The 2016 United Way of Williams County ‘Feeding Williams County’ meal packaging event was huge, and a huge success. The 2017 event, as unveiled at the first United Way Hunger Summit event of the year on January 26, is going to be even bigger.
Mr. Bill Pepple, the Executive Director of the United Way of Williams County, unveiled the plans for the event, and stressed that Feeding Williams County – 2017 would need a significant amount of volunteers, as well as a significant amount of fundraising in order to pull it off.
Being staged on April 22 at the Gillette Building on the Williams County Fairgrounds, the event is coordinated with The Outreach Program of Union, Iowa, which supplies everything, from the food to be packaged, to the actual packages, weighing devices, hermetic sealers and boxes. All that is required at the local level is the funding to purchase the foods, and the volunteer manpower to prepare, weigh out, package and box up the meals.
It is there that you come in.
According to Mr. Pepple, a minimum of 300 volunteers will be needed in order to properly staff the processing lines that will be packaging the meals at the event. In 2016, there were two meal options being processed…red beans and rice, and macaroni and cheese. The red beans and rice, a new entry last year, was well received amongst all the food pantries across Williams County, but the popularity of the old stalwart macaroni and cheese has been on the wane for quite a while. The 2017 event will see the continuation of the beans and rice, but the discontinuation of the macaroni and cheese. It will be replaced by meals of pasta with a tomato-basil sauce.
In addition to the pasta and sauce, another new addition will debut at the event…a six serving bag of vitamin and protein enriched apple-cinnamon oatmeal with real apples. Each serving will contain 16 percent of the recommended daily value of dietary fiber, 13 percent of the recommended daily value of protein, and 20 different essential vitamins and minerals. Like the beans and rice and pasta, the oatmeal was created in collaboration with Iowa State University Food Science Department.
With three meal varieties instead of two, the need for volunteers is obviously greater in 2017 than it was in 2016. Individuals, as well as businesses, clubs, church congregations and civic organizations that wish to form teams of volunteers, are all welcomed to participate in what has become has become one of the biggest neighbor-helping-neighbor events in the area. With a target of 80,000 meals to be packaged, any and all help will be made more than welcome. To inquire about participating at the 2017 Feeding Williams County event, contact the United Way of Williams County at 419-636-8603.
On the other side of the equation is the need to generate funds to pay for the 80,000 meals. Each prepackaged meal comes out to 22.5 cents per package. While that cost is incredibly low, when multiplied by 80,000 packages it comes out to $18,000. In the works is a fundraising project that is similar to other familiar fundraisers found in area gas stations and convenience stores. For a minimum $1.00 donation, anyone can purchase a colorful “I Choose to LIVE UNITED” card that will be signed and displayed in the establishment of the participating vendor. As of today, the local businesses participating in the event include all branches of the Williams County Public Library, all Williams County Main Stop locations, Bryan Ford Lincoln and the office of the Bryan Times. Other financial donations toward the $18,000 price tag will be graciously accepted, and a call to the offices of the United Way of Williams County at 419-636-8603 is all that is needed to get the ball rolling.
The business portion of the agenda noted that traffic at the county food pantries has generally remained steady, but trended slightly higher in some locations. Dr. John Moats of the Wesley United Methodist Food Pantry noted a shift in demographics at his location, with an influx of younger families seeking help. Pastor Gene McBride of the Pioneer Church of the Nazarene reported that his numbers for 2016 were down about 10 percent from 2015, but added, “A good number of our clients are under 30…I’d say about half of them. They’re young people, just trying to get started. They either have families, or are just trying to deal with getting employment and getting started with their lives.”
Mr. Pepple introduced Kathy Helmke, the Director of the Four County Family Center, who spoke to the attendees about 2-1-1. Formerly known as First Call for Help, 2-1-1 is today known as Comprehensive Crisis Care, and is an information and referral service provided through Family Service of Northwest Ohio. According to Ms. Helmke, the services provided range from the informational, to the referral, to emergency mental health assessments and crisis interventions. Standard informational and referral services include basic human services such as food, clothing, shelter, rental assistance, and utility assistance. Other referral services include physical and mental health resources, employment support services, support resources for senior and persons with disabilities, and information about programs for children, youth, and families. Covering Williams, Fulton, Henry and Defiance Counties, an average of 1,500 calls come into the 2-1-1 call center per month.
Timothy Kays can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org