Things You May Not Know About Us!
Food for Thought completed its first school year in the summer of 2019, distributing 105,650 meals. That number reached 225,820 meals after the 2020 school year (a 213% increase), not counting over 3000 pounds of food donated to the city's two high school pantries and additional groceries for the pantry at the city's Department of Social Services. Students were served at 24 school locations, six community centers, and four colleges. Packing and distribution was made possible by 2882 volunteer hours. This year a grant from a local health professional provided 2600 hygiene kits to be included in the bags, and a grant from Centra Foundation provided milk.
Food for Families distributed 900,000 pounds of food in the past year with the help of 15,868 volunteer hours. While food is the most basic need, clothing is a close second, especially in winter. A few racks had always been off to the side so patrons could browse while waiting to get their food. By last Thanksgiving the increase in both donations and demand meant relocating the clothing to a space in the Plaza, filling up a 1200 square-foot room. In the three months that followed, until the pandemic hit, 20,000 pounds (TEN TONS) of clothing were given away (and even more was donated).
The Community Resource Center opened in early 2019 and before year's end the traffic count during one month showed 275 people had interacted with the CRC. In some cases, efforts were coordinated to secure funds for utility payments and evictions, help with emergency food and clothing, and offer advice on employment, housing, transportation, and counseling. In 2020 a mini computer lab was opened to facilitate the job search and resume preparation.
Fifty-eight adults graduated from the various courses offered last year through the Life Skills Institute. More than one individual has found meaningful employment because they now know how to use a computer. Others who were once threatened with eviction have kept their homes because now they know how to keep them clean. Eleven thousand square feet of warehouse and classroom space was provided at virtually no cost to accommodate the rapid expansion of our programs.
Last fall, Park View was chosen as one of the official charities of the Virginia Ten Miler, and was the charity of choice to receive all the proceeds from the 20th Annual Boonsboro Country Club Charity Tennis Pro-Am tournament. Park View's first “Love Your Neighbor 5K” race was held November 9 which drew a surprising 181 registrations and raised close to $20,000.
An anonymous donor presented a $12,000 challenge grant to the Board of Directors to enlist financial support from churches. If ten would pledge $100 in monthly support for at least 12 months, the $12,000 they give would be matched. Over 30 churches responded with monthly giving.
A second van was purchased through a grant from one of our food partners, Kroger. Other local grants were received from our other food partners, Walmart and the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank, and from the Andrew H. & Anne O. Easley Trust, Greater Lynchburg Community Foundation, the Al Stroobants Foundation, and Centra Foundation.
Partnerships are vital in maximizing what can be accomplished. First National Bank not only funds a class at LSI, bank executives teach it. President and CEO Aubrey Hall says, “First National Bank is proud to partner with Park View Community Mission to provide the Go Beyond Education Program , designed to facilitate financial education and development of basic job skills to help individuals enhance their quality of life and move out of poverty. Our support is viewed as an investment in our community’s future.” Keith Cook, Workforce Operator at Virginia Career Works, also commented, “There is no other adult educational space available like Park View's.” Park View staff also actively serve on several of the nine “Bridges to Progress” task forces, working on specific aspects of the city's anti-poverty program.
Last fall, along with three Park View staffers, former mayor Treney Tweedy spent the day knocking on doors at a large public housing project. She thought it was important to take the time to personally encourage the residents she met to sign up for our “Home Essentials” class. This class was begun to answer a critical need for tenants to learn basic housekeeping and self-care skills to avoid eviction. She made this statement, speaking from first-hand experience: "Thank you to all of the community partners and businesses that support the Life Skills classes being taught through Park View Community Mission and their partners. The faith, non-profit, higher-education and business organizations in Lynchburg are helping residents grow in their life journey, pushing beyond their perceived limitations, to set higher expectations and goals for individuals and their families. Citizens are demonstrating that they are motivated and willing to seek out new learning opportunities. Working together we are making a difference!"
A mother was asked how the “Food for Thought” backpack program helped her family. She said her husband has a full-time job but it takes two incomes to make ends meet. She lost her job due to the coronavirus, and with the schools closed she’s been unable to look for other work because she has to stay home with their four children. “It’s hard on just one income, so without this food I don’t know how we could make it.”
Asked her response to the people who donate money to fund this program, one woman said, “What you’re doing is more than financial help. It helps keep our family together.” A boy was asked what his family would do if he didn’t bring home his bag of food on Friday. His response: “I think we’d starve.”
A teacher reported on the difference made by Food for Thought: “I feel like more of my students attend school on Fridays because they know that’s when they will get their food for the weekend.” Another shared this story: “Before, one of my students would ask his classmates for their lunch leftovers. He knew he had a long weekend ahead with little food at home. Now he gets weekend meals.”