Janesville52.1°

‘Big Give’ helps ECHO, Salvation Army with cash, food

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NEIL W. JOHNSON
April 10, 2011
— Janesville City Council Member Tom McDonald stood at the south entrance at Woodman’s Food Market in Janesville on Saturday, alongside a half-dozen volunteers who were lined up at rows of food donation barrels.

A man came out of the store with thee bags of groceries in his shopping cart. He dropped two of the bags into one of the donation barrels and wheeled off.


“Man, if everybody coming out today donated 75 percent of their groceries, we’d be set,” said McDonald.


Sue Baumgartner of Janesville, a volunteer for the Salvation Army, smiled as she took stock of the man’s donation: He’d left mandarin oranges; peanut butter, oatmeal, spaghetti sauce, macaroni and more.


Baumgartner and McDonald were two of a host of volunteers from the city of Janesville, the Janesville City Council, ECHO of Janesville and the Salvation Army who were trying to raise nonperishable food donations on Saturday.


The groups were partnering with several Janesville grocers Saturday at the “Big Give,” a cooperative effort to replenish local food supplies at ECHO and the Salvation Army.


Other locations for the food drive included Pick ’n Save, Logli, Daniels Sentry stores on East Milwaukee and West Court streets, and Basics Cooperative Natural Foods.


The drive Saturday was the second “Big Give” food drive. The first drive, held in October 2010, received 5,500 pounds of food along with $1,700 in cash—enough for 11,000 meals for Janesville-area families, according to the city of Janesville.


Saturday’s effort fell short compared to the drive last fall. According to ECHO director Karen Lisser, the drive raised about 4,600 pounds of food and just over $1,000 in donations.


ECHO and the Salvation Army will split the donations.


Lisser said the total of donations Saturday will help ECHO and the Salvation Army to provide at least 9,200 meals for local families.


Lisser said that’s crucial, because ECHO alone has seen at least a 10 percent increase in demand for services. She said ECHO prepares and distributes a maximum of 40 meal orders a day for local residents, and the organization has a need for food donations year round.


Lisser said between emerging uncertainty with federal and state funded programs in recent weeks and gasoline price increases, people in financial need could have more difficulty making ends meet in coming months.


She said those same circumstances also could temper the ability for the public to donate money or items to charitable causes, and could impact ECHO and other organizations’ ability to meet the needs of local residents.


“It’s hard to tell. It’s just a very uncertain time,” Lisser said.


Meanwhile, the city plans to continue partnering with ECHO and the Salvation Army in future food drives.


The three groups plan another “Big Give” food drive in the fall, said city council member Kathy Voskuil, who along with the rest of the city council, volunteered at the food drive Saturday.


“We want to make this drive become a mark-your-calendar event,” Voskuil said. “The need is certainly there, and probably even greater than ever. This is just one way that we can try to make Janesville a better place to live.”



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