HISTORY OF SCARECROW FOUNDATION
Why should anyone in America be hungry?
We began helping existing food pantries in Knoxville on August 27, 2010. We held national aspirations from Day 1, yet knew we needed to gain experience, trust, and credibility. Harry Wade and Jimmy Buckner made an unconventional decision not to raise money for our own needs, rather to operate on a zero budget and inspire an all-volunteer organization to help people in need of hunger solutions. Larry Perry helped us gain 501(c)3 status and CPA Dennis Overton agreed to navigate our compliance obligations with the IRS. Hence, 100% of the proceeds from all of our events and campaigns continues to go directly to the nonprofits we support. We remain to date an all-volunteer charity.
We invited our restaurant relationships and media friends to build a cross marketing strategy along with private sponsors for promotional events and campaigns. We enrolled 50 media personalities and special friends to play Scarecrow Fantasy Football. We created collaborative conversations and soon carved out our mission statement to Help End Hunger in America. By strategic coordination and with a platform to enjoy ourselves as we help others, our motto became “Entertainment with Purpose”.
Our leadership fell into place with our initial Board consisting of Chairman Harry Wade, Shelia Watson, Bill Regas, Cindi DeBusk, Charles Fels and Jimmy Buckner, Executive Director. We did not have any funds to speak of and yet we quickly organized early campaigns like Derby Week to support Food for Kids via Second Harvest and we advanced Gator Hator Week to benefit The Love Kitchen. We started doing events in many restaurants and Food City grocery stores to gain awareness. Our media partners played a key role in helping us get off the ground.
The University of Tennessee via Glenn Swift of the MBA Entrepreneurial Program invited us to be their focused campaign. We humbly accepted their kind offer and we learned a lot about ourselves. We communicated to the MBA students that America did not need more pantries and hunger organizations, rather the “existing” food pantries simply need more volunteers and money to serve those in need. We further discussed the three cousins of Homelessness, Poverty, and Hunger. While they are related, we knew our focus needed to align with the singular issue of hunger. Susie Norris of Orange Apple Branding designed our logo and we settled on a website thanks to Travis Stephens and Philip Gray. Have you looked closely at our logo? It is the face of a Scarecrow designed with all 50 States. Yes, we always knew we would one day become a national organization from the start.
We didn’t have an office, yet people liked what we were up to. Benny Smith, the leader of WUTK 90.3 The ROCK and with of the Journalism College, invited the Scarecrow Foundation to be the client for a marketing class. We set our sights on attracting young people to our mission from the early beginnings; we were fortunate to have strong relationships with the University of Tennessee giving us exposure to bright minds, confidence, credibility, and an added sense of purpose.
Even though we did not have an office nor a staff, we were gaining a reputation of merit. Bill Regas, Past President of the National Restaurant Association, soon tagged us as, “Scarecrow helps the helpers”. Bill Landry of The Heartland Series and Food City became an early branding opportunity with The Football, Comedy, and Hockey Tour. This was a sixteen-week campaign; moreover, on Tuesday nights we were in Food City locations and on Thursday nights we were in a different restaurant or bar leading up to the University of Tennessee football season.
By then, many people were asking why did we pick Scarecrow as a name? We researched the name and we knew younger people could identify with the unique character in the field. The Scarecrow is the “Protector of the Crops” and we knew we could be creative with the character and with our emerging ideas. In other words, we began to think of things we had never thought of before. It was fun!!!
We were fortunate once again with the University of Tennessee as Dr. Lisa Fall with the School of Advertising and PR selected us as their client for a campaigns class. Lisa would have us in numerous classes in the coming years and would be the bridge relationship for our talented interns. Lisa identified with our street relationships in how we combined venues, media, and sponsors to execute creative cross-marketing campaigns. The students were impressed with when clicking the donate button, the website would re-direct to the nonprofit we were spotlighting. Learning how all proceeds funnel to “existing’ food pantries and hunger organizations, the students and others realized this was a marketing strategy seldom in practice amongst charities. The light bulb was beginning to get brighter in the minds of who evaluated the Scarecrow Foundation.
