Hunters' trophies are groceries

Organization helps get venison to the hungry

Organization helps get venison to the hungry

October 12, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

For more information or to make a tax-deductible contribution, call 866-GET-FHFH or check out the Web site at

HAGERSTOWN - Ten years ago, Rick Wilson and Ray Shriver launched Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry in Washington County - an idea spawned by a chance encounter with a mother trying to feed her hungry children.

"Dad was driving to Front Royal, Va., when he stopped to help a woman who had pulled over," said Josh Wilson, now full-time national director of the organization.

The woman wanted Rick Wilson's help getting a dead deer into the trunk of her car.

"Dad told her it was illegal but she said she needed it to feed her kids and had done it before," Josh Wilson said.


He helped her, but the incident troubled Rick Wilson to the extent that he and Shriver decided to start a local church-based organization that would match hunters wanting to donate surplus deer meat with organizations that feed hungry people.

Matt Wilson, who was 17 when his father started the organization, said he helped with the log sheets filled out by hunters.

"Sometimes those log sheets came in with blood on them from the deer kill," he said.

Now a teacher at Clear Spring High School, Matt Wilson is very involved in the organization. Rick Wilson is still the executive director.

Starting in 1997, the local headquarters was in the basement of the Wilson family home. For the past two years, the national organization has operated out of J.L. Koontz Heating and Air Conditioning on Spruce Street.

With a slow but encouraging start, progress has been steady. There are more than 100 chapters of Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry in 26 states.

"The first year, 131 deer were donated in Washington County," Josh Wilson said.

During the 2006 hunting seasons, Washington County's contribution was 329 deer, which is included in the Maryland total of 2,509 donated deer.

National figures in pounds of meat show that 282,194 pounds were donated in 2006. Even more impressive in that figure is that 200 meals were derived from each of those deer, Josh Wilson said.

One of the biggest challenges for the Wilsons to overcome is securing enough money to pay for the processing of the deer meat before it is distributed to food warehouses.

For the past four years, a banquet has been held to raise funds through ticket sales, silent auctions, contributions and pledges. This year, 350 people attended the banquet and more than $10,000 was raised.

"After the first week of rifle season, we will max out our money for processing," Matt Wilson said. Sadly, when the processing money dries up, the program shuts down.

In Maryland, 37 butchers participate in the processing for the organization. Five of them are in Washington County.

Matt and Josh Wilson said the key to the success of Farmers and Hunters Feeding the Hungry is that it is a ministry, not a business.

"Our sole purpose is to use deer and other game to feed the hungry," Matt Wilson said. "There is nothing to divert our attention."

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