Photo by Kim DeYong
June 27th Miracle: Beginnings
Food banks have been feeling the crunch since COVID-19 began changing the world we live in. More people are in need, but donations have dropped, and food bank shelves have been a little on the thin side. The trend shows every sign of continuing in this direction. People who have never even thought of going to a food bank are more and more finding themselves in this position.
Chatham-Kent had pulled off a “May 16th Miracle” with 10,000 volunteers and over 40 drop-off locations, covering more than 1,800 square kilometers, and that got the wheels turning for 10 people in Windsor and Essex County. They devised a plan.
These 10 people became the organizing team for the Windsor-Essex June 27th Miracle. They are Tracey Bailey, Steve Desjardins, Matt Hernandez, Steve Ilijanich, Mark Jones, Adam Lally, Josh Lane, Josh Spadafora, Steve Truant and Kerri Zold.
In less than four weeks, they linked up their networks and individual know-how to gather 10,000 willing workers. Thanks go to all the municipalities and community organizations who participated. These include the Goodfellows, the Windsor-Essex County Food Bank Association, the Windsor Essex County Health Unit, and community partners.
As of July 7, 2020, it’s estimated that the June 27th Miracle amassed 2,020,500 lbs of donations. Yes, you read that right. That’s two million pounds of food and other necessities to care for people in Windsor and Essex County. Pallets full of contributions have been stored across the region, waiting for their precious contents to be sorted and given to those in need.
According to the Windsor Essex Food Bank Association, this bounty could feed 28,850 households or 67,316 individuals for a year. And that’s something to shout about. Because the WEFBA says that there has already been a 12% increase in those using food banks since the COVID-19 pandemic began, compared to the same time period in 2019.
And the need and numbers are expected to continue to increase. Figures suggest that Windsor-Essex County could see an increase of 50% this year, as compared to 2019.
Each community is responsible for distributing their local collections. Kingsville’s food is being distributed via the Kingsville Community Food Bank at 18 Division Street North. They invite anyone in need of a helping hand with food to come in during the hours of Tuesdays and Thursdays 9 a.m.- 12:45 p.m. and Wednesdays 5 p.m.- 7 p.m.
Photo by Mandy Furtado Janz
June 27th Miracle: From my window
I saw a pickup truck drive into my crescent on the afternoon of June 27th. A woman wearing a mask and gloves was walking a short distance behind it. I live in a small crescent with just half a dozen houses in it. The truck parked and the driver and the woman who’d been walking went to every front porch to gather the bags and boxes of food that had been left out for them.
They climbed into the back of the truck and meticulously set to the business of sorting food items. When things were organized to their satisfaction they were off, on to the next street on their list.
This was a scene that was playing all over town. All over the county. All day on June 27, 2020.
Those of us who watched from our homes, and others of us who took their offerings to the drop-off locations, got a good look at service in action. But there was more that we didn’t see. So much went into planning this huge event. So much happened behind the scenes.
There were four drop-off locations, at the Kingsville Arena, the Pelee Island Winery, Cottam’s Ridgeview Park and Kendrick Funeral Home. Kingsville had seven captains for the food drive. They were Victoria Schmoranz, Janice Durocher, Kim DeYong, Kara Murray, Andy Dowling, Mandy Furtado Janz and Carol Sitler.
Here are some of the people we didn’t see who worked to make this miracle possible.
Photo by Kim DeYong
June 27th Miracle Workers
Linda Lynch — Kingsville Community Food Bank Co-ordinator
Since Linda Lynch is the co-ordinator for the Kingsville Community Food Bank, that made her a natural to line up people to help with the June 27th Miracle food drive. “I heard about it primarily from the Rotary Club members who volunteer at the food bank. My role in all of this has been to provide volunteers to assist with transporting the food items to the food bank and the overflow storage area.”
Donations in both food and finances have increased at the Kingsville Community Food Bank since the COVID-19 crisis began, so Lynch was already aware of the generosity of the community. Even so, she found the enormity of the response to the June 27th food drive to be overwhelming.
“I know what a giving community we have here in Kingsville, so I should not be surprised that the residents came through in a big way. I just don’t think anyone expected the response to be quite that great,” said Lynch.
