Food Bank fundraiser hits $1 million goal four years early

Valley First Credit Union's Feed The Valley fundraiser has been a phenomenal success says credit union's president.

Six years ago when Valley First Credit Union president Paulette Rennie announced a plan to raise $1 million for food banks in the Okanagan, Thompson and Similkameen over a 10-year period, she says she knew it was an ambitious plan and would “be a “stretch.”

How wrong she was.

On Tuesday, Rennie announced the Feed The Valley campaign has hit the $1 million target a stunning four years ahead of schedule.

“This is simply a phenomenal achievement; to say I’m amazed is an understatement,” said Rennie at a gathering at the Kelowna Food Bank.

“In 2010, we boldly stated we’d raise $100,000 a year, every year for 10 years—putting $1 million toward our local food banks. In six years—a full four years ahead of schedule—we’ve reached our goal. On top of that, we’ve also collected close to 70,000 pounds of food.”

Rennie said the early success of the campaign—the first time the credit union has adopted what she called a “signature” cause—far exceeded her wildest dreams.

And now the program, where the credit union encourages its staff and clients to contribute to the campaign rather than the credit union just writing a corporate cheque itself, has prompted Valley First’s parent company, First West Credit union, to copy it province wide. First West Credit Union has adopted similar programs to help food banks in the other area of B.C. where it has it credit unions, such as in the Lower Mainland and onVancouver Island.

But Rennie said despite the early achievement of meeting its goal, Feed The Valley will not stop.

“We plan to keep going,” said Rennie.

She said this year alone, her credit union has set a goal of raising another $230,000 for Feed The Valley, as well as giving its employees time off to volunteer with local food bank programs and is also planning a new program offering financial literacy assistance for food bank clients.

Lennetta Perry, executive director of the Central Okanagan Food Bank said she was delighted to see the success of the Feed The Valley program, noting her operation—with food banks in both Kelowna and West Kelowna—could not help the thousands of people it does every month without the help of partners like the credit union and other businesses, as well as donations from the public.

The Central Okanagan Food Bank serves 4,000 individuals per month, one-third of whom are under 15 years old. It distributes an estimated $3.5 million worth of food and does it using an army of 150 volunteers who contribute more than 30,000 volunteer hours per year.

Tuesday’s announcement has also not gone unnoticed farther afield than the southern Interior.

In attendance Tuesday morning was Laura Lansink, executive director of Food Banks B.C., who called the success of Feed The Valley “truly incredible.”

She said the impact of the money raised will be huge.

“For every $1 that has been raised, our food banks are able to provide the equivalent of three meals for every person, family and child that has turned to them for help,” said Landsik.

Even Premier Christy Clark, MLA for Westside-Kelowna, has taken notice of the Feed The Valley program.

“Your compassion is truly making a difference in the lives of many people in need in your communities,” Clark said in a letter to Rennie and food bank officials read out by Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick. “I know that a lot of effort goes into co-ordinating a program like this, and I would like to commend everyone at Valley First for their hard work to raise awareness and help eradicate hunger fromthe Valley.”

Over the last six years, the money donated by Feed The Valley has gone to the food bank in the areas where the money was collected.

Rennie did not reveal a new goal for the next four years, other than the $230,000 that Valley First says it wants to raise this year. But she said her credit union will continue to incorporate FeedThe Valley fundraising into all its future events, just as it has done since 2010.