Families receive food, encouragement
At 7:30 AM there was a line of cars that stretched from the warehouse parking lot, onto the road and weaved its way out of sight. With an hour and a half left before the event was scheduled to begin, this was a true sign of the struggle caused in Union Parish by the COVID-19 Pandemic and the resulting economic shut down.
At 8:30 all volunteers and project coordinators gathered for final instructions. Karl Malone personally thanked all volunteers, urged everyone to be careful and not get too hot, and a prayer was spoken over those helping and especially over those in line waiting for the gifts they were about to receive, and the Karl Malone Foundation for Kids Union Parish Food Project was under way.
In preceding weeks, Malone saw the pandemic and resulting hardships unfolding and realized early on the resulting impact on those already struggling. The loss of working hours, wages and jobs put a strain on those families who depend on every penny to feed their families. Malone decided that something needed to be done to help. “When you see people hurting and nobody is doing anything about it, it’s heartbreaking,” said Malone.
Kay Malone recalls watching the news and seeing food processing plants having to throw away food and she looked at Karl and said, “We need to just buy it and give it. We are blessed and fortunate to be able to help others in need.” That was all the encouragement Malone needed.
He called on his family, some business partners, and others willing to help and they came up with a plan. Project coordinator Byron Avery, general manager and editor of The Farmerville Gazette, coordinated the donors, contributors, and volunteers. In only nine days this amazing team raised $50,000 and turned that into $200,000 worth of food. This food consisted of basic staples like cereal, macaroni and cheese, rice and canned goods. Also included were fruits, vegetables, bread, a case of bottled water and each family got 80 pounds of chicken.
For hours and hours and hours volunteers handed out boxes, bags, and cases of food that for many of these families meant that for at least a short time, no one would go to bed with a stomach aching with hunger.
Watching the day unfold was heartwarming, incredible and awe inspiring. Many volunteers came on Friday to put together more than six hundred boxes and pack them with food. Some of those same volunteers came back Saturday, along with many others, to make the day a grand success. Boxes of food, sacks of fruit and potatoes, cases of water and pounds of chicken were placed into vehicle after vehicle after vehicle. Each vehicle, each family and each individual were extremely grateful. Kay was right on the front lines as she was placing boxes of food into each vehicle. She got to see firsthand the impact this project had on those who were desperate. “I have never been blessed more in my life as today. Everybody I have blessed, they would bless me,” Kay said.
That blessing she received was evident in the emotion in her voice and her watery eyes as she said, “I could cry right now because seeing the faces of other people that appreciate this,” Kay said, “and just the feeling of community that we have all come together made this day incredible.”
Another extremely hard worker on this day was Kadee Malone, daughter of Karl and Kay. Kadee, co-owner and manager at Legends in Ruston, worked tirelessly all day not taking one single break even though she was right there in the sun and in charge of keeping traffic flowing smoothly and making sure that each vehicle got what it needed. “This day meant so much to me,” said Kadee, “it was an opportunity for us to give back to a community that has taken us in as a family and supported us in so many ways.” Watching Kadee speak to people in each vehicle and watching her efficiently and effortlessly work her magic, it is easy to see why they call her “Boss Lady.” When asked how she felt the day went, Kadee replied, “I would say it went pretty well since we have been out here all day and there are still cars lined up down the road and more than the numbers is seeing people smile. Seeing people smile is like the best gift I could ask for.”
The response to this event was almost overwhelming. When it became evident halfway through the day that the line was not growing shorter and that many might go without, volunteers went to work putting together more boxes and utilizing every box, can, and bag available so that every family would leave with food. “It was so great to see everyone come together,” said Avery, “all the Malone family, Mayor Stein Baughman, Councilman Jerry Taylor, Sheriff Dusty Gates, FPD Chief Bim Coulberston, Judge Bruce Hampton, Judge Jay McCallum, and all the many volunteers who showed up to make this day possible.”
After an eight-hour day, approximately 1,000 families had been gifted with food. However, everyone, volunteers and recipients alike had been gifted with the spirit of community, love, support and kindness. “Something had to be done,” said Karl, “and Governor Edwards has his hands full so we did it this way and we helped people, but we were also able to inspire others. It doesn’t matter what your skin color is, where you live or what you do, you are going to need somebody’s help. It doesn’t matter if you are Karl Malone or President Trump, you are going to need somebody’s help.”
The Malone Family and all those who helped make this project such an amazing success challenge you to look around. Look around and see who needs help. What can you do to make someone else’s world a better place? It might be helping one person or one family, but every act of kindness inspires another act of kindness. And it is obvious that this world needs every single act of kindness we can give. “I just want to say to everybody, the sponsors, the donors, the volunteers, thank you. Some of them gave what they could give, some of them gave more than they could afford to give and some didn’t give at all,” said Karl, “For the ones who didn’t who are reading this, it could be a friend of yours or even a family member. So next time around, you might want to get off your ass, on your feet, out the shade, and in the heat.”
Most memorable on this amazing day was the feeling of community and overwhelming love and gratitude for one’s fellow man. Each person asked about how the day went did not speak of numbers or sweat, or exhaustion. Each and every person talked about how full their hearts were and how giving back to the community was a reward that cannot be measured. “For those who gave of their money, time, and effort, thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” said Karl, “to the ones who gave but couldn’t really afford to, you’re my hero. To the ones who didn’t give, but could have, you inspire us to keep going.”
The Malone Family and those who partnered with them intend to keep serving the communities of north Louisiana. “We love all of Louisiana,” said Karl, “but I am passionate to the death about North Louisiana and to be able to do this means everything.” This event pulled together in nine days by a crew of dedicated and determined individuals exceeded all expectations. The office of Governor Edwards personally called Karl and thanked him for Saturday and for the willingness of this community to pull together in this period of uncertainty and fear. Those who gave and helped should be commended, but in the end they are the ones who were gifted…, not with a pat on the back, but with the smiling faces of those whom they had helped.