Lake Norman & Mooresville

Using others' grocery cards to raise money

Helping others just comes naturally to Linda Harmon, and what might seem like a small gesture to some is making a big difference in children's lives.

Harmon participates in a partnership with Food Lion grocery stores called Community Rewards and uses hundreds of customers' MVP card numbers to help earn money for her cause. It's kind of like a silent fundraiser, Harmon said.

Harmon, who lives in Statesville, has worked diligently to collect MVP card numbers from people who are willing to share.

At no cost to participants, each time a person uses their MVP card, the grocery chain collects points based on purchases, and the points add up to funds that Harmon uses to buy food. Food Lion sends a check to her church several times a year.

She buys food for children at her church, Calvary Baptist, in south Statesville. The children participate in the Sunday Bus Ministry - they ride a bus to the church on Sunday morning to attend Sunday school and children's church.

Harmon said she uses the money to buy drinks and snacks to provide for 150 to 200 children on Sundays at the church.

"I just love to do things for children," Harmon said.

Harmon said each January Food Lion offers up to $100,000 statewide in funds to be disbursed among participating groups. In past years, Harmon's work has earned her cause between $4,000 and $5,000.

The top amount of funds available is $7,500 for each group or charity, and she believes with just a little bit of help she will reach that goal. She is looking for people willing to share their MVP card numbers with her, she said.

She said she appreciates Food Lion in Troutman, where the store management allows her to sometimes sit and speak to customers about her cause and ask them to use their card numbers.

"I am very grateful to Food Lion for doing this," said Harmon.

Kelly Kerley, who works for Food Lion in Troutman, helps Harmon find weekly deals and sales. If there are discounted items or after-holiday sales, she will notify Harmon to help her save even more.

"She cares about the kids; it's all about the kids," said Kerley. "She goes a long way out of her way for these children. People don't realize that."

At 70, Harmon has years of helping people under her belt. In years past, she spent 14 summers in the Ukraine to work with and help children there.

On those trips, Harmon was involved in many charitable causes. She helped deliver medical supplies, toys and Bibles to villages. She filled shoeboxes with goods for children and adults.

She also took part in establishing churches there and over the years watched them grow so much they had to help expand the facilities.

"We saw the hungry children and older adults. We spoke in churches. We found out how Food Lion had a program that helped charities," said Harmon.

She began to use the Food Lion Community Rewards program to earn money for her donations to the Ukraine. Combined with donations from other area churches, they used the money to help many Ukrainian families, she said.

When the U.S. economy began to change in 2008, Food Lion changed the program so the funds were to only be used for local groups, Harmon said.

Harmon said she currently has about 1,700 people signed up for her Community Rewards program. She would like to have another 150 to 200 people join her cause, she said.

She said that nothing is added to the bill when shoppers donate their numbers; the card number is recorded only for the group being supported. The only information required are the numbers from the back of the MVP card, she said.

"I helped so many people in the Ukraine and hated that people were suffering," said Harmon. "I hate that people in our area are suffering."