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Hunters Helping the Hungry, a nonprofit organization founded by two Hunterdon men, reports two successful fundraising events in May — a clay-bird shoot in Coplay, Pa., that netted more than $3,300 and a striper-fishing trip that pulled in more than $1,000.
HHH is a statewide organization, but most of its trustees are from Hunterdon. It invites hunters to donate their deer, which are butchered and the meat is distributed to the needy via organizations such as NORWESCAP and Catholic Charities. A hunter donating a carcass also donates $10 toward butchering, but even at discounted prices, it costs $65 to cut up a deer. So HHH relies on donations and fundraising events.
HHH trustee Mark Charbonneau of Clinton Township said, fellow trustee “Joe Schultz and I made a point during introductions at both of our events to let all of those participating understand that although HHH has a board of trustees, those who participate in our program by donating deer, support financially or participate in our events are all part of a powerful team.”
The May 6 clay-bird shoot drew representation from the Hunterdon Hills Friends of NRA Chapter, New Jersey Federation of Sportman’s Clubs, Croton Rod and Gun Club, Editor Chris Lido from the Fisherman Magazine and Gals Gone Gun. The North American Hunting Club 2011 Mentor of the Year John Clites showed up from western Pennsylvania bringing a foursome with him.
“Support from local retailers such as Sportsman’s Rendezvous in Raritan Township, the Heritage Guild in Branchburg and even Cabela’s in Hamburg, Pa., remains to be a constant, proving that they are ready to make an investment in HHH with a goal of assisting those not as fortunate as most in our state,” said Charbonneau. “The decision makers of these companies recognize what we are doing and are ready to help.”
He reports that almost 800 deer were donated last season and that yielded almost 30,000 pounds of venison. “In other words, almost 120,000 servings of a low-fat, high-protein, renewable resource made its way to the dinner tables of families in need thanks to the dedication of so many people in our state.”
The next HHH clay-bird shoot will take place at Lehigh Valley Sporting Clays in Coplay on Sept. 30. Check the website huntershelpingthehungry.org in the coming months for registration instructions or call Charbonneau at 908-447-8470 to sign up.
Hunters Helping the Hungry reach million-meal mark, connect the needy with New Jersey venison
Published: Thursday, September 08, 2011, 8:59 AM Updated: Thursday, September 08, 2011, 1:08 PMBy Rick Epstein / Hunterdon County Democrat
Rick EpsteinTrustees of Hunters Helping the Hungry and their liaisons are (from left) NORWESCAP liaison Shannon Williams; trustees Bud Thomas and Mark Charbonneau; state Fish & Wildlife liaison Larry Herrighty; and trustees John Person, Les Giese, Pola Galie and Joe Schultz.
New Jersey has lots of hungry people and it also has lots of white-tailed deer — especially in Hunterdon County. That’s the equation that has added up to a million meals provided by Hunters Helping the Hungry since the group was founded in 1997 by two Clinton Township men. A meal is figured at a quarter-pound of venison.
HHH consists of six trustees — founders Lester Giese and Joe Schultz; Mark Charbonneau and John Person, also of Clinton Township; and Pola Galie and Bud Thomas, both of South Jersey.
The trustees spread the word to hunters on how they can donate their kills to the needy, raise money to pay game butchers, and make arrangements with NORWESCAP and Catholic Charities for distribution of the frozen meat all over the state.
Charbonneau says the 2010-11 season “was our finest hour.” Hunters donated 754 deer, which dressed out to 29,138 pounds of venison — “high protein, low-fat meat from a renewable resource.” He says that the word back from the food banks around the state is that “they can’t keep it on the shelves.”
Person, who is one of eight butchers who process the meat at a discounted price ($65 per deer instead of the usual $94), praised the hunters who donate. “They make a commitment,” he said.
Charbonneau explains, “The second you pull the trigger, the work starts.” That involves gutting the deer, carrying the carcass out of the woods, bringing it to a checking station and then to a participating butcher, plus paying $10 toward the processing. “It’s a beautiful thing,” he says.
“Last week I was target practicing with my bow getting ready for the upcoming season,” says Charbonneau. “My 5-year-old daughter, Leyla, stood by my side. … She said to me, ‘You’re practicing so you can help feed people, right Daddy?’ I asked if she’s going to help when she gets older, and she replied, ‘Oh yeah!’”
Not surprisingly, animal-rights activists claim the program’s real purpose is to put a charitable face on a cruel sport.
Charbonneau would tell them they’re thinking too hard. It’s about feeding the hungry.
Schultz says he’d tell them: “We’ve donated one million meals; what have you done to help the community?”
Charbonneau says, “I’m drawn to (anti-hunting) letters to the editor. Outcry from the uneducated public gives me the energy to go even further. It makes us go out and find more support — from national retailers, local hunting and fishing shops — and to organize fundraising events.”
Enough such letters might energize him to start a service that would match property owners with hunters. Person says he’s found that feeding the hungry can be a deal-maker that convinces landowners to allow philanthropic hunters access to their acreage. Charbonneau thinks a service like that could take HHH “to the next level.”
Meanwhile HHH is busy matching venison with hunger.
A TV segment on the nonprofit was shot recently for the “Friends of the NRA” show, which will be aired on the Outdoor Channel in January. Charbonneau says after a visit to Person’s butcher shop, “we went to Catholic Charities in Phillipsburg where a particular family stood by.” The couple had four kids, the wife had lost her job and the husband’s work hours had been cut and they were grateful for the food. He had never seen this end of the HHH process and “at that time my voice cracked,” he says.
With his emotions well in hand, Charbonneau says, “We’re just the medium to put food in a family’s mouths; you can’t dispute that agenda.”
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