Lowes Foods of Mount Airy is getting ready for its annual kickoff for the “Friends Feeding Friends.”
Perishable Department Co-manager Randy Bodman, who marks his 15th year with the local effort, views the program as part of the tradition of grocery stores and the communities they serve. Bodman said this is the 19th year of the food drive has been held corporately.
The kickoff ceremony has been scheduled for Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. at Lowes Foods in the New Market Crossing Shopping Center in Mount Airy.
“There really is a friendly competition between Superintendents (Dr. Travis) Reeves and (Dr. Gregory) Little,” said Bodman. “They have been really excited about getting their students involved in helping the community. We have had them ask to participate without any incentives for students other than just helping out without expecting anything in return.”
He said traditionally General Mills has worked with the company by picking four stores who have done the best the previous year in collecting food and dividing a total of $4,999 worth of their products among that top four. Bodman also praised the cooperation from its partners Second Harvest Food Bank, The Salvation Army, Yokefellow Ministries, Pepsi Cola, The Mount Airy Fire Department and McDonalds as well as Mount Airy City Schools, Surry County Schools and Millennium Charter Academy.
“I’m thinking this is going to be one of the biggest kickoffs we’ve had,” said Bodman. “Last year was the first year we used cheerleaders. Only five girls came but they came up with an awesome cheer. I try to get the high school kids to chaperone the smaller kids who shop. We take the last four registers on our front line, marked them with balloons and have Lowes volunteers help the children scan the items. It’s fun.”
Bodman said Mount Airy Schools participating in this year’s drive include Mount Airy Middle School, B.H. Tharrington Primary, Mount Airy High School and Jones Elementary School. County schools participating include Meadowview and Gentry Middle Schools, Cedar Ridge, Franklin and Flat Rock Elementary and North Surry High School.
He complimented local Girl Scouts of America and special needs students from both county and city schools for volunteering their services to help with the drive. Bodman explained that typically teams composed of cheerleaders and students from North Surry and Mount Airy organize the shopping to fill bags of groceries at the kickoff turn the event into a friendly competition. On average, more than 125 persons participate in the drive kickoff.
“We usually get each school to send us anywhere from five to 10 kids,” said Bodman.” General Mills usually sends a mascot. “We will have a ceremony with Mayor Deborah Cochran reading a proclamation and then let the kids set up the General Mills products on display. Then we turn them lose to shop. We have kids bagging, shopping and scanning the groceries before they load it all on the truck. It’s organized chaos.”
He said the store feels strongly about the drive because one of its goals is to get the word out they are a neighborhood grocery store. Food bags are also on sale during the kickoff event which range in price from $6 to $9. Regular customers may purchase these and place them in collection boxes at the store. He said Lowes has been greatly assisted by Second Harvest with the donation of collection boxes for schools. The store also provides flyers for participants to take home. The store as an ongoing program with YokeFellow Ministries year-round.
“I have been coordinating this here at the store since 1998. My outlook is I was raised with two brothers and a sister and one parent working. It’s difficult. We didn’t starve and we didn’t go hungry but the uncertainty is awful,” Bodman said. “I want people to know when I go to these food banks the people I see there are the people in your backyard. I hate to see kids, who suffer the worst.”
“This is a big thing for us. It us giving back to the community,” Bodman said. “We are helping local people in need. This is not a set-up for us to earn money. We just want to be a community partner. Maybe we can’t collect enough to help everybody but we can make a dent in it. I’m all for helping (internationally) but let’s help the people who are right here.”
Bodman said last year the drive collected more than 25,000 pounds of food. He said officials hope to wrap the drive up before school children leave for Christmas break. Interested persons may obtain more information by contacting Lowes Public Relations Officer Debbie Williams at 1-800-669-5693.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-719-1952.