Effort to provide a few dinners grows
into massive undertaking
By Rhett Wilkinson
What started as an effort to give hams to a handful of people has become an initiative to provide more than 200 dinner packages just four weeks later, spurred by a grassroots fundraiser of more than $4,000 in less than 36 hours.
For the last four years, Devron Larson has gone to Terrel’s Market in Mt. Pleasant, purchased seven or eight hams and would then walk around the store and seek out folks that Larson believed may need one. He would drop it in their shopping cart, along with the receipt showing it was paid for, and wish them a happy holiday.
This year, Larson was touched by an elderly woman who expressed gratitude to him.
“She came up to me and took my hand,” Larson said. “When I looked at her, she was crying and tears were in her eyes.
“She then said something that shook me, and has literally changed me. It also broke my heart– even as I write this I can still feel the emotions of it,” Larson said in a blog post.
The woman looked at Larson as if “looking through” him and said she couldn’t begin to tell him how thankful she was. She said she came to Terrel’s to buy some items for her Thanksgiving dinner the next day, but she had no meat in her house and no money to buy any.
“I was speechless; I had no idea what to say. All I could think to say was ‘you’re welcome,” Larson said. “She continued to thank me several more times and I just held her hand for a few more seconds, said you are most welcome and wished her a happy Thanksgiving. Prayer answered!”
However, saying that he thought about the woman “a thousand times,” Larson said he wishes he would have somehow done more for her. The next day, as Larson was at his Thanksgiving dinner and seeing the plenty that he had, he realized he had to do more in general.
“I had to do more than give away a couple of hams,” Larson said. “I couldn’t just sit here any longer.”
Because Larson couldn’t make a huge difference, he didn’t do anything. But thinking about that for the past four days, Larson realized, “It might be true that I can’t change the world, maybe not even my state, or country, but I can make a difference to a few people in my community.”
Wanting to raise money from people who want to make a small difference, Larson set a goal of $3,500 to buy 200 hams. (Larson put up the first $500 himself.) He also had an objective to set up a stand somewhere in the community, hopefully at a grocery store, and give out hams while collecting any donations for future hams.
Nelson posted about the fundraiser on his Facebook page at 7 p.m. on Nov. 29. Within three minutes after posting, he got a donation for $100.
Then came the $4,000-plus in not even a day and a half.
“It has absolutely restored my hope and faith that there are so many good people in this world, and more specifically in our small community,” Larson said.
As of Dec. 17, Larson had gotten around $5,100. Sixty to 70 percent of the donations have come from within Sanpete County, Larson said.
Larson’s former Latter-day Saint missionary companion Chuck Jensen told Larson that he wanted to donate 200 bags of potatoes—and they would load them in a truck and drive eight and a half hours round-trip from Blackfoot, Idaho to deliver them, courtesy of Liberty Produce.
Jensen said he had an “impression.”
“I haven’t seen or heard from this guy in 31 years and out of the blue, we receive this amazing gift,” Larson said. “People are incredible!”
Thinking that he could give more than hams and potatoes, Larson called Terrel’s CEO Scott Hymas, who told Larson that the store could be used for a booth where Larson would give away dinner packages and take more donations for other initiatives.
When Larson went to meet with Hymas, Terrel Seely, the owner of the store, was there. Seely thanked Larson for doing the project. Since Terrel’s had given Larson such a great price for the hams, Larson had around $1,500 left over. Larson asked Blake Rosenlof, the store director, what else could be done. They walked through the store together, Rosenlof giving $1,000 worth of discounts on several other food items.
Larson will be at Terrel’s from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., or while supplies last, on Dec. 23. He will be giving away more than 200 dinner packages. Those include ham, potatoes, stuffing, corn, cranberries and rolls.
“Every day, it seems like some other small mercy happens,” Larson said.
Larson didn’t want to do the event at Walmart in Ephraim because he “didn’t want 200 college students coming in and getting free dinner” and “stocking their freezer for the next semester.” Instead, he wants to help the likes of single moms. Larson is not going to turn anyone down, but said “if you are in need of some help this year or know somebody who could really use this, stop by.”
Larson hopes the event can be “ongoing.” He can be reached at (801) 400-2296, messaged on Facebook or sent money via Venmo @devron-larson.