This year at our Spring Breakfast fundraiser event, we are celebrating the 10th Anniversary of OneGenAway! Back in 2013, our founders Chris and Elaine Whitney established OneGenAway as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a vision to wipe hunger off the face of America.
This is, of course, a lofty goal that will take a lot more work, collaboration, and support to achieve, but 10 years in, we are 10 years closer to a community of neighbors sustaining one another through tough times.
In reflecting on the past 10 years, Chris shared some of the stories that have most impacted him as a founder, friend, and neighbor to the communities he has served.
A story that sparked Chris’ heart for food security comes from the very beginning of his service work. Chris met Miss Rena when he was giving away food as part of the USDA’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
“This is what we were there to do — to give away food — so when Miss Rena thanked me, I didn’t think anything of it,” Chris said. “I just said, ‘You’re welcome. This is what we do.'”
Miss Rena saw that Chris clearly didn’t understand the depth of meaning that her food box carried for her. She said, “No, Pastor Chris, you don’t understand. Now I can buy my medicine.”
That was the first time Chris realized how serious the issue of hunger is in our country. 1 in 10 Americans experience food insecurity, which means that 10% of all our communities (if not more) are making decisions between buying the food they need for themselves and their families and paying for another critical need, such as rent, utilities, and in the case of Miss Rena and so many others, medication.
“No one should have to make that choice between food and medicine,” said Chris. “So, we try to eliminate that choice by providing food for anyone in need — no questions asked.”
Birthday cake instead of tortillas
In the early days of OneGenAway, Chris and a couple of our volunteers, Jack and Henry, were rescuing surplus grocery stores and taking it to families in need.
They headed to a local trailer park to share some of the groceries, and Chris handed a box of food that included tortillas to a man who lived here. The man was so grateful and said, “I’ll make a birthday cake for my son with these tortillas.”
Little did he know, OneGenAway had a birthday cake in the truck.
“We grabbed the birthday cake and handed it to the guy, and he couldn’t believe it,” Chris said. “It was like God showed up with a birthday cake for his son that day when he couldn’t afford it.”
A prayer answered three months in advance
Chris shared that one of the most emotional and special stories to him took place when OneGenAway first shared food with 200 households in North Alabama following a tornado. This was a disaster relief trip that OneGenAway planned with local leaders and organizations to take place three months after the natural disaster struck, once most of the local and federal aid had used up their allotted resources.
When the day came, Chris and Elaine knocked on a woman’s door holding a box of food, and almost as soon as she opened the door, the woman started to weep.
“I prayed this morning that, if I was going to eat, God would have to feed me,” she said, staring incredulously at the box of food in Elaine’s hands.
For Chris, the most incredible part of that story is not merely that her prayer was answered but that it was answered three months prior — before she had even prayed it at all — when OneGenAway’s trip was planned.
“We happened to be scheduled to deliver food to her house on the same day as her prayer,” Chris said. “We hear that food is an answer to prayer all the time, but this was one of those times when we saw it in real time.”
Over the past 10 years, there have been so many stories just like these. Each person who has served at our Mobile Pantry knows it’s a special place with incredibly special people.
We hope you will join us in celebrating all of these stories and the many stories to come at our 10th Anniversary Spring Breakfast on Friday, May 12. Click here to learn more about the event.