On the first Wednesday of each month from September to May, at least 200 women pack the dining room of a Sussex County banquet facility to dine as part of Lunch With a Purpose. Since 2007, the non-profit event has raised funds for local charities and received food donations for the Food Bank, and that support benefits hungry Delawareans.
Sussex County resident Cheryl Mitchell said she felt compelled to start Lunch With a Purpose after she noticed a smaller-scale, fundraising luncheon. “There is so much need. I thought I could do it on a larger scale,” she explained. So, she invited some friends to the first luncheon, and the rest is history.
“It grew by word of mouth,” said Mitchell. Now the events are held at several local venues, those large enough to accommodate a crowd of up to 220 people. “It also helps the venues during the winter,” she said. “We typically sell out.”
So with growth comes some guidelines and organization: local, non-secular charities must apply to benefit from the event by March for the upcoming year. Typically a charity can expect to get $5-$7,000, plus donations.
When the board selects a charity, the board then connects an adviser to that organization. The charity is obligated to provide raffle items, volunteer at the event, and sell 50/50 tickets. In addition, the non-profit requests luncheon guests bring specific donated items as well. For example, at a recent luncheon to benefit First State Community Action Agency, guests were asked to bring after-school supplies, in addition to donations for the Food Bank of Delaware. “It’s become a well-oiled machine,” Mitchell said.
Usually the Food Bank receives 1,000 pounds – or more – in non-perishable food items for distribution to food-insecure Delawareans through our network of 536 community partners.
The women attending Lunch With a Purpose buy their lunch, bid on silent auction items, bring donations, and enjoy the camaraderie . . . while helping their neighbors.
“This is a very special community,” said Mitchell. “Most are retirees from someplace else and live in the coastal area. But they have no idea, sometimes, of what’s going on a few miles away. We educate them about the poverty here. I think they want to help.”
She believes the primary reason for the ongoing success of the Lunch With a Purpose luncheons is the way the proceeds are distributed. “The money stays right here in the community, Sussex County, and they know where it goes. These are mostly retired women with a disposable income, and they want to help. Plus this is a great event, and they can meet new people.”
Visit www.fbd.org to more information about how to help the Food Bank of Delaware.