Multimedia Journalist

Parsons’ food drive nets 3,000 pounds for food pantry

Missouri’s first lady Teresa Parson places food donations into barrels Saturday during the “Heart for the Hungry” food drive at the Governor’s Mansion, which she refers to as the “People’s House.” Visitors were encourages to donate non-perishable donations such as canned foods or diapers. Afterward, visitors were invited to take a special weekend tour of the mansion.
Photo by Sally Ince/News Tribune

Although another blast of cold temperatures and snow hit Mid-Missouri on Friday, it didn’t stop Jefferson City residents from getting out and serving their community.

Local residents brought donations to the first “Heart for the Hungry” food drive on Saturday morning at the Missouri Governor’s Mansion, or as first lady Teresa Parson prefers to call it, the “People’s House.”

A tent was placed on the front lawn with warming stations inside to keep the guests warm. The goal was to collect 2,019 pounds of food for The Food Bank for Central & Northeast Missouri.

Before the event ended at 2 p.m., they exceeded that goal with donations weighing in at more than 3,000 pounds.

“We’ve had many people in today, and we’re expecting more,” Parson said. “We thought this would be a great thing to do for other people to help them out along the way.”

She said the event was planned in February, which is linked to celebrating Valentine’s Day.

They chose The Food Bank because the charity is local and pairs with her efforts to support children.

The Food Bank serves 32 counties in the area through free programs like Buddy Packs, which sends food home over the weekend for children who get free or reduced-priced lunch at school.

Those who donated were able to meet Teresa and Gov. Mike Parson, Lt. Gov. Mike Kehoe, take a photo and go on a tour of the first floor of the mansion.

“The things that are going on in our community, sometimes we’re a little bit isolated from those because we are so blessed — the governor and I feel like we’ve been blessed, and we want to give someone else a blessing,” Teresa said.

Transitioning from her career in banking after retirement in 2016 to a state official has been a challenge she said she’s adapting to well.

“I enjoyed my career, but I was ready to move to something different and this is a good replacement,” Teresa said.

In January 2017, Mike Parson was lieutenant governor. In this position, he spent most of his weekdays in Jefferson City and returned home to Boliver on weekends. Teresa said she spent most her time with their two children and five grandchildren there until her husband was sworn in as governor June 1.

“Now it’s a little more essential that we be here in Central Missouri,” Teresa said. She added certain things are expected of the first lady opposed to the lieutenant governor’s wife.

“When we’re here in Jefferson City and stay the weekend, we attend church here; we walk throughout the community when the weather’s nice. It’s not uncommon to see us walking along the streets. We will participate more as time goes on, I’m sure getting more involved in a lot more activities in the Central Missouri area,” Teresa said.

She said as time allows, she would like to participate in giving her time to charitable efforts. For now, her focus is on her initiatives as co-chair for Jobs for America’s Graduates-Missouri and supporter of resources for families of children with special needs.

The pounds of food collected were sent to The Food Bank’s Central Pantry in Columbia. From there, items are sorted and distributed where they are needed. Supporters can continue to give to the organization by purchasing a Heart for the Hungry T-shirt for $20 from Friends of the Missouri Mansion. Each shirt provides $421 worth of groceries.

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