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Food bank reaches million-dollar challenge from Colts owner during pandemic

Irsay issues million-dollar challenge to support Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — The Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana has been challenged in the fight against hunger in central Indiana.

The coronavirus pandemic has forced it to face the kind of demand it’s not used to seeing. With businesses closing down and social distancing going on, Gleaners also had cancellations and less help than usual to help the agency feed Hoosiers who need help the most.

Sarah Estell, senior director of communications and digital strategy at Gleaners, described the feeling going around as fear spread throughout the region about the virus.

“We were desperate for volunteers,” Estell said. “We need to pack these boxes and feed these families who are hurting and scared.”

Volunteers are needed to build emergency food boxes in the warehouse and to load food items into cars for clients arriving in their drive-thru service. Estell calls on some of the people who are still wondering if they should give their time for the cause.

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“At a time when we’re pulling back from each other, it’s a good way to enjoy spending time with other people doing good,” Estell said.

The pandemic also created a new demand on Gleaners’ resources.

“We served twice the people we normally do. That expectation of 400 boxes is now 800 by the end of the day.”

Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay stepped in by creating a million-dollar match challenge to the community. The goal was to get the community to raise $200,000 and in turn he would give Gleaners an additional $1 million. Anyone can donate.

Estell says people responded in a big way and donated $180,000 before a nonprofit stepped up to help them push them the rest of the way. The Mind Trust, an Indianapolis-based education nonprofit, agreed to donate $100,000 and take Gleaners over the top of its goal.

“People who gave to the Irsay challenge and Mr. Irsay, himself, really gave us funds to continue to buy the food to put in these boxes,” Estell said.

Estell hopes that the donations will send a message encouraging Hoosiers who have fallen on hard times.

“We hope they see that we have food, that we’re going to take care of them and the volunteers are stepping up to help.”

Food service is available for anyone in need. The pantry is open from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday and from 2-7 p.m. Thursday.

The central Indiana community has helped Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana Inc. meet Jim Irsay’s $1 million challenge to help feed hungry families during the #coronavirus pandemic in our area. BUT they still need volunteers and funds to keep it going. WISH-TV All Indiana

Posted by Randall Newsome on Tuesday, March 17, 2020