Wednesday, October 19, 2005

TV Star

We shot the "Harvest for the Hungry" commercials today. This year, Joseph decided that I needed to appear on screen, in his place, so at 9:30 this morning, I stood next to Father Steve (the Priest at St. Charles - a great guy who shares our passion for mission service in Haiti) plugging Harvest.

This is probably the 13th or 14th year we've done Harvest. It started, innocently enough, when Stacy Morris, an adult volunteer in the youth ministry at Shawnee back in the day, came to me with the idea of the youth ministry going door-to-door collecting food for the West Ohio Food Bank (which, at the time, was located in the basement of the now defunct First United Methodist Church). Realizing that this was a chance to do service, and not plan a lesson for YF, all at the same time, I jumped at the idea. I only remember two things about the experience. I remember High School age kids, literally running house-to-house in local neighborhoods, trying to collect as much food as they could in a two-hour period (to win what was, without a doubt, some kind of lame prize). And I remember how upset Joseph was when, two weeks after the event, all of the food was still on the stage in the old fellowship hall.

My lack of organization, though, took a fateful turn when, after many questions about "where all the food came from", someone decided that the rest of the congregation should join the youth group in doing some kind of food drive. Thus, commissioned by somebody (maybe it was Helen Price - she always was pretty bossy), I ripped off an idea from Trinity UMC, and distributed boxes to the congregation with a list of dry goods (enough food to feed a family of four for three days).... and, abracadabra, "Harvest for the Hungry" was born.

Over the next two or three years, a couple of important things happened to turn what was one single church's food drive into the largest drive of its kind (we think) in the state. First, the West Ohio Food Bank became its own entity, separate from FUMC, and affiliated with the "Second Harvest" network. "Second Harvest" is a national network of regional and local food banks, that negotiates with major corporations for major donations of food. Now the WOFB could purchase food at about (at the time) 4 cents a pound (which paid for transportation and storage costs), so it really made more fiscal sense to give them money, instead of dry goods.

The other important development, given the above information, was when a lay-person (I honestly can't remember who) came to Joseph with the idea of approaching business people in our church for financial donations to "goose up" the impact of the drive. At the same time, Shawnee had just done a bunch of advertising on WLIO-TV for our community Easter service. Knowing that non-profits can buy ad-time at cheaper rates, the idea of combining corporate donations and face time for sponsors on TV was born.

Now, years later, Harvest has resulted in the collection of the equivalent of more than 12 million pounds of food for an 11-county area here in Northwest Ohio. More than 200 shelters, local food pantries, and soup kitchens who serve thousands of people, are dependent upon the WOFB to help keep their doors open.

So, I'd encourage you to support Harvest by coming to church on November 13th, and dropping something in the offering plate (the entire offering for the day will be donated to the WOFB), eating at Captain D's on Sunday, November 6th (a portion of the sales will donated, and you can be served by yours truly), Arby's on November 13th (same deal), drop a financial donation off at those two restaurants, or send a check directly to the West Ohio Food Bank at

West Ohio Food Bank
Harvest for the Hungry
1380 Kibby Street
Lima, Ohio 45804-3127

And if you see a big guy standing next to a fabulous priest on your TV, remember, acting classes aren't required at seminary.

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