NASCAR Driver Jeff Gordon teamed up with AARP Virginia, AARP President Lee Hammond, Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell (R) and Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones (D) to kick off Drive to End Hunger during Richmond race weekend, leading into a statewide food drive that helped hungry people across Virginia.
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Central Virginia Food Bank received $10,000 from AARP Foundation during an event September 8 at the James Center in Richmond. NASCAR fans brought 1,654 pounds of food for the food bank. At the event, AARP Virginia advocacy volunteer Elvira Shaw, 91, fulfilled a dream of meeting Gordon. Shaw has been an AARP volunteer for 40 years and is an avid Gordon fan.
The Sept. 8 event dropped the green flag on AARP Virginia’s statewide community food drive with more than 225 food collection sites on Sept. 9 and 10.
One notable effort was from the AARP Blacksburg Chapter, which collected more than 6,000 pounds of food. Chapter members worked hard to promote the food drive at community events throughout August.
“People need food all year round…not just during the holidays,” said Sally Anna Stapleton.
As one of the volunteers from the AARP Blacksburg Chapter, Stapleton worked diligently with hundreds of other volunteers. She found herself motivated by the lack of volunteer efforts during the 10-month span with no holidays.
“When visiting the local food banks, we saw that all the shelves were completely empty,” said Stapleton. “It broke my heart to see how many families were in need.”
With a strong team from Ruritan, Ben Crawford of Blacksburg reached out by distributing flyers everywhere, including the Ruritan newspaper, which reaches over 900 people.
“I am very patriotic. One of the best ways to show it is by helping others in your community,” said Crawford.
The campaign consisted of different sites where people could donate food. The Blacksburg Farmers Market, Kroger and Wal-Mart were a few of the biggest sites.
“You could tell the employees of the food banks were absolutely elated,” said Stapleton. “I don’t even have the words to explain how it felt to know we were providing them such a service.”
The Emergency Food Bank in Charlottesville received more than 1,700 pounds of food from an effort coordinated by the Muslim Student Association with Whole Foods.
“The food arrived in our pantry at a critical time, as the shelves were a bit bare,” said Diane Bisgaier, Interim Chair of the Emergency Food Bank Board of Directors, in a letter to AARP Virginia. “Our needs are constant throughout the year, regardless of the temperature or the season.”
Bisgaier added, “Each weekday our volunteers provide a three-day supply of groceries directly to individuals and families who need food, assisting about 15,000 people in Charlottesville and Albemarle County last year.”
September is Hunger Action Month, and hunger awareness activities will continue – most noticeably on the Virginia Tech campus Sept. 24. Twenty teams of students will participate in iCAN, a food can sculpture contest to stock the shelves of local food pantries. Each team will collaborate with a hunger relief agency in the community and work as an advocate to stock their shelves. The team will work to collect canned foods requested by their community partner. At the end of the event, prizes will be awarded to the teams demonstrating creativity.
The AARP Virginia Community Food Drive is an annual effort to feed hungry Virginians. This year AARP was joined by AmeriCorps, Virginia Federation of Food Banks, Ruritan, TRIAD and Virginia Engage in promoting the event and providing volunteers and collection sites for the effort.