Tuesday, May 09, 2017

TOP STORY >> Food collection Saturday

Leader staff writer

Saturday is the 25th annual mail carriers food drive, and the Jacksonville postal workers want to beat last year’s take of 11,400 pounds of donations.

“What’s great is that all the food we collect we take directly over to the Care Channel to help people in need in Jacksonville,” Audie Adkins, with the Jacksonville Post Office said.

“We’ll take any non-perishable items,” he said.

Adkins said when the carriers are through dropping off the mail and picking up the food items Saturday they will drive right over to the Care Channel where it’s weighed and boxed, ready for distribution. “The food we bring in supports the Care Channel for about three months,” Adkins said.

Jay Buechley, with the Care Channel, said it’s a sight to see Saturday afternoon when the postal vehicles start arriving. “We get all the volunteers we can to help,” he said.

What Buechley likes about the mail carrier food drive is the variety of donations the Care Channel gets to help others. “We are always buying the basics, so when the postal workers’ donations come in it certainly spices up our food boxes,” he said.

Since its inception nationwide 25 years ago, the annual food drive has brought in more than 1.5 billion pounds of food across the country, and has evolved into the largest single-day food drive in the world, according to Adkins.

A postal group in Phoenix, Ariz., planted the seed for the national food drive in 1991. The drive and its format were so successful that the Phoenix organizers were invited to share it at a national AFL-CIO convention.

Ten cities were picked to participate in the pilot program, and the first drive was Oct. 26, 1991, and 580,000 pounds were collected. According to an article in the December 1991 Postal Record, “donations far exceeded expectations in virtually every city and the amount collected set local food bank records in several areas.”

As good as the test drive was, the feedback the postal carriers received was that a spring drive would be better because the local food banks were in more need of help during that time.

Taking that information to heart, the full-fledged first nationwide drive was set for May 15, 1993.

Even Family Circus cartoonist Bill Keane got involved promoting the cause in his national-syndicate cartoon.

In 1994, the food drive was moved to the second Saturday in May and has stayed there ever since.

“Volunteering our time and effort to do what we can to help families on our route struggling with hunger is something every postal worker can be proud of, said Frederic Rolando, president of the National Association of Letter Carriers.