RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The 100,000 Meals Campaign was formed by Puritan Cleaners in 2005 after Brenda Miller of the Central Virginia Food Bank approached Norman Way, the vice president, and Gary Glover, the owner of Puritan Cleaners, with a passionate plea for help.

Norm and Gary had been approached by other organizations for philanthropic work before, but it was the way that Brenda expressed the need for children to receive meals when they were not in school, throughout the summertime, that really touched their hearts.

“That meeting led to the beginning of the 10,000 Meals Campaign” explains Norman Way. “However, we quickly blew past that number and the next year it became the 100,000 Meals Campaign.”

During the first couple of years of the campaign, the goal was about having people drop off food at any Puritan Cleaners location. The call went out for cans of peanut butter, cans of tuna fish, cans of soup or beans. Those were the staples that were in need. These foods are high in protein and highly nutritious. 

Norm recalls collecting all of this food from each store and then driving it down to the Central Virginia Food Bank. “It was a reality check, I mean we are pretty good at moving clothes, but cans were rolling all over our vans, so we had to come up with a system for that.”

Over time, Gary and Norm felt that to make the campaign grow they needed to look for a media partner.  During the winter of 2010 they approached 8News and a partnership was formed. 

Norm remembers that meeting fondly.

“We’re looking for people that care about the community. People that will go above and beyond when we need to do. And we wanted to find a partner who would do that,” he said. “When we had a chance to talk with you [Matt DiNardo] and realized the work that you had done with the food bank up north prior to coming to Richmond and how much you were part of this community. We knew it was the right fit. And then all the folks over at Channel 8 have been a part of this from the anchor desk to the reporters to the cameramen. Everyone has been on board.”

The campaign has received help from schools, church organizations, businesses, doctor’s offices, law firms, just about everyone has help, but with a tear in his eye, Norm recalls a very special meeting with an elderly lady at a 100,000 meals event, known as Matt’s Great 8 Tailgate, she said, “My husband’s passed away and I’m doing fine. But I grew up being dirt poor, and I know what it’s like to go to bed hungry and then she wrote a check for $1,000.”

Monetary donations have become a vital part of this campaign.  Feed More, which is what the Central Virginia Food Bank became as of July 1, 2008, has such buying power that they can really stretch the dollar.  At one point they could take $1.00 and provide eight nutritious meals, but in today’s economic times, that number has been reduced to 4 nutritious meals. That is still great buying power but it means that we have to give a little more and work harder to help those in need in our community.

Feed More works with 277 partner agencies across central Virginia. So, while you are donating to our campaign the food and money are turned right back around to help those in need in the Northern Neck or in Goochland, or in South Hill or anywhere in between. Feed More helps keep the shelves stocked at local food pantries run by other community organizations or church groups.

Those in need are not poor in a traditional sense. They might be having a tough time making ends meet right now.  They could be out of a job or their hours could have been cut and they have to decide whether to pay for electricity in their home or put food on the table. One in nine people in central Virginia do not know where their next meal is coming from and one in six of those are children. Children need the nutrients from food to help develop their mind and body, so they can perform well in school and get a good education. 

If you can, would you please donate to the 100,000 meals campaign? You can do it online, safely and securely by clicking on this link.  Remember our food math: a $25 donation would provide 100 meals.