Salinans rally Thursday to begin an annual effort to collect food for the hungry. Volunteers gathered to learn about Project Salina, and details about the upcoming 2014 effort.
Project Salina unites multiple businesses and organizations in an effort to collect food for five agencies that serve meals, or distribute food, throughout the year.
Project Salina began back in 1990. It started as an effort to help agencies that provide food when their need is the greatest, in the summer months. The agencies typically see a lot of donations during the holidays, but by the summer months their shelves are getting bare. That first year the food went to three agencies, the Salina Rescue Mission, the Emergency Aid Food Bank, and the Salina Salvation Army. Since then Ashby House and the Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas have been added.
In that first year 23 organizations gathered 56,465 food items for three local agencies. The effort has grown over the years. Last year 166 organizations collected a record 246,317 food items.
Project Salina President Clarke Sanders said that what makes this food drive different than most is that it is a “directed food drive”. Each agency provides a list of what they need the most, and then each individual participating volunteer business, group, or organizations is given specific items to collect.
Representatives of the five agencies spoke Thursday.
Kathy Jackson from the Emergency Aid Food Bank said that her organization helped over 16,000 people last year. Along with the food items, the food bank also offers classes and some limited aid to those in need.
Major Mary Burris from the Salina Salvation Army talked about their feeding program. Every weekday evening the Salvation Army provides a free meal for 60 – 80 people. Those who attend range from the elderly who are alone, young families in need of a meal, and often times homeless people from Salina will show up for a meal.
Ashby House Executive Director Brian Anderson said that he spoke about Project Salina at the statewide homeless summit this week in Salina. He said that many communities do not do anything like this, and fielded questions on how Salina does it. Anderson also shared the story of a 12-year-old boy who is currently staying at Ashby House, which is a place for homeless families to stay. He said that the child will always have a memory of Ashby House once he grows, and that memory will include always having enough to eat while there.
Andrea Quill from the Domestic Violence Association of Central Kansas talked about her agency, which can house 18 women and children who are victims of domestic violence or sexual assault. They served over 10,000 meals last year, along with delivering meals as part of their outreach program.
Steve Kmetz from the Salina Rescue Mission, a place for homeless men to stay, said that his agency served 52,000 meals last year. Kmetz said that we all become tired, but added “please don’t become tired or weary of doing good for someone else.”
The effort to collect the food officially begins on May 1st, and lasts through the entire month. Project Salina provides a combined 40 percent of the annual food needs for the five agencies.