“We were at a Board of Directors meeting, and we talked
about trying to collect one ton of food," said Neal. "That sounds like
a lot – but then I said, ‘If we are going to go for one ton, let's go for
something big. Let's make it 11 tons.’”
Making his pitch for board members to consider the highly ambitious
goal, Neal set aside the doodling he'd been doing on his notepad long enough to
do some longhand division. The result dropped his jaw.
"I divided 22,000 pounds (11 tons) by our 197 church
members, and lo and behold, the number came out to 111 pounds per person. Isn't
that crazy? I said, ‘That's got to be the number that we go after.’”
The "one"-ness fits in perfectly with Mission:1.
From Nov. 1-11, 2011 (11-1-11 to 11-11-11), the UCC goal will be to collect
more than 1 million food and household items for local food banks, as well as
$111,111 in online donations for hunger-related ministries and $111,111 in
online donations for East Africa famine relief. The UCC will also ask its 5,300
congregations to advocate for hunger-related causes worldwide via 11,111
letters to Congress.
Because of the scope of the Pensacola church’s goal, members
set the campaign in motion early, on Sept. 18.
“We’re only going to get this goal if we start partnering
with people," said Neal. "We have commitments from the Pensacola
Beach Women's Club, who will do a food drive, and we’re also teaming up with
the Pensacola and Gulf Breeze (Fla.) Optimist International groups."
Grocery stores and social groups are also pitching in, as
are students at Pensacola Beach Elementary School, said Neal. "Notes will
go out to parents, and on a designated day canned foods will be picked up.
There are 250 children at the school, so a couple of cans each will add
Church deacons have formed committees to oversee partnering,
marketing, logistics and management. Coverage via local newspapers and radio
stations is being arranged.
Neal estimates that 11 tons of food will fill half of the
18-wheel tractor-trailer they’re using.
"We'll have the trailer in the church parking lot with
some banners up as a constant reminder,” said Neal. “We are also teaming up
with the local fire department; they'll provide a 24/7 drop point for food pick-ups.
We just don't have the manpower to man the trailer for drop-offs around the clock."\
The five local food banks and family-service organizations
to benefit from the 11-ton push will be Manna Food Pantries, Interface
Ministries, Loaves and Fishes, Waterfront Missions for Men and Waterfront
Missions for Women
"Most of them also have kitchens," said Neal.
"We let people know that they can buy bulk, and that the kitchens will be
able to handle that.
"The food banks are very excited about the
possibilities of the food drive and have informed us of the types of food items
"Now it’s just pedal to the metal and keeping it
going,” said Neal.
For more information on Mission:1 and how your church
can participate, please visit <ucc.org/mission1>.