Boxes of food stacked high.CEFCU recently completed our 12th annual canned food drive to benefit local families. Once again, employee donations broke the previous year’s record, with a total of 11,817 items donated to local food pantries! These non-perishable food items can provide a bag of groceries for over 800 families.

Back of an SUV filled with Canned goods.New to this year’s drive was the Springfield Member Centers’ effort in support of Central Illinois Foodbank. The 625 items collected by the three Springfield Member Centers, weighing a whopping 614 pounds, filled an SUV!

The other donations went to the South Side Mission in Peoria. CEFCU is consistently among the top organizations that donate to South Side Mission, and our goal for the drive increases each year. This year’s donations can fully supply South Side Mission’s food pantry for up to 8 weeks.

Creative Teamwork

Several employee challenges have fueled this outstanding success. These challenges push employees in “rival” departments, floors, and Member Centers to give a little more and help build team spirit in employee work groups. Challenges add variety, creativity, and fun to the rewarding experience of doing something to help others.

Whether or not they take part in a challenge, everyone who participates is essential to our overall success in supporting our communities. Some donated money so that others could do the shopping for a group. Others raided their pantries, added a few items to their shopping carts with each trip during the drive, or made a special trip to the store just to purchase items to donate.

Creative fundraising approaches included several contests, auctions, and raffles. This year, bake sales, raffles, and dessert auctions made giving even sweeter. Raffle prizes included a gift basket and lunch with the CEO.

CEFCU Employees loading up a pushcart with Food.

Model of Efficiency

Having led the Canned Food Drive since its inception in 2006, Jill, an employee in CEFCU’s Direct Lending department, organizes and runs the process in high efficiency mode from mid-September through the end of October each year. She personally spends only about one hour per week to coordinate the drive! So how does she accomplish all this in such a short amount of time?

Jill communicates regularly with South Side Mission and a representative from each CEFCU department participating in a challenge. Lists of most needed items are published by both Central Illinois Foodbank and South Side Mission, and many teams pool their funds and designate volunteer shoppers. Anyone who isn’t involved in a challenge or able to shop can donate funds instead through Jill.

Employees from the Money Center 24 and Office Services Departments collect items from the other Midwest CEFCU Member Centers and deliver them to a central location during the course of their regular duties. Peoria Airport Member Center employees gather items from CEFCU’s headquarters, count them weekly, store them, and load them into the South Side Mission cargo truck at the end of the drive.

Donations exceeded the truck’s capacity for the past two years, so many items were picked up mid-month.The rest of the items were squeezed into the truck and a CEFCU van in a very efficient loading effort.

Barrels full of canned goods ready to be donated. South Side Mission's Van partially loaded.

Jill leverages that efficiency to inspire new challenges, which in turn grow the number of items collected. She also emphasizes in her email updates throughout the drive that everyone needs help sometime, encouraging participants to maintain their perspective on the dignity of both giving and receiving.

Mutual Mission

Central Illinois Foodbank has been collecting and distributing food to charitable organizations serving people in need in Central and Southern Illinois for thirty-five years, and distributed over 9.4 million pounds of food in FY 2017. South Side Mission has been serving families in Peoria since 1925. Their philosophy of “a hand up, not a hand out” harmonizes well with the credit union movement philosophy of “people helping people.” CEFCU employees are proud to help improve the lives of those in our local communities and are looking forward to many more successful drives.

Inspired to make a donation yourself? Visit the website for Central Illinois Foodbank or South Side Mission for more information about these organizations and how you can help, too.