It started with a casual conversation, as so many amazing achievements often do.
This conversation was about something else; the most important subjects have a way of showing themselves when it's most important, though, and this conversation was no different. The important subject: volunteers at a food pantry in Wyoming were scrambling to figure out how they could offer Thanksgiving baskets to families in need as they had done so many times before. With COVID-19 putting tremendous pressure on limited resources all year long, how in the world could they provide holiday meals for the list of people they knew would need them? After more conversations, it was clear that this was not an isolated issue. In fact, just about every food pantry in Wyoming was facing the same problem.
Wyoming Hunger Initiative put the call out with a quick turnaround campaign called Project #ThankfulWyoming: could enough people donate $5 (to buy a pie), $10 (to buy some sides), $20 (to provide a turkey), or $35 (a whole Thanksgiving meal?) to help food pantries across the state purchase Thanksgiving supplies in time to distribute some meals before Thanksgiving?
Take that, pandemic. With the overwhelming support of corporate donors and individuals from across Wyoming (and even outside of Wyoming!) we delivered funds to anti-hunger organizations in every single Wyoming county to purchase 1,428 meals. 1,428 tables filled with a slice of normalcy, of comfort, of thanksgiving.
During the course of 2020, mobile food pantries drew thousands of Wyoming folks suddenly facing economic distress due to lost wages, furloughed jobs, and more. The Wyoming Highway Patrol was absolutely instrumental in providing support for those mobile food pantries. Troopers across the state came to assist with distribution, putting in long hours above and beyond their normal work schedules to ensure safety and efficiency. Wyoming Hunger Initiative was so grateful for the support, and the team wanted a way to support the WHP in return.
Fueled by the excitement of a successful Thanksgiving campaign to help bridge the gap between what was impossible and possible at Thanksgiving, Wyoming Hunger Initiative committed to a second holiday campaign: could we raise enough money to supplement local Shop with a Cop programs in Wyoming so in addition to shopping funds, participating children might be able to take home a basket of food to their families for Christmas as well?
Shop with a Cop pairs schoolchildren with troopers for a Christmas shopping trip; the children are provided with funds (usually between $50-100) and a personal shopping partner that helps them select a few Christmas gifts for themselves. More often than not, children use a portion of those funds to purchase gifts for family members, and sometimes even household necessities.
We asked, you answered. We raised $75,000. $50,000 of that money went directly to food pantries still in search of resources for the Christmas meals they wanted to provide in their communities to those in need, and another $25,000 went to Shop with a Cop programs across the state. That translates to a total of 2,128 Christmas meals all told.
To put it lightly, 2020 has been a bear of a year for so many people. It has been filled with hopelessness, uncertainty, despair, and trouble. Our faith in the future and our fellow citizens is strong, though, because you answer when we ask. You show us hope, certainty, confidence, and solutions when you don't look away from need.