MOUNT VERNON — In a year when local Salvation Army and Interchurch food pantries are seeing an increase in demand for help, a fall-off of donations, or both, Food for the Hungry came to the rescue again. Because of economic conditions, it was not a sure thing that the goals of 50 truckloads of food and $160,000 in monetary donations would be met, but Knox County reached deep into its collective pockets to show that it cares.
The monetary goal was reached with a last-minute donation of $22,000 by the Rollin’ Buckeyes, Dean and Audrey Spearman.
The amount of food collected did not quite reach this year’s goal, however, with 41 truckloads collected. Although the collected food is very important, cash is just as needed.
“We can use the money to buy food from the Mid-Ohio Food Bank,” said Sandy Rhoton, 2009 FFH coordinator. “That money can go a very long way to buying food and buying what is needed.
“Our goals each year never meet the need,” Rhoton said. “It is a need that goes on all year.”
She said those still wanting to contribute can send monetary donations to Sally Nelson at Nelson & Nelson CPAs; food donations can be made directly to the Interchurch and Salvation Army food pantries. She said food donations should go to the pantry located closest to where the donor lives, adding that donations collected at the local sites stay at that pantry.
The main collection point at Mount Vernon City Hall was doing a brisk business Saturday.
“We’re getting a lot of food,” said volunteer Hank Antil at City Hall. “I’ve been down here since 10:30.”
“We had a truck full before 9:30 this morning,” said volunteer Betty Bemiller-Irwin of the Mount Vernon Lions Club. “I’ve been doing this for 27 years. I think it’s doing good this year. We’ve got a lot of cash in and a lot of donations. People know that we’re going to need it.”
Local auctioneers were on hand to auction off a gingerbread cake baked to resemble the Rose Bowl, a gift basket from the Cougar Bookstore, and an automobile restored and donated by the Knox County Career Center and its Auto Tech and Collision Repair classes.
Scott probably said it best when asked about the importance of the food drive.
“It’s been about 12 or 14 years that I have been blessed to come in here and do this,” he said. “And I brought Sam in to help me a couple of years ago. We’re blessed to be in a phenomenal community. I worked here for a few years and was promoted to the Cleveland area for the division of wildlife for 10 years. But it only took me a couple of years to realize I had made a mistake. I should never have left Knox County. I spent six years trying to get back. Four years later I got the opportunity to go to Columbus and we immediately moved back to Mount Vernon and Knox County. I’m telling you, Knox County has the best people of all the 88 counties I’ve worked in.”
The gingerbread cake was auctioned off three times for a total of $550. The Rollin’ Buckeyes bought it for $275 and returned it to be auctioned again. The second time, it was bought by Dave and LuAnn Bouchard for $175. They returned it to be resold again and Scott bought it for $100.
The gift basket was sold twice, with Bob Tiell buying it for $200 and the Sam McQueen Auction Team buying it for $150.
Scott next auctioned off the GTO donated by the KCCC. After spirited bidding, the car was bought by Jim Gant of Gambier for $8,200.
“It is a nice-looking car and like Jerry said, it is somewhat of a collector’s item. They don’t make that model anymore,” Gant said. “I thought it would be a great investment. And this is a great program. I bought a truck a couple of years ago and it’s still in the family. I think it’s a great way to support the community.”
The annual grocery cart race featured teams from WNZR, Time/Warner, WMVO/Eagle93 and the Mount Vernon News.
WNZR collected $120 and 81 food items, the Mount Vernon News collected $1,003 and 152 food items, and WMVO/Eagle93 collected $122.95 and 269 food items. Time/Warner did not collect monetary donations, but added 1,264 food items to the effort.
Those wanting to make additional donations should send monetary donations to Sally Nelson at Nelson & Nelson CPAs, 1684 Venture Drive, Suite B, Mount Vernon OH 43050; or call 397-0779. Food donations can still be made at local Interchurch pantries or the main location in Mount Vernon at 114 E. Gambier St., or by calling 397-4825.