August 15, 2008
Hunger in America
Pick up any newspaper or magazine today, listen to the radio…in fact, ask your local public assistance office or food bank and you will know that with the worsening economy comes hunger and food insecurity–a situation affecting many, many people including those who have never asked for help before. Rising food costs and the general serious downturn in the economy are taking their toll and contacts we have in the non-profit world are confirming the seriousness of the situation on an almost daily basis.
Today’s call came from Ranya Kelly, the dedicated and indefatigable founder of the Redistribution Center in Colorado (http://www.redistributioncenter.org/). Ranya’s work is almost legend. Over 20 years ago while searching through a dumpster for a carton to mail some gifts, Ranya discovered over 500 pairs of brand new shoes discarded by a nearby store. It was that discovery that led to the formation of the Redistribution Center, Ranya’s organization which has rescued, since its founding, over 700,000 pairs of new shoes and millions of dollars worth of brand new, perfectly usable clothing, bedding, building supplies and more from local and national retail outlets. What was destined for a landfill is now filling the needs of impoverished people not only in the Denver area but also other parts of the United States. Ranya has sent two 53′ trailers to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, ravaged by Hurricane Katrina three years ago and her efforts have also benefited our nation’s soldiers who have returned from fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In addition to the incredible importance of recycling all of these hard goods, Ranya began a small food pantry at her facility (located on part of her property) and has been able to fill it with donated food items from both manufacturers and local food stores. There has never been a shortage of needy recipients for the food, but in the past several phone calls Ranya shared that the numbers are increasing and she feared that at some point she would have to turn people away. The need for food was outpacing the available supply. We are certain that this scene is being played out in cities and towns across the country…Denver and its suburbs are not the exception.
Today’s call was just what I had feared–the shelves of her food pantry and walk-in cooler were bare. For the past few days Ranya has been turning away elderly people living on meager incomes, just "ordinary" people and veterans of the war in Iraq and Afghanistan who have sometimes returned home to no job, a family that has deserted them, and many, many physical and emotional scars.(and veterans’ organizations do not always step in–people do fall through the cracks.)
How could we help? If she had the funds would she be able to purchase the food from local sources at greatly reduced prices? The answer was a resounding, yes!
Postscript: We sent Ranya a check on the day she called us and on Tuesday, August 19, 2008, she called to report that she was on the way to purchase as much as she possibly could to fill the shelves and feed hungry people. It was that quick and that simple.