The drive, which has been held for 15 consecutive years, was held earlier this month and culminated with companies, schools and individuals dropping off food at the bank’s main office on Friday, Nov. 15.
“The number of people involved in this food drive and the amount of food collected to help others in our community never fails to amaze me,” said Lee Stewart, Southern Heritage Bank president.
The food is collected by the bank, and then donated to United Way of Bradley County for distribution to several of its program partners. This year, recipients of the food included the Boys & Girls Clubs of Cleveland, Harbor Safe House/Family Violence Program, Signal Center and the Cleveland Emergency Shelter.
“We have always worked with United Way in distributing this food and have heard some very touching stories about how it has impacted families and individuals in need during the holidays and beyond,” Stewart said.
The food drive began soon after the organization of Southern Heritage Bank, when only a few local companies helped by collecting nonperishable food items. It has since grown to include not only local businesses and industries but also many schools.
“The response from the schools has always impressed me because these students are our future leaders. They are already building a sense of community and giving back through this food drive and other projects in our area,” Stewart stated.
Schools involved in the “Cleveland Helping Cleveland” food drive this year included Charleston Elementary School, E.L. Ross Elementary School, Michigan Avenue Elementary School, North Lee Elementary School, Oak Grove Elementary School, Park View Elementary School, Stuart Elementary School, Taylor Elementary School, Walker Valley High School, Waterville Community Elementary School and Yates Primary School.
Many of these schools had friendly competitions between classes, and food items donated led to feathers placed on wall-mounted turkeys to keep up with the totals. Others had school clubs conduct the food drive, such as Walker Valley High School which has traditionally been conducted by the school’s National Honor Society.
Companies which participated in the 2013 food drive were: Bender Realty, Bradley County Sheriff’s Office, Cleveland Family YMCA, Cleveland Pediatrics, Cleveland Utilities, Eaton Electrical, Hardwick Clothes, Manufacturers Chemicals, Peyton’s Southeastern and Wholesale Supply Group.
Special assistance during the event was again provided by the Cleveland Fire Department as firefighters helped load the trailer at Southern Heritage Bank on the final day. Along with food donations, Wholesale Supply Group also provided the trailer which held the food at the Southern Heritage Bank main office. Jamie Bishop and Troy Weathers of Wholesale Supply Group were also recruited to unload the trailer at the United Way office as the food was delivered this past week.
Peyton’s Southeastern delivered its donation straight to the United Way offices, where both Myra Salas and Jeff Brewer were also involved in unloading the Peyton’s trailer.
Some of the highlights of the drive:
n Cleveland Utilities raised $550 to purchase food for the event.
n Hooper & Sons Excavating heard about the drive from a Cleveland Daily Banner article. Owners Jonathan and Laurel Hooper challenged their employees to donate food items, which were matched by both the company and the owners.
n North Lee Elementary School collected between 300 and 400 nonperishable food items.
n Oak Grove Elementary School collected 3,192 food items and $170 in cash.
n Park View Elementary School collected 1,518 cans of food.
n The National Honor Society at Walker Valley High School raised $1,000 in cash and 1,300 food items.
Matt Ryerson, United Way president and chief executive officer, said that he was very pleased with the support from the community.
“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.
Ryerson wanted to thank Lee Stewart and Southern Heritage Bank, as well as Denise DeArmond who coordinates the event each year, for their dedication to supporting United Way and helping the community.
“We have heard from many of our partners that food they receive from this drive helps them through more than just the holidays, but well into the following year,” he added. “I know the recipients would like to thank everyone involved, and we at United Way want to thank everyone who participated as well. You will make a difference in lives with these donations.”