Second Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Tennessee lost its lead in Walmart’s Fighting Hunger Together Facebook race for $1 million early Friday to a food bank in Ohio that by the end of the day had pulled ahead by several thousand online votes.
Disheartened but determined, Rhonda Chafin, executive director of the food bank in Gray that serves eight local counties, said the food bank’s supporters are not giving up and will conduct several public voting events before the close of the contest at midnight Monday in attempt to rally back.
Second Harvest volunteers will be at the food bank from 9 a.m. to noon today and at both of Walmart’s Johnson City locations from noon to 4 p.m. The volunteers will have computers set up to gather votes from local Facebook users who may be unaware of the $1 million competition and to quickly set up free Facebook accounts for all others who wish to help. To rally Walmart shoppers to the cause, Aarrow Advertising of Johnson City will have volunteer sign spinners working alongside the food bank supporters near the entrance of both store locations.
On Monday, the food bank will move its Fighting Hunger Together operation to East Tennessee State University to recruit any students and faculty and staff members who have not yet entered their final vote and to the Summit Leadership building located on Hanover Road beween West Oakland Avenue and Mountainview Road.
Volunteers will have their computers set up at the lower level entrance of the D.P. Culp student center from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday and outside the Summit Leadership building across the street from The Stock Pot building from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“I am not sure what to say at this point but to ask our community to continue to rally behind this campaign,” Chafin said. “Even if we are behind on Monday our community can bring us back in the lead.”
The food bank’s fall from the lead of 200 food banks nationwide that were selected by Walmart to take part in the competition because of high unemployment in their areas came after 16 consecutive days at the top of the leaderboard. “All I can say is great community support has been shown to get us to this level. We have gone up against some of the largest cities in the United States and we have shown the spirit of giving from Northeast Tennessee. I am so grateful to everyone who has supported this effort no matter what happens.”
The regional food bank in Gray as well as the food bank serving the Morristown area were both among the competition’s top 20 vote gatherers on Friday and if they can remain in the top 20 through Monday, both will receive a $50,000 Fighting Hunger Together prize. “One way or the other, we should at least get $50,000 for our community,” Chafin said.
With only three days left in the contest, the food bank and Good Samaritan Ministries, which was chosen by Walmart to be Second Harvest’s service agency partner and share in the prize money, added urgency to their request for everyone to visit www.facebook.com/walmart daily through Monday, click on Fighting Hunger Together and enter their votes for the Johnson City area.
Dave McCauley, president and CEO of Summit Leadership, which provides networking services for local nonprofit services, issued a “Get 5 to Get 5” challenge on Friday to encourage all local Facebook users to ask five friends outside of the region to vote for the Johnson City area and to ask their friends to vote as well.
“It’s about the why,” Chafin said. “Our community was chosen to participate in the competition because we are one of 200 with the highest unemployment rate in the country. Everyone has worked so hard to stay ahead in this campaign, it would be a shame to lose it now when we are still so close.”