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Jane Avery, Executive Director, Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana, Inc. stands in front of the wall of Capital Campaign Donors. The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Inc. donated $500,000 to the food bank.

$500,000 donation helps Community Harvest exceed its goal

Community Harvest Food Bank of Northeast Indiana distributes nearly 13 million pounds of food a year.

The agency's mission may be easier now that it has surpassed a $5 million capital campaign that kicked off four years ago.

A crowd of 200 gathered Saturday evening at Hotel Fort Wayne, 305 East Washington Center Road, to celebrate reaching the fundraising goal.

A $500,000 grant from the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation of Owings Mills, Md., enabled Community Harvest to secure about $5.2 million. Baltimore businessman, Harry Weinberg, along with his wife, established the foundation more than 50 years ago to combat poverty.

Community Harvest Executive Director Jane Avery said the money will pay for various expenses, including interior and exterior renovations at the agency's headquarters, 999 E. Tillman and a new location at 1010 Coliseum Blvd. N. The site will house a "blanch-chill-freeze technique" that allows fresh produce to be stored for distribution months later.

In fact, it was the produce location that attracted the Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Foundation, Avery said.

There was a period during the campaign, however, when officials thought they should've counted their blessings when the tally hit $4 million.

"Some thought maybe we should be happy with that," Avery said.

She admits the reasoning made sense, particularly since many local foundations and companies had capped capital campaign spending because of the Great Recession.

"I'd say more than half of the donations are from individuals and that's not typical," Avery said, adding that businesses and other organizations usually step forward. "Everybody was saying they were only spending money on immediate needs."

Sen. Richard Lugar also noted how the campaign butted heads with the Great Recession, which makes the generosity shown to Community Harvest all the more impressive.

"Exceeding the $5 million goal is a remarkable achievement given the state of the economy during the capital campaign," Lugar, an honorary capital campaign co-chairman, said in a statement. "This success is a tribute to this vital organization which provides nutrition to so many of those in need."

Fellow co-chairman Parkview Health President and CEO, Mike Packnett praised the community for coming together.

"It is not the result of any single individual," he stated. "It is a gathering. It is a collection of efforts, and those in most need will reap what we sow."

Avery said Community Harvest has much to be thankful about as well.

"Before we announced the campaign, a private donor stepped forward and gave us $1 million," she said. "I thought we have to go for it now because we already have 20 percent of the funds."