Major gift inspires generosity in Calif. congregation's hunger efforts
Written by Sarah Cross December 5, 2011
What began as a simple donation with basic instructions
turned into one of the largest donations by a faith-based organization that one
California food bank has ever received.
The facts are chilling. Nearly 1 in 4 children in California
are now living in poverty according to the recent U.S. census bureau. As
poverty figures for the country have increased tremendously adding to the gap
between rich and poor, California's numbers are more dire than the national average, with nearly 6 million people now living in poverty.
This bad news inspired the Rev. Laurie Manning and the justice-seeking
congregation at Skyline Community UCC in Oakland, Calif., to take aggressive action
when they received a donation of $25,000. The donation came with the simple
instructions "to give to an organization that makes a difference in the
"We're a little church and I'm a little pastor in the
big city of Oakland," said Manning. "We want to make a big difference
in Alameda County, especially now, in this tough economy where 1 in 6 people
don't have enough money to buy healthy food, especially families with children
and the elderly on fixed incomes … increasingly the images of the long food
lines from the Great Depression are returning."
It was clear to the members of Skyline that this donation should
go to the Alameda County Community Food Bank (ACCFB) that operates through a
network of 275 strategically placed member agencies – food pantries, soup
kitchens, child-care centers, senior centers, after-school programs and other
community-based organizations. The Food Bank distributes enough food for 300,000
meals weekly. Because of the Food Bank's purchasing power, $1 donated becomes roughly
$5 in food.
As a small church, Skyline has partnered with the ACCFB for
years through volunteering at the Food Bank, collecting food to donate and
preparing and serving meals at various pantries. The donation gave Skyline an
opportunity to make a much larger positive difference
Skyline had other plans than just making a straightforward
donation. "We didn't want it to be that easy," said Manning. "Simply
providing the gift was not enough for us: we hoped for a bigger miracle."
With the goal of inspiring others to act, they created a
matching gift program. For every dollar contributed to the Food Bank, Skyline
will match that dollar up to $25,000. That's $50,000 – the equivalent of
$250,000 worth of food distributed through the Food Bank.
"We decided we wanted to multiply the loaves of bread,
fish, fresh carrots and broccoli. The gift will provide to feed countless
numbers of poeple," said Manning.
The matching gift program proved to be a success including
an additional big surprise.
Sunday, Sept. 25, Manning was invited to speak as part of
the Alameda County Food Bank's annual "Savor the Season" fundraiser,
held at Wente Vineyards in Livermore and hosted by Dave Clark, a local news
broadcaster. As the Food Bank's largest
annual fundraiser, the 400-person audience included representatives from ACCFB's
major corporate, small business, art and educational groups, and non-profit sponsors.
A large handful of Skyline members were also present. There were live and
silent auctions throughout the night.
Scheduled to speak directly before the live auction, Manning
addressed the crowed about the business of transformation; not only
transforming material and intellectual property into goods and services, but
even more, transforming people's lives generating meaningful positive change in
"Each one of us can make a difference, one person at a
time … our actions have power. Our actions have a rippling effect," Manning
told the crowd. "We're hoping to multiply that effect by acting together.
Together we can end hunger, here in Alameda County. Together we can change
lives for better, especially for children."
Before the live auction began, the auctioneer announced a
message from an anonymous source stating, "Based on Pastor Laurie's
presence and powerful message, we are adding another $10,000 to Skyline's
challenge. So bid generously and bid often."
The initial matching pledge of $25,000 donated through
Skyline by the Manley/Can bequest grew to $35,000. As a centerpiece of the live
auction, Skyline directly assisted in helping the campaign net $293,000, the
equivalent of almost $1.5 million worth of food distributed.
"While the actual dollar amount that was generated by
the match is hard to quantify, we believe that all those paddles (bids) that
were raised during the Hunger Fighter portion of the auction were a direct
result of your presence and powerful message," wrote Kathryn Weber, corporate
partnerships and events coordinator of ACCFP in a letter to Manning. "Your
initial $25,000 challenge (and the additional $10,000 challenge you inspired) has
"Skyline's contribution ranks among the largest single
gifts we've received from a faith-based organization and is an exceptional
gesture given the size of the congregation," said Suzan Bateson, executive
director of the Alameda County Community Food Bank. "We're very honored to
partner with Skyline for the fall campaign and we know that their gift will be
an inspiration to others."
"We were delighted to receive this generous gift,"
said Bateson. "It will go a long way in helping us serve our neighbors in
fundraising effort for ACCFB ended as the UCC began its Mission:1 campaign in which the
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 during the Nov. 1-11, 2011
(11-1-11—11-11-11) time period. The UCC also asked its 5,300 congregations to
advocate for hunger-related causes worldwide via 11,111.