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The 7,700 pounds of food donated so far would last only a day at CCS pantry.

The fair's attempt to raise money for Church Community Services is off to a slow start, but organizers are hopeful donations will pick up for the last half of the fair.

Posted on July 23, 2013 at 1:00 a.m. | Updated on July 23, 2013 at 6:51 p.m.

GOSHEN — The good news is that fairgoers have donated enough money and canned goods to amount to more than 7,700 pounds of food for Elkhart County food pantries.

The bad news is that much food will only last a little over a day at Church Community Services, the charity on the receiving end of the Elkhart County 4-H Fair’s food and fund drive.

It’s far short of the lofty goal set by fair organizers. They aimed to raise $250,000 — enough to provide 1.25 million pounds of food — through the course of the fair, but as of Tuesday afternoon, halfway through the fair, only $1,493.61 had been donated, said Mary Nisley, the fair board member who’s coordinating the donation drive.

“We need help,” Nisley said. “If you break it down to $1 a person, it’s attainable,” she said.

Gwen Hershberger, volunteer coordinator at CCS, said the need is solid. “We have 2,300 families come in every month, and they take home about 75 pounds of food” from the food pantry, and CCS also runs the food bank that serves other food pantries.

“Putting a dollar in that bucket will buy five pounds of food,” Hershberger said.

There are donation points at all of the gates into the fairgrounds, and while Nisley hoped for more, Hershberger said the charity is thankful for what they’ve received so far. “It’s wonderful. We are so grateful to this county for all they do.”

Nisley said “it is the first year, and we’re hoping to continue this in the future. I’m excited. The donations stay in Elkhart County. It’s the community helping the community, and that’s what the fair is all about. We’d love to have people donate. We’ve got four more days,” she said Tuesday, July 23.

On Friday, July 26, people who donate what Nisley called “the three Cs” — “cash, coins or canned goods” — will get a free ride ticket, and she hopes that spurs donations.

Hershberger said, “I know everybody doesn’t want to bring a canned good. Every dollar helps.”

She also said the food bank and food pantry would be grateful again to receive a donation of a 4-H animal following Friday’s 4-H auction, a gift made last year by a 4-H member. “We’re open to any animal that’s sold during the fair,” she said, though regulations require it to be processed at a USDA-approved facility, she said.

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