The largest one-day food drive in the nation reaped a harvest locally, with nearly 6,000 pounds of non-perishable items collected from the community this past weekend and distributed Thursday to four local groups to use in their outreach to Clinton and Sampson residents most in need.
The National Association of Letter Carriers’ NALC) “Stamp Out Hunger” food drive was conducted this past Saturday, May 10, by more than 1,500 branches all across the United States.The drive has delivered more than one billion pounds of food in the more than two decades since it began.
In its 22nd year, the drive was especially fruitful in Clinton, where the nearly 6,000 pounds of food amassed was a vast improvement from the roughly 2,200 pounds collected last year. On Thursday, U.S. Postal Service employees at the Clinton branch met with representatives of Mr. Window Soup Kitchen, U Care, Wilson Chapel Missionary Baptist Church in Turkey and First Baptist Church at 408 College St., Clinton.
All took home a gaggle of bins packed to the brim with canned meat, fish, soup, juice, vegetables, peanut butter, rice, cereal, Jello and boxes upon boxes of food and cake mixes, pasta and other treats among other items.
As Paul Ruggles and Jerry Merritt loaded up vehicles full of food for First Baptist Church, Sandra Stafford talked about how much the donation would assist the church’s efforts.
“This helps us immensely,” Stafford pointed out. “We feed anywhere between 175 to 225 people a week. We have a soup kitchen and we also give out bags.”
Sometimes food stamps, or food itself, runs out for families. While those families try to get the assistance they need, or get through to their next check, First Baptist and others do what they can to help make ends meet. In addition to the hundreds it feeds each week through its soup kitchen and outreach efforts, First Baptist also delivers to about 50 shut-in elderly and disabled residents weekly.
Like U Care and Mr. Window, First Baptist has benefited from the U.S. Postal Service program for several years.
“This is the third year we have received from them and it really does help, especially with the bags (the church hands out), and a lot of it we do cook with,” shared Stafford, who accepted the donation with fellow First Baptist members Vonnie Marshburn and Pat Albritton. “We’re very fortunate to be involved.”
U Care employee Elwood McPhail echoed those sentiments. He and U Care employees Donzy Faison and Larry Robinson were on hand to accept the donation from the Postal Service.
“We have quite a few ladies and their families come through,” said McPhail. “This is something that helps a lot of people and for U Care and a lot of ministries. This get us through during the summer months when everything gets a little lean. We’re just very appreciative.”
McPhail, who has been with U Care for 15 years, said the shelter serves meals to domestic violence victims and their families who are housed at the facility, as well as takes care packages to those now staying elsewhere. There are some clients that have received assistance for the majority of the time McPhail has been there.
“There are clients who have been with us for over 10 years and we’re still assisting them,” he said. “Their paychecks fall short and they aren’t able to make it.”
The local U.S. Postal Service has helped a great deal in that regard.
“We’re very thankful for what the Post Office does for us and them,” McPhail remarked.
“This helps a whole lot,” Hattie Morrisey of Wilson Chapel MBC concurred. She was on hand with Carolyn Lassiter to take the food back to Wilson Chapel as part of their outreach in Turkey. The donation would assist greatly, Lassiter noted.
“We have people who come in and need that food,” she said.
Eddie Monk, who has served as the local NALC president and coordinator of the local “Stamp Out Hunger” drive for years before handing it over this year to U.S. Postal Service shop steward Adrienne Brown, said it is a worthwhile initiative.
“Considering all we have to do, it’s a struggle, but we enjoy helping the community,” said Monk, who assisted again with this past weekend’s effort. “
“It gets the food into the right hands,” said Brown, who came into work on her vacation this past week to ensure the drive went smoothly and all food was collected and sorted for distribution. “This is a lot more food than last year.”
Monk said the bags were distributed to everyone in the Clinton area leading up to the drive. Those bags received a much better response than previous attempts at boosting participation. Monk said he is just glad they people continue to give
“On behalf of the Post Office, we’d just like to thank the Clinton area for helping,” Monk remarked.
Della Middleton said Mr. Window Soup Kitchen was indebted to the work of the U.S. Postal Service and the members of the community in giving toward the cause.
“This will help a lot. We feed at least 200 people every third Saturday and we rely on donations,” said Middleton.
Of the hundreds of needy people Mr. Window feeds each month, some are homeless and others are hungry having fallen on hard times. Regardless of their situation, Mr. Window does their best to feed everyone, and graciously accepts public donations in order to meet that goal, one they have been carrying out since 2009.
“This will enable us to keep doing what we do, so we just thank God for all (the postal workers) do,” Middleton said. “It just keeps us going.”
Stafford joined others in expressing their gratitude to those who coordinated the drive at the local post office and those who gave in order to make it a success, one that will manifest itself in full stomachs and smiling faces for those most in need.
“We appreciate all the people of Clinton and the Post Office for giving to this,” Stafford said. “I know it’s a lot on these workers who are already busy enough with their jobs, but we appreciate it so much and it’s wonderful to see their faces when they receive this food.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121. Follow us on Twitter @SampsonInd.