Thanks to you The Cooperative Feeding Program was able to send 1000 Broward County kids back to school last week with brand new backpacks filled with school supplies.  A number of these families are homeless and also needed help accessing addittional resources for new uniforms and immunizations.  Many of you donated school supplies your own children selected while picking out their own supplies.  It was great to see all of you who dropped off backpacks and supplies.   Of course we also have to thank those of you who helped us purchase more supplies by donating or buying virtual supplies through our Changing The Present site.

Thanks again.  We couldn’t do it without you!

This Valentine’s Day show people where your heart really is and say no to stale grocery store chocolates and flowers that will just die anyway.  Join us over at Changing the Present  and send your special someones a virtual gift that benefits The Cooperative Feeding Program.  For just a buck you can send your sweetie a PB&J, your brother a toothbrush or your grandma  a pair of scoks to pay her back for all of those holiday ones she gave you.   $5 will grab you school supplies for needy kids and for $10 you can pick between sending someone to the showers or helping them get an ID.  Donate $20 and you can do lunch for 10 and $50 will feed a family.  Of course you could go for broke and donate $1,000 for a van load of food.  All fine choices and all way better than that stale box of chocolates.

If you are a Facebook user, you can send it direct to another friend on Facebook and let the whole of Facebook know where your heart lies.   Just look for the Changing the Present icon.

It’s also for plenty, which is what we don’t have right now. The holidays are over, but hunger isn’t. In 2 months The Cooperative Feeding Program moved over 210,000 pounds of food, which is over 6000 emergency boxes. It’s a fantastic thing to be able to put such a basic necessity of life into so many hands, but all the hard work has left our shelves empty and warehouse depleted. I know, it’s a bit depressing, but around here there is no time for depressing! We’ve pulled on our bootstraps, circled the wagons and are sending out the word – Virtual Food Drives now!  Here’s how you can participate in the drive and restock those shelves.

1. Jump on our website and click on the virtual food drive link (it’s on the left). You’ll be redirected to our secure server where you can shop in our virtual grocery store.

2. Go to our Firstgiving page and do a personal fundraising campaign. You can do it all on your onsies or challenge your friends to a fundraising duel.

3. If you’re a local, shake down your cupboards, your mom’s kitchen (with her permission of course), your friends’ pantries (you should ask them first too), anywhere some non-perishable food might be hiding out and bring it on over. We’ll be sure it goes to a good home.

4. Pass it on. Forward this blog to all of your contacts. You never know who just might have 6 or 7 pallets of peanut butter lying about waiting for us to come get!

Wheee Doggies!

January 2, 2008

Well campers it’s been very busy here at The Cooperative Feeding Program. In November alone we served 11,750 meals and gave out over 3,300 food boxes. Needless to say we were a bit busy. Our web updates, (including our e-newsletter) have been a bit sporadic lately. So, in order to be sure we tell you all the great things going on, thank as many wonderful people as possible, and keep you up to date on hunger, homelessness and social justice issues I’ll be updating the blog, Facebook and MySpace quite often. Get ready!Each update will be fairly short, so if you don’t see yourself, group, or question addressed,wait a bit and see if it doesn’t show up soon. Of course, you can always drop me a note if you think we missed you or someone else. As always feel free to e-mail me (maureen@feedingbroward.org) any pics, videos, or info on your volunteer group activities for The Cooperative Feeding Program.

Oh and you social networking volunteers? I haven’t forgotten you. In fact I’m probably calling you right now…….

Best of all things good and sustainable in 2008!

Spam hurts

November 27, 2007

It really does, especially a few cases of it in a crate wielded by Jillian, Cooperative Feeding’s Deputy Director, as she collides with you on her way to fill the pantry shelves. Of course the Spam in question is the real world, potted meat kind and we’ve gone through an amazing amount of it this month. Just to give you an idea…between November 1st and the time we went home on November 21st (the day before Thanksgiving) we gave out over 2900 food boxes. Usually in that same number of days about 1800 boxes would be given out. How did we do it all? One word (no, not Spam) – volunteers.

