Thanks to a Richland church, the Tri-City Food Bank's bare shelves will be able to fill up again.
"Food donations are down. Stores are being a lot more conservative in their purchasing, so there's not nearly as many dated items coming in as we've seen in the past," said John Neill, executive director of the Tri-City Food Bank.
That will change after today, when the congregation at All Saints' Episcopal Church in Richland will present him with a check for more than $13,000.
The money was raised as part of a project through the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane, which stretches across Eastern Washington and North Idaho. Early this year, Bishop James Waggoner challenged the 41 congregations in the diocese to raise money for a specific charity dedicated to alleviating hunger in their area. The money would be split, half going to the charity of the congregation's choice, the other half going to a Honduran orphanage, El Hogar, an Episcopalian charity.
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"El Hogar takes in 200 orphans a year, educates them and teaches them a trade so they have a vocation when they leave at 18," said Sindy Haffner, bookkeeper at All Saints'.
Eight churches stepped up, choosing a different way to raise money. At All Saints', they chose pledge cards.
"The only requirement was we had to have 50 percent of our average Sunday attendance participate. For us, that's 70. We had 95 sign up," Haffner said. "Everyone donated what they felt comfortable giving."
They were pretty comfortable. The six-week pledge drive -- plus money from a Valentine's Day cookie sale, T-shirt sales and a few other projects -- netted $26,688.50. A check for half that amount will be given to Neill after today's services.
On Wednesdays during the pledge drive, members of All Saints' met at the church to discuss charity and justice as they related to hunger. They also had representatives from food banks and other hunger programs talk about their work. At the end of the drive, all participants voted and chose Tri-City Food Bank to receive the money.
This windfall is one of the largest the food bank has ever received, Neill said.
"Chances are, we'll use it for food. We're getting low on certain items like soups and meat products and things of that nature, plus we buy all our own grains," he said. "It's a huge sum, and I know we can turn it into $40,000 worth of food because we buy in quantity and get good deals. Between the three locations, we serve 16 tons of food a week."