Alan Feinstein has money - lots of it - to give away to organizations that fight hunger, and Grayson County Alliance’s food pantry needs your help to get some of it. The food pantry has served more than 20,452 individuals during 2013 and it’s running a little short. This will be the 16th year that Feinstein, a Rhode Island philanthropist, has donated $1 million annually to anti-hunger agencies through his nonprofit Feinstein Foundation. But he requires some participation on the agency’s part.
Here’s how it works: Charities across the country, like Grayson County Alliance, work to raise donations – either cash or food - from March 1 to April 30 by letting donors know the money and food they raise will dictate how much they receive from the Feinstein challenge. At the end of the two months, the charities’ efforts are calculated, and each gets a cut according to how much it raised and how many charities participated. The foundation’s gifts ranged from $250 to $40,000.
The food pantry, which feeds approximately 1,700 individuals per month, is located at 125 E. Market Street in the Old Hospital Building. It’s a continuous struggle. There are more and more people who were in the work force and now can’t find jobs. Some are considered homeless since they are moving from place to place staying with relatives or friends. Still others are working but qualify for assistance. And with a recession that continues to sputter along, nonprofits and the people they serve are hurting.
The Alliance is not your typical food pantry. In addition to receiving USDA commodities, the recipients are able to choose extra items that have been donated by local merchants, churches, and individuals. These items include canned goods, produce, pastries items, cleaning supplies, and personal care items. With the small staff of part-time employees, the food pantry relies on an army of volunteers to meet the ever increasing demand of recipients coming for food. The volunteers also share with the recipients’ information about other agencies which may be able to assist them.
Feinstein hopes his challenge will pump up the donations. “I’ve been lucky to make money. So it seems only right to give a lot of it back to people who need help,” said the 78-year-old, who answered the phone at his foundation’s headquarters in Cranston, R.I.
A former schoolteacher, he made his fortune in publishing newsletters on economics and wealth, and selling collectibles. He says he wishes he had some elaborate back story as to why he chose hunger as one of his chief causes. But he doesn’t. He just believes that no one should go to bed hungry at night, especially in a country as bountiful as America.
Feinstein’s foundation, established in 1991, also encourages schoolchildren to get involved in charitable projects. So far, there are more than 160 “Feinstein Leadership Schools” in Rhode Island and Massachusetts that benefit financially from participating in programs that help their communities. Feinstein also provides scholarships to students. He has expanded the program to give other schools the opportunity for students to participate and earn money for their schools.
He makes his $1 million anti-hunger challenge simple to encourage involvement. “We’ve seen agencies increase their fundraising efforts by two to three times their usual returns from this initiative,” he said.
Grayson County Alliance is asking supporters to spread the word about the challenge, and the added value of March and April cash and food donations, through e-mail, social media networks, the workplace and churches. There’s no denying the difficulties the food pantry is facing. The lines grow longer and the donations get smaller. Finding the $1 million Feinstein challenge was a huge blessing and opportunity for us.
Donations can be made to the Grayson County Alliance Food Pantry, 125 E. Market, Ste. 3, Leitchfield, KY 42754.
Call 270-259-4000 for more information.