Local letter carriers dedicate 2009 drive to Bethel Pendleton, ‘the embodiment of what the food drive is aboutLocal letter carriers will deliver more than just the mail this weekend. They’ll also be taking nonperishable food items collected from generous postal customers to Northeast Texas Food Bank for their less fortunate county neighbors.
This year, the U.S. Postal Service urges everyone who is able to help “Stamp Out Hunger” on Saturday, May 9. The drive, the largest national one-day food collection, is hosted across the country by the National Association of Letter Carriers, U.S. Postal Service, Campbell Soup Company and Feeding America (formerly America’s Second Harvest).
It’s also important to the Northeast Texas Food Bank.
“This is the number one donation drive for the food bank, and last year’s was the biggest and best ever,” said Denise McCarty, Northeast Texas Food Bank director.
The local members of NALC who deliver and collect mail in the 75482 and 75420 zip codes, both city and rural carriers, will be accepting donations of nonperishable food items for the local food bank on Linda Drive.
“The rural carriers are a big part of helping out in the county and at Brashear Post Office,” said Kyle Verner, a Sulphur Springs letter carrier and local food drive coordinator.
Any nonperishable food items (except those in glass jars) will be accepted to help fill the growing orders from the 36 local agencies which receive food from NETFB to help people who are having a hard time meeting bills and still affording food.
“One in 10 seniors, one in three children and one in five working class individuals will go to bed hungry tonight because they have to make the choice between paying their bills and affording medicine or food,” Verner noted.
Each year, the people of Hopkins County prove their generosity by donating record numbers of food to help those in need, generally 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of food annually. Last year, the local NALCs collected 14,654 pounds of non-perishables, a record that was especially notable because prices at that time were spiking and the national economy was beginning to tank.
Verner said while the letter carriers sponsor the annual drive and bring the food in, it’s community members and businesses that make it a success. Not only do they donate, but they also helped remind and encouraged others to do so as well.
“We have so many people that are so good about helping their neighbors,” said McCarty. “The way people rally and pull together here, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a place like Sulphur Springs before. I lived in California, and there you barely know your neighbor. I’ve been here about 20 years, and people genuinely care.
“It’s not people trying to get their names in the paper or a pat on the back,” she added. “It’s very clear, there are so many wonderful people here. This is a great place to live.”
The local letter carriers this year are dedicating the food drive to the memory of Bethel Pendleton, who died in March. Pendleton “adopted” the postal carriers as well as many others in the community, Verner said.
“Mrs. Bethel Pendleton was very special to the post office and embodied what the food drive is about,” Verner said of Pendleton, who for years was known to drop by various locations such as the Post Office with food and tasty treats just to show her appreciation and kindness. “She showed her love and caring for people through the sharing of her food and a big smile. We were blessed to know her and miss her every day.”
The number of requests for donations from the food bank have increased 10-15 percent this year, generating a need for more food than any other year and making the annual food drive that much more important to NETFB, according to McCarty.
“So many are losing jobs and many others are on minimum wage, and that’s just not cutting it. They need help to make ends meet,” said McCarty. “We serve 36 agencies in Hopkins and Delta counties that feed a lot of people. When I say agencies, I’m talking mostly about churches, boys and girls homes, Meal-A-Day programs for the elderly, Community Chest and things like that.”
Sears is donating a Budget truck for NALC members to use to store and transport the food from the routes to the food bank.
Anyone who wants to contribute to Stamp Out Hunger can simply leave canned, boxed or packaged nonperishable food items by their mailbox Saturday for their local letter carrier to pick up. The postal service will accept donations from businesses on Friday, particularly those not open on Saturdays. A buggy is also stationed in the Church Street post office location to collect donations.
“We’ll send out post card reminders for the drive on Thursday, and have the Stamp Out Hunger sacks with them so they can put food in them and put it their mailbox or beside of it,” Verner said. “We’ll pick up from businesses on Friday, and if people want to do something between now and then we’ll do that too.”
Letter carriers request no food items in glass containers — boxed and canned goods are probably the best — and no foods which require refrigeration. McCarty notes that state and federal law prohibits the food bank from distributing any bent or dented containers or cans, and requires strict checking of expiration dates.
“Cereal is always good,” she said. “Kids can eat a lot of cereal.”
Donations don’t have to be limited to food items, however.
“We don’t turn down anything,” McCarty noted. “We can always use paper products. Some people can’t afford basics like toilet paper.”
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