Hays Free Press
By Sahar Chmais
Buda Area Chamber of Commerce (BACC), in conjunction with the Hays County Food Bank, hosted its first Zoom-A-Thon on Dec. 5 to provide food for residents in need of aid this season.
“We have seen an increased need since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Eleanor Owen-Osham, executive director for Hays County Food Bank. “So that’s always a challenge to continue to serve the number of clients we had planned on and meeting increased need in the community.”
Every year there is need for food and monetary donations, but this year there has been a larger need due to unemployment brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Through a 12-hour Zoom-A-Thon, there were more than $5,000 of monetary donations and more than 2,000 pounds of food. With the monetary donations, the food bank is able to purchase 20,000 meals. The fundraiser was so successful, the BACC will redo this event, but they will plan it months ahead of time.
“I am thrilled beyond belief,” said John Hatch, chairman of the board for BACC. “This thing came together in three weeks. It is definitely an event we will do every year. I will start preparations in February.”
While this 12-hour Zoom-A-Thon was deemed a success by BACC and the Hays County Food Bank, Hatch said there will be more to come next year. Hatch also said he would like to expand the event and find even more fundraisers to add into the mix.
Since the event was put together by BACC and held in Buda, most of the donations will go toward Buda residents, but not all, especially since some donations came from outside of the city.
There were so many donations that Hays County Food Bank did not have enough shelves to store all of the donated items. This is where the community proved the impact of “a little goes a long way.”
But throughout the Zoom-A-Thon, there were two standout moments.
The chamber and food bank settled on a $5,000 goal to reach. The hour was getting late and they were short by $180. The American Legion Riders 213 were standing near when they heard that the goal was so close to being met, so they wrote out a $200 check at the 11th hour to help the community.
Hatch was also shocked by a passerby’s donation. Earlier in the afternoon, a gentleman came up to the tent and asked what type of food he can donate, then he left. An hour later, Hatch recalled, the same gentleman came back from a trip to the store with six or seven big cardboard boxes filled with food.
“I said, sir, I didn’t mean to buy the whole store out,” Hatch told the Hays Free Press/News-Dispatch. “He was just on his own and did this on a whim.” Hatch said this act shows the kindness of Buda.
Having these donations did come at a great time, but there is more work to be done. Usually the Hays Food Bank sees most of its donations during the holiday season, yet the food bank needs donations year-round.
“Summer is always a very difficult time,” said Owen-Osham. “People are worried about where kids will be after school or focused on vacation. Food insecurity is going on 24/7. We don’t know numbers yet, but food insecurity has increased undoubtedly in Hays. We have seen stimulus money running out.”
To keep the donations flowing, Owen-Osham said there are several things residents can do. They can volunteer, purchase items and drop them off at HEB in Buda, mail a check or donate through the website.
“Just remember your neighbors in need and be grateful for what you have,” Owen-Osham said. “If you are able to share, we appreciate you sharing with Hays County Food Bank.”