The Banning Chamber of Commerce stepped up and committed to providing grocery distribution to area residents for eight weeks.
This Friday, the approximately $30,000 budget for the popular program winds down, and the last of the food distribution effort that took over Banning Community Center’s parking lot will be given away.
A couple of challenges was the fact that some local food banks could not contribute to the chamber’s program, since the program is a not-for-profit entity rather than a 501(c)3 nonprofit, program coordinator and chamber President Robert Ybarra says.
And Feeding America’s Cure Hunger Now USDA’s program that is coordinated via Kids Cures, the Beaumont-based nonprofit, also provides a food distribution outreach at the Banning Community Center on the fourth Saturday morning of each month starting at 9 a.m. until supplies run out.
The city of Banning kicked in $4,000 to help pay for a storage container for the program.
A corps of chamber and city volunteers have been on hand each Friday to help run the program, and Ybarra’s employees — eight from Precision Material Handling and a couple more from The Haven Café — have been on the clock to provide a hand.
Ybarra notes that it is not common for a chamber of commerce to provide such a service (usually chambers are set up to serve and promote its members, which are dues-paying, and usually business- or commerce-related). “We’re a small community. We saw a need, and felt that it was the right thing to do. No one else was stepping up to do it, that we could see” on the scale that they did.
“This has been a huge success as far as our outreach to the community,” says Barry Clark, an ambassador for the chamber. “The response has been positive, and the volunteers have been fantastic, enthusiastically showing up every week. Robert Ybarra and those at the chamber have gone out of their way to make this happen.”
Ybarra is not convinced that it is necessarily the end of the program, but it is likely the end of a weekly one.
“We’ll reconvene and see what goes on from here,” Ybarra says.
According to Ybarra, nearly 400 vehicles passed through each week to take advantage of the chamber’s largess. Volunteers also assisted walk-ups and delivered to shut-ins; anything that was left over was donated to Ramsey Street Village, the city’s housing transition program for the homeless.
Staff Writer David James Heiss may be reached at email@example.com, or by calling (951) 849-4586 x114.