The “Cleveland Helping Cleveland” food drive, recently conducted by Southern Heritage Bank, was one of the best ever. It was the 18th straight year the bank has conducted the event.
Thousands of nonperishable food items were donated for this year's drive, which began on Nov. 6 and concluded with a special drop-off event at the bank’s main office on Nov. 10. These food donations will go to United Way program partners and The Caring Place to help them stock their pantries and distribute food to those in need.
“From the looks of the food we collected, I believe this is one of our most successful food drives ever,” said Lee Stewart of Southern Heritage Bank.
This food came from many within the community, including several industries and several schools in both the county and city systems. The “Cleveland Helping Cleveland” drive has always involved industries that collect food or monetary donations to help purchase food.
“Some of these companies have been with us since our first food drive, and we appreciate them so much,” Stewart said. “Each year, we also seem to attract more new companies to participate, and we appreciate their support as well.”
Stewart said he is always amazed at the local schools that participate, and thinks this shows that we have youth in our community who are being taught that giving to those in need is something that we all should do.
“We had several schools participate in our food drive, and from what I hear from those at the schools, the children really enjoyed being a part of the drive,” Stewart said. “Some had their Beta Clubs head up their individual drives, while others had other clubs involved. Classes had friendly competitions between each other, and I have seen many photos of turkeys on walls filled with feathers that designated a donated food item.
“I feel confident that these students will continue to be aware of how they can help in our community because of events like this, and will carry that into their adult lives,” he added.
Schools that participated this year included Cleveland High School, Cleveland Middle School, Cleveland State Community College, Lee University, E.L. Ross Elementary School, Park View Elementary School, North Lee Elementary School, Oak Grove Elementary School, Michigan Avenue Elementary School, Stuart Elementary School, Taylor Elementary School, Tennessee Christian Preparatory School, Walker Valley High School, Waterville Elementary School and Yates Primary School.
United Way program partners that will receive the food assistance include the Harbor Safe House, Cleveland Emergency Shelter and the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland.
Stewart said the event was started in 1999, the year the bank originated, “because we knew it was a time that others might be most in need, due to the holidays. We have continued to collect food just prior to Thanksgiving, but what we have collected now not only helps during the holiday, but helps these programs for much of the first part of the year.”
Special assistance during the event was again provided by the Cleveland Fire Department, as firefighters helped load the truck at Southern Heritage Bank on the final day.
Wholesale Supply Group participated in the event again this year, providing the truck to hold the food at the Southern Heritage Bank main office.
In all, over $3,900 in cash was collected during the food drive. These funds will go toward providing food and services to those in need through The Caring Place.
Randy Howard, executive director of The Caring Place, said he was overwhelmed by the support of the community for the food drive.
“I was amazed, but not surprised, because I know that we live in such a caring community that people are going to come through and help when they know there is a need,” he said.
Howard also thanked Stewart and Denise DeArmond, who coordinates the event each year at the bank, for their dedication to supporting and helping the community.