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From Good to Great: Pandemic Pivot Helps Local Nonprofit Feed the Hungry

Published August 27, 2020

It takes strong leadership to adapt and overcome in today’s “no contact” world to feed the hungry in the West Chester community.
John Grillo, founder of Vine Ministry, and his dedicated team of volunteers used their creativity, collaboration, and communication to bring thousands of meals to the underserved in West Chester.

Vine Ministry, a client of SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties, worked with SCORE mentors who supported John’s vision and his focus on what is possible.

SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties are sharing this compelling example of how a successful pivot of the Vine Ministry’s operations model allowed it to keep its promise and its services available during the pandemic.

The Vine Ministry

John Grillo is a professional musician who knows a great deal about leading a talented group of people to create a certain harmony within an orchestra.

He utilizes those skills today to lead the volunteer team in The Vine Ministry, his nonprofit organization in West Chester, Chester County.

John and his team bring fresh food and meals to the hungry, serving the chronically homeless population.

John had thought for a long time about setting up a nonprofit organization to address what he called the “greatest need” – Feeding the Hungry – but could not find the support he needed to get beyond the idea stage.

Then he met a SCORE volunteer at a workshop in the local library.

SCORE Mentors John Hess and Steve Crumrine took the time to hear John Grillo’s thoughts and learn his story.

They helped focus his ideas into a clear vision and mission statement.

John Grillo had spent time in Austin, Texas, learning about a mission there to serve the needy.  He also reached out to other cities employing the Austin model.

John was able to use that knowledge and experience to create the program today in West Chester.

SCORE brought in Mike DiLeo, Mentor, and nonprofit expert, to help John lead The Vine Ministry as a volunteer organization.

The Pandemic

Until March, the volunteers worked in small teams to assemble sandwiches and meals to serve in a local church kitchen.

When the pandemic hit, The Vine Ministry had to ‘reimagine’ all of its operations.

With local soup kitchens and hot meal sites forced to close, the volunteer organization created the “Blessing Bag” program, lunch-style bags that could be carefully prepared by individual volunteers and their families in their own homes and delivered take-out style.

After just one week’s transition period to “pivot” The Vine Ministry food preparation process, Blessing Bags were delivered to the underserved community, over 5,000 meals so far and counting.

Volunteers posted their experiences online, and more volunteers joined the Ministry!

John has some advice for nonprofit “hopefuls” like himself.

  • Remember, it comes down to one important thing! Do that very well. John likes the hedgehog concept from the business book, Good to Great.
  • Stick with your initial vision and don’t get side-tracked.
  • You may try some things and they may not work. Think of this as a ‘controlled stumble.’
  • You don’t know what you don’t know. Ask for help.

Final thoughts

 The process of starting a nonprofit organization can be a lonely one.
There is no price tag on the support and guidance SCORE can give entrepreneurs.
Learn more about John Grillo and The Vine Ministry at:

 Request a SCORE mentor

 Check out the SCORE Reopening Toolkit for Nonprofits

 Check out the SCORE Action Plan for Nonprofits

 SCORE, the nation’s largest network of volunteer business experts, is dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals.

Since 1964, they have provided education and mentorship to more than 11 million entrepreneurs nationwide.

SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties have been operating since 1985, with 120 dedicated volunteers today who provide confidential mentoring at no charge and offer business seminars, workshops, and webinars to benefit the local community.

SCORE is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization and a resource partner of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).

Maria Smith   Maria Smith is a SCORE volunteer and executive vice chairman at SCORE Chester and Delaware Counties.

601 Westtown Rd Suite #281
West Chester, PA 19382
(484) 356-8624

Copyright © 2023 SCORE Association,

Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.

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