Community Comes Together
In World’s Largest Food Drive
Story by Michael Seguin
The COVID-19 pandemic has placed a significant strain on all of us. However, one of the virus’s most unfortunate casualties was our community’s food banks.
Due to our current economic situation, many more people than normal have been forced to rely on food donations. And with dwindling supplies and increasingly barren shelves, Windsor and Essex County needed a miracle.
In response, residents, community leaders and local businesses came together to participate in the June 27th Miracle Project—the largest community-wide grassroots food drive in the world.
“The project originated in my hometown,” Matt Hernandez, a member of the Organizing Committee, explains. “On May 16th, Chatham hosted their own Miracle Project. It was their brainchild. After seeing the phenomenal success they had, a couple of us got together and said, ‘Hey, why don’t we do that here?’”
Matt, a Real Estate Investor and entrepreneur, was asked to participate in the event by his old friend Josh Lane.
“Josh and I are both originally from Chatham-Kent,” Matt states. “He sent me a text saying, ‘Hey! You heard about that thing we did in Chatham? We want to bring it here.’ I was intrigued and told him to give me a call. We ended up talking from 11 at night until the early hours of morning.”
From there, Matt joined the June 27th Miracle Project. The Organizing Committee is made up of nine other individuals, including Josh Lane, Steve Desjardins, Adam Lally, Steve Truant, Kerri Zold, Tracey Bailey, Steve Ilijanich, Mark Jones and Josh Spadafora.
“We were all drawn to the underlying mission,” Matt explains. “There’s so much negativity and hardship going around right now with the pandemic. Ultimately, we wanted to provide something that the community could just catalyze around. It’s all about positivity, unity and community. It gives everybody something powerful to focus on. It gets everybody involved. It gets everybody together.”
Together, the team of volunteers embarked on a rigorous month-long planning process. The team ended up coordinating 30 different drop-off points and 10 different collection hubs.
“What we asked people to do is really simple,” Matt explains. “We asked our neighbours to just leave a non-perishable food item on their doorstep. Then, a volunteer would swing by that Saturday and collect it. Every single house in Windsor and Essex County was covered.”
A project of this magnitude required a massive amount of volunteers. Fortunately, the influx of community support that the June 27th Miracle Project received was truly staggering.
“A couple days before June 27th, we officially reached over 10,000 volunteers,” Matt reports. “It was overwhelming. Ten thousand of anything is awesome!”
In addition, Matt and his fellow volunteers banded together to draw up as much awareness for the event as possible. One member of the Organizing Committee, World Park Solutions Owner Mark Jones, hosted several different Neighborhood Paint Day events in which he invited Windsorites to display their own hand-painted signs to draw up support for the event.
“We’re trying to bring the community together,” Mark reports. “Everyone is working together. It’s all about feeding people that need food. We’re hoping that after this event, no one in Windsor and Essex County will go hungry for the next two years.”
The night before the event, despite four weeks of intense planning, Matt was too excited to sleep. “I wasn’t sleeping much the previous week,” Matt laughs. “I couldn’t wait to see the turnout!”
On Saturday, June 27th, fleets of volunteers set out to collect the flood of donations.
“That Saturday was nothing short of a miracle,” Matt states. “It was insane! It was one of the best days of my life. Everybody, in all of our depots, were working together and having fun. Music was playing. It was amazing driving around seeing all the stickers on people’s cars, the signs on people’s lawns. It just really seemed like the whole community was involved.”
The volunteers collected so much food that some of the depots required a two-hour wait time.
“We had some rough estimates about what we thought we would collect,” Matt states. “But the community surpassed our wildest expectations.”
Matt’s teams personally filled approximately seven 52-foot transports.
“We started unloading at approximately 3pm from some of the depots that were full,” Matt recalls. “We didn’t finish until one in the morning. They kept saying, ‘You almost done? We got three more trucks coming in!’”
Collectively, the June 27th Miracle Project accumulated a staggering 2,020,500 pounds of food.
“Personally, my favourite part of the event was just taking in the little moments,” Matt states. “People were waiting in these long, long lines but still having fun and chatting with each other. Seeing everybody together and so energized was amazing. People told me afterwards that they wished they could have done more. But honestly, just the little bit that everyone did was so valuable. It was the sum total of our whole community’s efforts that turned June 27th into a miracle.”
The event’s success was so profound that even Prime Minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter to recognize project’s success.
“Now that’s how it’s done – way to go, Windsor-Essex!” Prime Minister Trudeau wrote. “To the thousands of volunteers who rolled up their sleeves and to everyone who pitched in and helped those who need it most, thank you. You are what makes our country so great.”
At this time, the June 27th Miracle Project Organizing Committee is still deciding how to most effectively distribute the accumulated donations.
“Right now, we’re focused on creating a framework so that the organizations in Windsor-Essex that need the food will get it,” Matt explains. “We’re working closely with Goodfellows and the Unemployed Help Centre. As well, we’re listening to any organizations that are reaching out to us. We’re not limited to the existing channels.”
Matt promises that the food will go towards our friends and neighbours that need it the most.
“If you donate in your community, the food is going to stay in your community,” Matt stresses. “This is not our food. This is Windsor-Essex’s food. We want to make sure that it goes to the people who need it. This food is for everybody.”
Despite many hours of work and sleepless nights, Matt and the Organizing Committee would prefer to remain unsung heroes. The true heroes of this event, Matt reminds us, are all the generous citizens of Windsor and Essex County who stepped forward when their community needed them the most.
“We’re extremely grateful to have been a part of this,” Matt states. “This is a win for Windsor and Essex County. I hope it’s something we talk about and look back on for many years to come.”