“The organizers, volunteers and residents should take pride in a job well done and know their efforts will go a long way to keeping the Kingsville Community Food Bank well stocked, allowing the volunteers to provide a necessary service to the community,” Lynch said. “Many, many, many thanks to everyone involved, especially our Rotary guys and gals.”
Photo by Kim DeYong
Mandy Furtado Janz — Captain and Winery Volunteer
Mandy Furtado Janz was one of seven Kingsville captains. She was in charge of communication and sorting depots. “We had sorting depots at Pelee Island Winery, the Kingsville Arena and Kendricks funeral home,” she said. “These were main drop offs but I know many businesses had food drives leading up to the day as well.”
Furtado Janz was also stationed at Pelee Island Winery on June 27th. “Wow! we were very busy. We did not anticipate the rush that we experienced,” she said. “We thought we had it all very organized and that we would sort as we accepted food but wow! we were wrong. We couldn’t keep up with the drop offs but we managed to pull it off and it was amazing.”
Furtado Janz has recently been working from home due to COVID-19 which allowed her to get involved with the food drive.She called the food drive “a really simple grass roots initiative.” She said, “The great thing about this was that everyone could participate in one way or another!”
“My favourite part of the day was simply seeing so many people come together for a common cause. This was about helping people and Kingsville showed up in a very grand way. As we unpacked boxes we also got many beautiful Thank You notes from those who donated and that in itself was pretty awesome.”
“As a member of the organizing team I want to let people know that we are very thankful for everyone who participated in any way. Everyone put their heart into this day and it really was quite spectacular.”
Photo by Kim DeYong
Michelle Ramsay — Cottam Area Pickup
Michelle Ramsay likes to help with community activities when she can. “We have a teenage daughter so we’re always felt that it’s important to teach her to be community-minded,” she said. “I enjoy volunteering because it’s a great way to get to know people in my community. I also know that many people are out of work because of the pandemic, so it’s the least I can do. It only took me an hour.”
Ramsay is very much aware that many people are struggling in her community because of the pandemic. She believes strongly in the importance of the community working together to help those in need. “All you have to do is ask, and our community is always there in a heartbeat,” she said. “We are so lucky to live here in this little town.”
Her pickup area was what many residents still refer to as Old #3 Highway. Ramsay was impressed with the outpouring from the people in that area. “Cottam’s response was absolutely amazing but not surprising. The people here are so giving and generous,” she said. “It was fun doing the pick-up because we got to chat to people that we’ve never met before. Everyone felt proud to be part of such a big experience.”
Ramsay feels great satisfaction that she was able to participate in this experience. “I’m not surprised that it went so well because if there is someone in need, there will always be 100 people lined up to help. That’s just how our people are in our little town,” said Ramsay. “I would like people to continue to encourage their kids and their friends and neighbours to keep up the good community work and to always pay it forward.”
Photo by Meghan Bolton
Meghan Bolton — Rotary Club and Food Bank Volunteer
When the call went out for community volunteers, Meghan Bolton quickly volunteered. “I got involved in the food drive because I feel very strongly about food vulnerability and especially in the unprecedented times we are facing,” Bolton said.
“I have been volunteering at the Kingsville Community Food Bank for a year or so and it has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Helping people has always been passion of mine and when it helps members of the community, I call home it means even more to me.”
Bolton is a member of the Kingsville Southshore Rotary Club. The club had been approached by Dennis Rogers of Green Heart Kitchen to drive his company vehicles the day of to collect donations. Stacey and Dave Jones, Rachel Grover and Bolton drove the Green Heart Kitchen cars and collected food around Kingsville.
Her route was Main Street, from Heritage Road to Kratz Sideroad, which was a busy route with a lot of traffic. “It became very clear early in the day just how generous our town is!” said Bolton. The Green Heart Kitchen car filled up quickly. Many trips were necessary to the Pelee Island Winery for drop-offs and then off they’d go again, back out to collect some more.
“I feel it is important to give back where and when you can in life, no matter if it is with a food drive or donating blood or volunteering,” Bolton said. “I feel that even if I help just one person, that person will hopefully pay it forward and help someone else. I also feel it is very important to set a good example for my two boys, ages 10 and 13, that it not all about what life can offer you, but what you can offer and give back.”
