Leaders from local charities discuss the impact and generosity of last year’s State Employee Charitable Campaign.
From September to November of 2021, Texas Tech University faculty and staff raised $377,144.87 for the annual State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC). This was about $11,000 more than what was raised in 2020. Across the Texas Tech University System, $700,108.53 was raised.
Texas Tech often is recognized for its strong track record of giving by the SECC. This year was no exception.
There are several organizations to choose from each year, but in 2021, two organizations were popular picks for faculty and staff – Lubbock Meals on Wheels and the South Plains Food Bank (SPFB).
Lisa Gilliland, executive director of Lubbock Meals on Wheels, and Dina Jeffries, CEO of South Plains Food Bank, explain what the organizations do and how the funds raised by the Texas Tech community will be used.
Can you tell us about your organization? What is your mission and how do you accomplish it?
Lisa: Lubbock Meals on Wheels was established in 1971. We have 15 staff members and more than 1,700 volunteers that prepare and deliver hot, nutritious meals to those who are homebound, elderly, or disabled in Lubbock and Wolfforth. There are currently more than 820 people in our program. We're not government funded nor are we a United Way agency. We rely completely on support from the community. All donations stay local and help our homebound neighbors right here in our community. Our mission is to respect the dignity of every human being by providing nutritious, home-delivered meals. We seek to break the social isolation experienced by the homebound by providing warm, caring, friendly contact through our volunteers.
Dina: Our mission is to alleviate hunger and give hope to the hungry. At SPFB, we believe every citizen in West Texas deserves to have an organization that is on their side in the fight against hunger, and we aim to adhere to a higher standard of caring for the needs of those facing food insecurity. We do that by offering our neighbors in need more than just a food box in every sense of the term. Our Children's Feeding Program aims to reduce the number of children going to bed hungry on the South Plains to zero. We're making sure those in our rural communities also have access to our services through our mobile pantry and senior box distributions. Through our Growing Recruits for Urban Business (GRUB) and Nutrition Education programs we try to offer resources that might help people break the cycle of poverty and food insecurity.
What does the SECC enable your organization to do? How will people's money be used?
Lisa: Thanks to the generous support received from the SECC, Lubbock Meals on Wheels can meet the growing need for services in our area without resorting to a waiting list. Our largest expense is the cost of food, so the funds raised are used to prepare meals. We have our own commercial kitchen where over 800 meals are prepared daily.
Dina: Every dollar donated to SPFB provides three meals. We're able to hit this mark through our relationships with vendors and our very loyal volunteer force who donate enough of their time throughout the year to provide about 19 full-time employees that we would otherwise have to go without. With all this community support, we're able to provide those three meals with every dollar donated, so a family of four could be fed for a full seven days with a donation of about $30. That's what the SECC allows us to provide to our community.
What does your organization uniquely contribute to the Lubbock community?
Lisa: The daily hot meal we provide to the homebound, elderly, or disabled is crucial to their health and well-being but so is the daily human contact. For many of our clients, our volunteer may be the only person they see that day. The volunteer provides necessary social interaction and a daily well-check for those who would otherwise be isolated and alone.
In addition to the meals, we provide many extras such as birthday cakes, cards, reading materials, pet food, fresh flowers, holiday treats, emergency meals, Christmas gifts, veterinary care, food boxes and weekend meals. Our Senior Secret Santa project provided Christmas gifts to more than 700 seniors last year. We also send weekend meals every Friday to 375 clients who have no access or assistance with food over the weekend. We provide dog and cat food to more than 300 pets (that provide valuable companionship) to our homebound clients. We also make referrals for any other needed resources for our clients such as home health, provider care, utility assistance, home repairs and more.
Dina: SPFB is uniquely positioned to provide a full-circle approach to fighting the cycle of poverty. Our mission might begin with providing food to the hungry, but that is far from where it ends. As mentioned earlier, we have a GRUB farm that tends to at-risk youth and provides them with life and job skills that will serve them the rest of their lives. We also have a nutrition education program that seeks to teach those we serve how to cook healthy meals with the items they can find in their food boxes. Our Social Services/CARE Unit provides access to programs that teach people to maximize benefits from the funds they do have and give them relief when it comes to food.
Does your organization impact Texas Tech either directly or indirectly?
Lisa: Lubbock Meals on Wheels works with Texas Tech and its students in a variety of ways. Several Texas Tech offices deliver routes on a regular basis, and we've had many practicum students complete their hours at our facility. We've also had various students and departments do rotations here (deliver meals, work in the office, assist in the kitchen) and the TTUHSC medical students come by annually and ride along on routes to visit clients.
Our organization gives students and faculty excellent volunteer opportunities to participate in direct service that is truly rewarding. We've also hired many Texas Tech graduates over the years.
Dina: Yes! A percentage of those we serve are students or faculty at Texas Tech. To combat this, SPFB helps to support the Raider Red Food Pantry on campus by providing food items so that Texas Tech students have a place to ask for help, without shame.
Why do you think your organization was such a popular choice during this year's campaign?
Lisa: I'm thrilled and honored to learn we are a popular choice for donations. I believe our mission is very relatable and we are fortunate to live in a community dedicated to caring for our neighbors. The donations from this campaign are crucial to our budget and our programs. We're grateful for the support of Texas Tech and that it clearly believes in our mission as much as we do.
Dina: I think our mission speaks for itself, and the pandemic really opened a lot of people's eyes to the issue of food insecurity. That being said, offering a helping hand to our neighbors in need has always been the West Texas way. We're incredibly grateful that we as an organization can make such an impact, but we're only able to do that because the community, and specifically the Texas Tech community, has made such an impact on us.
Together we've created a revolving door of positivity that will continue to have a great effect on our community. We are definitely better together!