By Brian Smith
The FanZone at Dover International Speedway was bouncing as usual on a fall Sunday just prior to the “AAA 400” NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, with all sorts of different attractions and games for fans to enjoy. But this year, there was also an opportunity for fans to give back, and meet a big-time NASCAR face as a reward.
The Food Bank of Delaware teamed with JP Morgan Chase and AARP in an initiative to support the Drive to End Hunger, the sponsor of Jeff Gordon’s No. 24 Chevrolet. Fans were asked to spend a few minutes helping to pack a box of food that will eventually make its way to a senior citizen in need of a meal. The first 300 fans to participate were given a pass to a question-and-answer session with Gordon later that morning.
There is an existing program at the Food Bank of Delaware that packs similar boxes for seniors, so the organization brought that program to the Monster Mile.
“What we’ve done is we’ve staged one of those events here so that the folks that are going through the line are actually making those boxes,” said Patricia Beebe, the president and CEO of the Food Bank of Delaware. “We’ll distribute the boxes that they’re making up. It’s a way for us to educate people about the needs that are out there for senior citizens, because people frequently forget about that population. Plus it gets us a lot of stuff done!”
The Food Bank distributes 3,000 boxes per month like the ones made up at Dover, so it’s a small dent in their monthly efforts. But it’s part of a much larger effort by Drive to End Hunger, and it’s supported as well by JP Morgan Chase and AARP.
“A couple years ago, the AARP Foundation was looking to partner with Jeff on the Drive to End Hunger,” said Mike Rittler, the general manager of affinity and retail partnerships for Chase. “They approached us about being a part of it and we were excited to accelerate donations to the foundation for the Drive to End Hunger. We put a program together where we give three cents for every usage of the card and a dollar for every new card that goes into the foundation for the AARP Drive to End Hunger. It’s been a great partnership.”
Through that setup, Chase donated nearly $2 million to the AARP Foundation for Drive to End Hunger.
“We’re happy to do this, even if it wasn’t to see Jeff,” said Brandi Jessup of Bensalem, Pa., who was helping out with her husband and son, with the latter decked out in Jeff Gordon gear. “We think it’s important to help people out who need it, and we try to do that whenever we can.”