After wrapping up its Stuff the Bus effort on Thursday, the United Way of Lee County will kick off its 2022 campaign next Wednesday with Feed the Need, a new event that aims to help in the battle against food insecurity in the Auburn community.
Sponsored by the Auburn Industrial Development Board, Feed the Need will bring together more than 120 volunteers at the Food Bank of East Alabama to package 20,000 nonperishable meals for local families in Lee County.
"We wanted our volunteers to have a hands-on experience," said Kimberly Myers, campaign manager for United Way of Lee County, who added that the meals will include dehydrated soy beans, rice and a vegetable medley. The United Way is partnering with Numana for the packaging event.
"What got me excited about it when I talked to the company that hosts this for us is that it can be used on top of the stove, in the oven and in the microwave," said Myers. "I know that some people don't have that, but most people have one of those, so it's really such a versatile product, and it's shelf-stable."
"The fact that we can come together as a community and provide this, over 20,000 meals, that's really going to truly make a difference," added Myers. "Sometimes, it's just good to get your hands and feet out there in the community."
The Feed the Need event will kick off the 2022 campaign, which has a goal of raising $925,000.
Before that campaign starts, the United Way will hold its distribution day for Stuff the Bus, which runs Thursday from 3 to 5 p.m. at Town Creek Park.
Over the past months, the United Way has partnered with local business, which hosted Stuff the Bus boxes that were then filled with supplies from employees and residents. Myers credited the businesses and Auburn residents who donated for making Stuff the Bus a success.
"It really is a community effort," she said. "We see that need. We hear that from calls that we get throughout the year asking about school supplies and needs for kiddos. We also have a really strong relationship with our Lee County schools, Auburn schools and Opelika schools, and that's something that we've learned over the years from the counselors and the teachers — that there's a lot of kids that really struggle with that, and so we want to be there to help. We want those kids to be able to not worry about that first day of school.
"They're just excited to get their school supplies and be out there. But you really see the look of relief on so many of the parents' and guardians' faces."
The United Way is getting an assist from Auburn football players to help distribute more than 650 backpacks to children.
"Coach (Bryan) Harsin's a really big supporter of the United Way, and he's really big into wanting his guys to get out and volunteer in the community and be a part of the community, so he asked if they could participate with us, and of course we're excited to have them," said Myers.
The event will include children's activities and a visit from Aubie.
"We're going to have about eight to 10 games that the kiddos can enjoy and play and just get excited about starting school," said Myers. "They're going to get their backpacks, and then a lot of the prizes that we'll give out for those games are obviously like crayons and pencils and fun little school supplies."