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Tuesday, September 3, 2013
A strange thing happened to Hunters for the Hungry last year. The organization ran short of deer. That's never been a problem since its origin in 1991.
Hunters always have lined up with donations of deer. The challenge has been coming up with enough money to process and distribute the venison to needy people. There have been times when there were so many deer and so little money that there was a real risk of having to temporarily shut the program down.
But last year, was a flip flop. Donations of deer were down a whopping 28 percent from the previous year. It was the lowest number of animals contributed in nine years.
Before we search for answers, let it be said the program still enjoyed a stellar year in 2012. It processed and distributed nearly 280,000 pounds of venison, enough to provide 1.1-million quarter-pound servings. Good job! Still, that's 100,000 pounds less than the peak year. With the right combination of deer and funding, the program is capable of distributing 500,000 pounds annually, it leaders say.
Lately, the organization has been working on two fronts: Collecting money-the cost to process a deer has increased by $5 to $45-and urging hunters to contribute deer as the hunting seasons open.
A major fundraiser is set for Sept. 14 when the WSLS 10 Sportsmen's Banquet is scheduled for the Roanoke Moose Lodge at the foot of Catawba Mountain on Virginia 311. Tickets are available at the Sportsmen's Warehouse in Roanoke, which is one of the major sponsors, along with WSLS 10 and Elliot Electrical Excellence.
The banquet committee has been working hard to put on a first-class event that is fun and family friendly. Tickets are $25 for a single; $40 for a couple; kids under 12 free. That's about half what you'd pay at other sportsmen banquets. The event has been raising about $20,000 annually. With some help, that figure could be doubled.
As for the reason behind the decline in deer donations, here's what's being kicked around by the program's leaders:
Probably all of these had an impact, but I believe the last one on the list is most significant. With money tight and meat expensive, more and more hunters have been developing their own processing/distribution system. They are stockpiling meat in their freezer and giving venison to friends, neighbors, relatives and co-workers rather than Hunters for the Hungry.
That's OK. That's another way of utilizing the resource, but hunters shouldn't abandon Hunters for the Hungry, which has served them and the needy well for more than 20 years. It is one of the best public relations ventures hunters have going for them.
So how about providing a deer for the program once you've satisfied your own needs, and urging others to do the same? And how about coming to the Sept. 14 banquet to help raise money to process more deer?
Hunger is real in Virginia. There is a ready source of venison available. A program is in place to handle the processing and distribution. A banquet is set to raise funds. Let's make it work.
Comments, questions welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
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