The Berry Family of Harrisonburg, Virginia, saw a local need related to food insecurity in their area. Dubbed the “Brent Berry Food Drive,” in honor of their son, Brent, the family took the initiative to help meet the need. This is a massive drive that they have conducted for 15 years, with the 2022 drive being the largest ever, collecting an estimated $65,000 in food and personal hygiene items for community members in need. They donate the collected items to the local Salvation Army, effectively stocking their pantry for a large portion of the year. Rather than being forced to choose between maintaining housing and having enough to eat for their children, the effort of this one family allows the local Salvation Army to generously serve around 300 families with the food obtained through this annual drive.
This past year’s food drive ran from November 25 through January 2 and during that time the Berry family personally staffed their primary collection location, Bridgewater Foods, for twelve hours a day, seven days a week, or roughly 456 hours per family member, not including the time they also spend planning the annual event. At the end of that time, four buses and a large trailer were filled full of food. Clerk of Court Chaz Haywood says, “The entire Berry family has relentless energy when it comes to getting community involvement.”
Bernt’s father, Bucky Berry, grew up not always knowing where his next meal was coming from. His family received help from the Salvation Army so they wouldn’t go hungry and that stuck with him into adulthood, and he felt motivated to provide that same generosity. Especially as the local Salvation Army has faced significant turnover in recent years, the Berry family has remained a consistent and stabilizing force for the organization and its volunteers, according to their nominator, Delegate Tony Wilt.
While the food drive has been their main act of service, they have not hesitated to take on other special projects to serve others. For example, when a neighbor lost his home to a house fire, the Berry family spearheaded the effort to ensure that he had what he needed to be comfortable when he moved to a new home that various organizations and churches came together to rebuild.
While the Berry family has successfully conducted the drive for 15 years, Bucky’s involvement fighting hunger dates back 30 years. There have been challenges along the way, including recent health issues for both Mr. and Mrs. Berry. Still, even from a rehabilitation facility, Bucky is at work on the next food drive. He’s not letting his health challenges get in the way of serving his community. “The selflessness of this family is remarkable and their efforts in our community are largely unmatched,” says Wilt.