Understanding a Shifting Donor Culture

It seems that everyday another donor is requesting that their donation be designated for the Meals on Wheels program and not the dining hall, and I’m trying to wrap my head around what has shifted? I am ever so grateful for all of the donations that we receive and am excited about expanding our Meals on Wheels program to better serve the seniors in our community, but I wonder what has changed. People are less inclined to support the dining hall than they
once were and it has me curious...

I grew up in a religious home, went to church on a weekly basis. I remember seeing the slides and hearing the mission stories about feeding the hungry. The offering basket would pass and my family would contribute to the poor kids in Ethiopia, or China, or some other foreign country. There was also that thing that my mom would say about not finishing my plate...something about feeding the starving kids in Africa. I didn’t really understand, I couldn’t relate. But maybe that was the magic? It was a faraway place where we didn’t have to see the politics or disparity in incomes. We just saw the scantily clothed body and a young face with a dirt-stained tear rolling down the cheek and we were inspired to give. Certainly this poor child in this faraway country was deserving of our charity?

In 2017, Plowshares served over 1,700 meals to children in need right here in Ukiah. Most of them were properly clothed, and I seldom saw them crying, but each of them had been selected to live a life less privileged than others through this crazy thing we refer to as the “birth lottery.” You know the one... he was born into a wealthy family, she was born into an abusive family, she was an only child...etc. Not only does this lottery determine their social status as a child, it also determines whether they will be safe in their home or have enough nutritious food to ensure physical growth and adequate brain development.

I think that we tend to forget about those in need right here in our community. Those who were raised here, who are raising their children here, are an established part of this community, and need our support. Maybe we think that there isn’t legitimate need with food stamps and Medi Cal, and subsidies, or maybe they are somehow less deserving? Plowshares does not receive federal funding, and people don’t come to eat here for the plush furniture or lavish draperies. They don’t come for the dinner entertainment or the numerous selections on the menu. People come to eat at the Plowshares dining hall because they are hungry. Maybe the community isn’t aware that kids right here in Ukiah are not receiving daily adequate nutrition.

We have an opportunity to invest in their future; to invest in ours. We have an opportunity to tip the scale in their favor. Hand Up, Not Hand Out. Start the Conversation.