For more than five years, teams of employees at the Bank of America call center in Chandler have given what local food banks could only hope for during the season of giving while participating in a little friendly competition:
Boxes stuffed with food donations to help the United Food Bank of the East Valley feed 74,000 families throughout the region and 890,000 people statewide who fall under the category of “food uncertainty,” meaning that they don’t know where their next meal is going to come from.
And in addition to that, one in every four kids in Arizona goes to bed hungry every night, tying Arizona with Mississippi for having the most children living in those conditions in the United States, according to Jayson Matthews, chief development officer for United Food Bank of the East Valley.
“It’s staggering,” Matthews said of those numbers on Friday as he looked over the numerous decorated cardboard boxes around the second floor of the call center along 2565 W. Chandler Blvd., where 20 teams consisting of about 20 workers donated about 5,000 pounds of canned good and non-perishable items to the food bank that will feed families immediately. “This will help us provide a lot of meals to people who need them.
“Many people are eating only one meal a day and we always need items that are high in protein — such as peanut butter and tuna,” Matthews added.
During the holiday season, a time when food is most appreciated, Matthews also hopes that people will not forget that food donations are needed throughout the entire year.
Employees reached their goal of nearly doubling the amount of donations they provided last year, said Barbara Hover, an administrative assistant who coordinates events at the call center, including about four food drives a year and a blood drive.
And that’s not all: Bank of America officials will cut the United Food Bank a check for $10,000 today to help continue providing 45,000 meals a day for families throughout its 25,000-square-mile service area.
And for one team at the call center, it was all about defending their title. Team Garcia led by Anna Garcia, a vice president of sales for Bank of America, brought in the most food donations, edging Team Ellis led by Ryan Ellis, which finished second.
Garcia was off work on Tuesday, but the cardboard box her team decorated as a pink pig and equipped with sound said it all as Christian Rodriguez, the site executive for the call center, pulled open its mouth: “Feed Me.”
“We want to make sure we give back to the community, and do everything we can to better it,” Rodriguez said. “We want to be able to help out and get everyone here participating.”
Ellis’ team decorated a box as a delivery truck with Christmas lights on it that simply said: Food Drive. Other boxes of food included Snoopy sleeping on top of his dog house and a large popcorn box decorated by Team Moore led by Weston Moore.
“We really get into it,” Moore said. “It’s fun when you do things with the food drive like decorate the boxes. It’s something that gets everyone involved.”
Bank of America employees started donating the food items on Nov. 14 with the initial donation deadline being Dec. 14. However, for a “last minute push” to get a few more donations, the deadline was re-set for Friday, Dec. 21, Hover said.
Hover also said that the approximate 3,000 employees at the call center have donated 56,000 hours of volunteer work for various causes during the past year.
She jokingly goes around the workplace telling people, “We need your food, blood, money and time.”
“If you can’t donate, advocate and educate,” Hover said. “It’s a powerful message that makes a difference.”
And when Matthews and Melissa Forrester, also of the United Food Bank of the East Valley, receive slightly more than two tons of food donations along with the $10,000 check from Bank of America, they, too, know it will make a difference in a big way.