Nancy Craft, of the Wilson Luncheon Lions Club, left, and Sara Killeen of the Wilson Tobs, right, unload food items donated over the weekend for the annual Home Run for Hunger season.
Olivia Neeley | Times
By Olivia Neeley
Times Staff Writer
In the past month, community members and athletic teams have championed a cause to ensure those who struggle with hunger each day are fed.
And because of their united effort, nearly three tons of food items have been donated, collected and delivered to more than a dozen food pantries here as a part of the Wilson Tobs Home Run for Hunger season. The annual project aims to provide food to those less fortunate.
“It’s a major-league jump in our efforts in what we’ve set out to do,” said Nancy Craft, Wilson Luncheon Lions Club secretary and one of the event organizers. “The word is getting out. It’s been amazing.”
Volunteers saw an influx of giving during multiple sporting events over the past several weekends. The Varsity Classic raised 2,383 pounds of food, which included a 1,500-pound donation from Food Lion; the JV Classic, Little League opening day and city soccer games raised 2,000 pounds of food; and the city of Wilson Golden Leaf Easter Invitational raised 1,380 pounds of food over the weekend.
“People are giving from all areas,” Craft said.
For years, Home Run for Hunger was a one-day food collection event at Fleming Stadium. But this year, organizers wanted to make it an entire season of giving. They tapped into new partnership with various businesses, organizations, school athletic teams, tournaments and clubs.
And officials said these athletic teams stepped up to the plate to give back to those who need it most.
“You can see it in these kids,” she said. “It’s the lessons, the goodwill. It’s giving them an opportunity to see there is a problem out there.”
Instead of entrance fees to several of the sporting events this year, each team brought canned goods for the Home Run for Hunger season. Teams that donated the most canned goods received prizes and recognition. Parents and fans who brought donations to those weekend events also received discounted admission tickets.
Craft said getting young people involved this year has been a delight.
“Hopefully, we are building this next generation to care and carry on,” she said.
‘OVERWHELMED AND GRATEFUL’
After each weekend sporting event, volunteers come together that following Monday to sift, sort and equally distribute the food items donated among the 14 Wilson food pantries. Once that step is completed, pantries come out to Fleming Stadium and pick up the food. And as fast as the food is coming in, it’s going right back out, said Mike Bell, Tobs general manager.
“Many of these pantries drive around town delivering canned goods the day of so people that are hungry are being fed,” he said.
Bell said it’s been amazing and inspiring to see so many people give to such a good cause that is truly making a difference in the lives of those less fortunate.
“They have been overwhelmed and so grateful,” Craft added, referring to the food pantries. “When you can start to fill the shelves by the week, it’s a supplement for the pantries.”
MORE COLLECTION SITES
Officials said the Home Run for Hunger season has been a huge success so far and the collection of food at many large events at multiple locations for several months has been key. They are also working on additional events in May where the community can get involved.
Next Monday, civic clubs will kick off a competition among themselves to see who can raise the most food. The winner will receive one game day selected for a given night and 25 meal deal group night tickets. Volunteers will also be collecting food items at 217 Brew Works for its Cinco de Mayo celebration.
“If everybody gives a little bit, it makes such a difference,” Craft said.
Officials are also gearing up for the Tobs game on June 25, which will be the Home Run for Hunger Celebration, where they will be wrapping up the project with a one-day food drive. It’s another opportunity for the community to get involved and make a difference.
Fans will get a chance again to bring food items in exchange for a ticket to the game. Volunteers will be stuffing the Tobs bus with donated food items throughout the evening.
“When the June event comes, hopefully people will give again,” Craft said. “That’s when the pantries are the barest.”
Community members raised more than 14,000 pounds on that game day alone last year.
Participating food pantries this year include Bible’s Way Church Ministries, Glad Tidings, Hope Station, New Christian Food Pantry, Life in the Word, New Life Rock of Ages Christian Fellowship, Open Door Community Outreach Center, Salvation Army, St. Paul’s Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, the Community Soup Kitchen of Wilson, Veterans’ Residential Services of Wilson, Contending the Faith, St. John AME Zion Church and CHEW, or Children’s Hunger Elimination of Wilson.