Food drive helps Village Manor residents find outward focus

By Emily Ulber

A little more than two years ago, Gene Vincent started trying to find a way for the residents at Village Manor to give back to their community.

“I was looking for a project [where] we could do something beyond ourselves,” said Vincent, the chaplain at Village Manor, a Christian Care Community.

Vincent found a match in the Feeding America – Kentucky’s Heartland Build-A-Bridge food drive, which runs year-round and collects food for the organization’s Backpack Program, benefiting children who are at risk of being hungry on the weekends.  Collection items include single-serve soups, single-serve fruit cups, Pop-Tarts, and granola or fruit bars.

The food collected from Village Manor is sent to Elizabethtown. It is then inventoried and distributed to participating schools, including schools in Warren County. Teachers discreetly place a bag of food into the backpacks of participating children on Friday afternoons or prior to the weekend.

“It’s usually something that’s easy to open and easy to fix, like the Pop-Tarts, the granola bars, those types of things — something the kids can do by themselves if their parents are away or if they’re home alone,” Vincent said.

Sometimes, Village Manor residents will bring a can of their own food when they come to a chapel service, he said. But the majority of donations are monetary and come during the Thursday afternoon worship services.

“We pass around a little basket, and we explain that this is not to interfere with their tithes and their offerings to their local church; it is not to take away from any other organization or thing they want to participate in,” Vincent said. “We just want their pocket change, a dollar or two, something like that.”

At the end of each month, the money is pooled and used to buy food for Build-A-Bridge. Vincent said they bring the food back and put it in the chapel to act as a visual aid for residents, so they can see what their money is doing.

“They really like it,” Vincent said. “Number one, it deals with children, and they, as older folks, love children. And secondly, it’s something that is local.” Most of the food donated by Village Manor residents comes right back to Warren County, he said.

“It helps them see that they are doing something besides just existing,” he said. “So often, senior adults — especially older senior adults that are in their mid-eighties, early nineties — sometimes they tend to get to the point where they are focused inwardly, and it helps them to say, ‘I can focus outwardly,’ even if it’s just a dollar or two a week.”

In 2010, Village Manor was the largest contributor to the Build-A-Bridge program in Warren County, donating 2,481 pounds of food. This year, their goal is 2,500 pounds — and as of the end of June, they’re nearly halfway there.

The donations from Village Manor have made a huge impact, said Tami Delaney, Development Director for Feeding America – Kentucky’s Heartland. “It’s our responsibility as citizens to help one another when times are tough,” Delaney said. “And times are tough.”

Village Manor has been able to act as an example to other organizations, Vincent said. “It doesn’t take a lot to do this. It’s something really simple that does meet a need…It’s kind of heartbreaking to think that there’s little kids in and around us that may not have enough to eat or aren’t being taken care of sufficiently,” he said. “It’s kind of a way to touch people’s lives.”

Vincent said he had considered trying a different project for 2011, but he was met with a resounding “no” from residents. “You’ll hear them say every once in a while, ‘It’s the kids. It’s for the kids,'” he said. “That’s what matters.”

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