm donated over 35,000 pounds to our organization. In just the first two months of this year, they have donated nearly 10,000 pounds of fresh produce to the Foodbank.

This week I visited Sunfarm at Produce Row as one of our Foodbank drivers, Dale Vandeven, made a produce pick up. This visit gave me the chance to gain further insight on what exactly made Sunfarm stand out from the rest.

As Dale loaded the truck with our pallet of bananas, lettuce and tomatoes, I made my usual rounds of “hellos” to the familiar and friendly faces in the warehouse.

Sunfarm President John Pollaci explained that their operation does far more than deliver basic produce to restaurants.

“Our client list runs anywhere from your neighborhood eatery or café to your finest restaurant and country club,” Pollaci says.  “We have the greatest accounts with fine dining services, which encompass our high quality products.  We also handle accounts with area schools and have recently established a fresh fruit and vegetable snack program with 15 St. Louis public schools.”

“We represent a business with expertise in specialty items,” says Anthony Parrino, warehouse associate.  “We carry items from imported white asparagus to Daikon sprouts to edible orchids and anything in between.  Some of the most rich and resourceful produce you will see comes from our facility.”

Sunfarm Foodservice provides their clients, the Foodbank and our community with a professional and supportive partnership that I hope will only continue to prosper.  Special thanks to all of our donors in the Foodbank network who contribute to the operation and success of our organization and its goal to feed hungry people.

    Shannon O’Connor is the product sourcing coordinator at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.

Little Helping Hands

Photo Reenactment / Photo by Bethany Prange

“Knock, knock.”

Trish, the St. Louis Area Foodbank volunteer coordinator, laughed as she tapped her knuckles on the door of my office.

“I have someone here who wants to make a donation,” she said with a smile.

I turned around in my chair and began to get up, but quickly realized I was already eye-to-eye with the donor — a sweet little girl of about 7. We’ll call her Charity.

Charity shyly handed me a heavy white envelope. Inside, nickels and dimes were Scotch-taped to loose-leaf paper.

A few weeks ago, when Charity learned she would be volunteering at the Foodbank, she started saving her hard-earned allowance.

By donating a portion of her allowance, Charity learned that caring and sacrifice go hand in hand — no matter what size the hands are.

All hard-working donors sacrifice a little to help their neighbors a lot, and they also trust in the Foodbank to make their sacrifice count.

Charity’s $1.25 enables the Foodbank to provide 5 meals to people in need. ($1=4 meals)

I didn’t perform cross multiplication for Charity to demonstrate the impact of her donation, but that is certainly something I do weekly to show how $1 can go a long way toward making a substantial difference.

Instead, I told Charity she had done something very nice, and then she gave me a hug.

    Patrick Delhougne is a development associate at the St. Louis Area Foodbank.