Story by Wilmington Senior Director of Public Relations Randy Sarvis
New BSI President Brandon Tumlin Leads Food Drive
When the COVID-19 pandemic forced Wilmington College students to go home to finish their spring semester courses online, Brandon X. Tumlin looked beyond the personal reality of having lost his track and field season and being abruptly separated from friends and what had been his campus home-away-from-home.
Instead, he saw how the crisis was taking both a health and economic toll on others, specifically his Cincinnati neighborhood of College Hill.
"I noticed that there were a lot of people I knew in my city who were struggling badly in one way or another," said Tumlin, a communication arts major who is ready to start his sophomore year at WC as a two-sport, student-athlete and the newly elected president of the Black Student Initiative (BSI) organization. "Many of my own people had lost jobs and were forced to survive on a one-time $1,200 stimulus check."
Tumlin realized that resources at area food shelters were stretched as job layoffs and furloughs quickly increased demand for basic necessities.
"These food pantries help those who actually need extra assistance. I had once been a kid whose family had to seek them out for assistance — so this was very personal to me," he said. "This caused me to want to find a solution."
No stranger to advocating for those in need and volunteering at food pantries and shelters, Tumlin decided to conduct a food drive in support of increasing food security in College Hill. Back in May, with residents encouraged to practice social distancing as the state was reopening, he decided the best mode for persons to support his food drive was for them to deliver food and nonperishable items to a central location with which everyone was familiar, McEvoy Park.
After promoting the "drive-by food drive," Tumlin, wearing a WC football sweatshirt, and several friends staffed the drop-off location, collecting the items and waving signs to encourage those able to give.
"People drove by the College Hill neighborhood honking horns," he recalled, noting that even persons unaware of the drive stopped and donated cash or food items from their own recently purchased groceries. "Many people asked what I was doing this for, and my answer was simply, "This is how I wanted to spend my birthday, helping the people in my neighborhoods I grew up in."
Seeing the struggles of those who were unemployed and in need was a stark reminder of times not that long ago when Tumlin and his mother "struggled" with having a reliable source of income, paying bills and even facing the prospect of homelessness.
Those tough times helped create an unshakable bond between mother and son and prompted them to start a non-profit organization known as 1 Heart Foundation, which supports orphanages and schools in West Africa. Tumlin even engaged in mission work in Ghana.
My mom has always instilled in me to give back to the people that have helped you, and others who haven't," he said. "I've always felt strong connections to important values and staying connected to the people who mean something to me. I share a special passion with my city and the various neighborhoods of people that have molded me. My city to me is like its own culture of family, community, service and other things."
The fundraising effort brought in 10 large boxes of food and personal items, along with $600 in monetary donations, all of which he presented to area shelters and food pantries.
Tumlin looks forward to returning to Wilmington College later this month. While football competition has been postponed until spring, the defensive back will have some interaction with his team. He also will assume the presidency of BSI and will call upon his background and experience — and the strong leadership example set by his mother — as he leads the organization during the uncharted territory represented by the pandemic.
"I can use this with BSI along with my passion of family, community, friendship and service," Tumlin said. "These very important values I carry me with everything I do on a daily basis. Using these will ensure that I remain a person that people love being around.
"Hopefully people will also see me as someone who will be there for them through anything."