Helping Bridge Food Insecurity

Helping Bridge Food Insecurity

I have been seeing and hearing more and more frightening stories about the growing and dire problem of food insecurity in our communities.  With the pandemic causing able bodied workers to lose their livelihoods and means of supporting their families, people who never in a million years thought that they’d find themselves unable to purchase food for their family are now standing in long lines at food pantries praying there will be items left for them by the time their turn comes.

I came across this podcast episode on the New York Times ‘The Daily’ and it hurt to my core.  It is a reminder to me that we don’t live in a bubble and we, as a society, need to do more in our own towns and cities to help bridge this growing problem.  I’ve provided a link below to listen to it via a URL, however you can access it on the NY Times The Daily Podcast line up – 11/25/20 wherever you listen to podcasts.

The Food Pantry highlighted in this piece is located in Brooklyn, NY but there are thousands of these angel-run spaces across our nation and they are all being pushed to their brink as demand has escalated.

I urge those of you in a position to do so to support the local food pantry in your community. Together we can make a difference in assisting others.  If the tides turn those same people will be there for us.


Take a moment to listen to this Podcast
and PLEASE do what you can to help be apart of the change:

Be Kind . Be Grace . Give from your Heart


Pay It Forward Chain

Pay It Forward Chain

Over 900 cars paid for each other’s meals at a Dairy Queen drive-thru in Minnesota

By: Alisha Ebrahimji, CNN

What started as a random act of kindness from one man paying for the car behind him in a Dairy Queen drive-thru resulted in over 900 cars also taking part in the pay it forward chain.

There’s no question about it: This year has been tough for so many. Some, fighting battles we may know nothing about. But at a drive-thru in Brainerd, Minnesota, over 100 miles north of Minneapolis, people stepped up in a small way to show one another that they care.
Tina Jensen, the store manager at one of the two Dairy Queens in town, told CNN a man came by the drive-thru window on Thursday and asked if he could pay for his meal and for the car behind him.
Jensen told her cashier this tends to happen once in a while but at most it lasts for 15 or 20 cars and fizzles out.
    This time, the chain continued for two and a half days with over 900 cars participating, raking in $10,000 in sales, according to Jensen.
    When the next customer came to the fast food chain’s window, Jensen explained what the man in front of them had done — and the acts of kindness continued to multiply.
    Heidi Bruse experienced that act of kindness on Friday evening during a dinner run, she told CNN.
    “During times like these it kinda restores your faith in humanity a little,” Bruse said. “The way the world is now you see a lot of anger, tension, and selfish behavior. What we witnessed was pure kindness and it was a breath of fresh air really.”
    But that wasn’t even the best part. For Bruse, it was going home to tell her family that they played a role in the chain and kept it going.
    “Not that we got free ice cream,” she said. “The gesture was way more valuable.”
    Like so many others in the restaurant industry, the restaurant has faced some challenges adapting to new business practices during the coronavirus pandemic.
    “There’s all different types of ways to help people,” Jensen said. “I think this touched a lot of people that we didn’t even know it touched, deeper than we know. And you don’t know what’s going on in a person’s life.”
    When the chain closed for the night Thursday, one car left $10 to begin the chain back up Friday morning and again on Saturday morning. Jensen provided updates on the number of cars at each day’s end on the store’s Facebook page.
    “With the lobby shutting down, being only open for take out, being able to open for half your capacity, different things like that,” have played a role in trying to keep morale high, Jensen said. Her top priority is the safety of her customers and crew with increased disinfecting and cleaning measures, she said.
      Seeing how positive her staff became with every passing car paying it forward, married to the reactions of her customers when the cashier told them their meal had been taken care of, was touching, Jensen said.

      “No matter what’s going on, take care of each other, be positive, be happy and don’t focus on the negative, we’ll get through it,” she said.

      Be Kind . Be Grace . Hold Space for Each Other

      Be PEACE

      Expanding Their Hug Radius

      Expanding Their Hug Radius

      Like many Americans, Scott McKenzie was furloughed at the start of the pandemic, but told himself he’d stay positive and try new things. “I spent my entire career in college athletics, so I did what I tell my athletes to do. When you get knocked down, you stand up,” said McKenzie, who lives in Huntington, Pennsylvania.

      “So I told myself I was going to do something new every week… And I had never made chocolate chip cookies from scratch,” he continued. That first week off from work, McKenzie baked his first-ever batch of homemade chocolate chip cookies. The father of two was proud of his work, so he posted a photo on social media.

      Little did he know, his friend of 15 years, Jeremy Uhrich, was at home baking with his two sons. “I just made a simple post back to him: ‘I think my cookies are going to be better than yours, let’s have a bakeoff.’ He replied and said he wanted to do it.”

      The dads agreed to a cookie competition, judged by the town’s mayor. When a dark horse entered the race, it was all over for the two dads: one of Uhrich’s student athletes, Rachel Kyle, used her grandmother’s recipe and won.

      They may have lost the bakeoff, but McKenzie and Uhrich put their cookies to good use.

      “We delivered to some local police, and some local fire departments, went to a local grocery store and went up to a local hospital… It was just no more than thanking them for what they had been doing and working under very difficult and trying times,” Uhrich said.

