Bill Smith had the great honor of  presenting our club’s 2024 Community Paul Harris Fellow award to Hope Humphrey Walker at our March 11 meeting (image above). She was accompanied by her husband, Greg Walker.
Our club has had a long history with Hope and her family. For nearly 50 years we have been selling Florida oranges and grapefruit as a fundraiser to support local charities. When we started this fundraiser, we dealt directly with the Florida citrus groves. In the late 1990s we entered into a partnership with Humphrey’s Market to improve the quality of the citrus product. We selected Humphrey’s Market because they had a long history of purchasing quality fruits and vegetables. This history started with Hope’s grandparents, who for many years purchased and sold fruits and vegetables. In 1967, Hope’s parents, Henry and Iona Humphrey, took over the business. Humphrey’s Market continued to grow and became a corner grocery store.
In 2008, Bill Smith began his involvement with Humphrey’s Market when he began managing our annual citrus campaign. This is when he met Henry Humphrey and got to know his understanding of citrus. His involvement with Hope began ten years ago when Henry died. He quickly realized that this was a seamless transition.
Hope is a life-long resident of Springfield. She attended schools in Springfield and she has a business administration degree from the University of Illinois in Springfield. Her only employment has been with the family business.
With her grandparent’s knowledge of fruits and vegetables, followed by her parents’ knowledge of fruits and vegetables, followed by Hope’s knowledge of fruits and vegetables, this looks like a pattern in the family tree. Bill is not a scientist, but it made him wonder if this knowledge is part of their DNA.
Our club has loved selling Florida oranges, except when we didn’t love selling Florida oranges. Let us explain, six years ago when the quality of Florida oranges had become an issue, we asked Hope to find an alternate grove to improve the quality of the oranges. Back then, another Rotary Club in Springfield was conducting their own citrus campaign and reported to us that they were getting quality oranges from their grove. Hope followed up on this lead and the new grove agreed to provide us with citrus. The next step was to determine the price of the citrus. Since the other Rotary Club dealt directly with the grove, the presumption was that their cost would be less than what we would have to pay. It didn’t work out that way, our cost was $1.00 less for each large carton of oranges and grapefruit than the cost for the other Rotary Club.
This change to a different grove seemed to solve the Florida orange problem until last fall. We were notified in early November that we would not get Florida oranges for our citrus fundraiser. The citrus grove reported a complete failure of the orange crop due to an extended dry spell in Florida. Naturally, we had to have oranges to complete the sales from the citrus campaign, otherwise, we would be forced to cancel all sales. This unsatisfactory result would involve returning money to customers who have already paid, and could also tarnish the reputation of the Rotary clubs who were part of the campaign.
The timing of the notification from Florida, left us with less than four weeks to find replacement oranges. Humprey’s Market, that is Hope Humphrey Walker, came up with a solution to our problem. Texas oranges were considered, but they were having similar drought issues as Florida. She was able to secure a premium California orange for us, which saved the day. We have received rave reviews from many of our customers about these oranges.
By the way, while Hope was solving our orange problem, she was already very busy with the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays that were coming up.
We have had a wonderful partnership with Hope and the Humphrey family. It was said that Hope’s father, Henry Humphrey, had a passion for customer service and instilled that in his family and those who worked with him. Hope, has followed in that tradition and provides a wonderful service to our club and to the Springfield community.
We congratulate Hope for this prestigious recognition (images below).