Children’s Table co-founder celebrates 95th birthday

Bill and Verna Brown. Bill, the co-founder of Children's Table Food Bank in Bronson, celebrated his 95th birthday at an event held on May 4.
Bill and Verna Brown. Bill, the co-founder of Children's Table Food Bank in Bronson, celebrated his 95th birthday at an event held on May 4.
Courtesy of The Children's Table

Bill Brown, co-founder of The Children’s Table Food Bank, celebrated his 95th birthday this week with food bank volunteers. 

Brown’s actual birthday fell on April 30, but the community gathered at Bronson Elementary School to honor his legacy on May 4. The lively celebration included musical performances from Reggie Stacy and Kevin Williams, the Bronson Community Choir, and an accordion send-off to “He’s a Jolly Good Fellow” and “Happy Birthday.” 

Brown and his wife, Verna, started the outreach in 1996 when they were foster parents, taking food from their backyard garden to give to caseworkers, who took the food to families that needed it. 

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Word got out, and the Bronson ministry grew. The Children’s Table has now given out over 29 million pounds of food, served 53 Florida counties and provided disaster relief assistance in rural communities in both Florida and Alabama. The program has also been recognized by the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. 

“I didn’t plan to do this, it just happened,” Brown said in an interview last year. “And it has continued to grow.” 

Brown said Matthew 25:40 from the Bible is the reason he does what he does. The verse reads, “the King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’” 

The food bank does not turn away anyone, it simply provides boxes overflowing with food to whoever pulls in on a distribution day. Though The Children’s Table asks a $7 donation per family to help offset delivery costs, Brown said it is entirely optional and people can come through the line regardless of whether they are able to donate. 

“People come and they need food, and we feed them,” Brown said. 

The food bank’s location at 680 West Thrasher Dr., Bronson, is open from 10 a.m. to noon on Mondays, and on Fridays The Children’s Table makes deliveries to the Davis Center in Archer, the Masonic Lodge in Williston and Countryside Baptist Church in Gainesville at 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m., respectively. 

Even if it is not a distribution day, Brown said he will not turn people away. The food bank keeps emergency boxes available throughout the week. 

The Children’s Table volunteers are nominating Brown for the CNN Heroes Award, which the news organization gives annually to a person who has made a difference in their community. The deadline for nominations is July 31. 

The food bank receives food throughout the week from No Kid Hungry, local farmers’ surplus crops, food drives, and large organizations that donate surplus inventory.  

The Children’s Table volunteers were honored with the President’s Volunteer Service Award, recognizing their outstanding commitment to serving others. Volunteer Junie Burr received the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award for the over 10,000 hours she has served The Children’s Table. 

A cake auction at Brown’s birthday party drew participants from across Levy County, including a pineapple upside-down cake baked by Verna Brown, which earned $500 for The Children’s Table. 

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