YOUNGSTOWN - Eight-year-old Braxton Hollis is one of the many individuals helping to make a difference in the tri-county area by collecting food so others won't go hungry.
Second Harvest Food Bank this week kicked off its 22nd annual Harvest for Hunger campaign. The monthlong food and fund drive helps the food bank stock up for summer months when donations traditionally decrease and children are home from school.
Mike Iberis, executive director of the food bank, said last year the food bank was able to distribute more than 9 million pounds of food, the most it has ever been able to provide throughout the tri-county area.
Hollis, a Howland Springs student and son of Matthew and Courtnie Hollis, has collected food items for the past two years.
"It's nice to help people out and know you are making a difference in the world. I really enjoy doing this and wanted to do something," he said.
Iberis said, "Braxton is the food bank's newest friend. We are very impressed by what he was able to do. He shows that one person can make a difference. It means so much for us to see people like Braxton helping us. So if you think you can't make a difference, just think of Braxton."
When Braxton was on vacation last year watching the Food Network he told his parents he wanted to turn the garage into a place to collect food to help feed people in need. His parents said he would not let the idea go and even saved some of his vacation money to help do something when he got home.
Braxton learned of Second Harvest Food Bank where he could take the donations
In 2011 at age 6, Braxton began collecting food items at his family's garage and collected 580 pounds of food from friends and neighbors. In 2012, he set a goal of 600 pounds and collected 840 pounds of items.
Rick Stevens, board president for the food bank, said last year more than $160,000 was raised and more than 41,000 pounds of food was collected in the 2012 campaign.
"That goes a long way to help meet the needs of the community so no one in the tri-county area goes hungry," he said.
Officials said 50 food drives are planned for March. They said 15,000 people visit the more than 150 local food pantries each week in the tri-county area.
"This community is incredible. It seems like every time you ask for help the people of this community come together. They're starting to see friends and neighbors more and more need help," Iberis said.
Jeff Mitchell, regional manager of Giant Eagle, said the area stores take part the next month in Check Out Hunger where customers can donate items to the food bank. He said last year $63,000 was donated. Monetary donations and canned food donation may be made at Giant Eagle and Sparkle Market.
Iberis said 50 percent of the children attending schools in the tri-county areas are on free and reduced lunches because their families are at or below the poverty level.
Becky Miller, manager of resource development with the food bank said any group or individual interested in supporting the effort by conducting a food drive can call 330-792-5522, Ext. 11, or the website at www.mahoningvalleysecondharvest.org.