Community leaders on Tuesday agreed to launch an emergency campaign to raise $20,000 and collect 50,000 pounds of food to rescue five regional food banks.
Food banks report an explosion of demand, including many long-time local residents who have never before sought help, said Payson Mayor Kenny Evans.
The ranks of the homeless in Rim Country now include 77 families with 300 children, said Evans.
Some of the local food banks have come perilously close to running out of food.
“The need is going up and the donations are declining and the food banks tell us those trend lines cross in a couple of weeks — not months,” said Evans.
Nearly every church in town, plus all of the major service organizations have signed on for the effort intended to raise money and draw in donations on top of the normal, seasonal drives of the food banks and charities.
“We’ve had a tremendous groundswell of support,” said Evans, who noted that people who dropped by on Tuesday donated hundreds of dollars and boxes of food.
“Support is pouring in already,” said Evans.
The steering committee set up about a dozen subcommittees to plan for fund-raising campaigns in every sector of the Rim Country, stretching from Christopher Creek to Pine and Strawberry.
The group has already made contact with the grocery stores and Walmart to seek donations, including collecting produce and damaged boxes and cans of food for distribution.
The campaign will likely include newspapers, radio, speeches at service clubs, door-to-door fund-raising, events and other efforts between now and February, with St. Vincent de Paul centralizing many of the donations and collection efforts. The food will be distributed through all five of the food banks in the region.