There’s a hunter enrolled in the eighth grade out at McCord Junior High who doesn’t know it, but he qualifies as a contemporary version of one of the Wise Men from the original story of Christmas.
This young man understands one of the foundational messages of Christmas. He doesn’t need a minister banging his fist on the pulpit or shaking the Holy Bible in the air to understand that we should care for our fellow human beings.
Luke Dunlap has been hunting since he was 6 or 7 years old, and at 14 he’s already harvested more than a dozen deer. Every one of them has been donated to a program that adds vital protein to the meals of many less fortunate individuals at area soup kitchens.
With a minimum of 50 pounds of processed meat per animal, each one of those harvested deer has fed 200 people. It’s not gold, frankincense, or myrrh, but something more practical. Luke’s gift is food for the hungry.
Young Dunlap’s contributions to the needy have been made through the Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry (FHFH) program, which provides a highly nutritional addition to the often modest fare at many outlets that feed the disadvantaged.
FHFH is a national organization, and the Northwest Ohio Chapter was the first in the state of Ohio, serving Fulton, Lucas, Ottawa, Wood, and Hardin counties for more than 10 years. There are now 32 chapters around the state, according to Luke’s father Allen Dunlap, who started the local donation program with his twin brother Arthur.
“We’ve been sportsmen and conservationists all our lives, and when we heard about this, we felt like it was something we needed to do,” Allen Dunlap said. “We knew there was a need in our area, and there is a great satisfaction in knowing that you can give something back to the community and really help others with such a basic necessity as food.”
A grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and other private funds help cover the costs of processing the venison and meat donated from farm eeeeeeeeelivestock. The impact is substantial, in a somewhat loaves-and-fishes kind of way.
“These donations are a huge help, because we are providing healthy, balanced and nutritious meals, and the meat products are so essential,” said the Rev. Daniel Rogers, president of Cherry Street Mission. “We serve 900 meals a day, and this is a significant help to the service we are striving to bring. We love the program.”
The deer meat was served at Cherry Street Mission on Monday night.
During the 2012 deer hunting season, Ohio hunters donated 1,405 white-tailed deer to local food banks and soup kitchens. That amounted to about 70,250 pounds of venison and more than 280,000 meals for the needy.
“In the spirit of the holidays, Ohio’s deer hunters have shown they are willing to donate venison to those in need,” Division of Wildlife Chief Scott Zody said. “We encourage all hunters to enjoy the rest of the hunting season and to consider donating extra harvested deer to this worthy cause.”
Allen Dunlap said he sees the FHFH program and others similar to it filling a very important gap that the kitchens for the needy continually face.
“Businesses and individuals are very generous and these places receive donations of grocery items, but the thing they don’t get is meat,” he said. “If hunters and farmers can help out in that area and put this essential food on the table, then I feel great about that.”
Besides providing grant funds to help cover the cost of processing the venison, the Division of Wildlife also donates venison and fish confiscated from wildlife law violators. The Victory Temple Soup Kitchen in Sandusky received more than 100 whole walleye along with 100 pounds of venison this year. A local fish processor cleans the fish at no cost.
The Sandusky County Food Pantry soon will receive the venison from four deer seized following a recent case of hunting violations, and in a charming move of wisdom from the bench, the court has ordered the defendants in the case to pay the processing fee.
Eight deer seized during investigations of wildlife law violations in Huron County have been donated to the Norwalk Food Bank, feeding the needy with approximately 1,600 meals. Whether the meat and fish comes from seizures related to court cases, or through the generosity of hunters and farmers, the bottom line is that protein ends up on the plates of the needy.
“It is truly heart-warming to once again see this community demonstrate just how good it is,” Rev. Rogers said. “All of us have been through tough times at some point in our lives, and when people see others in need, they respond tremendously.”
Allen Dunlap said it is nice that the timing of the deer season allows area hunters to provide fresh venison for the facilities in the area that assist others, but he sees the lesson of Christmas and giving to others extending throughout the year with his son Luke.
“What better way to teach your kids about the sense of caring for your community, than to have them see the faces of people in need,” Allen Dunlap said. “I’m a firm believer in doing things as a family, and this gives us an opportunity to hunt together, and together we can share what we harvest with those who truly are in need.”
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