About a million people received food last year thanks to a volunteer effort that had its start in Bloomington.

Midwest Food Bank, an agency with eight sites (including one in Africa), originated in a rural McLean County farm garage. On Thursday, its leaders and volunteers will celebrate a new headquarters site with an open house from 2 to 5 p.m. at 2031 Warehouse Road in Normal.

The faith-based, nonprofit food bank distributes free food and supplies to not-for-profit agencies and disaster sites, with the help of 450 volunteers a month who contribute 3,200 hours.

They unload groceries, sort and pack donations, and help load semi trailers that either head for a disaster zone or to smaller food banks and pantries in Central Illinois, throughout the rest of the state and across the country.

Annually, the donated food has a value of $111 million. The agency distributes food weekly to 230-plus agencies.

"When we began this effort on our family farm south of Bloomington, I never would have envisioned it becoming this large," Midwest Food Bank President and CEO David Kieser said last week. "We have tried to follow the Lord's leading and He has provided blessing after blessing."

From that garage to the new space of nearly 100,000 square feet, the food bank has room for frozen and refrigerated items, such as fresh produce, in addition to nonperishable goods.

As previously reported, the larger space has allowed Midwest Food Bank to add 25 agencies to its distribution schedule. Midwest Food Bank is a Salvation Army First Responder, meaning food bank volunteers assemble, pack and truck disaster relief boxes to areas of natural disasters, where the food and supplies are distributed by Salvation Army to people in need.

It has been integral in the aftermath of both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma.

The food bank has a small paid staff but relies heavily on volunteers, who are always welcome. For details, visit midwestfoodbank.org for information on how to sign up, duties, and available times.

Donations come from individuals, groups or retail outlets, and all are welcomed equally. In addition to food and monetary donations, the food bank benefits from donations of gift cards, jewelry, phones, tablets, vehicles, boats, precious metals, stocks or commodities — all of which the food bank can convert to cash to continue its important work.

The leaders, volunteers and donors to Midwest Food Bank make a daily difference in the lives of a million people each year. They do not look for applause or publicity, but rather peace in knowing they are doing good for their fellow man.

Celebrate the new facility, consider volunteering and make a donation. Participating is something we all can do to make this a better world.



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