Before he saw a long line at a food pantry in DeWitt a couple of years ago, area farmer Thayn Morton had no idea how many people in his hometown faced food insecurity.
Taking matters into his own hands, Morton enlisted the business expertise of Brad Chambless, senior vice president at Farmers & Merchants Bank. The pair formed a board of volunteers, and named their new charity Acres of Help.
After the group’s first fundraising banquet, Acres of Help started assisting community members in need, as well as other charity organizations that serve them. Today, Morton admits that he underestimated the farming community’s generosity.
“I was floored at the dollar amount we ended up with,” says Morton, “I could not believe it. We started thinking, if we could get $20,000-$25,000 (at the charity’s first banquet), that would be a big help. But we walked out of there with nearly $130,000.
“It just grew from there, and we’ve been able to help out a lot of these groups.”
That first banquet, in February 2013, saw 225 members of the agriculture industry make pledges that would help charities in the area. A year later, more than $148,000 was raised from around 300 attendees.
This is all money that’s being dispersed where it’s most needed in Arkansas County.
“We wanted to make this agriculture-related, because that’s our theme,” says Chambless. “In farming, you plant one seed and reap the profits. We knew we wanted to help on the front end, but we’re not the ones who know where the ultimate needs lie. So we wanted to raise a dollar, plant that dollar in a charity, and let that charity reap the profits.”
Morton says once word got out about the nonprofit, he got nothing but good responses.
“Everyone we talked to was all in, and they were glad to help,” he says. “Farm-related businesses began calling us to let us know they’d like to help.
“It’s something any small community could do. It’s a very simple idea, and everybody wants to help. Man, if people did this in other places, it’d make a big difference.”