Saturday, May 11, 2013

Letter Carriers Drive a Smashing Success

Al Nelson with his running list of food received and when it arrived.

Letter carriers working from the North Adams Post Office serving North Adams, Clarksburg and Florida on Saturday, May 11, gathered a total of 15,150 lbs, of food. This exceeds last year’s total on the day of the drive, 10,500 lbs. by more than two tons.

More food is likely to come in during the first days of next week to increase the total amount collected in this very successful drive.

Totals in Northern Berkshire seem to be up overall. Preliminary totals indicate that some 5,500 lbs. was collected in Adams, up 800 lbs. from last year. In Williamstown, about 4,500 lbs. of food was collected and dividied between Sts. Patrick’s-Raphael Food Pantry and the Community Bible Church, up from about 3,000 lbs last year.

Al Nelson, co-organizer of the Interfaifaith Action Initiative (NBIAI), estimated that when late returns came in, the total from Northern Berkshire would be mre than 26,000 lbs. compared to about 21,000 lbs. last year.

It’s hard to say exactly what’s behind the increased donations, but special bags from Price Chopper combined with special high-quality canvas bags from the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition’s Mass in Motion program, in cooperation with the NBIAI, likely had something to do with this, as did the first-class multimedia effort to promote the drive in Northern Berkshire.

Of over 500 produced — though not all were given out — at least 180 of these bags were returned with food inside for the drive. Lois Hescock, a volunteer with NBIAI’s Friendship Center Food Pantry, is to be commended for distributing them at Village East on the Mohawk Trail, as that development had virutually 100 percent use of the canvas bags.

The most grateful thanks goes out to the letter carriers for their work with this project. One came back to the Friendship Center with literally a ton of food in his standard-sized mail truck. We were happy that several of the carriers came into our sorting area at 107 Main St. to share pizza and beverages provided through the support of the Northern Berkshire United Way.

This is the third year volunteers of the NBIAI’s Friendship Center have been involved in the drive.  This first year we did not know what we were doing and were seriously short of volunteers. This year we had a plentiful number of volunteers and due to a model system for sorting the food developed by Rich Davis and Mark Lincourt, we were able to get food sorted within a half hour of its arrival.

To provide some assistance on their routes, Mark Lincourt  again rented a U-Haul truck and with Phil Krutiak and Mark Rondeau, helped mail carriers with several locations in North Adams and at the Clarksburg School.

In all, more than 45 people volunteered to help sort the food at 107 Main Street over nearly eight hours, including volunteers of the Friendship Center, Salvation Army, and the Berkshire Dream Center. Food from the drive will go to each of these entities, though most will go to the Friendship Center as it serves the most people.

Volunteers included at least 6 young people who helped carry in food during one delivery and then left. We appreciate their support.

All in all this was a fun and productive event, which provides thousands of dollars worth of food, enough to keep the Friendship Center operating for a month.

Finally, we want to thank all of you who donated, without you  this would have not been possible. Thank you for helping us help our neighbors in need.

Here are some photos of how the day progressed:

Once our volunteers brought the bins in the door, the first task was to weigh them.

We had spaces reserved in front of 107 Main St. to unload the food from the trucks.

Stan Owczarski weighs a bin while North Adams Postmaster Joan Bates looks on and takes a photo.

Letter carrier Gary Ghidotti shows how much he can carry by various means.

Up at Rock Manor Park, Mark Lincourt and Phil Krutiak help the letter carrier with a large load of donated food.

Back at 107 Main St., a big pile of food builds up.

We gathered donations at Village East in a pouring rain, but thanks to Lois Hesock, everyone put their donations in our canvas bags. They are much easier to carry and so we did not have to pick them up in rain very long. I don't know why there is a smiling spider on the truck.

Here, Richard Markhan, Ruth Hansen of the Salvation Army, and Denise Krutiak, with bag in tront of face, sort food.

Stan with letter carrier Keith Howard.

Letter carrier Dick Dassatti and David Babcock, Eric Wilson, and Phil Krutiak.

Letter carrier Henry Bourdon, with Steve Smachetti, Al Nelson, and Phil Krutiak.

Eric Wilson and Erik Wobus help Fran Berasi and Ruth Hansen sort food.

Corinne Case (green shirt), husband Tim and one of their sons helped out.

Steve Green did a fine jobs keeping track of the weights of incoming food.

Pastor Dave Anderson, of First Baptist North Adams, stopped in to say hello with his daughter, Abby.

These four young people were curious about what we were doing and helped us unload this truck.

Some of the sorted food. We sorted it along two long lines of tables along each long wall, in boxes under labels for each type of food.

Rich Davis, the man who developed our system for sorting the donated food. To his right is Stuart Crampton, our treasurer.

Several of our local letter carriers are women. Unfortunately, I don't know this carrier's name.

Right before 6 p.m. the last truck arrived.

And, finally, I could not resist this one, the oldest donation we are aware of receiving on Saturday: A can of New England Clam Chowder with an October, 1994 expiration date —

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