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Hunting for a Hunger Solution

Businesses, hunters join together to help Lorton Community Action Center feed hungry families.

What do a nursery, a women's organization, a food pantry and a butcher have in common?

All are combining their efforts to feed needy families in Fairfax County this winter, with neighbors in Springfield and Lorton chipping in to help.

Terry Crownfield, an employee at Silverbrook Nursery in Lorton and a member of the Springfield Woman's Club, has organized a fund raiser for the Lorton Community Action Center that she hopes will bring in canned goods and donations of fresh venison.

"I started working with Hunters for the Hungry a few years ago, when the guy I'm dating wanted a venison roast but couldn't go hunting," Crownfield said. She contacted the organization and traded the transport of a load of processed venison to a food pantry in Alexandria for the roast.

A former employee at Silverbrook, John Meagher, has recently left the nursery to work as the Nutrition Program Coordinator at the Lorton Community Action Center, which led Crownfield to wonder what kind of help her coworkers could provide.

"John didn't know what was needed, but he said that their meat selection was down to just two bags of frozen hot dogs," Crownfield said. "I remembered Hunters for the Hungry and immediately got on the phone."

She called up the organization's Winchester office and asked if the LCAC could be included in their program.

"Local hunters provide the deer to Hunters for the Hungry, and they pay for it to be processed," Crownfield said.

Luckily, one of the butchers at the Springfield Butchers is a member of Hunters for the Hungry and was willing to help out.

"Anyone can drop off a deer to be processed if they don't want the meat," said Mike Preast, a butcher at Springfield Butcher who is also a member of Hunters for the Hungry. "We try to use all of the meat so nothing goes to waste.

WHILE THE DEER are usually processed into steaks, roasts and ground meat, LCAC has requested all the meat be ground, as it is easier for their clients to use.

Meagher said he just picked up the first delivery of venison a little over a week ago, 39 pounds of meat that will go to some of their clients.

The donations are coming at a trying time for LCAC, when their shelves are just about empty due to slow donations in the summer and early fall.

"Our client load just about doubled over the summer from last year," Meagher said. "Most of our donations come in during the fall and spring so we're looking at almost empty shelves right now."

Each week, LCAC gives out between 3,500 and 4,000 pounds of food to their client families, he said, and the client list is growing.

Both Silverbrook Nursery and Springfield Butchers are sponsoring a canned food donation drive inside their businesses, where customers can drop off goods for LCAC.

The canned food drive will last through Saturday, Dec. 23, but hunters who have deer they want to donate can do so for the duration of both the bow and arrow and shotgun seasons.

TO HELP DEFRAY the cost of processing the deer, the General Federation of Woman's Clubs local chapter, the Woman's Club of Springfield, has donated over $500 to Hunters for the Hungry.

It costs $35 on average to process a deer, according to the Hunters for the Hungry brochure, so the Woman's Club donation could cover the cost of processing just over 14 deer.

Preast said he'll continue to process venison after the donation runs out.

"We'll process however many deer they bring us," he said.

Barbara Kiker, president of the Woman's Club of Springfield, said her organization gives away over $20,000 to charitable organizations every year.

"It's unbelievable in this day and age that people still go hungry," she said. "We like to support programs like this. We're a little group of women who make a big difference."

Crownfield is a member of the Woman's Club and introduced the idea during a recent meeting, Kiker said.

"I had never heard about LCAC or Hunters for the Hungry before this," she said. "It seemed a natural fit that we'd help out."

Jerry Haley, owner of Silverbrook Nursery, said his company and Springfield Butchers are also going to reward people who bring in between five and 25 pounds of canned goods with a gift card for their respective companies. Every pound of food will add $1 of value to the gift card, so someone who donates 25 pounds of food at Silverbrook Nursery will receive a $25 gift card there.

"The people at LCAC really know what their clients need because they're constantly in touch with them on a day-to-day basis," Haley said.