After stay-at-home orders cancelled Louie Kazemier’s plans to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his dairy farm with an open-house party, he decided to shift gears and help out the community instead.
“My family still wanted to do something to serve the community in a different way,” said Kazemier, owner of Rickreall Dairy in Rickreall, Oregon. “So, we gathered our resources and came up with an idea to ‘pay it forward’ to the community that has supported us for 30 years.”
The family decided to do a food giveaway. “With so many families out of work right now, we understood that food insecurity is also increasing,” said Kazemier’s daughter, Stacy Foster. “We weren’t sure if a few pounds of ground beef and milk would really make much of a difference, but we wanted to try just the same.”
They were shocked by the positive response from the community. “We posted information about the event on the dairy’s Facebook page, and within a few days the post had been shared over 700 times,” said Foster. “We had no idea it would get that kind of response.”
“People have been so supportive and encouraging,” said Kazemier. “It has been a great reminder that we are loved and supported in our little town.”
The day of the event brought people out in large numbers. “We started to panic when cars were lining up at 12:30,” said Foster. The event didn’t officially start until 2:00, and yet people chose to drive in and wait in their vehicles. At 1:45 there were approximately 80 vehicles lined up to receive food. “We started to question if we would have enough, and if we were going to be giving enough to each family,” she said.
Every car received four pounds of ground beef donated by Rickreall Dairy, two half-gallons of milk and four 14-ounce containers of chocolate milk donated by the dairy’s processor, Darigold, and a bag of potatoes donated by Farmers and FFA Fighting Hunger in Oregon.
In the end, giving back to the community felt much more meaningful than a party, said Kazemier as he watched his family and employees pull together to help the community. “My family has always been pretty close, but anytime we can all work together on a project like this it brings out the best in all of us, ” he said.
“We served approximately 430 families in our community,” said Kazemier. The food was gone by 3:45. “It was tough to have to turn people away. We learned that the need in our community is immense,” he said.
The dairy community as a whole has understood that hunger in the U.S. is going to be a serious problem until people are able to go back to work. That’s why dairy farmers and processors across the nation are increasing their donations to food banks and school meal programs to help people in need of nourishment. Many, like Rickreall Dairy, are quietly making contributions without seeking recognition or accolades.“We just pray that this random act of kindness will give everyone the hope they need as we all struggle through these crazy times,” said Kazemier.
Stacy Foster, who is quoted in this story, serves as the Industry Relations and Communications Manager for the Oregon Dairy and Nutrition Council.