Since the outbreak of Covid-19, local foundations and the Dream Center have joined together to provide aid to some of the most vulnerable members of the Auburn community.
The Hudson Family Foundation, started by Auburn baseball legend Tim Hudson and his wife, Kim, has partnered with the Dream Center, the Jason Dufner Foundation, the Malzahn Family Foundation and Butch and Robin Thompson to help meet the needs of those who are food insecure in the area.
After the outbreak, the Hudson Family Foundation, which focuses on food insecurity among other things, reached out to the school systems in Auburn, Opelika and Lee County to see how it could help to meet the needs of students who were suddenly out of school.
"We all really worked together on this food initiative, the food distribution for the kids and families," said Kim Hudson. "We were just trying to figure out the most efficient and effective way to partner with school systems and all work together because the school systems, the people involved there, are the ones that know the need. They can help us implement it, and then everyone's been doing their part."
Partnering with the Dream Center was an integral part of the effort to meet the needs of food insecure students and families in the community. The Dream Center has packed and distributed more than 60,000 pounds of groceries and served more than 1,400 families from Auburn, Opelika and Lee County schools so far. The effort expanded the last two weeks to help distribute food boxes to Notasulga as well.
"They have a great facility; they have some staff, and so that's been kind of the hub for ordering food, packing food, distributing food to the children in the families who are on food assistance in our three local school systems," said Hudson. "And then we're really blessed to have amazing people in our community that give financially as well as put in sweat equity."
The Hudson Family Foundation has also expanded its efforts to combat food insecurity by partnering with local restaurants to help service industry workers in the community who are suddenly without jobs and struggling to make ends meet and put food on the table.
The foundation and area restaurants like Lucy's, Bow & Arrow and Arricia have joined forces for "Buy a Meal, Give a Meal."
"When you buy that family meal, a gift card in the amount of that family meal was given to a service industry worker who's been out of work," said Hudson. "These restaurants are able to handpick those people that they know that just don't have work right now, that have families, single moms and people with children.
"Obviously, we can't do this by ourselves, either. The restaurants are the ones coming up with the plan and we're just funding being able to donate the meals to people who need it right now."
In addition to Lucy's, Bow & Arrow and Arricia, other restaurants have signed on to participate in the effort. The best way to track the Buy a Meal, Give a Meal initiative is to follow the Hudson Family Foundation's social media pages on Facebook or Instagram or to follow area restaurant's social media pages. The 50 family meals offered by the restaurants have sold out so far, a trend Hudson said she hopes continues.
"Hopefully, we'll sell out every time and just keep it going," she said. "I know as a mom I've cooked more in the last three weeks than I have in probably the last year, so it is a good way to feed your family and not have to cook. It's a good way to support our restaurants and provide a meal for a family. It's really a win all the way around."
Hudson said all the money that comes into the foundation now is being used to provide food assistance or something to families in need.
"We're not just taking donations and storing them away. Everything that comes in now will go out through one of the programs that we're implementing right now," she said.
The Hudson Family Foundation plans to start a hygiene products drive soon and get a list out to the community of what is needed.
"That's been a need that we've learned about from the schools, that a lot of these families, they need toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, laundry detergent, things like that," said Hudson. "So we're constantly going to be hopefully continuing what we're doing and also listening to the community and seeing where their needs are and being able to plug in."
If community members want to donate to the Hudson Family Foundation's efforts, they can go to www.hudsonfamilyfoundation.com.
"Any money that comes in now, either through a check or online, will 100 percent be used in our community to provide food assistance or something that a family needs. We don't have overhead; we don't have any bills we have to cover, so if you made a $20 donation that $20 would go toward the initiatives that we have going right now here," said Hudson, who added that the foundation does most of its fundraising during the fall and around the Super Bowl. "We were able to have our events for our sponsors, and so we're at the point now where we're spending money. I feel like as an organization, as a nonprofit, now is the time you have to step out and serve."
The Auburn community has joined together a lot over the past year and a half in response to tragedy, and Hudson sees the same spirit in the community's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"Every time I think the community couldn't step up more, I couldn't be more impressed or grateful," she said. "That's why these meals are selling out, and I hope they'll continue to. This is a great community. We all know that. But I just feel like it keeps getting better and stronger."