Coming together to combat hunger: Lions Club leverages international investment for regional impact

It was during COVID-19 that the extent of food insecurity in the region became clear to the Galesburg Lions Club.

“We knew there were food access issues in the community, but not until the pandemic did it really strike home for us,” said Kim Norton, past president of the Club. “We helped distribute weekly meals to clients of FISH and VNA and realized the importance of a pantry in town.”

In the new cooler space ae, from left, Lions Club Teasurer Dave Pearson, River bend Food Bank Galesburg Branch Site Director Aaron Baron, Galesburg Community Foundation President & CEO Josh Gibb, FISH of Galesburg President Diane Copeland, Lions Club Past President Kim Norton, and FISH of Galesburg Executive Director Elizabeth Culbertson.

In the new cooler space are, from left, Lions Club Treasurer Dave Pearson, River Bend Food Bank Galesburg Branch Site Director Aaron Baron, Galesburg Community Foundation President & CEO Joshua Gibb, FISH of Galesburg President Diane Copeland, Lions Club Past President Kim Norton, and FISH of Galesburg Executive Director Elizabeth Culbertson.

Today, a partnership between Galesburg Community Foundation and River Bend Food Bank is working to bring long-term solutions to local hunger within reach. The centerpiece of the effort is River Bend’s new Galesburg branch at the corner of Main and Henderson Streets—a property purchased by the Community Foundation and leased to the food bank as a mission impact investment.

Building on its pandemic response, the Galesburg Lions Club, along with the District Lions Club, set out to raise funds for a critical piece of equipment for the new facility, a 4,600-square-foot cooler and freezer.

The Galesburg Lions Club approached its members with a goal of raising $25,000, which would unlock a $100,000 grant from Lions Club International. With the combined local, district, and international contributions, Lions Club was ultimately able to donate $127,000 to offset the cost of the cooler and freezer.

The cooler/freezer purchase allows River Bend to distribute more fresh produce and frozen protein. Designed as a separate building from the main warehouse and pantry, the cooler and freezer sits on land donated to Galesburg Community Foundation by the city of Galesburg.

“This is a true example of how much we can accomplish when we all work together,” said Joshua Gibb, the Community Foundation’s president and CEO and a past president of the Galesburg Lions Club. “When everyone brings their unique strengths to the table, the whole really is greater than the sum of the parts.”

“There were a lot of partnerships that made this possible, and we are fortunate the Community Foundation has the wherewithal financially and the community perspective to allow us to do this,” said Lions Club Treasurer Dave Pearson. “It’s something the community hasn’t seen before. I wish we didn’t need it, but it’s a blessing to have all these groups come together, not just for the people of Galesburg but for all of West-Central Illinois. The benefit to the greater community is going to be huge.”

Lions Club members get a sneek peak of the cooler space under construction at River Bend Food Bank Galesburg Branch.

Lions Club members get a sneak peek at the cooler space under construction at River Bend Food Bank Galesburg Branch.

 

Construction of a 4,600-square-foot cooler/freezer

 

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