The Inner City Development Food Pantry kicked off its Thanksgiving 365 initiative on Wednesday. The yearly effort aims to raise enough money during the Thanksgiving season to feed hungry families throughout the year.
About 20 volunteers have started to fast, eating only bread, drinking only water, and soliciting donations from the community to meet Inner City Development’s fundraising goal of $30,000. This money will stock the emergency food pantry to serve more than 150,000 meals this year to families on the Westside – for Thanksgiving and beyond. Volunteers have pledged not to eat until they’ve raised $1,000 each. Organizers are seeking at least 10 more volunteers this season to take the fasting campaign pledge.
Any amount exceeding $30,000 will be used to stock the food pantry with baby formula and diapers as well as additional protein items.
Started by Fr. Ralph Ruiz, a Catholic priest with the Archdiocese of San Antonio 46 years ago, the initiative has grown to become an annual event with fasters signing up to raise money through their connections and, more recently, through social media and online donations.
“We are a crisis pantry – if someone lost a job or their house to a fire or some other emergency, we are here to supply them with food,” said Rod Radle, who has been co-director at the center with his wife, Patti, since the early 1970s. “We also serve families throughout Bexar County with emergency assistance.”
Rod said people donate more money in years when they have more to give, though many dedicated people are quick to jump in and include their friends in the effort.
“It’s also good for my wife and I, because we get back into remembering what people go through in a crisis, which can impact how they interact with family and make it harder for them to get things done,” he said. “A lot of people are willing to contribute over the short-term.”
This year’s fast will include several seasoned fasters and some new devotees.
Ryan Haug, who has been fasting to raise money for Thanksgiving 365 for many years and wrote an article about his experience for the Rivard Report here, said it is important to get the word out about the program early so people can donate.
“Any amount helps us, and as fasters, we make a very small, easy sacrifice,” he said.
The center hopes to meet its goal within a week, though donations will be accepted throughout the month. People can join this and other Inner City Development efforts throughout the year.
Inner City Development responds to the emergency, educational, and recreational needs of the neighborhood near the Alazan-Apache Public Housing Project. More than 100 volunteers are involved in providing critical, supportive, basic life services and inspiring other people to participate for a better neighborhood.
The agency cares for an average 180 families in crisis each month who are in need of food through its emergency food pantry, also providing emergency clothing, a GED program for volunteers, a spring basketball league, a summer program for area youth, a summer job training program, and a Christmas toy sale.
Jim Mendiola, a local filmmaker and partner of the Radles’ daughter, Faith, said he became interested in the program when he moved back to San Antonio a year ago.
“Living in this neighborhood has helped me see the benefits of Thanksgiving 365,” he said. “I’ve witnessed people coming through the pantry over the years. This effort is growing and Ryan has really pushed it to the next level using Facebook and social media.”
Mendiola said fasting has made him aware of all the social events attached to eating.
“This afternoon, I’ll go and sit at a table but I won’t be able to eat,” he said.
Robert Galvan, one of the first board members of Inner City Development, built a long-term relationship with the community and can be seen at events donating anything from food to socks.
With the exception of one part-time administrative assistant, the organization is run by an all-volunteer staff and administration.
Inner City Development is a family-based organization, with the children and grandchildren of adult volunteers joining and former participants of the programs running the efforts throughout San Antonio each year.
The center buys food from the San Antonio Food Bank and also receives donations from local businesses and churches, including Broadway Daily Bread, whose staff made a delivery of bread Wednesday morning, and the Holy Cross of San Antonio.
To make a donation to Inner City Development or for more information about programs or services, visit the website at www.innercitydevelopment.org or call (210) 224-7239. The Thanksgiving 365 drive has an online campaign at Razoo.com.
Visit the organization’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/innercitydevelopment.
*Set/featured image: Ryan Haug and Robert Galvan announce this year’s Thanksgiving 365 initiative at Inner City Development. Photo by Katherine Nickas.