      “And we said, ‘That was fun. That was easy. Let’s do it again,'” he continued. Wanting to deliver more baked goods to essential workers, the dads started a Facebook group called Cookies for Caregivers.

      “Expand your hug”

      Within days, hundreds of people joined, with about 40 volunteers offering to bake.

      Each week, McKenzie and Uhrich choose about six bakers from their list of volunteers to make treats. Then the men deliver the goods to different local businesses and first responders. For 40 weeks straight, they have taken treats to Penn Highlands Huntington Hospital. 

      Cookies for Caregivers hasn’t stopped since — and it’s even expanded. The men told CBS News volunteers in other states have started their own local chapters, and there has even been some international interest, which moved both of them. 

      “Jeremy and I from the very beginning hoped that this would grow from something that we do here in Huntington, Pennsylvania, to what could happen across the country,” McKenzie said.

      What started out as a friendly competition turned out to be something life-changing, Uhrich said. “You know, if this pandemic were to end tomorrow, why do we have to stop? Why does it take a pandemic for individuals to do something special like this? It shouldn’t be that,” he said. 

      McKenzie added they like to say they are “expanding their hug radius” with Cookies for Caregivers. 

      “Right about now, who doesn’t need a hug? When things get tough, expand your hug, make it bigger,” he said. “And then, collectively, you’ll get through it, I think in a better way.”

      Be Kind . Be Grace . Give From Your Heart

      Be PEACE

      Peace Post Update! Race to Kindness

      Peace Post Update! Race to Kindness

      HE DID IT!

      Here’s an UPDATE on our Peace Post story from October 30th about young Orion Jean and his amazing efforts through his foundation ‘Race to Kindness’ to provide 100,000 meals to those in need by Thanksgiving!  Well, he did it and even exceeded his goal!  

      Way to go Orion!  We look forward to seeing what you have planned next as you spread kindness through the world!

      Be Kind . Be Grace . Be PEACE

      United for Ice Cream and Community

      United for Ice Cream and Community

      Struggling ice cream shop that employs people with special needs gets surprise grant.

      By Kerry Breen / Today

      Howdy Homemade in Dallas, Texas is known for its original, delicious flavors, but also its public service mission.

      A beloved ice cream shop that has been struggling to survive the pandemic earned a sweet surprise live on TODAY Friday morning — a $50,000 grant.

      Howdy Homemade, located in Dallas, Texas, is known for its original, delicious flavors, but also its public service mission. All of its employees are individuals with special needs.

      Founder Tom Landis said that he was inspired to open the store after meeting one person who thoroughly impressed him.

      “It was a real busy night at one of my other restaurants when I met Coleman (Jones), and he just immediately jumped in and helped serve food and was super friendly,” Landis explained on TODAY. “I called his mom up the next day and said, ‘Hey, you know, I want to hire this guy.’ He has so much potential, written all over him, and leadership.”

      Now, Jones is the face of the sweet store.

      “I was blessed that I ultimately get the opportunity to not only be employed for Tom, but to also be an asset where you’re going to blossom,” Jones said.

      “If I’m behind the counter and someone comes in, they have a visual look of disappointment on their face,” Landis said. “They want to see Coleman, they want to see my crew. They’re doing what they do, and frankly, they do it better than me.”

      When the pandemic hit, like so many other businesses, Howdy Homemade was severely affected, closing temporarily to ensure the safety of its employees. Even after reopening, customer traffic was slow and catering orders were limited, leading to the risk of permanent closure.

      “I think it got to the point honestly where it took absolutely a very clear message of me realizing ‘You know what? I can’t do it. I can’t do it, and it’s time to throw in the towel,'” Landis said. “And I honestly think that’s when God said ‘You can’t do it? Yep, no, you can’t. But you know what? I’m going to surround you with a village of people, people from all over Dallas.'”

      The community rallied around Landis, Jones, and Howdy Homemade. A friend of Landis’ organized a GoFundMe campaign that raised over $100,000 for the shop and brought it more attention than ever.

      When talking about the sweet success on TODAY with Hoda and Jenna, a virtual wall of fans cheered on Jones and Landis. The virtual wall included one special guest: CNBC’s “The Profit” host Marcus Lemonis, who Howdy Homemade with a $50,000 grant.

      “I spend my whole career, my whole life, really helping businesses get to the next level and it’s clear to me that you guys are prepared to get to that next level,” he said. “I would like to give you a $50,000 grant specifically used to hire more people to grow what you’re trying to do in the Dallas community.”

      “I think all of us through this entire pandemic are blown away by the leadership you’re showing and the role models the two of you are to the rest of us,” Lemonis continued.

      Jones and Landis were thrilled by the gift. They were already using the GoFundMe funds to expand the business: Landis invested in an ice cream truck to get in on the food-truck craze and was planning to create more jobs at the shop. The new grant will allow them to grow even further.

      “It’s humbling,” said Landis, who called Lemonis’ grant “unbelievable.”

      “We’ve had multiple times where you just stop and tear up because it’s no longer our restaurant. It’s truly the City of Dallas’ restaurant,” he said. “People are not supporting Howdy Homemade because of Tom Landis. They’re supporting it because of Coleman and the others, and I think as more businesses start to realize that, the world will change.”

      Be Kind.  Be Grace.  Be PEACE.


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