Random idea turns into community food drive

Mineral Daily News-Tribune
Logan Huffman, Claire Del Signore, Libby Del Signore and Abby Del Signore are shown with one vehicle worth of food collected for the local food bank.
Claire Del Signore, Logan Huffman, Abby Del Signore and Libby Del Signore help unload their donations at the Faith in Action Food Pantry.

By Chapin Jewell

Tribune Correspondent

KEYSER - Sometimes, it’s the simplest of ideas that ends up having the biggest impact. Likewise, that idea that makes the biggest of impacts grows legs, and inspires others to get involved.  Before you know it, when it comes from a giving heart and solicits the help of others with a giving heart, a community need is helped.

Such was the case with a recent idea of Healy Heights resident Stacey Huffman. Huffman, an employee with the WVU Extension Office, had been inspired when thinking of the volunteer work performed by some of her master gardeners. That, coupled with hearing through the grapevine that Keyser’s Faith in Action Food Pantry was in need of food donations, made the lightbulb pop on in her head.

“I had sort of a random idea. To be honest, it wasn’t well thought out. But, we figured the more simple we kept it the better, and it worked out well,” Huffman explained.

That idea, a neighborhood specific food drive. What started with her own neighborhood quickly expanded to the adjacent neighborhood. Before you know it, two vehicle loads of food were delivered to the Food Pantry from the two neighborhoods.

“Where I live, technically I kind of live in between. There’s a piece of woods between Great Oak Valley and Healy Heights, and we just moved in, we just built a house here a couple months ago. Technically, I’m tied into Healy Heights, but I can throw a rock and hit Great Oak Valley. I know people that live in both, and they’re all great people,” Huffman explained.

According to Huffman, “I was originally going to just do Healy Heights, and if I was going to be willing to put out the flyers and pick up the food, the homeowner’s association said that would be great. They were very supportive of it.  Then there was the idea that Great Oak Valley is right there, so why not add them to the mix. I had just mentioned it to Diane Frush, who was with the homeowner’s association in Great Oak Valley, and she said yes, and they took it and ran with it.”

Now to get the word out. To do so, Huffman and her helpers utilized both technology and old fashioned, door to door, or in this case, mailbox to mailbox delivery.

“Each homeowner’s association has a Facebook page, so we did that. But, there are a lot of folks that don’t do Facebook, so I had some flyers printed up, and actually, my son and I went around Healy Heights and put up fliers at every single mailbox, being safe, wiping off after each stop. Diane Frush did the same thing over in Great Oak Valley.”

The message on the flyers was clear, and it couldn’t have been made it any easier for people to participate. The message read, “Please place your donations in a box or bag outside on your porch or down by your mailbox by noon on Friday, Dec. 18. Someone will be around after noon that day to pick up donations and drop them off at the Keyser Food Pantry.”

Message delivered, now for the pickup of donations. Just as Diane Frush had assisted in getting the word out and the fliers delivered, so too came help from the DelSignore family in Great Oak Valley for the pick-up of donations.

“Marie Del Signore lives in Great Oak Valley. Her and her daughters, they picked up all the food there. When they were finished, they came over to help me and my son Logan pick up the rest of the food in Healy Heights,” Huffman stated.  “We were going slow, but when Marie pulled up, she had three of her girls with her, they jumped out and we had it loaded up quickly. We ended up with both of our vehicles completely full.”

According to Diane Frush on a social media post, “Doing this made me feel so good! Our neighborhoods are so blessed, and sharing our blessings can’t make a person feel any better.  So many thanks to Stacey for kicking this off.  We were happy to join in and will for sure make this an annual event. Many thanks to Marie and the girls for hauling our contributions. I know they had a fun time!”

These thoughts were echoed by Marie Del Signore, also on social media, “We really did have fun! So many thanks to all who participated from Great Oak Valley and Healy Heights, your kindness and generosity are appreciated.  As my daughter Abby kept saying as we were making our pickups, ‘this feels so good.’”

The neighborhood food drive drew a great deal of attention on social media and other neighborhoods have suggested they would be very happy to participate the next time. In addition, Claire Del Signore, a senior at Keyser High School, is planning a February/Valentine’s Day food drive now as part of her senior project at KHS.

“There was so much interest that came up after that from many of the other housing developments in Mineral County.  If you think about it, whether it’s for the Food Pantry, whether it’s for the Humane Society, anything, people look for that,” Huffman suggested. “They want a cause and they want to work together. So, if you give them the opportunity, they will meet that need.”

According to Huffman, “People are, in my opinion, whether you’re working from home or you’re retired at home and you can’t get out, I think people are looking for a way to connect with other people. So, even if it’s just sitting out some food and helping with a food drive, I think people want to do stuff like that.”

The response was overwhelming and the momentum for similar projects moving forward is growing. It’s the classic example of how the simplest of ideas can succeed. The key, of course, is people working together for the common good.  There’s no shortage of that in Mineral County, and it’s a trend that in these tough times is growing.