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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.