by Chuck Lovelace - VA100
Run For Food International was officially launched on January 20, 2011. As one of the founders of this new organization, I wanted to use the first couple of blogs to let you know what inspired this effort. This journey unknowingly began in October of 2008 when I became a victim of the economic downturn. I had spent the previous ten years of my career working as an executive for three different franchise organizations. While working at these companies, I was responsible for development, operations, training and marketing. Prior to my leap into the for-profit arena, I worked as a nonprofit executive for twenty years.
After being downsized, I spent the next several months sending out resumes and cover letters. I applied to a number of online jobs and filled out what seemed like hundreds of profile forms. While prospective employers couldn’t ask your age, they had no problem asking you what year you graduated from high school. So, I was not only confronted with the terrible economy, but I was also a little closer to retirement than employers were comfortable with. Needless to say, this was a challenging combination when you are looking for a job. Most companies were looking for specific skill sets not the smorgasbord of experiences I had to offer.
Armed with a positive attitude and the support of my family, I did what many unemployed executives do: I became a consultant. Establishing a good consulting business takes a lot of hard work and you have to get some breaks along the way. During the summer of 2010, a good friend and mentor introduced me to a prospective client that would be the catalyst for a life-changing journey.
In preparation and anticipation of a consulting project with this prospect, I began to investigate and learn more about the global hunger crisis and the staggering numbers of people it affects. Over the years I remember being told by my parents to “clean my plate because there were children starving all over the world.” As I got older, I saw the television commercials with pictures of starving children and a plea for money from Sally Struthers. While I felt saddened by the thought of people dying from starvation, I was not moved to do anything about it. When the commercial was over, I quickly forgot about the graphic pictures and I didn’t give the message much further thought.
My research for this potential consulting job led me to visit a local chapter of Stop Hunger Now. I was familiar with Stop Hunger Now (SHN) because the chairman of the company I worked for in the late 90’s was one of the founders. Back then my response to SHN was similar to that of the Sally Struthers commercials. I listened to the message of people dying from hunger and hunger-related illnesses, but I didn’t hear it and it certainly didn’t impact me.
During the summer of 2010 I met Clark, an employee of Stop Hunger Now. After spending time with him and participating in a meal-packaging event, I began to look at the hunger crisis in a different light. Clark told me about an organization in Iowa that was also packaging meals. They were seeing tremendous results and making a huge impact in Tanzania. I have to be honest. I had no idea where Tanzania was and had to consult my world atlas. These experiences made me begin to look beyond myself and my own surroundings and start to see that this global hunger crisis was real. I also began to feel like I had been blessed with some talents and skills that would be useful in the fight to eradicate hunger around the world. The next couple of months were eye-opening and would set in motion the next phase of my life.