GRAFTON, Mass.- The Community Harvest Project received $10,000 from a Walmart grant in December thanks to a former assistant farm manager who filled out an online application on a whim.
Travis Lawell, 21, a student at the University of Minnesota in Crookston applied to the Walmart foundation "12 Days of Giving" Holiday Campaign in November after discovering it on Facebook.
"I was taking a class called 'Business and Professional Speaking' which required me to pick a non-profit," Lawell said. Since he used to work at the farm he said it was the first place that popped in his head. "It's such a great thing for Community Harvest Project," he added.
He said he spent 25 minutes filling out the online application then forgot about it. In December, Walmart announced that out of 21,677 applications it received, Lawell's was one of 10 nonprofits chosen for the $10,000 award.
Submissions initially were reviewed by Walmart associates from across the company and then a panel from the Walmart Foundation selected the winning organizations.
"This was such a surprise," said Kristin Bafaro, executive director of the Community Harvest Project, who did some sleuthing to discover Lawell was the applicant. "This unexpected funding will directly increase the amount of fresh fruits and vegetables that we’re able to grow and donate this coming year." Her organization is farmed primarily by volunteers, and then donates 100 percent of their crops to the Worcester Food Bank.
Lawell was a volunteer at the organization while studying robotics during his freshman year at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He since returned to his native Minnesota to study Agricultural Systems Management.
“Fighting hunger is an issue that Walmart is committed to each day, said Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Walmart Foundation, in a press release. "And we’re happy to support these local organizations’ efforts to ensure people in their communities have proper food and nourishment.”
This is the second $10,000 grant received by Community Harvest. In December, Fallon Community Health Plan presented a check to the non-profit for their work in hunger relief.