Embarrassing Myself to Feed Others



September is Hunger Action Month. As far as I am concerned every month is Hunger Action Month because I think I am hungry all the time, not just in September. But you know how these things go, causes only get one month, like Black History Month is February even though blacks make history everyday.


Lots of things are celebrated in September. I bet you did not know that September is also National Guide Dog month as well as Cranio-facial Awareness Month. I understand celebrating dogs, especially those who serve people who need them, but Cranio-Facial Awareness? Are we recognizing that we have heads and faces? I’m going to get letters about this, I can feel it.


About embarrassing myself… This Friday the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC is holding it’s 24 hour telethon to raise $60,000 + to help feed people. It starts at noon and goes like it says, 24 hours until Saturday noon. It is a big time marathon for the staff at the Food Bank who stay up all night running this show.


I am going to be interviewed at the 4:30, PM Friday time slot. You can log into the telethon at www.foodbank24.org and as long as you have a computer with an Internet connection you can see me live. You never know what in the world I am going to talk about with no script and no editing.


Of course I would really love to get some donations coming into the Food Bank while I am on. We are trying to provide over 300,00 meals to our hungry neighbors in the 34 counties our Food Bank serves. It would be so sad if no donations came in during my segment. Of course I have no idea how long I will be on so donations anytime are appreciated.


So set your alarms, ignore the calls from the face and head people for money, take a break from the Kay Hagen-Thom Tillis fight and log in and watch the telethon. If you send me a facebook message or a Lessdana comment while I’m on the air I will call you out by name.

Last Day



Today is my final Food Bank board meeting as chair. It is hard to believe that two years has gone so quickly. Of course it feels so much longer since I have been involved with the Food Bank for thirteen or fourteen years. And today is not the end, I move out of the chair seat and into the past chair stool. They can’t get rid of me that easily.


I have had the great privilege of working with an outstanding CEO, Peter Werbicki and his talented Executive Management Team as well as the highly qualified board. I am sure that I would never be selected to be on this board today based on the superiority of the people who have joined in the last few years. But that was all by design. When I was the chair of board development my goal was to recruit people much brighter than myself and that has happened and been the case ever since.


I am proud of all the people who work and volunteer for the Food Bank. We are the emergency food provider for 34 counties and more and more our job has changed to help the chronically poor and hungry. Every year we have miraculously increased the amount of food we are able to deliver, and our year does not end until June 30, but I can predict we will have another record year.


That is not good news. The fact that there are more and more working poor who need help is a sad situation in our community. Food insecurity is a hidden problem that so many people do not fully understand.


As a person who loves food as much as I do I am still dedicated to ensuring that our neighbors have something to eat. Not just anything, but healthy, nutritious food. The dollar menu at fast food is no way for a nation to survive.


I leave my seat proud of all that the Food Bank has done, but knowing there is still much work ahead of us. I would have been the most successful if I had been able to put the Food Bank out of business because of a lack of hungry people. Sadly, I am not sure I will live long enough to see that, but it will remain my goal.

Thank you to all of you blog readers who have been supporters of the Food Bank and the work we are doing. To share with your neighbors is the true sign of your humanity. I am proud to be a member of this community and I look forward to continuing the fight to end hunger.

Harris Beverage Good Guys



A few months ago my neighbor and friend Jay Harris who owns Harris Beverages the local Budweiser and other craft beer distributor told me about how much fun he had when he went to an national meeting and all the beer guys volunteered at the local food bank.  Knowing I am the chair of the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC he asked me if we had volunteer opportunities at our food bank.  “Boy, do we,” came out of my mouth as fast as if I was a child being asked do you want candy and cookies for lunch.


See our food bank is in the top ten of the two hundred Feeding America Food Banks across the country in terms of volunteer utilization.  We have seven branches in our thirty-four counties and everyday we have volunteers working in our branches that more than double our paid work force.


Jay and I started to talk about what might be a good one-day job for Harris Beverages to do as a team building exercise for the whole company.  Now people can come and sort food, package potatoes or do any number of valuable jobs, but there was one thing I had in mind that was made for a group of strong men with big trucks so I floated the idea to Jay to have Harris help the Durham branch move from it’s old location to it’s new bigger branch.


The cost of moving would be thousands of real dollars to us if we had to pay for it.  Paying to move would have taken food away from people who need it.  If it cost us $8,000 that would equal $80,000 worth of food since we can turn every dollar into ten dollars worth of food.  But moving our warehouse was a big job.  Jay did not hesitate and got right on working out all the logistics with our staff.


This morning Harris beer trucks, pallet jacks and employees showed up early on a Saturday morning and moved us.  I hope they had fun because I know it was a big job.  That is the kind of corporate giving back that makes Harris a wonderful Durham company.  Thank you Jay for not even blinking an eye when I suggested helping with the move as a volunteer opportunity.  I am proud you are my friend.


