GLEANING NETWORK HONORS TUSCALOOSA FARM FAMILY
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- A Tuscaloosa County farm family that shares its harvest with those who are less fortunate was honored April 23 by the Society of St. Andrew's (SoSA) Alabama Gleaning Network.
|Clyde, Sally and Victoria Leavelle accept the James Ferrell Commitment to Service Award.|
Clyde and Sally Leavelle, who are members of the Alabama Farmers Federation, were presented the first James Ferrell Commitment to Service Award for their generosity in allowing volunteers to harvest blueberries from bushes originally planted as a college-savings project for the Leavelles' daughters.
"The Leavelles are exemplary in their service in that they go above and beyond what is expected of any farmer," said Rachel Radeline Gonia, director of SoSA's Alabama office. "They don't just let us glean, they have actively participated in recruiting church groups to glean and have been in the orchard picking alongside the gleaners."
In presenting the award, Gonia told the Leavelles, "Thank you for your service to others. We know that you serve because of your faith, and we thank God for your commitment to living out that faith by sharing the bounty of your orchard with those who are less fortunate."
According to Gonia, Sally contacted SoSA a few years ago after she received a postcard about the Alabama Gleaning Network. That first year, volunteers picked about 610 pounds of blueberries at the Leavelles' farm. Last year, that number almost doubled to 1,163 pounds -- all of which was distributed to agencies that feed the hungry.
The Commitment to Service Award was established in honor of the late James Ferrell, a volunteer who coordinated potato drops and other gleaning efforts in the Jasper, Ala., area for SoSA.
"Jim was always ready and willing to meet the need whenever and wherever," Gonia said. "When Jim received a phone call asking for help to get food to hungry people, the answer was always 'yes.' Jim's commitment to serving others in the name of Christ was exemplary."
The award presentation was held at First United Methodist Church in Jasper, where Ferrell was a member. The church collected memorial contributions of more than $5,500 for SoSA following his death. Gonia said Ferrell's volunteer work resulted in 269,140 pounds of food being collected, which provided more than 800,000 servings to needy people in the Jasper area since 2001.
SoSA's Alabama Gleaning Network brings together farmers who have fruits and vegetables to donate with volunteers who are willing to glean the produce and agencies that are in need of food for the hungry. Alabama farmers donate crops they cannot sell for a variety of reasons, including storm damage, overproduction and because the appearance may not meet market standards due to size, shape and/or blemishes
More than 25 Alabama growers, packers and shippers have worked with SoSA to donate produce that cannot be sold. Seventeen joined the network in 2005. Gonia said many of the farmers who participate heard about the Gleaning Network through the Alabama Farmers Federation, which has provided financial support for the program.
In Alabama, more than 1,700 volunteers helped glean and distribute nearly 600,000 pounds of produce for distribution to over 140 agencies across the state last year. This is almost triple the amount that was gleaned and distributed in 2004.
For more information about the Society of St. Andrew, visit www.endhunger.org.