Christmas concert at mall in Niles benefits hungry families in Valley

By Jordan Cohen


At first, Sharon Jay, 10, just assumed that she and the other members of Boardman’s West Boulevard Elementary Children’s Chorus were at Eastwood Mall to sing Christmas carols. Then she learned otherwise.

“They announced that we were here for the food bank, and I’m happy,” she said. “Also I think people liked it.”

The annual concert performances are a highlight of 21 WFMJ-TV’s Project Feed our Valley, now in its fifth year of fundraising for Second Harvest Food Bank of the Mahoning Valley.

According to figures provided by Second Harvest, the project has generated nearly $218,000 in cash contributions and more than 256,000 pounds of food for needy families in Mahoning, Trumbull and Columbiana counties.

“This is a call to action,” Scott Schneider, WFMJ news anchor, told the crowd of shoppers.

“We get nearly 13,000 requests a week for help with food,” said Becky Miller, Second Harvest resource-development manager.

“Last year we distributed 8.4 million pounds of food, and I’m sure we’ll be distributing at least 9 million pounds by the end of this year.”

Miller said the Cafaro Foundation has agreed to match every dollar contributed to the event up to $10,000 and that includes the food donations in which each can is considered to have a $1 value. Miller said that for every dollar donated, Second Harvest can distribute $15 worth of food.

A performance by the Children’s ROCcK Choir was particularly poignant. The group consists of young cancer survivors and their siblings. The lower-case “c” in ROCcK is the group’s way of showing that cancer will not control their lives.

“They’re here for cancer awareness and to help the food bank,” said Mike Howard, Boardman, whose son Michael, 7, is a leukemia survivor and the group’s youngest singer. The boy wore a surgical mask.

“He’s happy to be out of the hospital and in public,” Howard said. “He just wants to be a regular kid.”

Three large yellow containers began filling up with food while West Boulevard performed, but cash contributions were coming in as well.

Besides donations from shoppers at the mall’s Center Court, a number of businesses and organizations chipped in, including Thomas Steel Strip and United Steelworkers of America Local 3523, which represents the company’s employees.

Miller said that Second Harvest will not know for several days how much money the food bank will gain from Project Feed our Valley, but based upon pledges and the matching contribution from the Cafaro Foundation, she is optimistic.

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