July 31, 2014

Elyria
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Avon Lake businesses load up their plates for a ‘food fight’

Truck driver Ray Lopez helps load food Monday for Thogus Products at Pin Oak Parkway in Avon Lake. (CT photo by Steve Fogarty.)

AVON LAKE — A “food fight” that started a month ago between businesses operating along one of the city’s bigger industrial parkways will provide thousands of meals for area families this holiday season and beyond.

Named the Pin Oak Parkway Food Fight, the charitable effort involving several large and small businesses generated enough money and food to provide an estimated 55,000 to 65,000 meals in coming weeks.

“It’s amazing to me,” Julie Chase-Morefield, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank, said Monday. “So far this looks like it’s going to be one of the biggest, if not the biggest, holiday food drive we’ve seen.”

All of the money and food collected by the effort, which ran from Nov. 1 through Monday, will benefit thousands of families in need in the Lorain County area and beyond who are served by Second Harvest.

“They did an incredible job and seemed to get really excited about it,” Chase-Morefield said.

This is the second year Thogus Products Co. — a national supplier of plastic injection molding products — has partnered with Second Harvest to raise money and food to feed needy families at holiday time.

Working on its own, Thogus’ employees and officials, led by president and CEO Matt Hlavin, raised enough money and food to provide a couple thousand meals in 2011.

In its second year, Thogus decided to partner with GL Direct, a mailing and shipping services firm, to sponsor the expanded charitable collection.

The joint venture grew out of get-togethers with businesses big and small located along Pin Oak Parkway, according to Marilyn Tober, human resources director for Hinkley Lighting, a 65-employee warehouse facility for its product lines of home, landscape and outdoor lighting products.

“We didn’t really know our neighbors here,” Tober said. “After getting to know each other and what they did, we began to use each other’s company (for storage of products, etc.).”

Hinkley not only matched employee monetary donations dollar for dollar but also kicked in $2 for each pound of food donated.

“The challenge of going up against each other made it more exciting,” Tober said.

Food and monetary donations were both courted, but financial donations were especially sought.

“A dollar goes a lot farther,” Hlavin said.

His company matched employee contributions dollar for dollar, with Hlavin matching contributions personally.

Every 1.3 pounds of donated food provides one meal, while every $1 donated creates five meals.

While the charitable effort was friendly in nature, Hlavin joked that competing Pin Oak companies “went dark” last week and opted to be a bit secretive about the status of their donations.

Food and monetary donations were picked up from a number of the participating businesses Monday morning by Thogus personnel.

Stops included Hinkley Lighting and Pembroke Kids Child Development Center, where 90 percent of the center’s 135 children donated food or money.

“The kids were very intrigued,” Andrea Caris, co-director of the center, said. “They didn’t really understand at first how some people are not as fortunate. This made the kids aware and taught them about giving back to others.”

All of the Pin Oak companies will get together Wednesday at Thogus for a party and formal announcement of the winning company by Chase-Morefield, who noted the level of need always goes up around the holidays.

“People are paying more bills, getting their first heating bills, and kids are home from school and don’t have breakfast or lunch programs,” Chase-Morefield said.

Second Harvest is serving 12 percent more people at Lorain County food pantries this year than in 2011, Chase-Morefield said.

The agency looks to serve about 40,000 people in Lorain County through its network of 45 food pantries, and more than 30,000 meals through 34 hot meal programs that use food provided by Second Harvest. Some 40 percent of those served are under the age of 18.

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.