An Intangible Good: The Importance of the Connecticut Food Bank Fundraiser
Burton Lyng-Olsen '20, Campus Contributor
As the days get shorter and the first snow falls, the Hopkins community enters a brief period of weekly working frenzy. During the weekends, however, many students won’t be found at home studying, but instead outside in the cold partaking in the annual Connecticut Food Bank Fundraiser campaign.
Between frantically writing essays and cramming for tests, we are reminded to take time out of our busy lives to think of those less fortunate than us. We have all heard the numbers, the thousands of meals supplied and the thousands of people impacted. The Hopkins community is an immense force of good servicing the Connecticut Food Bank and a blessing for those who are food insecure. It’s evident that our efforts provide a great service to the needy.
What needs to be given voice, however, is a side effect responsible for often underestimated benefts. It’s an overlooked good that can’t be measured nor presented on a giant check, and only after a hundred hours of fundraising, it’s an effect that I understand. By sitting outside a store with a table and a jar, I’ve opened myself to reach out for the help of complete strangers. With every new person you meet, you share a brief interaction. These interactions are usually forgettable and generally a little awkward, but can sometimes be surprisingly moving. Imbued in the act of service is a personal gain and exposure to community.
To fully appreciate this byproduct, it’s worth briefy examining the evolution of the CFBF. Originally the campaign, somewhat inaccurately named the Canned Food Drive, was funded completely by parent donations. Only in recent history has storefront fundraising been a part of the campaign. Storefront fundraising, which has now become a crucial aspect of the drive, currently almost doubles the yearly output of the fundraiser. The Connecticut Food Bank has even recently recognized Hopkins with the Distinguished Philanthropic Award in Schools in both 2017 and 2018.
But what difference is $40,000 or $80,000 to me if I don’t see a penny of it? The great impact on me by asking others to donate perhaps then is intangible, a phenomenon best described anecdotally. It becomes illustrative to me of a sense of community. It is a community that includes those who politely decline to donate, but also those who take time out of their day to stop and give. It includes the Starbucks manager who buys us hot chocolate every week and the penniless homeless man who gratefully thanks us for help during one of the lowest points in his life. It includes the people who pause and ask “Aren’t you cold?” and the many more who pretend our table doesn’t exist. No matter the outcome though, through volunteering, you choose to become an active part of this small storefront community.
And as much as the people you meet may impact you, you too impact them. When you sit outside and raise money for the hungry, you show to those around you that hopeful youths in the community care about helping those in need. One particularly moved passerby wrote to the New Haven Register in 2015 acknowledging a group of fundraisers outside of Cafe Romeo: “Their smiles, positive attitude and perseverance have impressed New Haveners as they walk on Orange Street, many of whom stopped and reached into their pockets to experience the joy of giving.” By volunteering your time and your body to the cold, you remind the passing people to give back, a message that resonates especially well during the holiday season. I urge the inspired reader not to donate fifty dollars themselves but to collect one dollar from fifty people. Although the value to the Connecticut Food Bank may be the same, the latter fosters the spirit of service and goodwill. The direct infuence you have on the community may be (quite literally) small change, but the cumulative impact of brief personal interactions you share with others can not be measured so easily.