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A HOPE employee stocks the shelves of the Manna Pantry, anticipating the organization’s work in the Feinstein Foundation Challenge — for the month of March, all foods collected by HOPE will be matched with a donation from the foundation.

Though they pride themselves on helping area citizens in need during troubling times, HOPE Partners in Health of Jacksonville has had to face its own economic hardships.

So, when HOPE Executive Director Fran Daniel learned of Rhode Island philanthropist and humanitarian Alan Shaw Feinstein’s plan to divide up $1 million of his own money to match the earnings of anti-hunger organizations nationwide during the months of March and April, the local non-profit organization agreed to accept the challenge.

“We’ve decided to give it  a shot,” Daniel said. “This community has always been extremely generous and if they know their donation is going to be matched, that that’s even better. It just gets people even more motivated to make an impact.”

HOPE is in the process of contacting churches, churches, businesses, hospitals, and civic organizations in hopes of receiving as many cash, check, and food donations as possible to fight hunger within the community.

“We currently have three organizations that have officially signed up to help our cause,” Daniel said. “The city of Jacksonville, East Texas Medical Center and Trinity Mother Francis Hospital are all involved, but we are looking to get many more organizations working with us.”

The $1 million will be divided proportionally amongst all of the agencies who send in a reporting sheet detailing the amount they earned in the two month period with a minimum of $250 and a maximum of $40,000 to be awarded to any one agency.

“We’re hoping to get the $40,000,” Daniel said. “Once the Foundation sees that our whole community can work together on several different levels in order to get this accomplished, I think they’ll be impressed. It will also show the public that, even though we’re small, we can do it and we can do it together.”

Daniel said that no organization is too small to join their efforts, adding that she would also like to see some friendly competition amongst the groups raising funds.

“The community has always been good to us and we anticipate they’ll join our efforts again,” she said. “We have such a strong need for food assistance in Jacksonville, so when you can double your benefits, it’s a win-win for everyone.”

According to CEO of the Feinstein Foundation Albert Shaw Feinstein, the idea of “doubling your money” has always brought out the best in participating communities.

“Almost every organization that has utilized this challenge has reported raising a great deal more money than what they’ve earned in the past,” Feinstein said. “Some have even increased their donations two or three times their usual returns.”

Feinstein said it was during his time as a keynote speaker for a local fundraiser 14 years ago that he came up with the concept that would soon become “the most successful grassroots campaign to ever fight hunger in the U.S.”

“I got the idea to offer a total of $100,000 to the local non-profit, anti-hunger organizations by paying them back the amount they could earn to fight hunger in two months,” Feinstein said. “It worked well. It worked so well, in fact, that I decided to make it national.”

The previous 12 annual $1 million challenges to fight hunger have raised a record $1 billion for over 2,000 organizations nationwide — a great success for Feinstein who hopes one day no one will ever go hungry.

“Approximately one out of every five people in the U.S. experience hunger sometime during the year,” Feinstein said, “and the situation is getting worse. There is a large divergence between the poor and the wealthy. I can’t recall there ever being a greater gap between them.”

Though the next two months may be difficult, Daniel feels the many years she has worked in Jacksonville are not only apart of the past, but also an auspicious beginning.

“Jacksonville has worked harder at helping its citizens than any other non-profit I’ve worked for in larger communities,” Daniel said. “Our organization is all about people helping people and that’s what Jacksonville does.”

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