Doing More Together

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Eileen Thomas of River City Food Bank poses with Kelsi White. Photo by Lee Roberts

Each year in Sacramento County, there are 245,000 people who do not know where their next meal is coming from. It’s a demand that local food banks are continually trying to meet. When Kelsi White began working with medical marijuana dispensaries in Sacramento to put their advertisements in Sacramento News & Review, she saw an opportunity to bring them together to help combat local hunger.

The nonprofit Collective Giving was born in fall of 2013 when Kelsi organized a canned food drive with 15 local dispensaries to donate to the River City Food Bank. The effort was highly successful, collecting nearly 4,000 pounds of food from the dispensaries and their patients to feed the hungry in Sacramento. Collective Giving undertakes two projects each year to help local charities through donations.

“I thought that it would be a great idea to have the dispensaries band together for a good cause — especially because they don’t always have the best public perception,” Kelsi says. “I saw that I could change the perception of dispensaries by organizing them to work together for one common cause.”

Eileen Thomas, executive director of River City Food Bank, says her organization was really appreciative of the donation from Collective Giving. River City Food Bank serves more than 73,000 people each year — many of them elderly, disabled, children and working families.

“When Kelsi first came to me with what they were doing, she asked me if I thought it would be appropriate,” Eileen says. “My reaction was, ‘Of course, it is. It’s people feeding people, and it really does take everyone in the community to help take care of those who can’t take care of themselves.’”

Corey Travis of Two Rivers Wellness Dispensary says Collective Giving is a great way to give the local dispensaries one united voice in the community.

“Many dispensaries in Sacramento were already doing positive things in the community on their own, but Collective Giving is a way to do those things on a larger scale. Fundamentally, that’s what dispensaries are about: Helping people. We’re helping the sick and elderly and we’re giving back to the community in other ways. That’s the reason that we’re all here.”

Kelsi says the canned food drive was just the beginning. Collective Giving is taking on a new project in June to help raise money for the UC Davis Cancer Center. But for now, she’s pleased with the outpouring of support from the dispensaries, their patients and the community.

“It’s important that dispensaries are doing this because they have a huge ability to give back by the sheer number of people they are serving,” Kelsi says. “Everyone has been so supportive so far. We’re looking forward to working with more people in the community.”