Oil Can Do It, an annual friendly food-drive competition among Kern County oil companies to benefit Bakersfield’s Golden Empire Gleaners, kicks off with a community event on June 17.
Bakersfield’s Golden Empire Gleaners is looking forward to some better days ahead, after a very tough year for many.
Oil Can Do It, a food-drive competition among Kern County oil companies, kicks off with an in-person community event on June 17 at Aera Energy. It’s the Gleaner’s biggest fundraiser of the year and runs for three months, raising money to support the food bank in putting food on the tables of Kern County families during the summer.
Aera Energy employees are ready to get into the fundraising spirit, following a year of virtual fundraising events due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Providing energy to California safely is what we do every day but it’s our commitment to helping our neighbors that makes this campaign special,” said Jamie Swetalla, a public affairs coordinator for Aera Energy. “Employees donated in such a remarkable way even when their families felt the hardships too. Now that we are looking to reopen the state there is no better way than with a celebration of food for those who need it.”
Getting through a tough year
Aera Energy was still able to raise a similar amount of funds for the campaign as it did in previous years as coordinators came up with some of the most creative ways to stay connected while staying safe. But overall donations to the 2020 campaign dropped by about 60 percent.
“It was devastating,” said Glen Ephrom, executive director of the Golden Empire Gleaners. “Our local oil companies were unable to host events to support the campaign – the events, barbecues, and bake sales — which brought in a lot of the donations in the past.”
The need didn’t go down either. The Gleaners served an estimated 18,000 people per month prior to the pandemic and saw a sharp 25 percent increase in the number of families, individuals and seniors asking for food assistance at the start of the pandemic. At the same time, supermarket shelves were bare, and stores didn’t have their usual surplus of food to donate to the food bank.
“We started seeing a lot of new faces, and luckily we were in the position where we were able to provide support to those new individuals and families without having to shut our doors for a single minute,” Ephrom said.
Luckily, the food bank received a larger influx of fresh items and was able to pivot its offerings to include more fresh fruit and vegetables. It was able to make sure every individual or family that came in went home with food to put on the table.
In 2019, the Oil Can Do It campaign raised the equivalent of about 340,000 pounds of food, in both food and monetary donations.
For information about the June 17 kick-off event and how you can get involved, click here (pending link). To donate, visit https://www.goldenempiregleaners.com/oil-can-do-it and enter the code AERAOCDI in the comment section, so we can get credit for your giving. It is friendly competition.