MADISON, Wis. (WMTV)--- We asked for your help, and you responded by setting a new record.
4.18 million meals were raised during NBC15's Share Your Holidays campaign. All of the donated dollars and food collected benefit the Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin.
"We knew the number would go up after the phone-a-thon because there were more than 500 voicemails to return of people that wanted to make a pledge. We knew that the grocery industry was doing Check Out Hunger at grocery stores. Credit Unions were still involved. People were still running their own campaigns until the end of the month," said Dan Stein, President/CEO of Second Harvest Foodbank of Southern Wisconsin.
Stein said while he was shocked by the final total, there's still more work to be done. "To be frank, I didn't think our goal of 3.86 million was really doable, but I should never second guess my staff."
He continued by saying after he saw the incredible amount of activity at the grand finale, the calls that came in, the tremendous response that happened afterwards, he knew that number was easy to obtain. "And when we surpassed 4 million, I thought that was it, but it continued growing to what it is today."
The non-profit helps families and individuals facing food insecurities in 16 southern Wisconsin counties. Second Harvest distributes food to 200 partner agencies and programs.
"What we see at the food pantries is definitely an increase of the quality of food we can provide for our clients. We see the nutritional value uptick. Probably most importantly to our clients is choice. There's dignity in choice. They are so grateful in that choice. We especially see it with kids when they come in," said Mark Thompson, Board Chairman of Second Harvest Foodbank and Sun Prairie Emergency Food Pantry.
The Sun Prairie Emergency Food Pantry serves 500 families on average per month. Thompson said each family that use the pantry, leaves with about 80 pounds of food to help fill the gap between those difficult times.
He went on to point out, while many think about donating during the holidays, hunger is a problem year round.
"Once the holidays are over, donations go down very quickly. It's almost like someone turns the spigot off. So the inventory that we get from Share Your Holidays -- that influx will really sustain us over these long hard winter months," said Thompson.
The 22nd annual campaign began Nov. 1 with its largest goal to date— 3.86 million meals – and the theme, "Power of ONE." Individuals, schools and businesses responded—making a difference one dollar at a time.
The "Power of One" theme was inspired by a $3.86 donation made during the 2016 telethon. A female caller shared that she had only $3.86 to give and knew that other people needed it more than she did. She called in during a "Mike's Miracle Minute," where every donation made during that 60-second span was tripled.
This year, 3.55 million meals were raised during the Dec. 6 telethon. Additional donations were accepted through the end of the year online and through the Check Out Hunger program at local grocery stores, including Hy-Vee, Metcalfe's, Pick 'n Save and Woodman's.
“I’m humbled by the continued support our viewers provide this important community event. The partnership that has developed between our sponsors, Second Harvest, and NBC 15 truly allow all of us to make a difference in the communities we call home,” said Don Vesely, Vice President and General Manager of WMTV, a Gray Television Inc. station.
Share Your Holidays is an annual campaign started in 1996 by the late Mike McKinney, a longtime NBC15 anchor. Since its inception, the campaign has raised more than 40 million meals.
Second Harvest’s CEO and President explained the buying power and the calculation behind $1 = 3 meals during the Dec. 6 telethon.