Local woman stepped up to the plate to help Dover community
Danielle Smith said it started with a Facebook post.
Around Easter she saw a Facebook post in a Magnolia residence group about a food donation at Allen Frear Elementary School that ran out too soon.
“I found out from the post that there were over 100 cars in line that didn’t get through. The line was more than they ever anticipated. So families got turned away,” said Smith, of Magnolia. “I was so sad and I posted about it.”
Her mother-in-law asked what could be done. Then Brooke realized her answer was right in front of her.
“I made a Facebook group and within 24 hours we had 200 people join,” Smith said about Feeding Our Kids: Delaware.
“I started a fundraiser to go with it and I set a goal of $500, thinking maybe we’ll get enough to make 50 bags of food. Then 12 hours later we raised over $1,000,” she added.
But getting food to Dover-area families presented challenges. For example, she needed to find a location to distribute the bags.
Smith also had to figure out a way to buy enough groceries to feed dozens of families. Right now a lot of grocery stores have limits on staples like bread and SpaghettiOs, items she needed.
The Magnolia resident didn’t know what was going to happen when she arrived at Sam’s Club. Yet after explaining she was shopping for a charitable cause, Sam’s waived her limit.
Brooke got a lot of what she needed there, but bread was in short supply.
“I would’ve had to buy all the bread at Sam’s to get 100 loaves,” she said.
Her solution was to contact Touchdown Restaurant, since they order in bulk through distribution company Sysco. The restaurant placed a call and ordered her 100 loaves of bread for $300, Smith said.
She visited area grocery stores like Food Lion and Redner’s Markets to get the rest. T.A. Farms in Camden donated 200 packages of meat.
Smith managed to secure a distribution spot, thanks to Jonathan’s Landing Golf Course, where her husband works.
There, her three sons and a handful of volunteers helped her fill the bags. They stuffed over 150 bags, Smith said.
Each bag contained food for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack that would feed two kids per family for two to three days: granola bars, peanut butter or jelly, oatmeal packs, SpaghettiOs, a loaf of bread and mac and cheese.
Seeking the people
Smith planned to donate the bags on April 14 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and posted that on Facebook the day before to get the word out.
Not as many families showed up as expected, she said.
So she decided to drive to neighborhoods in Woodside and around State Street in Dover.
“I used to teach at CR for a year and my kids go here, so we’re kinda familiar with the areas of need,” said Smith, now at Cape Henlopen School District.
“The first thing I thought of were all the kids in the Woodside area who go to Allen Frear. There are kids there who live without electricity,” she said.
The Cape teacher said she’d pull into a neighborhood and drive slow, looking for houses where kids were outside, or anyone outside. “I’d ask, ‘Hey, do you need groceries?’” she explained.
Smith said way more bags were distributed that way. She learned that some of the people living there didn’t have transportation to make it to Jonathan’s Landing.
By the end of the day, around 100 bags had been handed over, leaving her with about 60.
That prompted a second bag giveaway April 15.
This time she chose to set up in front of Touchdown Restaurant, since she already had a relationship with the business and it was within walking distance for a nearby low-income community.
Most of the remaining bags were picked up that day.
Ways you can help
Hartly resident James Olson, owner of Olson Realty, was one of the volunteers that helped distribute food. It was important for him to give back because he grew up disadvantaged.
“We were dirt poor growing up and my mother and grandmother would go to the food bank,” Olson said. “Just the thought of kids being hungry is just heart-wrenching. I hate seeing kids suffer. I look at my own kids and if they were homeless or hungry, as a parent, it’s gotta be a God-awful feeling.”
Smith said she doesn’t know what’s in store next, since she created the Feeding Our Kids page on a whim. She noticed a need and wanted to help, but she never had a long-term plan.
Her message to readers who want to help families in need is they can definitely have an effect right now by supporting the Food Bank of Delaware at fbd.org.
“I know that the food banks are in need. They’re desperate for donations,” Smith said. “Donations are down and need is up.”
Dover food giveaway on April 22
The Food Bank of Delaware is holding a large giveaway at Dover International Speedway (enter through Dover Downs Hotel & Casino) on Wednesday, April 22 at 11 a.m.
You must be a Delaware resident to participate, and you’ll need to bring a proof of ID and Delaware residency.
For more information and the criteria you’ll need to qualify for the food distribution, click here.