Second Harvest Food Bank and Good Samaritan Ministries made the most of the final day of voting in Walmart’s Fighting Hunger Together Facebook race for $1 million Monday, heartened by the support of online voters who put the agencies in line for what appeared to be a solid second place finish and a $50,000 cash prize to fight hunger in the local region.
“It’s a pretty sure bet we will be in the top 20 and we may even stay in second place,” Rhonda Chafin, executive director of the regional food bank, said early Monday afternoon as Second Harvest staff members, volunteers and supporters continued their rally for online votes.
“Fifty thousand dollars is huge and we want to the thank all of the community for their support,” Chafin said.
After 16 consecutive days at the top of the competition’s leader board, the Johnson City area lost its lead early Friday morning to Youngstown, Ohio, which began gaining about 3,000 votes daily early last week and by the end of the day on Friday had surged ahead by more than 10,000 votes.
Friday’s fall from the No. 1 position caused the food bank and Good Samaritan to redouble their online networking and to stage several public voting events which contineued on Monday at the food bank and at Summit Leadership Foundation office on Hanover Road.
“We won’t stop until midnight,” Chafin said. “We did well over the weekend and we were able to hold (Youngstown’s lead) to about 10,000 votes. Then Monday morning that took off again.”
At 6 p.m. on Monday with just over 60,000, the Johnson City area was running about 29,000 votes behind No. 1 Youngstown and more than 33,000 votes ahead of No. 3 Fresno, Calif. The food bank serving the region surrounding Morristown was in 10th place with nearly 6,000 votes and also solidly among the top 20 finishers who will each receive a $50,000 prize from the Walmart Foundation.
“It has been the community’s energy and enthusiasm that took us to the lead. And because of their effort, we will finish this campaign in a strong position and should be able to secure a grant worth $50,000 to combat hunger in our region,” Chafin said.
Walmart selected 200 communities nationwide to participate in the contest based on high unemployment rates in their regions. The Johnson City area was selected based on unemployment in the Metropolitan Statistical Area of Washington, Carter and Unicoi counties, which Chafin said, is among the highest in the country. The Walmart Foundation is expected to announce how the prize money will be divided among the winning food banks and their partner agencies on May 15.
Sara Wells, executive director of Good Samaritan Ministries, said regardless of how much prize money the ministry receives, the competition provided the community a “wonderful opportunity” to spotlight the widespread need for food and for jobs in the region and to involve more people in efforts to help.
“The selection stressed that people here in our area are hurting. They’re hurting for food and they’re hurting for jobs,” Wells said. “The biggest boost has been how many people have been willing to help.”