The Single Serving

"Meditations in an Emergency"

by Montgomery Area Food Bank on 12/19/14

On Saturday, December 6th, I had the “privilege” of taking an emergency box to a lady who had called requesting assistance.  I say privilege, because when I left her house, I felt I received more than she did. 

This woman was a nurse for 30 years.  Three years ago, she began having medical problems that have continued to the point that she is in a motorized chair and has to have someone come daily to care for her.  She was reluctant to call us, she said, because she doesn’t want to have to ask for help, but has gone through all her savings and had to choose between getting her prescriptions (many of them) filled and buying food.  She literally had nothing left to eat.  She has no family other than some distant relations in Tuscaloosa that she doesn’t want to burden with her problems.

When I called and talked to her as I pulled up to her house, I thought I was talking to a very elderly person, her voice was so soft and frail.  She kept apologizing because it took her some time to get to the door.  I was shocked to learn that she is about my age- which means she does not qualify for programs like Meals on Wheels because she’s not 60 years old.  She is getting progressively worse and is developing early dementia, so she is going to have to go to a nursing home before much longer.

As I got ready to leave, she thanked me over and over and wished me a Merry Christmas.  I sat in my car in tears for quite a while and was not able to get her out of my mind all weekend.  It wasn’t just her situation, which while heart-breaking, is not all that uncommon.  It was her attitude and spirit that humbled and shamed me…despite all she is dealing with she was so positive and pleasant to talk with.  I keep wondering how she remains so strong when faced with such daunting medical and financial issues. 

I hope that I can keep her clearly pictured in my mind as I go about my day’s work for that is who we serve.  How many more like her are out there that we don’t even know about?  We owe it to each and every one of them to give every bit of talent and energy we have to doing our jobs the best we can.  I hope the next time I say I don’t feel like going to work, or I’m tired, or have a little ache or pain, that her face will come to mind.  If she can face the trials she is facing day after day with such a sweet spirit and undaunting strength, then surely I can come to work with the right attitude and do all I can do to make it better for those we serve. 

So many people depend on us to do our very best for them each and every day.  We are doing them a huge disservice if we are just here marking time until the next paycheck or to fulfill our personal agendas.    We choose to be here and to carry out this mission; we need to do it well.

It was a privilege to be able to help this woman in some small way.  It was a privilege because it was a lesson in handling adversity with dignity and goodness rather than bitterness and self-pity.  It was a privilege because I was once again reminded that the work I do isn’t about statistics or paperwork—it’s about real people who are hurting and need our help.  It was a privilege because it reminded me not to get comfortable, but to keep pushing for solutions.  I am grateful that I have been given this chance to make a small difference in a few people’s lives.  If I forget, simply delivering a small box of food goes a long way in reminding me.

                                                                                                                                Cheri

If your non-profit agency would like to sponsor a senior in need or learn more about our Senior Supplement program, contact Cheri O'Dell at (334) 263-3784. Or, you can support the Senior Supplement program by donating here. 

Why I Advocate

by Montgomery Area Food Bank on 09/04/14

By: Adam Powell

Staff Writer 
Tallassee Tribune/Eclectic Observer

When I was young, my family and I were not well-off. I was born with a liver disease which caused me to have a liver transplant at two-years-old and the ensuing medical expenses put quite a weight on our family. My father was working on an assembly line, with a commute of about an hour each day, and getting home around 4:30 every afternoon covered in grease and sweat. My mother was attending nursing school in an effort to make sure that all of my medical needs were addressed and understood, all while raising me and my brother and sister. 

There were many nights that my father would suit up right after dinner to go hunting for deer, not for sport or enjoyment but because we couldn't afford store-bought meat. And, when we could, we’d have fish sticks and mac ‘n’ cheese, or Hamburger Helper or some other nutrition-limited, cost-effective cuisine. My parents worked hard for me and my siblings - we didn't get to go out to dinner a lot, we didn't get fashionable shoes or clothes, but we survived and we were loved. Eventually, my mother became a nurse and my father was promoted and things improved around the old Powell house, but looking back on those days I realize how we could have benefited from a little help. 

Today, thousands of Americans are in the same boat that we were in - hard-working families that just aren't quite able to make ends meet. In some cases, parents are going without food just so they can feed their children, all while keeping up with the bills and rent and day-to-day expenses. 

That’s why I promote, as much as I can, the efforts of the Montgomery Area Food Bank and their partner agencies. I've helped with fund-raisers and grand opening events, but mostly I try to spread their message through social media and daily interactions. And sometimes that’s the most valuable work, the work of sharing the message and vision of these groups who aim to help Americans fill their dietary needs and still be able to fill their financial responsibilities. 

For single moms or parents with low-wage jobs, the Food Bank goes a long way to ensure these people have access to the things they need. While my online advocacy may not seem like much, it has helped people connect with these agencies and get the help they need. Sometimes people are unaware that an agency right down the street can help with their needs. Sometimes people just need to know where to go and how to contact an agency that is set up to help them through tough times. 

