September is nationally recognized as Hunger Month, but for the Wills Group, addressing hunger is a year-round commitment. With our family of businesses, including Dash In, Splash In, and SMO Motor Fuels, we actively combat food insecurity in the communities we serve. Our signature Community Engagement program, Nourishing Children and Families, informs our efforts, from volunteer work to donations, ensuring that individuals facing food challenges get the assistance they need. Here’s a closer look at how the Wills Group addresses hunger in our communities.
Food Bank Partnerships
Throughout the year, the Wills Group partners with local and regional food banks. Whether through financial support or hands-on volunteering, these partnerships ensure that families in our communities have access to consistent and nutritious food supplies. Recent collaborations include:
- Capital Area Food Bank: Beyond providing over 50 million meals to DMV residents, the Capital Area Food Bank recently hosted our summer interns for a day of volunteering. Our support extends to grants aiding food purchases and bolstering their nutrition and garden education programs, benefiting thousands of elementary students.
- Maryland Food Bank: Our recent grant to the Maryland Food Bank supports their “Pantry on the Go” program and the FoodWorks class, offering immediate food relief and long-term skills training for young adults. Volunteers from the Wills Group also participated in their Open House this past summer to celebrate their grand reopening.
- Food Bank of Delaware: We provided grants to the Food Bank of Delaware to help them transition to a mobile food distribution model and partner with Amazon for meal deliveries. We also supported the development of their new community farm.
- Southern Maryland Food Bank: Our grants are used to expand their “Meals & Hope” mobile meal truck program and support the “Snack Sak” program, which provides food for children outside of school hours. This past summer, volunteers from the Wills Group spent a day in their distribution center packing food boxes for those in need.
Through these partnerships, we can amplify our impact and ensure that our communities have consistent access to nutritious food.
Through our Nourishing Children and Families program, our team regularly volunteers at food pantries, community gardens, and distribution centers. Over the summer, our team joined Melwood’s “Grow it, Make it, Eat it” camp week, assisting in gardening tasks and helping campers and residents understand the journey from seed-to-table.
On October 17th, our volunteers returned to Serenity Farm in Hughesville, MD, for a day of farm work and education with Farming 4 Hunger. Beyond growing and distributing fresh produce in Southern Maryland, Farming 4 Hunger focuses on community building, understanding that nourishing the body is the first step to nourishing the mind. Their unique approach includes collaborating with local correctional facilities, allowing individuals who were or are incarcerated to volunteer, lead activities, and share their transformative stories. Over the years, the Wills Group has granted more than $150,000 to support their essential work, and our volunteer days at Farming 4 Hunger continue to inspire and bolster our mission to end food insecurity in our communities.
Supporting hunger relief financially is central to our Community Engagement values, a commitment that was recognized when we received a Corporate Philanthropy Award from the Washington Business Journal. This past summer, we allocated $450,000 in grants to seven nonprofits that address immediate hunger concerns and offer long-term solutions to food insecurity: Maryland Food Bank, Capital Area Food Bank, Food Bank of Delaware, Feed More, Lifestyles of Maryland, Farming 4 Hunger, and the Southern Maryland Food Bank. More recently, our 7th annual Blackie Wills Golf Classic raised over $374,000, with a significant amount earmarked to address hunger. Through these donations, we’re helping to feed our most vulnerable neighbors while investing in sustainable solutions that address the root causes of hunger.
With our expansive Dash In store footprint, we have a unique opportunity to engage tens of thousands of customers about hunger issues daily. For instance, if you’ve filled up at our special, purple-wrapped Dash In Giving Pumps this past September, you’ve contributed. Partnering with Shell’s Giving Pump for the third year in a row, every gallon at these pumps between August 1st and September 30th translated to a cent donated, matched by us; with participating pumps at over 175 Dash In sites across the Mid-Atlantic region. It’s an opportunity for customers to easily contribute to the cause at no cost to them. This year, Dash In raised over $215,000, with donations going to local food bank partners, including Capital Area Food Bank, Maryland Food Bank, Food Bank of Delaware, Feed More, and Southern Maryland Food Bank.
The Wills Group organizes community events throughout the year that further our commitment to addressing hunger. Whether it’s hosting cooking demos with celebrity chef Spike Mendelsohn at Camp Melwood, or celebrating Dash In store openings by awarding grants to local food assistance nonprofits, our Community Engagement mission is always at the forefront. Every event reinforces our pledge to nourish children and families in the communities we serve.
Food insecurity isn’t just about not having enough to eat; it’s also about not having access to the right foods. We collaborate with local organizations to tackle these challenges for a broader impact. For instance, the Wills Group has teamed up with Oasis Fresh Foods Market to establish a community garden for the residents of Indian Head, Maryland. The town has been without a grocery store for nearly 25 years, but in 2024, it will be home to both an Oasis community grocery store and a new Dash In convenience store. To further address the town’s food desert status, we’re working with Oasis and the Town of Indian Head to build a community garden, offering a source of fresh produce for residents. Together, we’re bringing healthier food choices to neighborhoods that need them most. It’s one more way we’re addressing hunger from all angles.
The fight against hunger is a collective effort, and at the Wills Group, we’re proud to play our part. From our partnerships with food banks to our hands-on volunteer days, from our financial contributions to our awareness campaigns, every initiative is a step towards a hunger-free community. Moving forward, we’re inspired by the communities we serve, the partners we collaborate with, and the countless individuals who benefit from these efforts. Together, we can create a brighter, nourished future for all.