Sara Niccum

Black History From Our Beginning

To celebrate part of Black History Month, I wanted to offer the strong connection of roles that African Americans have filled from the beginning of our organization. Our organization was incorporated on July 25, 1983. The Articles of Incorporation filed with the State Attorney General list the following board members, most of which are African Americans; Mack Reese, Sr., Rev. John Anderson, Rev. Richard Gongwer, Rev. James Carter, Montague Oliver, Jr., Robert Hooker, Judy C. Miller and Pat Porter Howell.   This organization was developed from a grass roots group of Anderson residents who had seen the promise of food banking when such a program was operated from the Community Action program led by Jack Samuels. Although that early program faded out with the Community Action agency, city leaders, working with then mayor, Tom McMahan believed that food banking was a good solution to the problem of hunger in Madison County.

As to who the founders of the organization were in addition to the names on the AOI, other names that are listed in the history of our board of directors also include John Cooper, Jan. 84, Hazel Minnefield, Jan. 84, Dennis Newburn, Jan. 84, Bill Parrish, Feb. 84, Francis Weatherly, Jan. 84, Reverend Ray Wright, Feb. 84. , again many of which were African Americans. This nucleus of people along with those listed in the Articles of Incorporation were the very early pioneers seated at the table. Others were listed later in 1984 when they joined the board such as Adair Gibbs, John Brundage, Rosa Goldsmith, Art Overmyer, Angela Scott, Jim Smidebush, Jacque Stegall Bodenhorn, James Washington and Rev. Paul Wohlford.

Hazel Minnefield, one of the early board members, moved from board member into a Coordinator position, a first step at filling a staff position. She was trained in food bank operations at Gleaners Food Bank in Indianapolis as a Vista Volunteer and then was appointed by the board as the first Executive Director of the East Central Regional Indiana Food Bank, a position she held for five years. Her vision attracted the attention of the community which resulted in the development of the Food Bank as a regional food warehouse and distribution center with solid community funding, including that of United Way of Delaware, Madison and Grant counties.

The first of 3 warehouse locations in Anderson for this organization was a small building with a couple of offices and a rear storage area as big as a two car garage with an overhead door at 2428 S. Madison Avenue in Anderson.

I remember meeting and working with Hazel at the Madison Avenue location when I began on the board in 1985 and served as Chair in 1986. She was a small framed woman of slight build, but was definitely a determined woman in her passion for the mission of providing food assistance to those in need. She wasn’t afraid to ask and didn’t always accept the “first no” she got when she was trying to meet a need of the organization. She also had a positive enthusiastic demeanor that could pull you in to her point of view. Her will and determination to reach those in need was a driving force for this young organization. The general community found the ways and means to come along side and partner with this organization as the effort got off the ground setting the stage for what still happens to this day. Thanks goes to those early pioneers for their vision and commitment.

Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies, programs and 21 schools provide food assistance to more than 70,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

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We’re Planning an Amazing Year

The last 2 years we have seen an amazing transformation for our organization and I think we are just getting started. We are focused on not just the immediate food insecurity a family may be experiencing, but also the root causes that exist which may be keeping that family in a state of trauma. This more-holistic approach has led us develop short, medium and long term programming aimed at shortening the line of need.  Feeding America tells us that the average gap a food-insecure person has is 7 pounds of food per week, so a family of 4 needs an additional 28 pounds of food after they have exhausted their cash, SNAP benefits or any other food assistance programs they may access. 7 pounds is equal to almost 6 meals per week. Depending on a family’s circumstance, it could be more than 6 meals or less and it does vary from week to week, sometimes day to day.

 

Our School Pantry Program (our long -term strategy) is organized to provide that every family is getting at least 7 pounds of food per person. This program is bringing families and the school staff together in relationship building. This relationship component is what will provide long term impact for a child. We are getting some great feedback from school staff and parents who are participating. Such as – “Relationships are critical for building academics because until a child knows that you care about them, they won’t necessarily work as hard as they could have. When they want to impress you, when they don’t want to disappoint you and they know that you care and they trust you, they’ll move mountains for you. So we’ve always held onto the relationship piece as being critical to student success and that’s gone a long way through this program.”   – Melissa DeWitt, Grissom Elementary. This isn’t talking about a food distribution; it’s talking about a child positively responding by working harder in school when adults in their lives are working together.

