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Officials are preparing for one of the largest food drives in Wilson. And they hope to draw a crowd Sunday for the Wilson Tobs' annual Home Run for Hunger Celebration.
The event aims to collect nonperishable food items for more than a dozen local pantries in exchange for free admission to Sunday's doubleheader at Fleming Stadium.
"Every can matters," said Michael Bell, Tobs general manager. "Even the smallest donation can help feed somebody for a day."
Five nonperishable food items per attendee will gain entry to into the games. Those who have a family of four only have to bring 10 nonperishable food items in lieu of an entrance fee.
The Wilson Tobs bus will be front and center with gates opening at 5 p.m. and the first game starting at 6.
The food collected goes toward Wilson pantries who are in desperate need to fill their shelves in order to help the hungry over the summer months.
"It's a free entertaining night out to help those less fortunate throughout Wilson County," Bell said. "We plan on collecting as much as we can. Every little bit matters."
Bell said volunteers will be on hand at the front gates Sunday.
"We will have volunteers there that will take it, separate it and load it in the bus," Bell said about the food collected.
The Tobs will also have $1 hot dogs, $1 popcorn and $2 snow cones as well as pregame music. Bell said food pantries rely on donations to meet the needs of those most vulnerable, including families and children.
BRINGING THE COMMUNITY TOGETHER
Historically, the Wilson Tobs' Home Run for Hunger was a one-day event that raised thousands of pounds of food for area pantries. But last year, organizers wanted to expand its mission and it became an entire season of giving leading up to the celebration game day.
The committee did it again this year and it's proven to be successful. The Tobs held Home Run for Hunger food drives at multiple sporting events throughout the past several months. Instead of entrance fees for those games, teams brought canned goods in support of the cause. Parents and fans received discounted game tickets.
Organizers have already raised more than 6,000 pounds of food so far during the season of giving. The food collected during those food drives was evenly distributed among Wilson-area pantries already. And Sunday's big celebration will follow the same formula.
Multiple businesses, sponsors, clubs, organizations and others have joined in for the cause.
Collection sites have also been stationed around Wilson throughout the past several weeks, including one at Wilson Community College.
Staff and students have already collected dozens of items for Sunday's event.
"We are happy to be a part of this community initiative," said Jessica Bailey, WCC's director of marketing and public relations.
Bell said he hopes Wilson will rally Sunday to close out the Home Run for Hunger season.
"It's a great way to bring the community together for a great cause," Bell said.
Sponsors include EmergeOrtho, Stephenson Millwork Co., the Wilson Luncheon Lions Club, Food Lion, Mt. Olive Pickle Co., First Media Radio, The Wilson Times, S.T. Wooten Corp. and State Farm Jana Lake.
Pantries involved include Bible's Way Ministry, Glad Tidings Gospel Hall Church, Hope Station, New Christian Food Pantry and Child Development Center, New Life Rock of Ages Christian Fellowship Center, Open Door Community Outreach Center, The Salvation Army, St. Paul's Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, St. John AME Zion Church, the Community Soup Kitchen of Wilson County, Veterans' Residential Services of Wilson, Contending for the Faith, The CHEW and the Wilson Police Department's food pantry.