Hunger vote will take teamwork

Sue Guinn Legg • Apr 12, 2012 at 8:36 AM

Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee and Good Samaritan Ministries have taken an early lead in Walmart’s $1 million “Fighting Hunger Together” competition launched on Walmart’s Facebook page Monday.

The food bank and the ministry jumped to the front of a pack of about 200 food bank and partner agency teams across the nation vying for votes late Monday night and are working furiously to hold the lead. The contest will continue through April 30. Rhonda Chafin, the food bank’s executive director, said daily Facebook votes from every supporter of the food bank and Good Samaritan will be needed to stay in the running.

“We’re a small region up against places like Fresno, Calif., and Charlotte. N.C., which are breathing down our neck right now,” Chafin said early Wednesday. “Fresno was way down the line and they jumped 400 votes last night. Those same 400 will vote again today, and when the big metropolitan areas get going, if we don’t have everybody on board voting every day, they’re going to pass right by us. We are really going to have to work hard to get the $1 million.”

With the number of local residents who receive monthly food assistance from pantries and feeding agencies in the region assisted by the food bank up by about 2,000 more individuals than last year and the food bank’s annual distribution to those agencies down by about one million pounds of food, the $1 million prize from Walmart Foundation could ease a lot of hunger in Northeast Tennessee.

To help, Second Harvest and Good Samaritan are asking their supporters to visit www.facebook/walmart every day through the end of the month, click on the “Fighting Hunger Together” icon, enter a vote for the Johnson City area and share their vote with all their Facebook friends to encourage them to vote as well. “If they’re not on Facebook but they want to help us, they can call the food bank (at 477-4053) and we will help them get set up,” Chafin said. “It only takes three seconds and it costs nothing to vote.”

The East Tennessee Christian Home and Academy in Elizabethton is marking its 65th anniversary with a fundraising campaign to expand its service.

Hundreds of area residents whose families could not or would not provide a home for them as children have lived at “the home” in Elizabethton over the decades and grown up to become productive and successful adults. From its 1946 founding as an orphanage for boys and girls to its present residential and academic program for adolescent girls, ETCHA’s mission has been to provide children and teens in need with a safe and nurturing home and academic and practical instruction for a successful life through the teachings and love of Christ.

ETCHA is the only private residential program with an in-house academy in the area, and the majority of its student residents stay an average of three years. Last year a four-bedroom, independent living apartment was added to the home’s programs to help its graduates with the transition to life on their own.

Currently, the home is experiencing more demand for its services than it can meet, with an average of two requests for admission each week. Two of its dormitories are not in use because of the lack of funds to cover the cost of operations for up to 16 additional students.

In commemoration of its anniversary, ETCHA has launched a “Prayer and Pocket Change Partnership” in an attempt to recruit 1,000 individuals or groups willing to donate the change in their pocket at the end of each day to help meet the need. Figuring the average person accumulates about 65 cents in spare change daily, the total donation from each Prayer and Pocket Change partner would be about $20 per month or $240 per year. With 1,000 partners chipping in over the course of a year, the $240,000 raised would enable the home to open its two idle dorms and better meet the need of others.

Melissa Marvel, ETCHA’s director of services, invited anyone who may be willing to help to call her at 542-4423 or to visit www.etcha.org to learn more about the home and its Prayer and Pocket Change campaign.

Marvel also invited the community to join the home in celebrating its 65 years at a benefit dinner to be held April 20 at Boones Creek Christian Church in Johnson City. The dinner is free but will include an opportunity to donate to the home’s plan for expansion and other needs. Those who wish to attend must reserve a seat by Monday by calling Delores Fox at 854-0911 or 737-3743.

If there is a need or a project in your neighborhood the Good Neighbor column can assist with, contact Sue Guinn Legg at slegg@johnsoncitypress.com, P.O. Box 1717, Johnson City, TN 37605 1717 or 929-3111, ext. 335.

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