A bright orange table and four blue chairs were reported stolen from the front lawn of Valley Outreach in Stillwater over the weekend of March 4-5. The dining set was part of the nonprofit’s Feed a Family effort, their promotion for the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign, the largest food and fund drive in the state. The organization’s display lasted only five days.
“This is probably a prank, and I am so disappointed it happened,” said Valley Outreach Executive Director Tracy Maki. “We had the table and chairs, along with our Feed a Family banner, to bring attention to often hidden issues in the suburbs — poverty and hunger. Our messaging is ‘This table should not be empty,’ and with Feed a Family as our call to action, we want you to think about what it takes to feed your own family. The personal connection is important. With that, we can create a welcoming place for everyone at our larger community table.”
Valley Outreach asked Facebook followers for a table and chair donation, sharing they would be painted for use in messaging. Valley Outreach put the display up last week and had a team picture taken at the table as drivers honked their horns passing by.
“I doubt the perpetrators needed an orange table and blue chairs,” Maki said. “And what an awkward heist. This was not a small table — it could fit six chairs around it. Somebody thought about this, and had two to three people plus a vehicle large enough to haul it all off.”
Finding fresh ways to highlight serious issues is one of Valley Outreach’s goals. In previous March campaigns, the organization worked with the city of Stillwater on Food for Fines, allowing parking tickets to be paid with food donations to the Valley Outreach food shelf. In October of the last two years, Valley Outreach has strung up a clothes line of socks and underwear to encourage donations to its clothing closet for “Undie Sunday” and “Undie Week.” The organization offers gently used clothing for the entire family, but “only new will do” for the socks and underwear distributed. There was a theft of socks and underwear the first year of that effort.
“We’re not trying to be cute for the heck of it,” Maki said. “Wwe work hard to highlight that not everyone is doing OK. More surveys and studies show an increase in suburban poverty and we are not immune to the trends.”
Each year, the Minnesota FoodShare March Campaign supports 300 food shelves across Minnesota. Valley Outreach’s effort is branded locally as Feed a Family. Info: valleyoutreachmn.org/march_food_share.aspx