I’m a husband and a father now and, thankfully, I have enough to feed my family and pay our bills, but I still appreciate the needs of those around me - the ones I may not even know are struggling. Advocacy is a large part of making sure people have what they need. By sharing a post, liking a page, commenting on a thread or just talking with one another about the extraordinary work that the Food Bank does, you may have the key to solving someone’s need. People aren’t always going to tell you when there’s a problem, they’re not always going to lament and complain, but they will take notice when they see that someone is working hard to make their life better. 

The MAFB offers multiple programs to assist with every need out there, whether it’s the Senior Supplement program, the mobile pantries or any of their other efforts, where there is a need you will find the Food Bank working to fix it. All we have to do is use the one gift we were given at birth - our voice. By speaking up and speaking out, you may well be the savior that someone was looking for. All we have to do is pay attention, share and care and let the Food Bank take care of the rest.  

Adam C. Powell is a staff writer for The Tallassee Tribune and Eclectic Observer. For the month of September he will be dedicating his column to hunger awareness for #HungerAction Month! He is a long-time advocate of the food bank and uses social media to 'Feed Hope Across Alabama'. 

For more writings by Adam, be sure to check his WordPress page at tribunepowell.wordpress.com 
Contact Adam: 
(334) 283-6568 
(334) 567-7811
adam.powell@tallasseetribune.com

Montgomery Area Food Bank Puts a Young Spin on an Old Program

by Montgomery Area Food Bank on 07/16/14

Written by: Meg Mader, Account Executive, Digital Media-CDR Fundraising Group

 The Montgomery Area Food Bank (MAFB), a nonprofit organization serving senior citizens in Alabama, recently put a “young” spin on an “old” program – and found gold: The MAFB was recognized with the 2014 IMAB Integrated Marketing Award. 

 The MAFB improves the lives of more than 330,000 people every year, providing free food to individuals and families in need by distributing groceries and other necessities, and partnering with more than 800 agencies. The Senior Supplement Program, one of MAFB’s many life-changing services, provides nourishing food to elderly citizens across Alabama. Each month, all participating seniors receive a box filled with 25 to 35 pounds of nutritious food carefully selected for the special needs of older citizens.

 But at one point, this relied-up service was in jeopardy – the Senior Supplement program had been struggling, and with funding so low, any hopes of program expansion were put on hold indefinitely – MAFB has not been able to add any new seniors to the program in over a year.

Finding Gold in Something Old

 The MAFB realized they had to make a change to achieve their goals of increased engagement and overall support for the Senior Supplement Program. In their new strategy, MAFB switched the focus of their marketing, to call attention to the program itself and allow supporters to get to know the seniors they serve. The MAFB did this by sharing personal stories from participants, a smart way to educate donors on how the Senior Supplement Program profoundly improves the lives of seniors in need. The MAFB also began showing program-specific donors results to acknowledge the impact of their gifts and foster an emotional connection between the donor and the seniors.

 To share their stories and increase awareness of the Senior Supplement Program, the MAFB switched to social media. Typically known for its influence on a younger audience, the MAFB opted to use social media channels to put a young spin on an old program, with hopes of reaching new followers and growing support. Staff dedicated one month to using Facebook, Twitter, and the MAFB blog to promote stories, facts and information about the seniors they serve. On Facebook, MAFB posted compelling images with facts summarizing the serious health concerns facing seniors who are malnourished. On their blog, the MAFB posted persuasive stories, one of which was written about an 81-year-old woman whose medical conditions did not allow her to digest solid foods.

 The social media strategy was complimented by a matching grant opportunity: all first-time donors or donors who increase their giving (by dedicating gifts to the Senior Supplement Program) had their donations matched with a $10,000 gift.

 One Donor ‘Ensures’ Program Continues

 The results of this “young” strategy proved very rewarding for the program. In response to the story about the elderly woman who can’t digest solids, the program received donations of Ensure meal replacement drinks. The MAFB also received monthly sustainer donations in response to the same story.

 In addition to expanding their social reach, the MAFB saw increases in overall visitors to their website and click-throughs driven from social media posts. In June of 2014, the Senior Supplement program increased the number of participants served by 6%, and this growth is forecasted to continue. On social media, the MAFB saw a 5.6% increase in Facebook likes, and an impressive 33% increase in Twitter followers in May and June of this year.

 Last, but perhaps the most meaningful, the organization saw growth in their monthly recurring donations, adding 7 new monthly donors in 2014, two of which contribute directly to the Senior Supplement program.

 The MAFB showed that social media is a powerful platform and useful for integrated campaigns when part of a strategy. These initiatives proved that knowledge is power – when supporters know more about the program’s depth and true impact of their gift, they develop a stronger connection to the organization’s mission and are more likely to stay engaged and give again. And while the Senior Supplement Program caters to older citizens, it is in fact, young at heart.

This blog was written by Meg Mader, (Account Executive, Digital Media-CDR Fundraising Group) on behalf of the Montgomery Area Food Bank for their recognition of the Integrated Marketing Award presented by the Integrated Marketing Advisory Board. 

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