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Celebration seeks to give local food pantries a boost
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Danny McLaurin of Brinkley Entertainment installs a motorcycle carousel Monday at Martinsville Speedway in preparation for Wednesday’s Celebration 2013. Everyone attending the event is urged to bring non-perishable food and personal care items and drop them off at one of the collection areas at entrance gates and in the carnival ride area as part of the speedway’s Fuel for Families Food Drive. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
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Tuesday, July 2, 2013

By MICKEY POWELL - Bulletin Staff Writer

It’s summertime, and the living isn’t always easy.

Some local people are hungry, which is why the fifth annual Fuel for Families Food Drive is being held as part of Celebration 2013 on Wednesday at Martinsville Speedway. Donations will be distributed to six local food pantries.

According to the United Way of Henry County and Martinsville, 26.4 percent of city residents and 18.3 percent of county residents are classified as “food insecure” — meaning they sometimes do not have enough food to maintain a healthy, active life. That includes about 3,600 children.

The United Way is spearheading the food drive.

Food pantries say “summertime is a hard time for them” because donations decline, said Executive Director Tiffani Underwood.

Everyone attending the event is urged to bring non-perishable food and personal care items and drop them off at one of several collection areas at entrance gates and in the carnival ride area, according to a release from the speedway.

Edibles collected during the holiday celebration “are a tremendous benefit to us ... at this time of year,” said Dick Ephgrave, a board member of The Grace Network, one of the food pantries that will share the donations.

Ephgrave said donations drop in the summer because people’s minds are on other things, such as vacations.

Yet requests for food often increase at this time of the year, he said, since children are out of school and not receiving meals there, and needy families have a hard time providing an extra meal for them at home.

For some families, “it becomes a crisis,” Ephgrave noted, because the kids “might not be able to get one good meal a day.”

Ephgrave did not have any statistics on how many households have received food from The Grace Network. Executive Director Donna Proctor could not be reached for comment on Monday.

However, Ephgrave said donations from parishioners at affiliated churches and those attending the celebration are “what keeps us going” at the food pantry when donations from the public decline in the summer.

Along with The Grace Network, other food pantries that will benefit from speedway visitors’ donations are the Salvation Army, Henry County Food Pantry, Community Storehouse, Victory International Ministries and One Accord Baptist Church, according to the United Way.

Underwood suggested people donate items such as prepackaged bags of dry beans, canned fruits and vegetables, canned meats and tuna, “boxed dinners” such as macaroni and cheese and jars of peanut butter — edibles that usually last longer than perishable items.

Donations of personal care items such as toothpaste, deodorant, soap and toothpaste also will be accepted, as well as monetary donations, she said.

Items can be taken to drop-off areas at speedway entrance gates and in the carnival ride area.

Last year, more than 1,200 food and personal care items, plus about $800 in cash, were collected at the speedway’s celebration, Underwood said. The donations were divided equally among local food pantries, she said.

Celebration 2013 is a celebration of Independence Day one day early. The entire event, including music performances and carnival rides, is free to the public. Concessions will be sold at reduced prices, a speedway release said.

Rides will be open from 5 p.m. to 11:30 p.m.

Project 4, a Roanoke rock band, will perform at 7 p.m., followed by Night Ranger, a group that scored several hit songs during the 1980s, at 8:30 p.m.

Fireworks will follow Night Ranger’s performance.


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