Tonawanda News — It began more than two decades ago and has become a vital contributor to food pantries and individuals struggling to get by.
The Stamp out Hunger food drive, taking place for the 21st year on Saturday around the country and throughout the Tonawandas, utilizes the nation’s 175,000 letter carriers in more than 10,000 communities, who will not only drop off your mail that day but carry out non-perishable food items for the needy, by bolstering food bank and relief organization supplies with non-perishable items.
Karen Tuczynski, a letter carrier with the North Tonawanda Post Office said her outfit flooded homes and businesses with nearly 20,000 bags earlier this week, which organizers believe will not only serve as a reminder but may act as an incentive for residents who can spare non-perishable items such as canned food and toiletries. The bags, new this year, bear the date the items will be picked up and the name of the event.
“It’s quite an undertaking,” Tuczynski said. “I’d say about 25 percent of those on my route give something. They do give a lot, which makes up for people who don’t give anything. But even a can or two can help.”
Post cards were sent out as a reminder in past years, she added, and in some cases were still distributed this time, with “Fill A Bag. Feed Families” written on the front.
The North Tonawanda Post Office will have 30 employees and a least a dozen friends and family members picking up the goods and delivering them throughout the day to the North Tonawanda Inter-Church Food Pantry, located on Ridge Road.
The effort last year sent 53,000 pounds to the organization, which was used to sustain 250 families through the summer months, according to coordinator Bonnie Shaffer, who said her organization has seen its clientele, many of whom are seniors, grow in recent years.
“Last year was a better than average year,” Shaffer said, with hopes to beat that marker in 2013.
In Erie County, dozens of letter carriers will also participate, with supplies heading to the Salvation Army of the Tonawandas, who will then redistribute some of the wares to food banks in the region and also stock their own supplies, which are used to supplement supplies for needy families.
Businesses are also taking part in the food drive.
Once the items are collected, letter carriers will take them to the street, where a string of volunteers pick them up and take them to the various food pantries.
Shaffer said approximately 30 of her own volunteers will be waiting for the deliveries and beginning the week-long process of organizing and stacking thousands of pounds of food and other wares.
“It helps out your own community,” she said. “What we pick up from residents in the area, stays in the area.”
Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.Contact reporter Michael Regan at 693-1000, ext. 4115.