Tag Archives: Potato Project

Saint Minnie

This past Saturday, we lost a true saint. Minnie Bassett Lane  went to her heavenly reward, and the world is lesser for it. Her funeral was yesterday.

Minnie and her husband B. B. (who passed away in 2004) were people of abiding faith and active members of Lane Memorial United Methodist Church in Altavista, Virginia. Both were deeply caring people, and that caring and compassion was reflected throughout their lives.

Minnie was a small woman physically, but the quiet strength of her personality and her boundless energy were absolutely contagious. Her grace and charm were real, and her ability to bring people together was nothing less than astounding. Her life was a true demonstration of Christian faith in action.

In 1956 she and B. B. created the Minnie and Bernard Lane Foundation specifically to reduce hunger, help the needy and expand the Christian faith both internationally and throughout Central Virginia. Minnie also worked tirelessly to help break down the race barriers that existed in Altavista and Virginia. In 1974 Minnie was named “Altavista’s Outstanding Citizen.” Her efforts were recognized by the NAACP  in 2003 with their Community Service Award. She was also honored with the Lynchburg Humanitarian Award in 2007.

I knew Minnie through the Society of St. Andrew, my first nonprofit. At the point where Ken Horne and I had exhausted our limited ability to raise the necessary financial resources to keep the Potato Project going and growing, Saint Minnie stepped in and took us under her wing.

She not only made sure Ken and I received excellent training in fundraising, she undergirded our fundraising efforts with timely and strategic financial injections from the foundation. But more than that she truly became our own patron saint.

She hosted introductory breakfasts and luncheons for us. She introduced us to friends and  others she knew who could help us grow.She took Ken and I to New York to meet with possible donors. She worked tirelessly to expand our network. Her participation and help were directly responsible  for the success of this ongoing ministry that continues to feed millions of hungry citizens throughout the United States.

Minnie cared. And everyone who was privileged to know her knew she cared. Her life was a constant reflection of God’s love. Minnie was a saint, and she will be missed.

a true means of hope

The Church… has a unique role to play, for the estrangement experienced by modern humanity flows fundamentally from the loss of true community. That is what the band of those committed to the Good News can restore. A beginning point for their witness is the setting forth of a model for community which rests on new values and embodies the first signs of a New Order in the world. Economically, socially, racially, and spiritually, such new communities can point the way to the rest of the world, and become true means of hope for us all to build a future of promise and creativity. – Mark Hatfield

In June 1979, almost thirty-three years ago, several of us began the Society of St. Andrew, which we called “an intentional community for covenant living.” We were attempting to accomplish exactly what Senator Hatfield is describing in the above quoted statement. We were trying to model a community based on relationships rather than consumerism and acquisition. Just how effective our witness was is up to question, but the impact of such a new model for community on those of us within the Society of St. Andrew was profound.

And from that new model has come a great number of effective and powerful national and international programs for the poor and hungry that continue to save hundreds of thousands lives every year. The Potato Project, the Harvest of Hope, the Gleaning Network, and the Virginia Hunters for the Hungry all provide millions of meals for hungry citizens in this country. And Stop Hunger Now works in over 65 nations providing  millions of meals annually to school children who otherwise would not eat.

What means the most to me is that all these programs are volunteer driven. Not only are millions being fed, hundreds of thousands of compassionate and caring people are provided the opportunity to reach out and make a real difference in the lives of those most in need. That’s not too bad for just one attempt to develop a new model of community. As my first and favorite bishop was fond of saying,”that’s definitely no small thing.” Maybe new models of community are a true means of hope.

the too-sweet smell of rotting food

He looked at the piles of food again, and it was like he was seeing it with new eyes. “This is wrong”, he thought, “Letting food rot while people die of hunger. It’s evil.”….
He breathed in the too-sweet smell of rotting food, “I can stop this evil.

This passage from Margaret Haddix’s book, Among the Enemy, brings back all too vivid memories of the piles of rotting potatoes that were the catalyst for the the Society of Saint Andrew’s “Potato Project.” Once you smell 50-60,000 pounds of decomposing potatoes…well, it’s something that is hard to forget. Let’s just say it sticks with you.

I was privileged to live on Virginia’s Eastern Shore for two years while I was the pastor of the three rural United Methodist Churches that composed the Oak Hall Charge. It was a great two years. My son started first grade there, and one day when he got off the bus he excitedly told me about the enormous piles of potatoes he had seen in the woods during his bus ride home from school. A few days later, as I was out visiting church members I passed by the site and saw the rotting potatoes for myself.

It was actually almost four years later that those tons of rotting spuds manifested themselves into the beginnings of the Potato Project, yet the power of those rotting potatoes remains as strong for me today as it did over 35 years ago. The too-sweet smell of rotting food is an evil that is far too real in a world of hunger and malnutrition.

Reports now show that almost 40% of food grown for human consumption is wasted in the United States. That’s around $165,000,000,000 ($165 BILLION) worth food being wasted every year. “It’s evil…” and we can stop it.

The Society of Saint Andrew’s Potato Project and it’s Gleaning Network are perfect examples of how to help. Since these programs began they have kept billions of servings of nutritious produce from being wasted, and have made sure that produce has reached the plates of the poor and hungry here in the United States.

Working together we can end hunger in our lifetime. Getting rid of the too-sweet smell of rotting food is a good place to start.