The week of Thanksgiving volunteers from all over were doing food drives, receiving and sorting food donations, packing food boxes, working in the kitchen, making hygiene kits, rolling forks, stuffing envelopes and a whole host of other things. University School of Nova Southeastern University, Northeastern High’s Spanish Club, Doric Masonic Lodge #140, BCC Sociology, Archbishop McCarthy High School, E Sciences Inc., Representative Ron Klein and staff, Interact Club, Ramat Shalom Synagogue and Marlow, Connell, Valerius, Abrams, Adler, Newman & Lewis were all here along with many others.

On Thanksgiving Day, 100 Target volunteers gave up their day off to run the festivities here. They did everything from cooking and serving in the kitchen to cleaning and sorting in the pantry. They also provided a very generous donation to offset the expenses of the day and handed out hygiene kits and supplies. The Sun-Sentinel included them in a Thanksgiving story you can read here.

Our volunteers are amazing. So amazing in fact that last year they accounted for more than 40% of the labor needed to operate Cooperative Feeding. That’s not just Thanksgiving time, that’s 365 days a year. If you weren’t able to be with us last week, what are you doing tomorrow, next month or the middle of July? Our volunteers are here then too. Maybe you can be one of them. Watch out for flying Spam though. It really does hurt and I have the bruises to prove it.

Are you a Bubba?

November 17, 2007

The Cooperative Feeding Program was fortunate to be featured in a story on diminishing federal aid to food banks by the Sun-Sentinel last week. If you didn’t catch the print version it included a very nice picture of Barbara, our Pantry Manager, and Bubba, one of our customers, as she handed him his bag of food. It was a nice picture and we passed the paper around commenting on it and how much we liked Bubba. He volunteered with us often, helping others through their morning meal. Everyone had a story to tell, a connection to make.

This morning the picture went around again, but for a very different reason. Bubba was shot a few days ago and died after suffering a massive heart attack on the operating table. Of course we were all shocked, another act of senseless violence right here in our hometown. What really struck me though was what a big hole in the world, one which can be palpably felt, his passing made. He was no political leader, no major philanthropist or life saving surgeon, but he was kind, compassionate and genuine. If your life was over right now, in this instant, how many people could say that about you?

Most of us will never broker a Middle East peace accord, discover a cure for a disease or be a captain of industry, but we can all be kind. Hold the door for a stranger. Smile gently at someone on the street who looks in need of a little kindness, a little compassion. Acknowledge the cashier at the grocery store and for the few minutes it takes to check out engage with them, ask them how they are and mean it. If someone cuts you off in traffic, slow down and let them in. Be thankful that you didn’t have an accident and your life come to an end sharply, abruptly and without warning.

These are not big things, not complicated acts. But if we each were a little kinder, a little more compassionate, a little more like Bubba wouldn’t the world be a better place? As we move into the holiday season ask yourself this question….. Are you a Bubba?

He’s My Hero

November 12, 2007

Ricky and Chris

Meet my friend Ricky, pictured above with our Volunteer Coordinator, Chris Polzer. (Ricky is on the left) Like most of us Ricky is a lot of things. He’s really funny, hard working, dedicated, a vet, a chef and homeless. How and why he became homeless is a story for another time. This story is about where he is in the here and now and the courage it took for him to be here.

Ricky first came to Cooperative Feeding like most people, looking for a hot meal, a shower and some clean clothes. He came looking for that, but he needed more. He needed a place to belong, a place to rebuild, a place to call home. He started off slowly, by volunteering to wash the dishes and lending a hand. Then he started coming in every day as a scheduled volunteer staff member. As time went on he was asked to take on an increasing amount of responsibility. He met each new task with determination and with each new task met he grew in confidence.

Today he is our Chef, getting here bright and early to prepare the day’s meal with careful consideration and kindness. Ricky still has a long road ahead of him, but he has a job, a safe place to sleep and he is in recovery. Under extraordinarily difficult circumstances he did something very few of us could do under ideal circumstances. He took a good long look at himself and his life and had the courage to change.

This Veteran’s Day meet Ricky. He’s a vet, a chef, a friend and my hero.