Letter carriers set new record in annual food drive

By FAITH HUFFMAN, News-Telegram News Editor

may 13, 2008 - The people of Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County are long known for the community spirit which has them pulling together to help those in need or crisis.

This weekend, they once again proved their generosity by contributing a record amount of food to the National Association of Letter Carriers Stamp Out Food drive. As of Tuesday morning, 14,654 pound of non-perishable food collected by Sulphur Springs, Brashear and other rural Hopkins County letter carriers had been delivered to Northeast Texas Food Bank on Linda Drive. That's several thousand pounds more than usual; normally, the drive tallies 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of food. And this while several other fundraising events, such as Relay For Life, were going on as well.

In fact, there was so much more food that not only did it take the truck generously loaned to them by Sears to haul the food to the bank but also another pickup truck to get the full load there, according to Kyle Verner, a Sulphur Springs carrier.

"We felt at the start of this, with gas and prices so high, that it might not be as good this year," Verner said of the annual drive. "Man, oh man. People really turned out and helped out. Carriers had to haul food in and then go back to work on the routes. People really gave. I can't say thanks enough. Hopkins County and Sulphur Springs should be proud of what they did."

"Hopkins County and Sulphur Springs have never let us down [with the drive]," said Denise McCarty, food bank director. I stopped by Saturday as the mail carriers were bringing it in. They were worried, afraid there wouldn't be enough. I just want to thank the carriers so much. This is absolutely -- I can't even put into words what a good job the letter carriers have done!"

After they got started, Verner said a number of carriers called him throughout the day to tell him how they were finding rows of Stamp Out Food sacks on the ground by mailboxes along their routes filled with non-perishable goodies to help the food bank and needy individuals in the community.

Verner said that while the letter carriers sponsor the annual drive and bring the food in, its community members and business that make it a success. Not only did they give a bumper crop of foods, but they also helped remind and encouraged others to do so as well. In addition to Sears, who loans them the truck to load the food into, businesses put reminders on the store signs and in front of their businesses and the local media all helped get the message out as well.

"They all helped out, from donating food to helping get the word out. Thanks to everyone. We really appreciate the people of Hopkins County for helping make this food drive a success, the most successful yet," Verner said.

"This is a great time for us. I really appreciate it," McCarty said.

McCarty said that the food drive every year is much appreciated and really helps out during leaner months when less donations are received at the bank. This year, the food drive is especially appreciated. The letter carriers not only brought in a whopping amount, which will go a long way to help local food pantries fill the need, which in these tougher economic times, is even greater this year.

"There's definitely more need, all age groups. More families can be served thanks to this donation. More people are being served through food panties. The panty need assistance. We help them fill the need," McCarty said.

She said the generosity not only in donating but in the thoughtfulness and variety of donations is much appreciated. No only were the usual canned vegetables and items donated, but people contributed a a variety of items ranging from costly infant formula and food to cereal, cookies, and such staples as rices and beans.

"There's so many different varieties of things," McCarty marveled while looking through some of the mail bins. "We never get this variety."

As the food was being unloaded Tuesday morning from the trucks, food bank volunteers were beginning the lengthy task of sorting the food out. Each item's expiration date is checked, and it's inspected to be sure that there are no holes in packages or crushed cans.

"We are not allowed, according to federal laws, to give crushed or dented cans," McCarty explained. "This is big process to go through it all. We're always looking for volunteers if anyone wants to come help, and food donations can be dropped off here as well. Monetary donations are good too. It takes more than food. We have to have people to work, electricity, etc..."

For more information about the food bank, becoming a food bank volunteer or to make a donation call the food bank at 903-885-0446 or stop by the bank, 217 Linda Dr.

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