Cary News

Fighting hunger one porch at a time

When six Cary women started getting together as “The Power Chicks,” it was for social time outside their busy careers. But when Ellen Rubel, a trademark attorney, read an article about PORCH (People Offering Relief for Chapel Hill Carrboro Homes), a hunger-relief organization in Chapel Hill, that all changed.

Rubel and interior designer Sharon Lake-Gargano met with two of the PORCH leaders to find out about their model.

In December 2010, the Power Chicks decided to form their own hunger relief organization, PORCH-Western Wake. They held their first “sort” of non-perishable food in March 2011. Since then, they have collected more than six tons of food for Western Wake Crisis Ministry and the USO.

Q: How does PORCH-Western Wake work?

We have neighborhood representatives in Cary and Morrisville. They coordinate pick-up of the non-perishable food items once a month. The coordinator then drops off the food at my house, and we sort like items together. We drive the food out to the Western Wake Crisis Ministry facility in Apex and the RDU Airport USO facility.

It’s a simple, grassroots movement; we collect nonperishable food contributions for needy people.

Q: Have there been tougher parts of getting the organization off the ground?

Yes, of course. There is a legal end. I’m very involved in a professional interior designers’ organization, so I know about some of the legal issues. Also, Ellen (Rubel) is a trademark attorney, so she has a grasp on what to do. It wasn’t easy; we all have full-time jobs.

And we depend quite a bit on word of mouth.

Q: You have grown a lot since you started. Is it still manageable, as far as your time commitment?

Yes, it is still at a manageable level because each coordinator takes care of his or her neighborhood. When word goes out to a neighborhood, there might be between 10 and 15 percent of households responding.

It’s a matter of branding, getting our logo out there and incorporating.

Q: Is it gratifying to know that an organization you helped to create is helping in the fight against hunger?

Yes. I always knew I wanted to do something in the community. I love cooking and food, so this was a natural fit for me.

Q: Does PORCH-Western Wake have a goal for the next couple of years?

Our plan is to expand into the USO Morrisville National Guard facility. There are a lot of families who need help when the spouses are deployed. We feel that connecting with the USO is perfect for us, because we want to give back to the people who are giving to us by serving our country.

Q: Do you think there is a growing awareness in our community about hunger?

I do think there is more awareness; it just takes education. I wasn’t even aware of how much need there was. Even our older citizens, who were counting on their pensions, did not plan on gas being $4 a gallon. People who are on a fixed income are strapped. Western Wake Crisis Ministry let us know that there is a growing number of older citizens who need assistance.