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Demands at local food bank continue to rise

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Lisa Hoffmaster attaches a wooden dog cutout to Food Finders’ entry for the “Woof and Roof” doghouse decorating contest, one of the ways the nonprofit is trying to raise money to meet demands.

by Carol Thompson
Special to the Signal Tribune

For the past 19 years, Food Finders, a multi-regional food bank, has been welcomed at the back doors of Los Angeles and Orange County restaurants and food suppliers where they collect excess food and redistribute it to social service organizations whose mission is to serve the needs of those who are impoverished and hungry.

The effort is enormous and costly. In 2007, Food Finders delivered nearly 8.5 million pounds of food. At the end of September 2008, their cumulative total over the 19 years reached 68,708,797 pounds of wholesome food provided to people in need, which translates to today’s average of 50,000 meals daily, and demand for services continues to rise.
“The Food Finders phones are ringing more often now with people calling to get help with food,” said founder Arlene Mercer. “Some have lost their jobs. Many are working, but with the high cost of food, housing, health care and gas, they can’t cover all their bills and still put food on the table.”
To support its efforts, Food Finders relies on business donations and fundraising that includes operating the two Finders Keepers retail stores in Bixby Knolls. “The staff and volunteers at Food Finders are working harder than ever to try to fill the needs. We are trying every way we know to pull in money,” said Mercer.
Those efforts include their latest fundraiser, which has literally gone to the dogs. Food Finders is one of 14 Long Beach charities selected to compete for cash and prizes in the “Woof and Roof” challenge, in celebration of the 2008 AKC/Eukanba National Championship at the Long Beach Convention Center December 12-14.
Charities have built themed doghouses that will be vying for “best in show” cash and prizes. After the judging, the houses will be returned to the organizations, where they may be sold or auctioned off.
The Food Finders entry is titled “Project Poochie,” and it reflects the nature of the organization’s dog food bank program of the same name. Designed to look like a rolling food cart filled with bins of dog food, snacks and toys, the cart has a red-and-white striped, canvas-covered awning as a roof and includes an extended roofline post upon which hangs a bone-shaped “Chow Line Starts Here” sign. Six different breeds of dogs surround the doghouse looking for a nourishing meal, holding their bowls in anticipation of receiving generously donated food and other goodies. Inside the doghouse, comfort awaits furry friends with soothingly painted walls, low-maintenance charcoal gray carpet and throw pillows for some very special dog.
Approximately 160 volunteer hours were donated by the Food Finders design team, which included Andrea Amato, Lisa and Roland Hoffmaster, Samantha Sorenson and Natalie Nixon.
Mercer encourages Food Finder supporters and dog lovers to venture down to the convention center on Friday, December 12 to vote for their favorite doghouse and meet some of Food Finders’ dedicated volunteers.
Besides distributing donated food to people in need, Food Finders also receives and distributes donations of dog food and dog toys to dogs in need, which helps keep families and their loved pets together during difficult financial times.
Food Finders accepts ongoing donations of canned food as well as donations of furniture, household goods, antiques and collectibles at their own Finders Keepers retail stores.

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Serving Bixby Knolls, California Heights, Los Cerritos, Wrigley and Signal Hill
Demands at local food bank continue to rise