Ann Arbor — For 15 years, local Boy Scout Troop 4, has hosted the “Tim Esch Scouting for Food Birthday Party” in honor of Eagle Scout Tim Esch. This year, the food drive was virtual, collecting the equivalent of 127,000 meals to support of Food Gatherers’ COVID-19 response in Washtenaw County.
Ann Arbor Troop 4 Boy Scouts participated in an annual food drive as part of their commitment to the Scout Promise to “help other people at all times.” For the last 15 years, the event has included a birthday party in honor of Tim Esch, a member of Troop 4 who passed away at the age of 18 in a tragic automotive accident.
Tim joined Troop 4 in 5th grade and enjoyed participating in the annual “Scouting for Food” food drive, going door-to-door to collect donations of non-perishable food. Tim’s mother, Jan Esch, notes that Tim was frequently one of the top food collectors in his troop. “He enjoyed Boy Scouts because he was just a friendly kid. We had very generous neighbors and he was just overwhelmed with how willing people were to participate.”
Tim achieved the rank of Eagle Scout at age 14 and stayed active in Troop 4 through high school. The year after Tim’s death in 2005, the Esch family and Troop 4 combined the annual food drive with a birthday party for Tim. Jan said the event provided a great way to remember Tim while supporting a good cause. “It was really fun and so helpful all the way round, it was very healing for us to be able to do something positive,” said Jan. “We had a lot of people in our neighborhood and our friends who said, ‘this is such a good idea, I can’t change your loss, but this is something I can do.’”
The event is now an annual tradition on the weekend of Tim’s birthday. Each spring, the Esch family invites the Troop 4 Scouts to bring the food they have collected to their house to fill Food Gatherers donation boxes while the family serves cupcakes. “It is so fun for the boys to be able to have the same feeling Tim did, look at all this stuff we’ve done,” said Jan. Annually, the food drive collects an average of 2,000 pounds of food.
This year because of public health guidelines, the food drive and birthday celebration was virtual, and Scouts asked for monetary donations to Food Gatherers rather than food donations. “It was really fun for the boys,” said Jan, “just like they watched the cans go into the boxes, they were able to watch the numbers grow online, and they got more and more excited every week.” Adding to the excitement, gifts to the fund drive were matched by a generous community donor. In the end, the virtual food drive raised the equivalent of 127,000 meals, a personal-best for the troop.
“I think a lot of our donors were generous and excited about being able to participate because they knew that Food Gatherers has been working like crazy and that the demand has gone up so much,” said Jan. “It’s that same kind of feeling of, we can’t stop the bad stuff but here’s something good we can do.”
Since mid-March Washtenaw County has experienced a significant rise in food insecurity, with Food Gatherers’ partners reporting a 30%-300% increase in demand. The virtual food drive provided an opportunity for the Scouts to learn about the needs of their community and take action to help others during the pandemic. “We are deeply honored to receive these donations made in memory of Tim Esch” said Eileen Spring, Food Gatherers President/CEO. “Tim’s commitment to fighting hunger where we live continues to make a significant impact in our community.”
About Food Gatherers
Food Gatherers’ mission is to alleviate hunger in Washtenaw County. As the food bank and food rescue program for the county, we distribute more than 6.6 million pounds of food to 170 non-profit programs serving approximately 44,500 low-income adults, seniors, and children every year. For a list of our partner programs, or to learn how you can become involved in the fight against hunger locally, please visit www.foodgatherers.org or call (734) 761-2796.