Ginger Riggins is a hobby gardener with a cause. Her backyard is home to two raised beds, between about 80 and 100 square feet each, where she grows a variety of vegetables. She tends berry bushes and fruit trees, providing more food each year than she and her husband John need.
The rest she donates to the Lighthouse Rescue Mission in Nampa. Last year alone, her little backyard garden provided more than 400 pounds of produce for the mission's guests.
Riggins, one of the regular donors that the Lighthouse relies on, doesn't like to draw attention to herself and her efforts. The important thing, she says, is encouraging other people to do what they can to help the homeless.
“I grow more than we can eat, and so we take stuff to the rescue mission. As time has gone by I've really seen the need,” she told the Idaho Press-Tribune. “I feel like God has really blessed me and this is something I can do and something he wants me to do.”
MARQUEE DRAWS DONATIONS
The iconic Lighthouse has a marquee where Director Chris Ellison can list supplies the mission needs — milk, eggs, coffee and ground beef are common — and he knows that the community will respond, sometimes within just a few hours.
Many donors — like Riggins and Margie and Lloyd King, who donate breakfast items regularly — aren't looking for recognition or a tax break. They don't want the attention on them, and many ask to remain anonymous.
In recent months, Ellison put a call out on the marquee for a pretty unique item, a cargo van. It took a few weeks, and in the end the shelter couldn't take advantage of it, but someone did call in.
“It's just one of those things that makes me grin from ear to ear, when we can throw just about anything up there and it comes in,” Ellison said. “Obviously I give glory to God when that happens but it also reminds me of the generosity of the people in the Treasure Valley.”
DONORS SUPPLEMENT BUDGET
Without federal funding, both monetary and nonmonetary donations are a large source of support for Boise Rescue Mission Ministries, which runs the Lighthouse and shelters in Boise.
The nonmonetary donations — food, hygiene items, copy paper — allow the Lighthouse to pinch pennies, saving money on not only the products themselves, but also in man hours needed to pick them up.
“We can't do what we do without our donors,” Ellison said. “I know we can't do what we do without God, because this is a faith-based organization, but we rely on our donors. We rely on God working through our donors.”
This year the Lighthouse has a budget of $10,800 in a category called “kitchen, food and supplies,” encompassing everything from food and dishwasher detergent to plastic wrap and repairs on equipment.
Last year the mission came in under budget in those areas, and for the first four months of this budget year, which started in October, Ellison says they were about $1,900 under budget, largely thanks to the generosity of the community.
“That savings, I really do attribute that to the donors,” Ellison said. “And it's not through monetary gifts. They're dropping food off.”
The shelters don’t rely on local food banks, but receive donations when there’s an abundance of perishable foods and the shelters return the favor when possible.
Businesses also donate supplies and food items, and recently someone purchased enough three-piece Kentucky Fried Chicken meals to feed everyone in Boise and Nampa shelters.
Individual financial support makes up 80 percent of the budget, with another 12 percent coming from organizations and the balance from the churches.
A WAY TO GIVE BACK
In an effort to involve others during the growing season, Riggins has young neighbor kids who help her plant, tend the garden and harvest, and they know they are working to help those in need.
In the winter, when the garden isn't producing, Riggins uses coupons to gather more items for the mission.
“I can afford groceries. God has blessed me, why shouldn't I help bless them?” she said, emphasizing that other people should try to do what they can. “If you're at the grocery store, just pick up an extra gallon of milk, a box of cereal … They're right there, stop by.”
The Kings, Margie and Lloyd, who live outside of Wilder, donate to the mission twice a month, bringing in things like eggs, milk, pancake flour, meat and cheese, as well as items from their garden and small vineyard.
“We just thought it was a really good thing (the mission) provided food and a place for people to get in out of the cold,” Margie said. “We've been blessed with plenty of good food and we thought it was our way to give back.”
Riggins sees the light and hope in the men's eyes as they move through the Lighthouse's programs.
“That's what I'm helping for, to give people that hope of Jesus,” she said.
For more on the Homeless, not Hopeless special report visit: idahopress.com/homeless