EDMOND — In some ways, the Project 66 food bank is the spirit of Christmas past that keeps giving to thousands year-round.
The nonprofit, all-volunteer staff traces its beginnings to 2010 and the religious holiday. The ministry is a testament to one person’s vision to make a difference. That’s the way founder Melody Wilson tells the story.
“One year at Oklahoma Christian School, my daughter and I went out and tried to find someone who knew the true meaning of Christmas,” Wilson said. “We had a hard time then and decided we needed to get outside of our little bubble.”
Wilson had opened a restaurant in Arcadia and found there was poverty in the area. That’s when a telephone call was put into the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma. She asked if there was a need for a food bank in the Arcadia/Edmond area.
“They almost came right through the telephone line,” Wilson said. “They were so excited and needed a presence here.”
The next step was to get a building. They found one in Arcadia for $100 a month through former Chesapeake CEO Aubrey McClendon. With the building on State Highway 66, with its heritage as Route 66, that’s where the operation and name started.
Today, Project 66 has moved to Edmond, and the need remains. The pantry’s goal is to make sure a family gets enough food for a week.
In addition to basic food, the pantry keeps a supply of soap and cleaning materials.
Also always on hand is another basic: toilet paper. Wilson remembers a drive at Oklahoma Christian School where a student, instead of wanting birthday gifts, made an appeal for toilet paper. The pantry was swamped with it, and it was very welcomed by one woman. After a job loss, the family was nearly out of money and had given away their pets.
“She came in and only had 63 cents in her purse,” Wilson said. “She was so happy to see the toilet paper because she had just run out of it at home and wasn’t sure how she would get any more. It really touched my heart, and since then, I’ve always made sure we have toilet paper.”
Over the years, the needs and the budget have grown. Today, about $40,000 is needed annually — most going for rent, utilities and the most important purchase, food. There are tentative plans for Project 66’s own building.
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