Think about it. The vast majority of nonprofits supporting the hunger issue all do a great job, but they are generally not marketers. This is a key reason why we started Scarecrow. We are like a marketing arm of food pantries and hunger organizations to further advance their ministries and good works.
We attracted several sponsors, as they helped us cover our costs for FREE roll poker tournaments, golf tournaments, special events, printing, parties, prizes, and much more. We all worked together. The poker community evolving with Scarecrow led by Dan Goss was a sleeping giant for the poker community in Knoxville. Downtown Grill & Brewery and Harrah’s Cherokee Casino have been our anchor sponsors. Chad Davis has been a workhorse with our golf tournaments. Our dozens of golf caddies and event volunteers through the years have also served as talented marketers for many of our campaigns year-round. They know who they are as this is a long list. Many thanks to all of you!!!
We have held well over 130 events with most of the activity being “awareness” based. It is not possible to measure awareness, and yet reputable people and business owners were welcoming our unconventional approach helping to end hunger in our community. Club LeConte could have selected any nonprofit in greater Knoxville to be their charity of choice for The Charity Classic. Kelly Absher chaired the event and it was so successful that Club LeConte tapped us again after the following year.
The professional hockey team, the Knoxville Ice Bears, became a marketing partner with us. We recognized having popular athletes and professional teams involved with us was a positive force. Scarecrow volunteer Melvin Goins was one of top athletes at UT; Mel was the point guard for Bruce Pearl’s basketball team. Mel soon introduced us to his friend Derrick Furlow; DLow played defensive back for the Big Orange. Derrick upon graduation played for the Knoxville Nighthawks, a professional arena football team which also partnered with the Scarecrow Foundation. Derrick was soon becoming a very important Scarecrow leader.
More events followed including Spanky Brown & Friends at the Bijou Theatre and Americana Night at the Tennessee Theatre. Another campaign emerged to help homebound seniors via Mobile Meals. Hip Hop for Hunger emerged as a blend of music, art, dance, and fashion. We had many events and were open minded to support the first Knoxville Tattoo Convention, Fashion Week, Cosplay competitions, and more. We were pleasantly surprised once again with the University of Tennessee to be selected in the first CSEE class led by Dr. Alex Miller of the Haslam Business College. This is a leadership program designed to help nonprofit leaders with critical thinking and decision making. Collaboration is a central theme taught by this motivating professor and his team.
Venues and media partners have been the backbone of our relationship building. We have literally executed events at over 90 Knox County restaurants and bars. Bartenders, servers, and cooks have helped spread the word with all that Scarecrow was doing. We have been fortunate to have TV, radio, print, and internet support. Our early internet shows led by Spanky Brown at Latitude 35 expanded our coverage and complemented our emerging voice. Editorial content added to our credibility via The Knoxville News Sentinel, BLANK News, Metro Pulse, The Knoxville Journal, BOH FOH Newspaper, Knoxville Man, Skirt Magazine, insideofknoxville.com, The Business Journal, Focus, The Amplifier, and others. We secured well over 15 radio stations who really helped us get the word out. Private sponsors like ALSCO, Gage Talent, Steel Plate Fabricators, Ray’s ESG, Doc’s, Aubrey’s, Latitude 35, The Alley, Rooster’s, Wild Wing Café, Mike Baker Insurance, Gentry Griffey, Beaty Chevrolet, SILO Cigars, Cool Beans, Cherokee Distributing, Eagle Distributing, The International, Constellation Brands, Boatmate Trailers, Big-O Tires, Beverage Control, Cabins USA, Collectibles of the Game, Knoxville Beverage, Coupon Fulfillment Center, Red Bull, D & V Distributing, downtown211.com, Empire Distributors, and others share good memories helping us financially “above and beyond” promotional costs thus supporting our marketing, printing, product, and miscellaneous needs.
There are too many people to recognize; moreover, our growing team of volunteers know what they did to support us. All of our volunteers, venues, media partners, and Friends of Scarecrow are greatly appreciated. We would be remiss not to give special thanks to Susie Norris of Orange Apple Branding as well as Chris Walden and Cassy Hayes of 360 media as they have donated so many hours to create and advance the Scarecrow story. We also wish to thank Dean Schultz for taking good care of us at our Scarecrow headquarters on Market Square. Teamwork!!!
Professional boxer Alonzo Butler was one of our early Ambassadors and he introduced us to USA Amateur Boxing with Eppolito Gym to help “Fight Hunger”. A strong partnership with USA Boxing may evolve into a vast majority of boxing gyms throughout the country. Thanks to Austin East High School, led by Marcus Stanton and Lindsay Davis, they organized our 1st Scarecrow Club for high school students. Students needing to secure service hours is important for college applications and job interviews; the students also learn the importance of helping our communities. There is a tremendous opportunity to engage students via Scarecrow Clubs.
We remain open minded to involve and expand our growing brand to help end hunger. Again, “we” are not going to end hunger, rather we are helping the “existing” food pantries and hunger organizations who are doing the heavy lifting helping those in need of food security. Scarecrow helps the helpers. People can simply go to our various websites and learn more about our cross-marketing strategies, leaders, and sponsors. We invite America to join us.
Well into 2018, our Board includes Chairman Derrick Furlow, Bill Regas, Jaime Hemsley, Dan Goss, Joe Consumo, Brittany Brosky, and Executive Director Jimmy Buckner. Ashleigh Christian is our newest Board Member. Harry Wade serves as Chairman Emeritus. We also have Ambassadors including Josh Ward, Will West, Shonjrell Ladner (also Chair of Fight Hunger Week), Monika Hancock (also Chair of Derby Week), Alonzo Butler, Emmie Gossett, Justin Howard, Leslie Truan, Ovince Saint Preux, and the late national comedian Spanky Brown. Our Advisory Board includes Lisa Fall, Rusty Odom, Larry Perry, Tony Iasiello, and Benny Smith. Chris Walden and Cassy Hayes lead our marketing and design team.
Previous Lead Interns include Mallory Moody, Rachael Borns, Susan Graham, and Brett Dockery. We have enjoyed numerous Campaign Chairpersons like Sherry Fetzer of Gator Hator Week and countless committee members. Additional Chairperson standouts include Jessa Davis, Robyn Dempsey, Tammy Robinson, Shonjrell Ladner, Monika Hancock and others. We are now involved with student athletes at the University of Tennessee via the Athletic Department with all 18 men’s and women’s teams. Furthermore, we also have educational relations with Pellissippi State Community College.
We asked for a donation from our banker and they in turn supported us in December, 2017 via their relationship with the Clayton Foundation; thank you Clayton Foundation. We are now about to grow with our shared office space on Market Square at downtown211.com in Unit 209. We are excited about XHunger.com as this national program will motivate Americans to:
- Locate a Pantry
- Understand their Purpose
- Volunteer and Support
With XHunger.com we look to also expand Scarecrow Clubs, build a network of national leadership, expand our brand and keep enjoying the journey while helping those in need of hunger solutions. Our Trademark attorney Tracy Edmundson with Egerton, McAfee, Armistead & Davis is working pro bono; furthermore, his firm has committed to work with us as we grow nationally. On behalf of our hundreds of volunteers and all who have supported the Scarecrow Foundation, we thank you!!!
Our future is bright as we soon launch XHunger.com at Second Bell, Knoxville’s First Downtown Riverfront Music and Arts Festival led by BLANK News. Yes, we are poised to grow beyond greater Knoxville and help end hunger in America.
Why should anyone in America be hungry?