Cold, freezing rain and several inches of snow Monday didn't stop people from donating 6,106 pounds of food and $11,943 in cash to the Food Bank of Northern Indiana. Thank you Michiana for your amazing response!
The nonprofit collected the donations in the parking lot of the WSBT building on Douglas Road in Mishawaka, as part of the third annual Neighbors in Need, organized by WSBT-TV, WSBT radio and The South Bend Tribune.
Donors came at times in spurts, and at times in a consistent trickle, driving up to a tent to give their food or cash, or both.
"When I woke up this morning and saw ice on the street, I didn't think we'd have a good day, but it has exceeded my expectations," said Mike Hancock, the food bank's director of operations.
He said more people gave both cash and food Monday than at past Neighbors in Need events.
It's a sign that people realize there remains a heavy need for food assistance locally,
despite national headlines indicating the economic recovery has begun, Hancock said.
Last month the Food Bank distributed 507,000 pounds of food, up about 15 percent from a year earlier, Hancock said.
"The need is ever rising," he said. "With the additional layoffs around town, we're starting to see more families coming through our in-house pantry, the St. Joseph Community Pantry."
Hancock said he hears about a lot of people who are "underemployed," meaning they are working but are earning far less than they used to.
"We see a lot of that around the Food Bank," he said. "People who used to be making $40,000 to $50,000, working for $8 or $9 an hour. Try feeding a family of four or five on that. It's pretty tough."
The donors Monday included Barb Mickow, of South Bend. She gave cash and some canned goods and spaghetti sauce, things she figured would go toward more than just one meal.
"I sometimes bring some things to Martin's, but today with the article in the paper showing how almost desperate the situation has become, with people having to choose between paying the heating bill and putting food on the table.
"The economy is so bad and so many people are out of work or are doing part-time work, for those of us in any kind of stable situation, it just seems like the right thing to do," Mickow said.
Rob Pedzinski agreed. His veterans advocacy group, Remembrance Ride, brought a check for $1,000, money it raised during a Father's Day motorcycle ride last year.
"A lot of people are down on their luck, and vets are right there with them," said Pedzinski. "They come home and they're unable to find jobs in their area. The Food Bank helps a lot of people out, so we thought this would be a good way to do what we could."
Staff writer Jeff Parrott: