Need in the Shadows: March for the Supply Drive

by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

People with limited financial resources typically come to the Community Action Committee (CAC) ministry of St. Mark and St. Paul for groceries and help with utility bills. But now, thanks to the recent March for the Supply drive, CAC clients can receive assistance with equally important and often unrecognized needs—needs not met by food banks and what people can purchase with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits—what CAC Director David Goodpaster calls “the need in the shadows.”

Circumstances surrounding the pandemic brought “the need in the shadows” to Goodpaster’s attention. In the spring of 2020, the University made funds available to aid students who could not leave campus. “They blew through that money in no time,” Goodpaster said. “That told us there was a need in the shadows on campus, so there must be a need in the community at large as well.” Goodpaster was aware of the University funding because his wife Lauren worked for the Dean of Students. The stranded students had shelter and food, but lacked other basic necessities, those items found in the two or three in-between aisles in the grocery store, things such as feminine hygiene items and toiletries. And for the community at large, the list expanded to include cleaning supplies, paper products, household supplies, detergent, diapers, other personal care items, and pet food—necessities people cannot purchase with SNAP benefits and not available from food pantries.

When the CAC launched a campus-focused drive to collect nonfood necessities for students and community members in need, faculty, staff and students embraced the effort donating enthusiastically. A few months ago, the Sewanee Civic Association (SCA) board approached the CAC about hosting the same sort of drive as the first program in its Treasures for the Chest initiative. “The SCA reinvigorated the previous attempt and made it even larger scale bringing the entire community on board,” David Goodpaster said. Lauren Goodpaster, now with the Office of Civic Engagement, coordinated students and Bonner scholars to help with promoting and collecting items on campus and the SCA handled the non-campus community leg of the program. Some donors gave monetary gifts, but most contributions were “shadow” needs items found in those two or three non-food grocery store aisles.

Speculating on the March for the Supply drive’s tremendous success, Goodpaster said, “Perhaps it was because it offered people an opportunity to give something besides checks and canned food and loaves of bread.” On-campus donation boxes were located at high-traffic areas like the Bishops Common, McClurg Dining Hall, and Fowler Center; off-campus collection sites included money collection boxes at Taylor’s Mercantile, the Blue Chair and the Frame Gallery and donation bins at the Messenger office and Regions Bank. Sewanee Elementary School and the Interact Club at St. Andrew’s-Sewanee School also accepted donations.

When clients come to the CAC office for groceries, they often stay and chat the way people do when shopping, David Goodpaster pointed out. A few days after the drive concluded, a woman came for groceries and inquired about the large supply of cat food. Goodpaster urged her to help herself. “It warmed her heart,” he said, knowing both her and her pets’ needs were met.

The highly successful drive will become a twice annual event held in both the spring and fall. Now when people stop by the CAC for groceries, they can select from the stockpile of other items desperately needed in their homes. The need in the shadows occurs year-round.

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