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Elkhart County 4-H Fair saw more participation in food drive this year

A 24-hour food drive means someone’s got to stay awake for 24 hours straight. 

Shelly Steury, co-organizer of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair’s food drive, led a team of tireless night owls Sunday, July 20, into Monday morning as they attempted to bring the most nonperishable food into the fairgrounds in 24 hours. 

The goal was to collect more than 560,000 pounds of food, breaking the Guinness World Record that was set by the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics food drive in 2011. 

At 1 p.m. Monday, July 21, the exhausted crew calculated they had 46,692 pounds. 

An estimated 17,000 pounds of food came in during the last hour alone.

“There’s over $100,000 worth of food here, easily,” food drive co-organizer Shelly Steury said Monday afternoon near where pallets of food were being loaded into trucks. “And when you look at it that way, this was a huge success. It wasn’t Guinness, but it was a huge success.”

She had the job of running to Martin’s Super Markets on Monday morning to convert cash donations into food. 

Steury estimated more than 100 volunteers, with supermarkets, 4-H clubs, and local groups such as Boy Scouts troops and Northridge Schools’ tennis and cheerleading teams were also involved.

Several members were awake during the wee hours of the food drive. Jill Fry of Middlebury was one of them. She brought a cot to the fairgrounds and fielded a small number of donations throughout the night. The fairgrounds’ security guards kept checking on them, she said, and ended up bringing donations of their own. 

Cathy Hoogenboom, who helped organize the drive along with Steury, became emotional talking about how many people participated in the fair’s world record attempt.

“People are just compassionate,” she said. “Everyone has said to me, we just want to help.”

All the food collected will go to Church Community Services, where it will help feed Elkhart County residents in need. Rob Roberson, executive director of the organization, said the food will serve more than 70 hot food sites and pantries in the area.

“Even though we didn’t break a world record, this is the largest food drive we’ve participated in,”  Roberson said. “This is really Elkhart County helping Elkhart County. That’s what makes it special.”

The 24 hour All In food drive is wrapping up at the 4-H fair. One more hour to donate! #ecfair

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