Sevier County Food Ministries gets huge donation

May. 15, 2014 @ 06:40 PM

Twenty-five tons of food will feed a lot of people.

Sevier County Food Ministries received exactly that — 50,000 pounds of canned goods — through a recent food drive held by Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede in Pigeon Forge.

Food Ministiries Director Jim Davis said the weighty gift nearly tripled the record food donation to the organization set last year when Dixie gave 19,000 pounds of collected food.

"Last year, Dixie was able to collect 19,000 pounds, and that helped us get well into June," Davis said. "This will help us get through June and well into the summer months without having to purchase a lot of canned goods. That'll save on our expenditures. This allows us to be able to get other things like eggs, some produce when it becomes available, and maybe even some dairy products and bread."

Davis said fundraising for the ministry is difficult in the summer, making the can drive especially important.

"It's just a blessing to the food ministry that partners like Dixie step forward and choose us to help," he said. "Fundraising in the summertime is a tough thing. The can drive is very important to what we do."

Woody Peek, Dixie Stampede's director of marketing and sales, said Dixie didn't do it alone.

Each year, the attraction donates to the local tourism industry a number of shows at which most seats are available to employees and families of those businesses. In exchange for the tickets, they are encouraged to donate non-perishable foods.

"Our previous goal was around 19,000 pounds, and this year we have ... exceeded 50,000 pounds, which is just (great)," Peek said. "We're really pleased, and really moved, with the support we got from the local hospitality community, because those were the folks that were filling those shows. Those were the special guests that came and helped support the cause. And every night we were filling up (the food ministries') box truck."

Each show averaged over two tons of food collected.

"What's really good is the end result for our community," Peek said. "Jim said that's going to be about 8,000 families' meals. That's a good thing."

Peek said the difference in the number of donations this year may owe to simple change in procedure.

"We started encouraging (people) to bring cans when they came to pick their tickets up rather than when they came for the show," Peek said. "And we were really pleased to see the amount of people that brought additional food the night of the show — people were pulling up their cars, opening up their trunks and bringing bags. It was a great effort, and it was something that we're quite proud to be a part of.

"That couldn't have happened without the support of the local industry and the local residents that were coming to those shows."

The food drive should continue well into the future, Peek said.

"We as a company strongly support the efforts and the mission of the food ministry. We see the need in our community and that they're meeting a need," he said. "We've been a part for many years, and we're already planning next year's annual event, and we'll continue that commitment."