Story and photos by Alice Gerard
The seasons of our lives change as readily as the weather. Sometimes, Rebecca Simpson said, we need help, and, at other times, it is our turn to offer the assistance.
On Nov. 12, at Hunt Real Estate’s food drive held in conjunction with Grand Island High School, Robin Gibson, who came to donate, talked about the season of her life. She explained, “A long, long time ago, when our babies were young, we were blessed by receiving from the Neighbors Foundation. Now, that’s (her donation) just returning the generosity that they gave us.
“Grand Island has been our community for years. We moved away for quite a few years, and we just moved back. So, it’s the first chance that I’ve had to give back to the Neighbors Foundation.”
Rebecca, a real estate agent who works at Hunt Real Estate, said she organized the food drive because “Hunt Real Estate is part of the community. We live here. We work here. We want to help any way we can. The last two years have been very successful, and it helps people in need.
“I do it because I get pleasure from being able to help somebody. And if I’m ever in a position where I would need some help of any sort, I would hope that the kind people in my community would help me. It’s a little thing that just makes me feel really good.”
Chris Simpson, who teaches business at Grand Island High School, said teaming up with Hunt Real Estate for a food drive worked well for the school: “Our school does so many things for the community now.”
Chris added school groups that are involved with community service include the DECA group, the National Academy of Finance, and the yearbook club. In addition, “We have a class that does a lot of community service. We’ve done Make-A-Wish. We’ve done Educators of America, Lupus Foundation, Muscular Dystrophy Association, and Relay For Life. Since my wife is one of the real estate agents in the Hunt office, it was a good match. So, we got some donations from the school and from the yearbook club, as well, to help her with the delivery and drop off.”
Hector Lopez, who has been a real estate salesperson with Hunt Real Estate for the past two months, said, “It’s amazing to feel like part of the community and to get interactions with people that way. It goes beyond real estate and selling houses. It’s connecting with people. So, anyway you connect with people, it’s nice.”
Emma Hawke, also a real estate salesperson with Hunt Real Estate, said, “I’m excited about (the food drive). It’s nice to get out in the community and help, especially around the holidays. It’s important to me, especially with being from Buffalo. We’re all in this together, so I think it’s important to come together as a community.”
Rebecca Simpson receives a donation sent via Venmo from Robin Gibson, who said she was grateful to give back to the Neighbors Foundation.
The needs in the community have been greater this year than in past years, said Dave Conboy, president of the Grand Island Neighbors Foundation.
“We are at an all-time high for demand for our services,” he said. “We’ll help all Islanders. We’ll help folks who are in need. It’s a tough situation for everybody. They are trying to make ends meet, and we are trying to increase the amount that we are able to give to folks who are in need. We are only able to do that through the generosity of Grand Islanders. So overwhelmed in a good way by the generosity of Rebecca, by Hunt Real Estate, by others. The people of Grand Island not only are good neighbors in general, but they are particularly good neighbors for those who are less fortunate or find themselves in need, like, from time to time, all of us are in need.
“We’re available for folks that need assistance, so they can call us; but also, we’re available for folks who would like to donate, whether it’s canned goods or cash or anything else. We gratefully accept it, and I always try to emphasize that we are all volunteers, so every dollar that we get or every canned good that we get goes directly and wholly to help people. And so, we feel fortunate to be able to help the Island community, and we’re profoundly grateful for the generosity that’s all around us.”
Causes for increased demand for the services of the Neighbors Foundation include the effects of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as inflation, which have affected the cost of food.
People who contributed to the food drive also had the option of entering a basket raffle. The Buffalo Bills basket that was raffled off held five bottles of Buffalo Bills wine, as well as a Josh Allen leaping topper from Shannon Zaccharia, owner of Popular Graphics and La Grande Ile at 2055 Baseline Road.
Contributions to the Neighbors Foundation can be made online. The Grand Island Neighbors Foundation website can be found at https://www.gineighbors.org/.
“If there’s a memo spot, (donors are) more than welcome to put the Hunt Real Estate fundraiser or Hunt Real Estate food drive, if they want to do that,” Rebecca said. She had not set any fundraising goals for the food drive.
“The level of my success is even one donation makes me successful,” Rebecca said. “I am filled with so much happiness and joy when I give to other people.”
Rebecca Simpson, Emma Hawke and Dave Conboy show off nonperishable food donated to the Grand Island Neighbors Foundation.