It was a gift that is going to keep on giving for River Bend Foodbank.
Gathered Wednesday at the west Davenport food bank, River Bend staff accepted a poster-sized check representing a $50,000 grant from Tyson Foods. The Foods Optimization Grant, awarded by the Springdale, Arkansas-based company, enables the food bank to create a new major gifts officer position within its staff.
Jenny Brinkmeyer will fill the new role effective June 18.
"I'll be helping the community in a new way," said Brinkmeyer, who currently is executive director of Komen Greater Iowa in the Quad-Cities. She will stay at Komen through its major fundraiser, Race for the Cure, which is Saturday in downtown Moline. The Des Moines-area native has worked at Komen the past 5½ years and lived in the Quad-Cities for 10 years.
River Bend President and CEO Michael Miller announced the award as volunteers scurried about the food bank's warehouse and cars filled the parking lot and lined the approaching streets for the monthly distribution at River Bend. Miller estimated nearly 750 families would be served during the drive-through food distribution.
"It's both happy and sad. It's sad because the need is that great. But it's wonderful we're able to meet it."
Brinkmeyer, who is a past volunteer at the food bank, said seeing the distribution for the first time "was amazing."
According to Miller, Brinkmeyer will focus on growing the food bank's portfolio of donors and join a development team. River Bend employs 26 people.
Among Brinkmeyer's job duties will be raising enough money to cover her position after the one-year grant.
Kimberly Crane, the community liaison for Tyson's Joslin, Illinois, beef plant, said the grant is part of Tyson's commitment to feeding people. "They will get reports on how much money is raised, how successful (the position) is and how well it is working," she said.
Crane said the new position will help the food bank focus more on its donors, potential donors and developing those relationships.
"Tyson wants every community they have locations to be the best they can be," she added.
According to Miller, such a grant is an unusual opportunity. "They are funding helping us to fund-raise. Most people want to fund programs. It is rare for an organization to invest in the development capacity of a not-for-profit."
River Bend serves a 23-county area in eastern Iowa and western Illinois.
"I've been saying for three years, we need to triple the meals we provide," he said. Across its service area, there are 120,930 people who miss a total of 26.6 million meals a year.
In the last 12 months, the food bank and its partners distributed 13.4 million meals.