And naturally, they could not have done it without the unconditional support of thousands of Cleveland and Bradley County residents who proudly call this community their home.
Their cause was the harsh reality of hunger.
Yes, families in our hometown must deal with this heartbreak daily. They are the homeless. They are the unemployed. They are the downtrodden whose low incomes bring newfound meaning to the word “struggle.” They are the victims of catastrophic illness and lost hope.
These are good people trying to survive bad times.
They are like anyone else. They love. They laugh. They cry. They crave human contact. The seek acceptance. They wish for a second chance, just anything to give them reason to believe times will get better. They worry about the tomorrows of this week, those of the next and beyond.
They are the young. They are the very old. They are children. They are lost souls engulfed in a world of uncertainty. They are the frightened who long for a new day, one whose dawn might not necessarily bring all the answers to their troubles, but will bring with it opportunity.
Many of our community’s forlorn seek only a chance to prove themselves, to show they can again become viable contributors to our society and to that which makes our community whole.
Sadly, before opportunity unfolds for those who need it most, hunger will unravel their spirit. This points to the urgency of community initiatives aimed at supporting the programs whose outreach can make a difference in the lives of the impoverished.
One is “Cleveland Helping Cleveland,” an annual, pre-Thanksgiving food drive sponsored by Southern Heritage Bank. Since its inception in the late 1990s, Southern Heritage — as well as many of our area financial institutions — has worked hard to serve as a community partner.
Southern Heritage’s signature outreach is a vast food drive which this year attracted a record number of business and school partners. Even bank president Lee Stewart, who worked in the truck organizing the mass donations on the drive’s final collection day, remarked that this year’s campaign may be a program record.
Certainly, community donors can be thanked — whether as individuals, groups, churches or other organizations — but the slew of business and school partners who conducted their own internal campaigns also played integral roles.
Among these businesses and organizations were Cleveland Utilities, the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, Peyton’s Southeastern, Eaton Electrical, the Retreat at Spring Creek, Bender Realty, the Cleveland Family YMCA and Century 21 Realtors.
Schools collecting food and raising cash included Yates Primary, Charleston Elementary, Park View Elementary, Mayfield Elementary, Michigan Avenue Elementary, Waterville Community Elementary, Oak Grove Elementary, Cleveland High School and Walker Valley High School.
The donated food is being handed over to United Way of Bradley County Inc. which is distributing it to several member agencies whose services come into contact with hunger almost daily. They are Harbor Safe House, Signal Center, Cleveland Emergency Shelter, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland and Neighbors in Need, the latter of which is a division operated through The Caring Place.
Thanks to “Cleveland Helping Cleveland,” these food services won’t aid families in need during just the holidays, but well into 2013.
Hunger is real.
Hunger is a demon whose atrocity robs good people of their spirit to succeed and zaps them of their strength — physically, emotionally and spiritually.
“Cleveland Helping Cleveland” gives us reason to believe in Thanksgiving. It speaks to us of a moral mandate to live as our brother’s keeper. It reminds us that sometimes a hand out must precede a hand up.
Everyone deserves a second chance.
Thank you, Southern Heritage Bank, for this blessed reminder.