Rodgers Basket Fund feeds more than one hunger

Posted 12/3/17

Try as they might, newspaper editors don’t always have — nor should they claim to have — all the answers.They can assign blockbuster stories to their reporters, and even if the facts pan out, …

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Rodgers Basket Fund feeds more than one hunger

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Try as they might, newspaper editors don’t always have — nor should they claim to have — all the answers.

They can assign blockbuster stories to their reporters, and even if the facts pan out, the stories must still be read — and believed — by a skeptical public whose sense of scrutiny these days is unprecedented.

They can write argumentatively sound editorials — filled with the right blend of analytical data and influential foresight — but their opinions must be down to earth and relevant to a cause, as well as objective in the views of a people.

They can compose the catchiest of headlines and design a balanced page that will appeal to their readers’ eye, but first they must earn the trust of their readers and advertisers who keep their newsprint product afloat.

There is no perfect way to do it all. And there are no perfect editors to do it. But it is the job of those editors to become a face for what is right and a voice for what is just.

William Hall Rodgers was one such editor.

He didn’t have all the answers — nor, to our knowledge — did he boast such a claim. But he did take a stand against some of the most important of social injustices: Poverty. Hunger. Hopelessness. 

He did it at a time of year when such ills were most transparent: Christmastime.

In 1942, a humanitarian campaign called Cleveland Associated Charities underwent a much-deserved change of name to the William Hall Rodgers Christmas Basket Fund. The change didn’t come as a redirection of purpose. It came to better recognize the gallant efforts of a newspaper editor — a former Cleveland Daily Banner newsman stricken with polio — who placed the needs of others ahead of his own.

The basket fund has been going strong ever since, and thanks in full to a large contingent of community partners who shared his vision of making the Christmas season just a little brighter for those who lived mostly without.

Organizers and supporters of the William Hall Rodgers Christmas Basket Fund operated under no delusions. Theirs was not a mission to turn lives around. Theirs was more a journey of the heart, one dedicated to feeding a hunger of the body and of the soul — and in so doing, instilling a sense of hope among those who had very little.

The nutritious staples included in a Rodgers food basket will not feed hungry mouths for a year nor a month or for a long collection of successive days. But they will feed for a day, and probably for a few beyond.

Most importantly, they will bring a reason to smile at Christmas, the most joyous season of the year. And perhaps with it will come a sense of belief that life will bring rewards to those who keep the faith, even when there is little apparent reason to do so.

William Hall Rodgers understood this reality. He knew the plights of most people could not be overcome in a day or a night. But he understood the value of a good meal. Its nutrition fed far more than an empty stomach. It fed the soul. It fed the spirit. It fed a belief in opportunity. It also fed a love of others.

With love, there is strength.

With strength, there is determination.

With determination, there is desire to overcome the injustices of today in rebounding for the potential of tomorrow.

Like any responsible newspaper editor, William Hall Rodgers knew one person could do only so much to soften the world of need within his surround. But he also knew this: For every movement, there is a first step.

In our Cleveland and Bradley County hometown of the 1940s, William Hall Rodgers took that first step.

He took it unashamedly.

He took it unselfishly.

He took it unnoticed by some whose eyes could not see the vast sea of community need.

But he took it. And others followed. They did it without expectation. They did it without promise of material gain. They did it because — in keeping with the vision of the Cleveland Daily Banner editor — it was the right thing to do.

This year’s basket fund campaign will continue through the end of the calendar year. The goal is $24,000, an amount that — if it is raised — will feed hundreds of Bradley County families a Christmastime meal.

No, it won’t feed them for a year. No, it might not change their lives. But it will give them a reason to believe in something bigger than us all. It is called life, and life is the most precious gift granted to any who walk this Planet Earth.

For those wishing to contribute to this year’s William Hall Rodgers Christmas Basket Fund, you may do so by mailing your checks to either of three locations or by simply dropping them off in person.

In all cases, make your checks payable to William Hall Rodgers.

This year’s three collection points include:

                • First Tennessee Bank (P.O. Box 3566, Cleveland TN 37320-3566 or 3870 Keith St. N.W., Cleveland TN 37312);

• Cooke’s Food Store (3400 Keith St. NW, Cleveland TN 37312); or

• United Way of the Ocoee Region (85 Ocoee St. S.E., Cleveland TN 37311).

Granted, contributing to the William Hall Rodgers Christmas Basket Fund is about providing a Christmas meal. But it is so much more.

It is about feeding a hunger, much of which goes unseen.

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