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“Give hope by using your lunch money to feed a family”

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IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - In years past, the Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce hosted “Out of the Box” lunches as a large networking opportunity for our local businesses. This year, that event has been canceled due to the pandemic.

The Commerce decided to keep the event alive by giving back to hungry and struggling neighbors who are also feeling the effects of the pandemic through transforming “Out of the Box” lunches into a fundraising event. They plan to donate all of the funds they earn from their new “Hope Lunch” event to the Idaho Falls Community Food Basket.

“In this pandemic year, we know a lot of people have been laid off, a lot of people went without a paycheck for months, so families are struggling,” Greater Idaho Falls Chamber of Commerce CEO Chip Schwarze said. “Normally you think of food banks servicing homeless people, but this year, food banks are servicing much more than that, they’re serving such a big part of our community.”

The Chamber sold tickets in advance, preparing for the “Out of the Box” lunches to carry on as usual. When Chamber members heard the event would be cancelled, they began making calls to the 5 hosting businesses and everyone who purchased their tickets in advance to see if those donors would be willing to allow their funds to be donated to the Idaho Falls Community Food Basket. Chip Schwarze, Chamber of Commerce CEO says it was unanimous and all of the participants agreed this would be a great idea to give back to our community.

“Then we grew it from there and reached out to some businesses,” Schwarze said. “Michael Hughes, the CEO at Elevation Labs was very gracious and was our first sign on. He said, ‘yeah, let me jump on with you guys, we’ll give you $3,000 to start off with.’”

Schwarze says the donations have been growing from there and the Chamber has raised almost $8,000 so far. They plan to present a check to the Community Food Basket on December 20th and hope to give at least $20,000.

The Community Food Basket can leverage the money they earn through donations with their suppliers to turn every $1 they receive into $5 worth of food.

“We know they’re filling people’s pantries as we speak and when the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are over, their pantries will be empty,” Schwarze said. “If we can raise $20,000, they can leverage that into $100,000 worth of groceries to kickstart January for them so families won’t go hungry after the holidays.”

The Chamber of Commerce has encouraged their Chamber businesses to speak with their employees and ask for donations to go toward the Hope Lunch event. 

“This community is such a good community and they’re willing to help everybody every chance they can,” Schwarze said.

Schwarze says Elite Roofing collected $250 from their roofers and sent a check to the Chamber of Commerce. He says Alpha Graphics walked into the Chamber with over $1,100, over $600 in cash and personal checks from donations they gathered from employees and a $500 check from their business. Some businesses have recognized their employees may be struggling financially as well and have donated funds directly from their business, like Armory Plastics.

“The second day after we announced we were going to do this and we put it out on social media, a gentleman walked into our office and handed me a $200 check,” Schwarze said. “He is not a member of the Chamber of Commerce, he doesn’t work for a Chamber business, but he saw what we’re doing and he wanted to support the community. Those kinds of outpourings are just falling in left and right.”

Schwarze says there are over 600 businesses who have partnered with the Chamber of Commerce and within those businesses, there are approximately 25,000 employees. Schwarze says if each of those employees donated just $1, the Community Food Basket could turn that money into $125,000 worth of groceries.

“We just want everybody to be healthy and happy and if you’re hungry during this pandemic and you’re not being fed, you’re not going to stay healthy,” Schwarze said. “As the Chamber of Commerce, we’re really invested in getting our economy open and getting people back to work again. If our workforce isn’t healthy and strong, they’re not going to go back to generating revenues for their businesses. So we really want to help everybody in the community, not just those typical homeless families. This is going to help everybody in our community this year.”

Schwarze says if you are interested in donating to this cause, you can visit the Chamber website here and donate the money you would normally spend on a lunch for yourself to help give back to our hungry neighbors. You can donate in $9, $12, or $15 increments until December 21st at midnight.

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Chelsea Briar

Chelsea is a reporter and producer for Local News 8 and KIDK Eyewitness News 3.


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