“In Tulsa alone, Lawyers Fighting Hunger has distributed more than 150,000 cans of food, 7,175 turkeys and 20,000 pounds of ham to local families in need.”
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 11.1 percent of American households experienced hunger last year. Here at home, Oklahoma ranked fifth in the nation with a 14.7 percentage of American households who experienced hunger last year. A group of Oklahoma lawyers is out to change that statistic.
A Need to Feed
In 2009, several agencies that feed the hungry had their funding cut. Several local attorneys decided to step in and help these groups by raising funds to purchase the needed turkeys for Thanksgiving. In 2010, Noble McIntyre of McIntyre Law in Oklahoma City and Hugh Robert of Sherwood, McCormick & Robert in Tulsa decided to make the event even bigger.
As the need to feed the hungry grew, David Bernstein of Bernstein Law Firm in Norman joined efforts and the three lawyers formed Lawyers Fighting Hunger, Inc. a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to addressing the needs within our state to feed the hungry.
Robert says, “The faces of hunger continue to grow among the working poor, grandparents raising their grandchildren on a fixed income, disabled veterans trying to survive on their disability benefits and families working multiple jobs to cover basic essentials such as shelter and medicine.”
The organization works through partnerships with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and community outreach agencies like Iron Gate and Emergency Infant Services to help identify and screen deserving families. In Tulsa alone, Lawyers Fighting Hunger has distributed more than 150,000 cans of food, 7,175 turkeys and 20,000 pounds of ham to local families in need.
Months of fundraising and coordination come together in November at the annual distribution event. Unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has turned this year’s event on its head and has created an urgent hunger crisis. With the number of people who have become unemployed or furloughed, the need is even greater this year. But, Robert says the goal remains the same—to provide 1,000 turkeys and grocery bags filled with enough food to feed a family of four for three days to families that need it the most.
Like most non-profits, donations are down significantly due to the pandemic. Robert says lawyers aren’t the only ones who donate to the event each year. Many regular donors, including small businesses, churches, and private individuals have been financially affected by the shut down and discretionary items such as donations are getting cut.
That’s why Lawyers Fighting Hunger named the event, Live Local, Give Local, to encourage those in the Tulsa area to give to local organizations that directly contribute to local recipients. Although the organization has five locations across the state, it makes sure to track all funds received by each location. So, 100% of donations received from Tulsa will be used to purchase food for the Tulsa event.
He says, “The biggest difference to the attendees is that we will not be able to have the fun, festival environment we have always had. Generally, we have had live music, entertainers for the kids and food trucks like Rub, Cool Ray Coffee and Arnie’s Bar providing food and beverages to those in line.”
The Show Must Go On
Although the party atmosphere will be replaced with procedures and processes, Lawyers Fighting Hunger is on a mission to make this year’s event a success.
Mask requirements and other safety protocols have been set in place for event volunteers and those who have pre-qualified for the Thanksgiving grocery bag. The event location has been changed from the Blue Dome district to Iron Gate, a soup kitchen and grocery pantry that has already implemented COVID-19 safety procedures. And, instead of the normal assembly line model, volunteers will pre-assemble all the bags and deliver them in a drive-through or social distanced walk up line.
Thanks and Giving
Robert says that this event wouldn’t be possible without the support of more than 100 Tulsa area lawyers, the Tulsa County Bar Association, businesses, and individual contributors including Riggs, Abney, Neal, Turpen, Orbison & Lewis, Graves McLain, New Wine and Grace Ministries, Sherwood, McCormick & Robert and Laizure Law.
“While this event will not end hunger, it is doing a small part to show that those who live here can reach out and help others in our community who need it the most, with the most fundamental of needs—food,” says Robert.
To make a tax-deductible donation online, visit LawyersFightingHunger.org or mail a check made payable to Lawyers Fighting Hunger to 15 W. 6th St., St. 2800, Tulsa, OK 74119.