On July 17, The Community Food Connection dedicated their new home and honored those who have been putting emergency food on the tables of countless homes for more than 19 years.
Dean Moss, president of the CFC board of directors, opened the ceremony by explaining the organization’s purpose: “We serve our community, and we are supported by our community, so in reality, this is your food connection.”
Moss welcomed more than 225 supporters by acknowledging that feeding more than 5,000 people each month requires a community-wide effort.
The dedication ceremony continued with a scripture reading and prayer by Rev. Kevin Strickland from St. Paul Lutheran Church, followed by the national anthem, sung by John Cherry, member of First United Methodist Church of Maryville.
Moss then gave a brief history of the board’s frustrated efforts to find an affordable place that could facilitate the increasing numbers of people in need of food assistance. The outreach has been operating in a 1,340-square-foot facility on East Broadway since 2000 and had outgrown the space.
“Our hope diminished of ever finding a suitable location that we could afford. That’s when a blessing happened,” Moss said.
That blessing came from Bill and Gwen Phillips, who donated a 2,100-square-foot duplex, located on 311 Whitecrest Drive; a commercial corridor off of Foch Street that is visible from the US-129 Bypass.
Among the crowd celebrating the new location were several area pastors, business leaders, volunteers and state and federal legislators, including U.S. Rep. Jimmy Duncan, State Rep. Bob Ramsey and State Sen. Doug Overbey.
The true celebrity of the event, however, was the center’s new namesake, Donna Landgren, 91, and a leader of the CFC since its inception in 1991.
During the dedication, Moss read a resolution honoring Landgren for her “countless hours of service” and proclaiming that the center will always be known as The Donna Landgren Community Food Connection of Blount County.
Landgren told the crowd, “I’m just a volunteer like all the others. I’ve just been around more years.”
During the dedication ceremony, Duncan, the featured speaker, commended Landgren and the entire group of CFC volunteers for their work in Blount County. “If there’s one thing we need, its more simple human kindness one to another.”
Moss accepted a $1,000 donation from the Suntrust Bank Foundation and said, “I’m trying to imagine how many jars of peanut butter $1,000 can buy.”
Moss said the CFC has never used funds to pay for labor and has always been staffed by volunteers who consider it a ministry. “We feel like every time we hand out a can of food to someone, we’re doing it for the Lord.”
More than 100 volunteers currently work throughout the week to stock shelves and distribute food during their operating hours; which are Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
“If we counted everybody in the community who volunteers and contributes through food drives and other offerings, it is more like 700,” Moss said.
Following the dedication and ribbon-cutting ceremony, Landgren told Blount Today that when the CFC began almost two decades ago, “It wasn’t much. It started very slowly and on hope more than anything. It’s not exactly been a walk in the park, but it’s worked out very well.”
Ken Landgren said his 91-year-old mother has been volunteering in the community since they moved to Blount County in 1964.
In an interview following the event, Moss said, “She’ll say, ‘I was just a volunteer like everyone else’ but she was more than a volunteer.”
Moss said even the simplest act of kindness can make a difference at the CFC. He said they keep shelves stocked with food through county-wide food drives and monetary donations from individuals, groups and businesses in the community.
“We have purchasing agents who can go out and really find a bargain,” Moss said. “So rather than a person going out and paying 75 cents for a can of beans, if they give us that 75 cents, we can buy two cans.”
Donations come in various forms at CFC. In fact, Paul Hackulich of Call Us First Systems has donated two computers to the center, and he will be training volunteers on how to enter data and maintain records.
“Right now they’re using 5-by-7 index cards in a box. We’re going to help them be more efficient,” Hackulich said.
Hackulich also said a volunteer database will be created so leaders will have a better understanding of who can assist in what ways.
As the event came to a close, Moss looked up at the donated facility abuzz with cheerful contributors and said, “The support of our community is overwhelming. This is a great day.”
For more information about donating or volunteering with CFC, call 865-977-4400.