BOONE — From one single launch event of the new A Simple Gesture program on April 27, the Hunger and Health Coalition gathered 10,110 pounds of food for its food pantry.
This amount was still growing as the organization was still receiving donations on April 30. The launch event included 275 food pickups from residences, 30 food pickups from businesses and churches, 28 driving routes throughout the county, 32 volunteer drivers and 26 volunteer food sorters and warehouse workers. Volunteers inside of HHC included groups such as Watauga High School cheerleaders and Appalachian State University women’s basketball players.
Volunteer drivers were given mapped pickup routes as participants were asked to place the bags of donated items outside of their homes.
Hailey Judson was one of the drivers for the launch event and said she became involved after HHC officials visited an Appalachian State University group she is a part of called Enactus. She said the group believes in doing service through entrepreneurial actions and sustainable business.
“This program is set up to be so simple,” Judson said. “Even if you choose to come out like those that are marking off items and weighing everything, even the driving is an hour and a half out of your day. You can take these little tiny steps and you’re not changing your whole life to be able to do this.”
Keeping the process simple and easy is the whole point of the program, said Elizabeth Young, Hunger and Health Coalition executive director.
“The idea is it’s not too much; it’s not overwhelming,” Young said. “It’s something that just about anybody can do. I think the cool thing about this program is it’s something you can do together as a family. It teaches a culture of volunteerism.”
The idea is to ask food donors to pick up an extra item for someone in need each grocery store visit, which probably would be about once a week, Young said. In two months’ time, food donors would ideally have enough items to fill a bag and be ready for pickup.
The program is planned to have bi-monthly pickup days on the following Saturdays: June 22, Aug. 24, Oct. 26 and Dec. 7. Participants are asked to place the bag of donated items outside the home or business by 9 a.m. on those Saturdays for drivers to pick up.
Young said she got the idea for the program after speaking with a man who started an A Simple Gesture program in Greensboro. The man had read an article in the Wall Street Journal about how A Simple Gesture got its start in a town in California, and which was around the same time Greensboro was named the hungriest city in the U.S, Young said. While this is no longer true, the Greensboro program has collected 1 million pounds of food in three and a half years.
“We’ve heard about this and thought it was a real Godsend,” Young said. “Our client business has been growing year after year; we really wanted to try to do the best we could to get food on our shelves.”
To sign up to be a donor for A Simple Gesture or for volunteering information, visit www.asimplegesturehc.org. Young said HHC can deliver bags to people’s homes if they would like to participate.