To all the citizens of Durham and Chapel Hill if you are thinking about buying a beer this week or this month buy a Bud, or a Big Boss, Carolina Brewery, Sweet Water or a New Leaf Tea if you don’t like beer.  No one made Jay Harris volunteer to help the Food Bank.  We don’t give beer away as part of our mission to make sure no one in Central in Eastern NC goes hungry, but Jay wanted to do something to help us and boy did all those Harris Employees ever help.  So thank them by buying a beer.

Don’t Give Your Money to The Government



Today is one of my favorite days when Russ and I talk about our charitable giving for the year-end.  This year Carter got in on the conversation too.  She said she thought it would be cool to be like Bill Gates and get to spend our time making big difference with big time giving.  I told her that it’s not just big givers who make a difference, but if lots of people just gave a little it really star add up.


Everyone who knows me knows that the Food Bank of Central and Eastern NC is the cause I am most passionate about.  The Food Bank is one of those charities that gets the majority of its gifts from people making small contributions.  I am always touched when I am manning a collection point for a food and funds drive by the people who come up and press a twenty dollar bill in my hand and say, “I wish it could be more, but I am very thankful for the help I got from the Food Bank myself.”

For that person for whom $20 is a lot of money giving it back to the Food Bank as thanks really chokes me up.


As it is for most Charities December is the most important month in our year.  We depend on the year-end donations to make up a huge percentage of our budget.  We have a Charity Navigator Four star rating because we are very efficient with the money we are given because we always try and keep those small donors who dig so deep to support us at the forefront of our minds.  The problem is that even though we have grown every year in the amount of food, 52 million pounds last year, we are providing to the hungry in 34 counties in NC the need keeps out pacing us.


There is only one day left to give your money to a worthy cause to help save yourself from giving it to the government in taxes if you don’t.  I hope that you have a little bit more than you needed this year and that you do not have to depend on organizations like the Food Bank for your most basic needs.  If you want to have some fun give some money away in the next twenty-four hours.


If you chose to give it to the Food Bank you can just click here http://www.foodbankcenc.org/HolidayMeals to make a donation online easy as pie.  Know that for every dollar you give the Food Bank can turn it into ten dollars worth of food.  That kind of multiplier is hard to beat.


Even if you don’t give to the Food Bank I hope that you can get some joy out of giving to something you are passionate about.  You may never know the people you impact, be it students at a school you support or musicians at the Symphony or a homeless family who gets a home through Habitat, but if everyone who has a little something extra gives a little it all adds up to making our community a better place.


Bless you and your family this holiday season and know that I am thankful for you all.

9/11 Day of Service


Twelve years ago everyone over the age of seventeen probably can remember where they were when they first heard the news about the planes flying into the World Trade Center — that unsettling feeling is one that fairly unforgettable.  On this anniversary of one of the worst days in our history people across the country are serving many helping organizations as a tribute to those who lost their lives on 9/11 and as a way to say to anyone who wants to hurt America, “You may hurt one of us but the rest will stand strong together.”

I had the great honor to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina’ Sort-a-rama at the Jim Graham building at the state fair.  It was the second year we have done this project and the turn out was stupendous.

The Jim Graham building is where they hold the livestock exhibition during the state fair and if you have never spent much time walking through the maze of 4-H kid’s living with their prize cows you have no idea how big this building is.  Empty of farm animals today the Food Bank set up hundreds of pallet sized bins full of dried beans peas and pasta that volunteer sorted into family sized bags for future distribution.

I stood on the stage first thing this morning and looked out at the sea of over 700 corporate volunteers who had paid to come and spend their day packing this food.  I was humbled by their excitement and enthusiasm.  After I said a few opening remarks we had a color guard from Boy Scout Troop 39 in Chapel Hill bring in the flags and two fantastic women who work at Blue Cross Blue Shield sang the National Anthem.

I got a little teary standing with my right hand on my heart as I thought about what a wonderful country this is listening to our national anthem.  Quickly I had to pull myself together because I had to introduce our Governor, Pat McCrory who came out to be part of our day of service.  Pastor Jackson from one of our agencies who serves people in need food spoke about how the face of hunger has changed from not just homeless people but the working poor.

Three local corporations were our major sponsors, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Cisco and Food Lion.  Their leaders each spoke about why they volunteer and give back.  By the time all the people said a few words the volunteers were ready to get to the job at hand.  The Governor did the first ceremonial scoop of dried yellow peas and the volunteers were off.

While pictures were being taken Mr. McCrory turned to me and said, “You all do great work and if you ever need my help or want to do an event at the Mansion please let me know.”  You have got to believe that my wheels are turning now to think of all the ways the Governor can help us help the citizens of his state.

The Governor is right; the staff at the Food Bank is the hardest group of people I know who help hundreds of thousand of our neighbors in need.  I was so proud to play a small part of such a vital organization.  Thank you to all the generous people who spent sometime today volunteering to help others and especially to those who spend time everyday helping others.