If it’s possible to upstage Dan Flowers when he starts proselytizing about the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank’s mission — this year, to raise $1 million through the annual Harvest for Hunger campaign — Gary Wyatt did that when he got the microphone at the agency’s campaign kickoff Wednesday.
Wyatt, of He Brought Us Out Ministry in Akron’s North Hill neighborhood, gave an impassioned plea to about 150 community leaders, guests and volunteers, urging them to take the lead in raising more than the agency’s goal to feed the hungry in the 2013.
“We have to convince people that all you have to do is give a little to get a lot,” Wyatt told an enthusiastic crowd.
He suggested the audience inspire people to donate by quoting Mother Theresa.
“On her deathbed, she said, ‘Just help me help somebody,’ ” Wyatt said to applause.
Flowers, president and CEO of the local food bank, is well-known in the community for his enthusiasm in drumming up support for the annual campaign that last year provided 17.2 million meals to the hungry of Northeast Ohio. On Wednesday, Flowers, who took over as head of the agency in 2003, challenged the community to “do the work together” to meet the goal.
“Yesterday was the time to meet yesterday’s needs, but today’s time is now. We do this work because it needs to be done,” Flowers said.
One in four area children don’t know when — or if — they will get a next meal, Flowers said while reviewing the challenges the agency met in 2012 in distributing more than 20.5 million pounds of food. Another goal met last year, to provide six million pounds of fresh produce to its 21 member agencies, was 2 million pounds more than it distributed in 2011.
The annual Harvest for Hunger Campaign, in its 22nd year, is responsible for 25 percent of the Akron-Canton Regional Foodbank’s annual budget and represents more than 110,000 pounds of food, or 4 million meals, said Michelle Hinton, director of the external affairs.
The regional food bank serves clients in Carroll, Holmes, Medina, Portage, Stark, Summit, Tuscarawas and Wayne counties.
Rich Wilson, chairman of the food bank’s board of directors and an executive at the J.M. Smucker Co., thanked civic and business partners and described the various 2013 campaign events to raise donations and awareness that include:
• Check Out Hunger. Donations will be taken at local supermarkets by scanning coupons for $1, $5, or $10 at registers between Sunday and March 30 at Buehler’s Fresh Foods, Dave’s Supermarkets, Fishers Food, Giant Eagle or Heinen’s Fine Foods.
• Wendy’s Keytags. Purchase keytags for $1 at participating Wendy’s through March 30 to get one free Jr. Frosty per transaction with any purchase made through Aug. 31.
• Virtual Idol. Vote for your favorite singer online in the first “Idol-gone-virtual” singing competition. Register and submit your video by March 24. Voting begins April 1.
For the third consecutive year, honorary co-chairmen of the campaign are Edward Roth, president and CEO of Aultman Health Foundation, and William Considine, president and CEO of Akron Children’s Hospital.
The city of Akron is prepared to go the distance in a friendly wager for bragging rights once again with Summit County employees to see which one can raise the most donations during the campaign, said Billy Soule, Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic’s assistant for community relations. “We’ve been beaten pretty bad the last few years,” Soule admitted.
Pry accepted the challenge, saying monthly revenue reviews attest that while most business indicators show “we are coming out of the great recession,” food insecurity is still a real problem for many county residents. “Ninety thousand people in our county are receiving some kind of food assistance,” Pry said.
Flowers ended the event by challenging members of the audience to join him Saturday at the Portage Lakes Polar Bear Jump at Portage Lakes State Park, 5031 Manchester Road. Jumpers are to arrive by noon to register for the 2 p.m. jump. Entry fee is $25. All proceeds will benefit Harvest for Hunger.
For those too “chicken” to jump, donate $50 to the food bank and receive a “Too Chicken To Jump” T-shirt by visiting www.portagelakespolarbearclub.com/chicken.html.
Kathy Antoniotti can be reached at 330-996-3565 or email@example.com.