Ryan Scott Ottney
PDT Staff Writer
Crossing the halfway mark this week, the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund, of Portsmouth, is in third place among nearly 300 agencies competing for a national Walmart Feeding America grant. With only two weeks to go, the Hope Fund had 3,880 votes at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday to trail first place (Metro World Child in Brooklyn, N.Y.) by just 75 votes.
Named in the memory of their son, Mark and Virgie Hunter started the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund Powerpack Program in 2010 with 120 students at the Portsmouth City School District. Today the program has grown to serve nearly 500 students in nine local school districts. The program provides each student with five pounds of food to take home for the weekend.
Mark Hunter said Walmart asked each of the foodbanks that they deal with across the United States to nominate five organizations. The Hope Fund was nominated by the Freestore Foodbank in Cincinnati, which serves 20 counties in Ohio, Kentucky and Indiana. Of the five submitted by the Freestore Foodbank, only two were accepted by Walmart to participate in the program — the Hope Fund and another organization in Kentucky.
The public will decide what organization will receive the grants through a voting campaign at www.facebook.com/walmart that includes more than 300 different hunger relief organizations from across the country.
“They (Walmart) have made a $2 billion commitment to fight hunger through 2015. $1.75 billion is in-kind, and that will be food donations that go to the food banks. $250 million are cash grants, and they’ve divided it up into two pots. One pot, the foodbanks themselves are competing for. I don’t know the number, but it’s so-many $45,000 grants. The other pot goes to what they refer to as partner agencies,” Hunter said. “The top 60 vote getters will each get a $20,000 grant.”
People can vote online, once a day through April 30. Even though the foodbanks and partner agencies are competing for different pots of grant money, Hunter said visitors can still only vote for one a day. There are 177 agencies and 122 foodbanks competing. The more votes a Feeding America food bank or partner agency gets, the better chances they have of winning the money. Descriptions of programs from across the country that are dedicated to reducing child hunger in their communities will be posted on the voting site along with a “vote” button.
While the Hope Fund already enjoys a comfortable position within the top 60 agencies to receive money, Hunter said it’s important that people keep voting everyday to maintain that lead over agencies in larger cities with larger populations. There’s also a measure of excitement, he admitted, to finishing not only in the top 60 but in the top five.
“That is a community pride issue to us. If we can finish in the top five and be able to say to this community, ‘look what you did’ … what’s happening here, to me, is nothing short of a miracle,” Hunter said. “There is a definite thread in this community where people will pull together, and I just think people believe in what we’re doing and they are religiously voting everyday.”
Voting will continue through April 30 at www.walmart.com/hunger. Information about the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund, and links to vote, are available on their website at www.stevenshopefund.org and on their Facebook page.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTWriter.