With cold weather settling in, Bob Bishop knows it’s time to think about hot breakfast for Charlotte’s homeless.
From now until Jan. 15, he will conduct his annual “oatmeal and staples food drive” – an event that has become crucial in the campaign to feed the region’s needy. His goal this year: collect 100,000 pounds of oatmeal.
Bishop, a longtime volunteer at a number of charities, including the Men’s Shelter of Charlotte, began the drive six years ago. Since then, Charlotte-area residents have responded by donating nearly a half-million pounds of oatmeal.
Some perspective on that number: It’s enough to fill more than 10 tractor-trailers.
Bishop also collects sugar, canned goods and other noneperishable items for Charlotte-area homeless shelters and Second Harvest Food Bank. But he particularly likes oatmeal because it’s cheap, nutritious and filling.
This year, the cold weather brings more urgency to his food drive.
“These poor folks living in the streets, they can warm up a little with this,” says Bishop, a deacon at Myers Park Baptist Church. “They can start the day out, at least, with a nutritious meal.”
Bishop was born in Leicester, England, and played soccer for that city’s team in the 1960s until he was sidelined with a knee injury. He later went into textile engineering, a field that brought him to Charlotte.
He began volunteering at the Men’s Shelter more than 20 years ago. In 2011, he was given the Governor’s Award for Volunteer Service, an honor bestowed on the state’s most dedicated volunteers.
Now 66 and retired, Bishop says he does what he does because “the need will always be there.”
“We’re just trying to put people on the path to normal.”