Honoring amateur philanthropy“Hunger Takes No Holiday” lives up to its name. Although the annual fundraiser for Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank officially runs from Groundhog’s Day to May Day, money is trickling in for the 2013 campaign from Superior High School and University of Wisconsin-Superior fundraisers.
By: Maria Lockwood, Superior Telegram
“Hunger Takes No Holiday” lives up to its name. Although the annual fundraiser for Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank officially runs from Groundhog’s Day to May Day, money is trickling in for the 2013 campaign from Superior High School and University of Wisconsin-Superior fundraisers.
Over the past three years, the campaign raised more than $50,000 for the food bank’s Superior and Douglas County efforts. Friday, “Hunger Takes No Holiday” founder Don Leighton was handed the Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser award by Lake Superior Fundraising Executives, a member-based organization serving philanthropy professionals.
During this season of thanks, he was quick to share the limelight.
“I know people are giving me all the credit in the world for this award,” Leighton said. “If it wasn’t for the thousands of people who have contributed their time and their money to help us reach our goal, we wouldn’t have this award.
“It’s not me; it’s everybody else.”
The Superior man never had any formal fundraising training.
“His compassion and ability to simply ask for what he needs has led to his success,” Shaye Moris, executive director of Second Harvest, wrote in her nomination letter.
Second Harvest partners with 10 nonprofit agencies in Douglas County to place food in the hands of those in need. Food distribution to residents in the area increased 23 percent — 62,000 meals.
“That is largely due to Don,” Moris said. The 2012 “Hunger Takes No Holiday” campaign raised $32,000 for Superior and Douglas County residents, providing extra funding to fill the gap. Portions of the proceeds also went to Nutrition On Weekends — the program provides food to homeless youth in Superior and Solon Springs schools — and the Senior Nutrition Coalition to offset the cost of senior meals.
Leighton was prompted to help others on Christmas Day as the scent of roasting turkey filled the air and Dean Martin’s voice floated through the house. He set a goal to raise $10,000 his first and second years. Last year, with the help of a committee, that swelled to $32,000.
When Moris first met him, she could see he was committed to helping others, compassionate and a go-getter.
“He has the gift of gab and he uses it wisely,” she said. But it was Leighton’s ability to take the fundraiser and run with it that put him in a class of his own. In her 15 years with Second Harvest, Moris said, he was the first to do that.
Leighton credits Moris for opening his eyes to the need in the area, and how a $1 donation can net $10 worth of food for those in need.
“If you don’t need brain surgery, you don’t know many brain surgeons,” the Superior man said. And someone who’s never been hungry can be clueless about food shelves.
“You can’t wait until you’re 57 to realize the need …,” Leighton said. “People just shouldn’t be hungry.”
His mission has resonated with youth throughout the county, from a pair of Superior High School seniors who plan to raise money for the campaign as part of their senior project to the Northwestern High School DECA students, who collected $1,000 for the 2012 campaign through a penny drive.
If everyone donated just $5, Leighton said, think of how many people could be fed: “And if you really can’t spare $5, then send me $3.”
Although the campaign doesn’t officially kick off until February, donations can be sent to Second Harvest Northern Lakes Food Bank, 4503 Airpark Boulevard, Duluth, MN 55811. “Hunger Takes No Holiday” in the memo line earmarks the donation for Superior and Douglas County.
“We want people to know that the donations they’ve made are having impact,” Moris said. “Food shelf use in Superior/Douglas County has increased 38 percent this year, with 40 percent more children and 43 percent more seniors needing assistance. This support has allowed us to keep pace with demand.”
Super One Foods, Miner’s Inc., was also recognized Friday for being an Outstanding Philanthropic Organization. Both Super One and Leighton were nominated by Moris for their help in combating hunger in the area.
For information on Second Harvest, go to http://www.northernlakesfoodbank.org.