Hal Donaldson was standing inside a schoolyard in the Mathare Valley slum of Kenya 15 years ago when he had a moment of revelation that changed his life.
Through the efforts of Convoy of Hope at the school, 1,000 children were being fed a meal daily and receiving education to help improve their lives.
“It was very fulfilling to see the thousand kids standing in line to get their food and knowing that’s their meal for the day, knowing that they get educated, that they have nice uniforms and shoes,” says the Springfield-based nonprofit’s co-founder and president.
But then, he looked past the children.
Through the posts of the schoolyard fence, dozens of hungry faces peer at him – children who were not receiving food, clothing or education.
“I walked out and saw all these kids,” Donaldson says. “It was just a real reminder that feeding 1,000 kids isn’t enough.”
Today, Convoy of Hope feeds 177,000 children every day. Donaldson wants to feed 1 million daily.
“That memory kind of drives me and, honestly, it drives our team,” he says. “We have to work harder to get kids inside the fence. If we can get them inside the fence, they are going to be educated and learning and have a future.”
Donaldson graduated from San Jose State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism, in addition to earning a bachelor’s in biblical studies from Bethany University. He has written more than 30 books and received recognitions, including the National Distinguished Service Award in Social Welfare and a 2017 induction into the Missouri Public Affairs Hall of Fame. Along with his wife Doree, Donaldson co-founded Convoy of Hope in 1994. Since then, the nonprofit estimates more than $1 billion in food has been distributed to more than 100 million people. The goal continues of providing food and assistance for individuals in times of need – both in their daily lives or during a crisis, such as the 2017 hurricanes. Meals for more than 900,000 people were provided then.
“What makes it possible is the army of volunteers we have,” Donaldson says of the 55,000 individuals who volunteer with Convoy of Hope annually. “When there is a crisis like that, they literally drop everything and race to the crisis to help people.”
For those who work with the organization, Donaldson says the nonprofit is purposeful to create a culture where everyone is held at high esteem and is thanked for their contributions.
“When you do what is best for the individual, you do what is best for the organization, too,” he says. “It’s a very flat culture. I’m president and CEO, but I’m not better than anyone else.”
Donaldson says he is also grateful to the community for its support – adding that he often tells people around the world that the Ozarks is home to some of the most generous people on the planet.
“I’m incredibly grateful to this community,” he says. “They have wrapped their arms around Convoy of Hope and made it their own. Convoy is truly a representative of the generosity of this community.”
Fitness business maxes out first two gyms and adds a third to keep pace with its 3,000 members.