Volunteers load the Wilson Tobs bus with food Sunday durin the annual Home Run for Hunger event. More than 23,000 pounds of food was collected this year during the season of giving. That food will help area pantries feed Wilson's most vulnerable.
Olivia Neeley | Times
Volunteers sort food Sunday at the Wilson Tobs Home Run for Hunger Celebration event.
Olivia Neeley | Times
By Olivia Neeley
Times Staff Writer
Pantries across Wilson are fuller thanks to various community partners and residents who championed a cause close to their hearts — The Wilson Tobs Home Run for Hunger Celebration.
Sunday’s event collected more than 15,000 pounds of nonperishable food alone for 15 food pantries in exchange for free admission to the Tobs game. More than 8,000 pounds of food was collected during spring events, which puts the total above 23,000 pounds. Last year’s drive brought in 14,000 pounds.
Home Run for Hunger, in its fifth year, is one of the largest food drives in Wilson. For several years, it was a one-day food collection event. But this year, organizers wanted to make it an entire season of giving. They tapped into new resources, including various businesses, organizations, school athletic teams, tournaments and clubs.
“We blew last year’s number out of the water,” said Michael Bell, Tobs general manager. “That’s a huge jump. So many people invested in this cause. It shows how the community cares about each other.”
Organizations that help the hungry experience low donations during the summer months. Home Run for Hunger helps those agencies address that problem with help of multiple partners.
On Monday, volunteers packed and distributed food collected on Sunday.
“One day and the food has already made its way to each pantry,” Bell said. “All the food was distributed equally down the middle.”
MAKING WILSON A BETTER PLACE
One by one, fans rallied for a good cause Sunday. Some took boxes of food, others took large bags. Volunteers spent the afternoon filling the Tobs bus, which was front and center.
Shannon Leidy, the Salvation Army’s social services director, headed out with her husband, Landon, and 2-year-old son, Owen. The Salvation Army was one of several pantries that benefitted.
Leidy said Home Run For Hunger brings people together.
“They are working hard to make Wilson a better place,” she said about the Tobs.
Emily Johnson with EmergeOrtho, a sponsor of the event, said helping out the community is great thing.
“I can’t imagine going to bed hungry and not having food,” Johnson said. “It’s nice to see the community come together for a good cause.”
The Wilson Youth Council also volunteered throughout the spring collecting events and also on Sunday. This was the group’s first year being a partner.
“Our teens provided crucial volunteers during the spring break tournaments,” said Theresa Mathis, Wilson Youth Council adviser. “This project is so far-reaching. It affects food pantries across the county, which assists hundreds of families in need.”
Cynitha Saunders, with the Wilson Youth Council, said it made her feel good to see that so many people care about their community.
“I know the food is going to the people who actually need it the most,” she said.
Because organizers changed things up this year and made it a whole season of giving, pantries have been receiving the food collected at community-wide events on a weekly basis in addition to the celebration event Sunday. Each pantry received more than a ton of food in total.
Bell said he was grateful to all who supported this year’s Home Run for Hunger season.
“It’s way bigger than a baseball game,” he said. “The celebration goes well beyond a baseball game. It was a celebration for a great cause that happened to have a baseball game at it.”
Pantries that received food collected included Bible’s Way Ministry, Glad Tidings Gospel Hall Church, Hope Station, New Christian Food Pantry and Child Development Center, Life in the Word, New Life Rock of Ages Christian Fellowship Center, Open Door Community Outreach Center, Salvation Army, St. Paul’s Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, St. John AME Zion Church, Community Soup Kitchen of Wilson County, Veterans’ Residential Services of Wilson, Contending for the Faith, Children’s Hunger Elimination of Wilson and the Wilson Police Department Food Pantry.
Sponsors for Home Run for Hunger included The Wilson Times, The Wilson Tobs, Wilson Luncheon Lions Club, S.T. Wooten, EmergeOrtho, First Baptist Church of Wilson, Stephenson Millwork, Food Lion, State Farm and First Media Radio.