By Chris Bavender
Wanda and Dennis Thompson often support the efforts of Open Doors pantry in Westfield by working with friends to donate items on the pantry’s current needs list. But Wanda wanted to expand those efforts.
“It occurred to me that we could make a greater impact by enlarging the scope from this circle of six friends to inviting over 500 households in my neighborhood to participate,” said Wanda, who lives in the Harmony neighborhood in Westfield.
They ran the idea by their friend, Bruce Watson, who serves on the executive board of Open Doors.
“It was his suggestion that perhaps we could make our focus more on the kids within the Washington Township School District,” Wanda said. “I took that suggestion and ran with it, knowing no one wants to hear about a child going to school after a weekend or school break on an empty stomach.”
Wanda and Dennis received permission from their neighborhood clubhouse managers, Karen and Brian Saylor, to place two bins inside the building near the gym doors. A flyer about the drive was emailed to residents.
By the end of the drive, residents had donated hundreds of dollars-worth of kid-friendly, easy-to-prepare meals and snacks.
“We filled five car trunks to transport to Open Doors with such things as individual serving sizes of mac and cheese, cereal, soups, microwavable meals, fruit cups, protein bars and Jif to Go,” Wanda said. “What surprised me most was that there was no hesitancy on anyone’s part to respond. Karen took my flyer and blasted it out quickly, and before I even had a chance to set the bins up, residents were bringing food items down to the clubhouse. So, day one set the pace for the rest of the month.”
Wanda said it meant a lot to be able to help area children.
“We all know what it feels like to have hunger pangs from time to time, but it is another situation entirely when so many children in America go hungry every day,” she said. “We might not be able to stamp out food insecurity everywhere, but Westfield residents can surely take care of kiddos within our own hometown.”
She hopes the efforts of her Harmony neighbors will spur other neighborhoods to organize their own drive.
“All you need is a centralized collection site – it could be your own front porch – a means to get the word out and a driver to transport items to Open Doors,” she said. “Then, just stand back and watch your neighbors step up and do a marvelous thing.”