Hickory Farms CEO Mark Rodriguez breaks down a box as other Hickory Farms employees pack food boxes at the Toledo Northwestern Ohio Food Bank in Toledo, Wednesday, August 10, 2011.
THE BLADE/DAVE ZAPOTOSKY
For a few hours yesterday morning, there was no summer sausage, no blocks of fancy cheeses, no sales calls, or holiday planning to worry about for about 90 employees of Hickory Farms Inc. of Maumee
But there was food, and toilet tissue, and tons of other staples that needed to be prepared for distribution to needy families across eight counties from the Toledo Northwest Ohio Food Bank's small warehouse on Erie Street near downtown.
And for Molly Wyrick, that was enough motivation to work up a good head of steam as she tore into box after emptied box of donated food and other items.
"I look forward to this," said Ms. Wyrick, whose regular job is working as a buyer for the famous food gifting company. "It's an opportunity to work with other employees that we don't normally get to work with."
Like many companies, Hickory Farms has found ways to give back to its community by volunteering time and donating funds to fight hunger.
That effort involves everyone at the company -- from out-of-town sales managers to Chief Executive Officer Mark Rodriguez -- working at the food bank to prepare and fill boxes that moved methodically down a long assembly line.
As the boxes rolled by, Hickory Farms volunteers placed cereal, snacks, and canned fruit and vegetables in them before sealing up the whole package.
"This is our third year of doing a community service project in connection with our company meeting," said Mr. Rodriguez, who donned shorts, tennis shoes, and his own dark red T-shirt to join his employees.
"If you talk to our team, they'll tell you it's one of the best things that we do all year because of the camaraderie and the ability to give back to our community," Mr. Rodriguez said.
Because it's a food company, Hickory Farms has developed a strong bond with a Washington organization called Share Our Strength, which works to fight hunger in the United States. That organization's CEO, Chuck Scofield, flew into Toledo to help out on the assembly line at the Food Bank.
"It's incredibly important what Hickory Farms is doing here," Mr. Scofield said.
He said Hickory Farms has raised about $1.1 million so far for his organization's No Kid Hungry campaign.
"While money and donations are wonderful, they're really rolling up their sleeves here to fight hunger," Mr. Scofield said. "It's a wonderful example of corporate America giving back."
-- Larry Vellequette