Food for the Hungry 2018 drive

Volunteers collect food donations during the 2018 Food For The Hungry drive.

MOUNT VERNON — From empowering women and girls to promoting literacy to encouraging the cultural arts, service clubs continually look for ways to improve their community.

They're also not adverse to friendly competition, vying to be the “People's Choice” when it comes to food. Whether it be 4-inch pork chops, grilled chicken, or raccoon dinners, they take their culinary skills seriously.

This year, six local service clubs have the chance to both serve and compete as they join together to raise monetary donations for Knox County's Food For The Hungry drive.

The clubs will collect monetary donations through Wednesday, Dec. 9. The club that collects the most donations will be featured on the Food for The Hungry broadcast on Friday, Dec. 11. The competition is between:

* The Exchange Club of Mount Vernon & Knox County

* Kiwanis Club of Mount Vernon

* Lions Club of Mount Vernon

* Psi Iota Xi Sorority

* Rotary Club of Mount Vernon

* Soroptimist of Mount Vernon & Knox County

“That is a great group of service clubs,” Carol Grubaugh, executive director of the Knox County Chamber of Commerce, said. “They're always looking for service projects as a way to give back to the community, and I think that was part of it. Food for The Hungry has such a wonderful reputation, who doesn't want to help?”

The competition idea came about after Grubaugh talked with FFTH Executive Director Lisa Mazzari about how different this year's drive is going to be due to the pandemic.

“She asked if I thought service clubs would help,” explained Grubaugh. “The more we discussed it, the more excited we got. So I called some clubs, and this year we are collecting monetary donations.

“When I started making telephone calls, I can tell you that there was zero hesitation when I asked if they would participate,” she continued. “One dollar equals $9 in buying power at the Mid-Ohio Food Bank. So we're going to have a friendly competition, and we'll find out which service club will win bragging rights."

Grubaugh, who, along with her husband, has supported and volunteered with FFTH in a variety of ways over the years, feels it is especially important to support FFTH this year.

“Unfortunately, many businesses have suffered this year. Many employees have had their hours reduced, or they've lost their job. There's not a business out there that wasn't touched, no matter what type of business they have,” she said. “That touches a lot of families. The families are worried, and there's so much uncertainty. Unfortunately, the crisis calls have increased, there's so much depression and anxiety, even suicide. All of this is a very dismal type of thing that you hear. I hope people will look at this as an opportunity that is just one simple step that may ease one challenge a family may be facing.

“If people have not supported it in the past, I think that this year is the year to begin,” she added.

For Grubaugh, volunteering is a gratifying and emotional experience.

“There are times that you're laughing and just having a good time, and there are times that you tear up,” she said. “Most people don't volunteer for recognition, they do it because it's so personally rewarding. You just feel so good inside, and the experience stays with you forever.”

FFTH's slogan, “working together to care for our neighbors,” hits home for Grubaugh.

“Like the saying goes, many hands make light work. I think that is so true in this,” she said. “The chamber team, we do work together in our daily tasks. We see how that makes our work productive and successful, so this model is certainly adaptable to everything in our community. The slogan of “working together to care for our neighbors” will inspire many people to give whatever they can this year.”

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