Local Donors’ Gift Enables The COMET Passengers to Get Fresh Produce

Connecting philanthropists with giving opportunities that are meaningful to them is one of the things we do best here at the Community Foundation. People want to help in a way that’s compatible with their values. When we hear of a specific opportunity to make a difference, we look to our donors to see who might connect with the cause.

When a recent opportunity arose, we were happy to help. About a year ago, The COMET, provider of countywide public transit services, wanted to find a way to make it easier for passengers to get fresh produce. They connected with FoodShare, a nonprofit committed to ensuring access to fresh fruits and vegetables for everyone in the community. Getting that produce to the people who need it most is challenging, and the opportunity to distribute boxes at The COMET’s Sumter Street Transit Center was irresistible.

Soon FoodShare boxes were available on Tuesdays at the transit center, but The COMET employees spent a lot of time accepting orders and calling to process payments through SNAP. Making it easier was simple: if the window representatives had a SNAP/EBT device to accept payments, they would save time. The COMET riders on the way home from work could get their produce quickly and be on their way.

John Andoh, executive director/CEO for COMET liked the idea, but it didn’t happen right away. “We were rejected for a grant the first time we applied, and that’s when CCCF stepped in to help.” A $2,500 donation would fund the device for two years. It was just a matter of finding someone willing to help.

CCCF’s staff thought of Nancy and Tim Hoyt Duncan. The practical nature of the program appealed to them, and it was personal. The Hoyt Duncans understood how meaningful fresh vegetables can be. In 2016, Tim was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, and he and Nancy were overwhelmed by how many people wanted to help. Nancy says, “One of the gifts we appreciated most was the offering of fresh vegetables from people’s gardens. We even had a friend that cooked vegetables for us almost every week. It brought home the healing nature of food and how valuable fresh fruits and vegetables are when one is feeling vulnerable and stressed.”

They agreed to fund the device through the Hoyt Duncan Legacy Fund. “We try to focus on giving opportunities that can make at least a small difference in the lives of those who are often neglected or forgotten and lacking many of life’s essentials that we tend to take for granted,” says Nancy. “We are particularly concerned with health and well-being, especially for children. And we tend to put a majority of our time, energy and resources into local needs.”

Erin Johnson, CCCF’s Vice President for Community Investment, explains why connecting donors with community needs is so meaningful. Potential philanthropists are approached with so many requests, and it can be hard to identify where their gift can do the most good. When someone comes to us with a need, we do the leg work so our donors don’t have to. “We vet the requests and know they’re a good investment,” says Erin. Donors can give in a targeted way, confident their dollars are making a difference.

As for FoodShare’s partnership with The COMET, it’s going well. The machines are in place and fresh, affordable produce is getting into the hands, and onto the dinner tables, of people who need it. We love helping our donors make meaningful contributions that make a difference in the community.

Learn more about how we can help make your giving easier at www.yourfoundation.org/giving.