Bolton saw that as word spread, people were getting excited. “I had a good feeling about this from the get go,” she said.”I feel as though everyone was looking for a way to help during these difficult times and just were not sure how. This event provided everyone an opportunity to get involved and make a difference. ”
Bolton and Kim DeYong were responsible for organizing and sorting the 75 skids of food that Kingsville collected. They put together a plan and a schedule of community volunteers to sort donations and make sure they were distributed to the various community agencies.
“We worked very closely with the food bank to ensure their shelves will be stocked for the foreseeable future as well as many other community agencies,” said Bolton. “We couldn’t have done it without all of our amazing volunteers!”
Bolton has always loved Kingsville. She was born and raised here. “But WOW!!! As I said it became very clear just how generous our town is. Even in these tough times we are facing, we all came together and accomplished something incredible!” Bolton said. ” As I began my route, I wasn’t sure what to expect, maybe a can or 2 on the porch, but boy was I wrong!!! Every house seemed to have cases and boxes and multiple bags of items! It was truly overwhelming!”
Bolton urges anyone experiencing food vulnerability to please reach out to the Kingsville Community Food Bank. “It was amazing to me to find out how many people were not even aware that Kingsville has a food bank,” she said. “Whether or not your situation is temporary and you just need a bit of help for the time being, please access the food bank!”
Photo by Meghan Bolton
Jamie Kendrick — Funeral Home Drop-Off Location
Jamie and her husband Dave own Kendrick Funeral Home on Division Street, as well as a location in Wheatley and one in Chatham. She said, “We have never been involved in anything this big with the community. It was a wonderful learning experience that hopefully we can do again in the future.”
She and her husband Dave had donated to the Chatham-Kent May 16th food drive through their Wheatley and Chatham funeral home locations. There they had seen what a marvelous thing that had turned out to be for Chatham-Kent. They couldn’t resist doing it again in Windsor Essex.
“We thought it was important because people are hurting,” said Kendrick. “We had the ability to step-up and offer our building and our help to the Miracle. These are trying times for people in the Kingsville/Leamington area; especially still being in Phase 1 of opening, we have to pull together for the sake of our communities.”
People started bringing in their donations to the funeral home the day before on June 26th. “The atmosphere was so energizing, positive and joyful,” Kendrick said. “I loved seeing all of the families working together and all of the smiling faces, beautiful signs that people made and decorated boxes that people make for their donations!”
On the 27th, Kendricks felt like things seemed a bit more normal once again. While everyone was careful to practice social distancing, they were also smiling and talking with each other. The Kendricks’ children Lila, Madelynn and Boldin were also there helping during the day.
“We had a good system,” said Kendrick. “Certain people unloaded cars, other people were labeling boxes and loading the full boxes on the trailer, others were sorting food and placing in the correct box. It ran very smoothly.”
“The last four months have been very isolating. Being in a profession that has a lot of social interaction with the community, I have really missed that,” said Kendrick. “I think the community was happy to be together again doing something good for our neighbors and friends.”
It’s a unique time in Kingsville, and around the world for that matter. People are dealing with challenges never before encountered in our lifetimes. Crisis, especially long, drawn-out crisis has a way of bringing out the best and the worst in people.
All of the organizers, volunteers and community members who donated food and gathered it have shown their true colours in a way that is uplifting and inspiring. Even Prime Minister Trudeau used Twitter to praise Windsor Essex for its compassion, innovation and drive to make our region a better place.
“Times are hard now. In a tough time-Kingsville stepped up for its community, Essex County stepped up for its community,” said Kendrick. “Everyone stepped up and pulled together and made a miracle happen for Essex County and I am so happy that my family could be a part of it!”
June 27 Miracle. July 6th, 2020. “Windsor and Essex County, ON –The most successful one-day community food drive in history?” [Press Release] www.june27miracle.com
For media inquiries, contact:
Joshua Lane Organizing Committee, June 27th Miracle 519-819-1834 firstname.lastname@example.org
June 27 Miracle Facebook page
Interview with Linda Lynch, July 2, 2020.
Interview with Mandy Furtado Janz, July 5, 2020.
Interview with Michelle Ramsay, June 29, 2020.
Interview with Meghan Bolton, July 7, 2020.
Interview with Jamie Kendrick, July 2, 2020.