by Dennis Dalman
The Salvation Army in east St. Cloud has a unique way of combining philanthropy with serving meals to those in need.
The program is called PhilanthroFEED.
For years, the Salvation Army has provided free meals to sometimes hundreds of people each day. Some are homeless, some are unemployed, many have come to a difficult place in their lives and all are in need of sustenance.
One day, Salvation Army Director Jim Muellenbach and staff were discussing ways to bring more people in the area into direct contact with Salvation Army clients. It would be good, they agreed, if generous people who give contributions could see up close and personally how their contributions are so important and how they are vital in helping others.
A staff member suggested restaurant owners might like to cater a free meal in lieu of cash contributions. Someone else said, “Why not encourage other businesses to help out too? They could sponsor a lunch or team up with a restaurant to help cater a lunch. Someone in the data marketing field came up with a name: PhilanthroFEED.
The idea caught on. Shawn Mason, owner of Texas Roadhouse in St. Cloud, said when he brought up the idea, his staff instantly volunteered. Mason wasn’t surprised as he and his staff have always emphasized the importance of community involvement. The food establishment’s catered lunches were a hit with Salvation Army clients.
Wendy Lang, marketing director of the Legends at Heritage Place in Sartell, also decided to join the PhilanthroFEED effort by sponsoring lunches. Lang said she loves to see children and something that makes their day a little brighter, such as when they walk away happy with a full stomach.
Earlier this week, employees and doctors from PineCone Vision Center in Sartell, also took part in PhilanthroFEED. They gathered at the Salvation Army lunchroom to serve lunch to all of the clients. The volunteerism is just one community activity PineCone Vision Center is doing during its sixth annual “Season of Giving.”
Muellenbach said he is overwhelmed by how so many individuals and businesses came together to make the PhilanthroFEED program such a success. One meal a week catered or sponsored by a restaurant or business is the equivalent of $25,000 in food costs per year for the Salvation Army.
Anyone interested in learning more about PhilanthroFEED should call the Salvation Army at 320-257-7436.
Dalman was born and raised in South St. Cloud, graduated from St. Cloud Tech High School, then graduated from St. Cloud State University with a degree in English (emphasis on American and British literature) and mass communications (emphasis on print journalism). He studied in London, England for a year (1980-81) where he concentrated on British literature, political science, the history of Great Britain and wrote a book-length study of the British writer V.S. Naipaul. Dalman has been a reporter and weekly columnist for more than 30 years and worked for 16 of those years for the Alexandria Echo Press.