Hilltop Neighborhood House and United Way of Porter County have partnered together to host 2020 Benefit for the Hungry, a fundraiser aimed at providing food for individuals who frequent the Hilltop Food Pantry in Valparaiso. Jennifer Wright, President and CEO of Hilltop Neighborhood House, said that the organization has seen a 300% increase in activity since COVID-19 began, adding to the 150-300 individuals their food pantry serves on a weekly basis.
“Many families with young children are on the lower end of the wage scale and it’s easy to fall into a food insecurity situation temporarily,” Wright said. “Many of our clients are brand new and have never needed food support before the pandemic.”
“We’ve seen food necessity in Porter County increase exponentially in the last few months,” said Kim Olesker, President and CEO of United Way. “This event is targeted at helping those in need within a very specific community and provide them with the stability of having food on the table, especially as they navigate the challenges of COVID-19.”
One in 10 Valparaiso residents are food insecure and are unsure where their next meal is coming from. Of those ten, one in five are children, and that number becomes one in three when considering children who are under the age of five years old.
“Hilltop is located in the only Governor’s Opportunity Zone in Porter County. This means we have the highest density of low-income individuals in a very small space,” Wright said. “Our clients range from children, to the elderly, to the homeless. Some of our clients are living on a fixed income and get very little in food support, so we try to help provide as much as we can.”
This year, the benefit will take place at Don Quijote Restaurante, thanks to the generous help of owners Carlos and Elena.
“Carlos and Elena are fantastic community partners. They give of their time and abilities, assisting whenever they can,” Olesker said. “We are so grateful that they are helping us out, and that through their cooking abilities we are able to provide our generous donors with a fantastic meal while helping to feed families in need.”
Event proceeds will go to provide food pantry families with a meal at Thanksgiving and a week’s worth of food to go with it.
“Many of our clients have limited access to cooking an entire turkey, so we will give smaller portions and easier things to cook for the week as well,” Wright explained.
This is the second year for Benefit for the Hungry, following last year’s wine tasting and silent auction. Although meals will be take-out only, due to COVID-19 restrictions, participants will still be able to enjoy a smooth glass of vino as every dinner for two comes with a free bottle of wine.
“It’s a beautiful thing, being able to purchase a quality dinner for your family and provide benefit to multiple people in the process,” Olesker said. “I hope our community embraces the concept through this event.”
Given the philanthropic nature of the Valparaiso community, Wright has no doubt that locals will pull through with a plethora of support come November 8th.
“The best part about Hilltop is being in Valparaiso. We get to see firsthand how generous everyone in this community really is,” Wright said. “How a community treats its most vulnerable residents says so much about how that community cares. Fortunately, time, talent, and treasure are wonderful gifts our residents are very good at sharing with their neighbors.”
The Benefit for the Hungry event will take place on November 8th from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Menu includes meat and vegetarian options. Tickets are $70 for single meals and $125 for two meals. Tickets can be purchased at unitedwaypc.org/hilltop, although walk-ins will be accepted day-of while supplies last. Direct donations to support the food pantry are also welcome.