 

Another prospective we received last week –

“A thriving family and a healthy family helps a child learn. It layers it. So, if we’re assisting the parents, once they come here and we’re assisting, it’s something to build on and help them meet their goals. Whether it’s the children or the parents, that’s what it’s really all about.”

“They come here and they’re so happy to see us not in the classroom, but being together helping their families. When you make a child happy by helping that home, it shows in their work. It shows in their attitude toward other students – they get so excited, you know ‘you’re here tonight!’  We’re stepping out of the norm, out of the classroom. We’re here to bring out community together and meet the needs.”

“It helps students thrive – when they feel they have a support it helps them thrive. It helps them not to feel so isolated, they feel like they can come to you if someone is bothering them.” Donna Sloss, Anderson Elementary. Again, it’s not about the food. It’s about relationships.

 

Schools, parents and children are seeing the benefits of this program. We now have 21 schools in 6 counties and will be adding more in 2018. Our funders are excited about this program, some have made multi-year commitments. We are looking for additional partners in funding and volunteering so let us know if you would like to make an impact in the lives of thousands of children and their families.

 

 

Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies, programs and 21 schools provide food assistance to more than 70,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

 

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$500 I Hadn’t Planned On

I was excited to get my car back today. It was in the repair shop for the last 29 days. I was involved in a fender bender which took me out of my normal routine to say the least. It was this time a year ago that a deer ran into the side of my car and caused extensive damage. That car had to be totaled. This year the accident was with another car and not nearly as serious, just a pain to deal with. The repair shop staff was great to work with and the insurance company was fine as well. A minor glitch occurred when the adjuster sent the check to the wrong address and it was returned to sender. I got a phone call from him when the check was returned and we discovered that someone in his office had keyed in our address as West instead of East so the check could not be delivered. He sent out another check and it arrived about 4 days later. All that remained was for me to pay the $500 deductible to move past this event and get back to normal.

If I were a financially struggling person this minor event might have been major with a capital M. Accessing $500 might have been too far to reach. It could have changed plans significantly in my household through all of 2018. I was able to rent a car and not miss work, but what if renting a car wasn’t an option? Trying to find a ride to work for 29 days could prove difficult since I work outside the county. Could my job be at risk? Presents under the tree? Doubtful. How much food would be provided or missed for months to come without that $500? If I was counting on that money to see my family through the coldest months of the year on the horizon, the temperature in the house might have to be turned down significantly or off whenever we could stand it. If any illness happens to pop up, the medical attention may have to wait or prescriptions may have to go unfilled. $500 may be the rent that I have to explain I can’t pay to the landlord who has let me slide before, but maybe not this time.  Which bad choice of these and others might I have to make?

It was 1979 and 2 days before Christmas. I got a phone call from my wife, who was at home with our 4 kids, which rearranged life for my family for several months. “We don’t have any water”. Oh the joys of living in the country! We had bought a “repo” on contract earlier in the year. The well pump had to be dug up in the front yard and everything had to be replaced, even the rusted out holding tank in the garage. I’m pretty sure we bought the Christmas presents for the plumber’s family that year. Things were more difficult after that for a while. I think it took all of 1980 to pay off that unexpected debt.

Today, I wrote the $500 check and was very thankful I had the money to do it, but will always remember when I didn’t. Others out there will experience an unexpected “curve ball from life” over the next few months which doesn’t make them a bad person who isn’t trying, but one who is just trying to get through to next week.

Tim Kean is the President and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana. The Second Harvest Food Bank network of 115-member agencies, programs and 20 schools to provide food assistance to more than 70,000 low-income people facing hunger in Blackford, Delaware, Grant, Henry, Jay, Madison, Randolph and Wabash Counties.

 

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