By Joseph Pratt
C.B. Kelland once said, “My father didn’t tell me how to live; He lived and let me watch him do it.” For one former Portsmouth resident, this is illustrated between him and his father perfectly, which has resulted in a $5,000 donation to feed local kids.
When local Ron Harris passed away in February of 2013, his son, Joe Harris, wanted to commemorate his father’s life in a productive way that his father would approve of, but couldn’t decide how. In a recent turn of events, Joe realized how he would do so, and has made the commitment to provide financial support to the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund, which is to go directly towards the Steven Power Packs program.
Because both Ron and Joe graduated from Valley High School, as well as Ron working in the school district for 15 years, Joe has pledged his of support $5,000 to provide an academic year’s worth of Steven’s Power Pack food to students in the Valley Local School District.
“I prayerfully considered how to memorialize my dad and began looking for local charities that matched his value system,” Joe Harris commented. “As someone with more than 25 years experience around non profit organizations, I carefully evaluated the organizations, the boards and – most importantly to me— the programs and how it matched the way my dad lived his life.”
Joe currently serves as the Senior Director, Disaster Services Finance for the American National Red Cross and is based in Washington, D.C. Joe began his Red Cross career locally in 1990, as a blood drive volunteer, was the Executive Director of the local chapter for six years prior to being promoted to multi-state and national titles 10 years ago.
“My dad taught me when you see a need, you meet it to the best of your ability,” commented Joe recently. “I can’t count the number of times he made certain someone had a meal that was in a tough financial spot – from cups of coffee at restaurants to full meals at the holidays, my dad believed that we had a responsibility to make sure those around us had enough to eat.”
The Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund supports local children in a capacity of different ways, but is most known for a program within the organization that produces Steven’s Power Packs. The program originated a few years after the parents of the late Steven Hunter founded a philanthropic organization in his memory and began assisting local students. They have since taken on the greater challenge of feeding all local children who need the assistance.
The gift Joe has made is one of the largest single donations from an individual the Steven Hunter Hope Fund has received to date.
“This is a tremendous blessing that will provide thousands of meals for hungry children at Valley Elementary,” Mark Hunter , Steven’s father and Director of Steven’s Hope Fund stated. “ Virgie and I are honored that Joe has selected Steven’s Power Pack Program to memorialize the extraordinary man who was and is Joe’s father. What a testimony to the memory of Ron Harris who spent his life showing kindness to others in need.”
A Power Pack is a bag of nutritious food given to hungry children each Friday during the school year to ensure they have something to eat during the weekends. Each Power Pack contains approximately four to five pounds of food, enough for four meals. The food included in the Power Pack varies from nine to twelve shelf-stable food items that are easy to prepare.
The Ron Harris donation will provide upward to 6,666 meals for Valley students.
“We are just thrilled to death for this donation. We have 30 kids on our list and we have a need to help more. A donation like this gives us the opportunity to add more kids to the program, which ultimately means more kids get to take meals home for the weekend,” Valley official Jeff Rase, who organizes Valley’s Power Packs, said. “Our philosophy is that kids who have nourishment and food are better supported with learning. They focus better, they sleep better they socialize more appropriately, just general improved health and healthy students are better students.”
An individual Power Pack only costs $3, so a child’s entire year can be sponsored for only $120, which is the basic level sponsorship the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund offers. No funds raised through grant writing and fundraising efforts are guaranteed to return each year, which is why the individual sponsorships are important for the organization. Presently, there are 72,000 meals that are served to more than 500 kids each year locally.
“I believe in the work Mark and Virgie are doing in their son’s memory,” Harris stated. “I don’t know if people realize how hard it is to sustain good organizations with great missions but I’m happy to be a small part of a larger solution. I was encouraged by conversations with Mark. I found his and Virgie’s vision for the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund to feed the child’s body with food and their spirits with confidence. My Father would love this compassionate mission.”
To learn more about the Steven A. Hunter Hope Fund please visit www.stevenshopefund.org.
Joseph Pratt can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 1932.