The miracle on Baseline Road in Gilbert began with a phone call.
It was late 2014 and Eric and Mary Sheldahl, transplants to Chandler from Iowa, were looking for a worthy organization to make a charitable contribution.
Scanning Charity Navigator, Eric happened across an Illinois-based non-profit called Midwest Food Bank.
Impressed by their low overhead, Sheldahl donated. His telephone soon rang. It was David Keiser, founder of Midwest Food Bank.
“That just registered with me,” said Sheldahl, “because you don’t get thank you calls anymore.”
Fast forward a year. Again, the Sheldahls donated. Again, Keiser called in gratitude.
“In our conversation, I said, “How can we do this in Arizona?’” Sheldahl recalled. “Maybe a month later, David and two of his board members flew out.”
“That was February of ‘16. By September 2016, we had a building. March 1, 2017, one year and 18 days (after the visit), we opened serving 30 agencies.”
Today, not even three years later, Midwest Food Bank Arizona serves more than 290 partner agencies – food pantries, school and church groups, homeless ministries, you name it – across Arizona.
In 2019, the miracle on Baseline Road will distribute more than $19 million in food and goods to help out needy families all over the state.
The truly miraculous thing, at least to me: Everything is donated, from the canned goods and pasta and produce to the food boxes, 18-wheelers and truck drivers dispatched almost daily from the 26,800-square-foot warehouse in Gilbert near Baseline and Mesa Drive.
Most days, MFB Arizona is teeming with volunteers – there’s no age limit – from residents who want to do good to companies, like State Farm and Bank of America, that bring in employee groups for team building and a chance to do good in the community.
MFB Arizona volunteers will log more than 30,000 donated hours this year.
All because of a phone call.
Sheldahl, 68 years old and a man of deep Christian faith, has given up the real estate development business to run the Arizona operation full-time – as a volunteer, naturally. He’s also on the national board of directors for Midwest Food Bank these days.
Nationally, MFB operates in Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Texas, Georgia and Florida, plus locations in East Africa and Haiti. All told, the organization donated nearly $240 million in aid to the needy last year.
Not bad for a non-profit founded in 2003 out of a shed on David Keiser’s family farm.
How can you help? Glad you asked. You can give your time or drop off food. You can go to midwestfoodbank.org/donate/donation-opportunities and send cash, a vehicle, stock or gift cards. Or you can take advantage of the Arizona charitable tax credit up to $800 for couples or $400 for individual filers.
Just make your donation to MFB Arizona, claim the tax credit when you file and you can effectively send your tax dollars to Midwest Food Bank instead of the government.
With only a couple of pennies’ overhead for every dollar given, Eric and Mary Sheldahl and the volunteers at 725 E. Baseline Road in Gilbert will make miracles happen with such a donation.
Agencies, families and our neighbors in need will be the better for it.
“Everybody has an expiration date, just like food, but there’s also a ‘best use by’ date,” Eric said. “Mary and I feel like we are in our ‘best use by’ date here and we want to do all that we can to give back and be a part of what God has so divinely put together. We just love it.”
Who wouldn’t? Miracles are rare these days, except in a warehouse on Baseline Road.