Hope Fund asks for votes in Wal-Mart fundraiser

April 2, 2013

Ryan Scott Ottney

PDT Staff Writer

The Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund is asking the public to help them click their way to a grant from Wal-Mart by voting for them in the “Fighting Hunger Together” initiative - a national campaign where money is awarded to programs that get the most votes for their innovative and effective programs that help alleviate child hunger.

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 Wal-Mart 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 Wal-Mart 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 (Wal-Mart) 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.”

He said people can vote online, once a day through April 30. 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.

“We are so blessed to have been included in this grant opportunity provided by Wal-Mart’s Fighting Hunger Together initiative. Our grant award will be used for Steven’s Power Pack Club, feeding almost 500 hungry children every weekend through the school year in nine different school districts here in Scioto County,” Hunter said.

Wal-Mart released a statement this week saying that funding for child hunger programs is especially critical given the significant need that exists. According to the USDA, more than 16 million children in the United States struggle with hunger. Here in Scioto County there are an estimated one in three children who struggle with hunger.

Whether or not the Hope Fund is among the top 60 to receive the $20,000 grant, Hunter said the national exposure this gives the Hope Fund is invaluable.

“When we did the Facebook campaign with (Southern Ohio Medical Center in February), even though we came out very, very well, I saw comments asking ‘what does this organization do?’ The visibility now will be huge, for people to be directed to our website and hear our stories and see what we’re trying to accomplish. Then hopefully they’ll want to support us,” he said.

The Powerpack Program is funded through fundraisers, such as the Steven A. Hunter Tennis Tournament and the Flying Pig Marathon and private donations. Hunter said just one backpack, with four meals worth of food inside, costs just $3, and $120 will feed a student every weekend for an entire school year.

Voting is available at www.facebook.com/walmart; click on the “Fighting Hunger” link and search for the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund. For more information on the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund and Steven’s Power Pack Club please visit www.stevenshopefund.org, or find them on Facebook for updates.

Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 287, or rottney@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Ryan on Twitter @PDTWriter.