The Making a Difference Foundation (which encompasses Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank), is one of five nonprofit organizations SUCCESS magazine is spotlighting during the week of Giving Tuesday. Early in November, we posted on our social media accounts asking followers to nominate a charity they felt was making an impact in their communities. We tallied up the nominations and are pleased to highlight the hard work these organizations are doing behind the scenes to better the lives of others.
In 2003, Ahndrea Blue went on a mission trip to Chile and Peru, where she built schools and helped feed people in need. When she returned home, she had a fire in her soul.
“I realized that we can all impact people’s lives,” says Blue, an attorney who also considers herself a missionary. Her trip inspired her to create the Making a Difference Foundation, which provides housing, food and words of encouragement to people who are struggling.
The Joy Box Ministry offers caring words in a time of need
In Peru, Blue learned that when a local woman was going through a difficult time, the other women in the village got together and wrote words of encouragement to drop off at the struggling woman’s house every day until her situation turned around. Learning about this custom sparked Blue’s idea for the Joy Box Ministry, which has been one of the leading programs at Making a Difference since conception.
Anyone going through a difficult time can be nominated for the program. The recipient gets an anonymous box containing five wrapped gifts and five personal letters written to them. Each day, the individual is instructed to read one letter and open one gift.
“We had a gentleman who was planning on dying by suicide. Somebody nominated him to receive a Joy Box. He got the box the morning that he thought would be his last day, and he changed his mind,” Blue explains. “The boxes always show up exactly, I believe, when people need them.”
At the time of this publication, Blue says the team has sent 6,000 Joy Boxes throughout the world.
The Making a Difference Foundation provides other local support
Aside from words of encouragement, the Making a Difference Foundation has several other programs including Homes for Veterans, through which the organization outright provides housing for veterans or helps them attain their own housing.
Blue believes that education is the greatest equalizer among people of color, so Making a Difference Foundation also provides scholarships to people matriculating around the country. The organization supports individuals in both college and trade school and just recently released 10 scholarships for the 2023–2024 school year.
Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank
The Making a Difference Foundation’s biggest project currently is the Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank. Eloise was Blue’s grandmother, who came from humble means but was generous nevertheless.
“Most people know that African American grandmothers have dinner on the table by 3 o’clock and it’s always from scratch. And that anybody who’s in the neighborhood can come eat at your table, no questions asked. As long as there’s a pot, there’s food to eat,” Blue explains.
She wanted others to have the same option: a place they could come to, no questions asked. Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank was established in 2008, and today, it’s the largest independent food bank in Pierce County, Washington, serving more than 70,000 people per month. They have 25 other miniature food banks around town, plus three mobile food banks servicing people who are in transition.
“We call people who are homeless ‘people who are in transition’ because we’re all one paycheck from being homeless,” Blue says. She explains that food insecurity is a huge issue where the organization is located. (In Pierce County in 2020, 34% of households were food insecure, and some estimates indicate that number has only increased since then.). The staff serve between 200 and 600 people each day.
Their drop-in sites offer prepackaged and fresh, organically grown food, are open five days a week for six hours each day and also offer hygiene products, baby supplies, household items and pet supplies. Home delivery services are available for elderly or disabled residents who cannot get to the food bank.
The organization strongly believes that people shouldn’t have to compromise on a healthy lifestyle when they are in transition from homelessness to establishing themselves. Aside from providing quality food to those in need, they offer classes on how to shop for and prepare healthy and delicious food on a budget.
Food cost is an issue
Before the pandemic, Eloise’s Cooking Pot Food Bank was serving 15,000 people a month. Due to the increase in both need for and cost of food (Blue says they are paying three times the amount she did before the pandemic), the Making a Difference Foundation is giving out over 1.5 million pounds of food. The organization purchases half the food wholesale and relies on individual contributors, donations, foundations and grants for the rest.
“People should have a right to food; people have to eat, and it is even more imperative today with the cost of rent and everything else that has increased in price,” Blue says. “People need food, and they need it desperately.”
Photo courtesy of The Making a Difference Foundation.
Jaclyn Greenberg writes about her experiences parenting as well as challenges related to accessibility and inclusion. She has written for The New York Times, CNN, Parents, Wired and other publications. Jaclyn is currently querying a memoir about advocacy and finding her voice.You can connect with her on Twitter at jl_greenberg or Instagram at JaclynlGreenberg.