In 2011, after leading 450 volunteers in the local community to package 40,000 meals for shipment to hungry children in a developing country, and being so organized to do so in less than 2 hours, Ron Klabunde was challenged. A local businessman asked Klabunde, “What are you going to do with the meals?” Klabunde responded that the plan was to feed hungry children overseas.
The businessman’s reply was sobering and eyeopening to Klabunde, “That’s nice. Now, what are you going to do to feed the 60,000 in our community who are struggling with hunger?”
In fact, this is what you find in many church and community settings, large efforts, and money to make an impact some 8,000 miles away, but very little right in their own backyard.
In Loudoun County alone, about 17 percent of children struggle with hunger, qualifying for free or reduced-cost meals at schools. In Fairfax County, its 27 percent.
Aided by his wife, Stefani, and others, Klabunde changed focus to combating hunger in the United States. Just a few years later, the result is a network that stretches across 19 states, from New Jersey to California. They hope to add another nine states or so this year.
The nonprofit, Generosity Feeds, has grown mostly through word of mouth. Local schools invite students and families. Companies, churches and nonprofits get on board, building partnerships.
“It’s about making a difference in a child’s life,” said Klabunde, a Sterling resident who was pastor at Restore Community Church and a coach for business and religious leaders. “A lot of people don’t realize that there are many kids going hungry right in their neighborhoods. When they find out, they want to serve and be generous. Local schools and churches want to teach young people the value of community service.”
At an event in March, some 500 people showed up at Loudoun County High School in Leesburg, packing 20,000 meals in two hours. Corporate sponsors, which provide volunteers and money to purchase meals, included NCG Insurance, Wegmans, Salesforce.com, Panera Bread, L.F. Jennings, J2 Engineers and KLNB Commercial Real Estate Services.
Many individuals and nonprofits also contributed. Costing about $1 each, the meals feature black beans and rice, designed by a culinary chef to provide high-quality nutrition. Donations are still being accepted for the Leesburg effort through the Generosity Feeds website. The motto is, donate $30, feed 30 children.
Destiny Church in Leesburg, which organized the March function, coordinated its first Generosity Feeds event last year, said Helmut Herder, a John Maxwell-certified business leader coach, trainer and public speaker who is Destiny’s director of the Generosity Feeds program. The church plans another early next year.
While some volunteers are Destiny members, many are not. “We have many student volunteers from the schools. Some come from other churches, and from businesses and nonprofit groups. We’ve had volunteers from ROTC programs and from Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts,” Herder said. “We make it a family event.”
Besides doing the larger packaging events, Destiny has a DC Care Team that regularly distributes food to needy area families. There are clothing drives and special sports events on weekends to provide kids with an outlet, Herder said.
The church also aids in areas such as learning English, financial education, computer literacy and sewing. “We identify basic needs and try to meet them,” Herder said.
They can always use more help from the community, he said. “There are more people who need food than what we can do.”
Another key point about the organization, besides each meal costing around a dollar, 95 cents of every dollar stays local to feed children in need.
Packing events have occurred at other Loudoun sites besides the two high schools. Actor Sean O’Donnell helped promote a 2016 event at Douglass Community Center in Leesburg. His father, Jack, heads NuVu Real Estate and is involved with Leesburg Junction, a collaborative workspace that coordinated that Generosity Feeds function.
“We’ve done dozens of events in the last six years in Loudoun County,” Klabunde said. “Usually, we build them around schools, where you can more easily gain credibility. They become a great neutral environment for all aspects of the community to come together.”