Barbara Ellison loves peanut butter and eats it every day. But it’s not her love of the nutty spread that has her collecting jars of it, it’s her generosity and willingness to help others.
Ellison is involved with the Peanut Butter Challenge through the Co-Opvertising Network, a community of more than 5,000 entrepreneurs that re-defines success by helping others first.
Locally, the Peanut Butter Challenge’s goal is to collect 40,000 jars of peanut butter for the Northern Illinois Food Bank this year. By donating peanut butter, local food pantries would be able to spend the money they would have used for peanut butter to purchase other items.
Local donation drop-off locations include Sam’s Family Restaurant in Cortland, the Cortland Public Library and Cortland Town Hall. Ellison hopes to find more businesses to act as drop-off locations, collecting jars of peanut butter in a box.
Ellison met with MidWeek reporter Katrina Milton to discuss the peanut butter challenge, why peanut butter was chosen and how people can donate locally.
Milton: What is the Co-Opvertising Network?
Ellison: Our philosophy is to help others first. We help other businesses by helping them grow their business. It really resonates with how I value working, that you help others and make a difference in the world.
Milton: Why peanut butter?
Ellison: The food pantries found that peanut butter is one of the most requested items but one of the least donated items. A lot of people donate canned and boxed goods and pasta. So many people told me they never thought about donating peanut butter before. Locally, our goal is to collect 40,000 jars of peanut butter this year. If we donate peanut butter, the food bank would be able to spend money on something else.
Milton: How does collecting peanut butter help locally?
Ellison: Locally, the peanut butter we collect goes to the Northern Illinois Food Bank, which helps the Salvation Army and other local food pantries in the area. There’s another separate peanut butter challenge for the Northwestern Indiana Food Bank.
Milton: Has peanut butter been important in your life?
Ellison: When my youngest son was born, he was ill. The medical bills were astronomical. There were times I would go to the grocery store with $15 a week. Peanut butter was always a great choice, it’s great for breakfast on toast. My dad ate it every day and I eat it every day. I think most people keep a big jar of it at home and don’t think of buying it.
Milton: Why did you get involved with the Peanut Butter Challenge?
Ellison: It just struck me that so many children in this day and age are hungry, they are so close to starvation. Often, the only time they eat is at school. Now there are backpack programs, where they go home with some food in their backpacks for the weekend, but hunger is still prevalent.
Milton: Where can people donate jars of peanut butter?
Ellison: Right now, local donation drop-off locations include Sam’s Family Restaurant in Cortland, the Cortland Public Library and Cortland Town Hall. We started collecting in February and have a couple of hundred jars already. We need more businesses to be collection locations. I hope we can get a church to sponsor a month or two, to adopt April or May and collect for two months. St. Mary Catholic Church in Maple Park has contributed quite a bit. The monsignor at the church addressed his congregation and said, “We don’t care if you bring crunchy or smooth, just bring peanut butter.” If we can get four or five churches or businesses to sponsor a month, that would be great.
Milton: How could being a donation drop-off location help a local business?
Ellison: Being a donation drop-off location is a great way for businesses to get people in the door and talk about what they do. It’s a way to network, get to know the community and help each other. When a business thrives, the owner thrives, their family thrives and the community thrives.
Milton: What do you like the most about the Peanut Butter Challenge?
Ellison: I love that I’ve been able to meet people, help others and give back. It’s been a bit of an ice breaker. It’s definitely a labor of love. I love peanut butter and helping kids. It’s a great way to get to know businesses in the area and help them build their business. … The Peanut Butter Challenge is a way to support kids. It’s a way to help them, give them hope, and show them that people care, they’re not forgotten.